What does the blog’s name reveal about how I do therapy with adults?
Let’s look at being behavioral first. To me, this means that I have a “toolbox” of things I can teach clients to DO (not just think about). These may include:
Ways to track how your mood is connected to what you are actually doing at any given moment, plan how to do what makes you happier and avoid “ruminating” over negative thinking;
Ways to face (in a gradual, tolerable way) what you fear the most;
Concrete ways to develop a repertoire of coping skills for times of crisis, and check whether you are practicing and using them.
Behavioral therapy involves “homework”. – I may ask you to keep a chart of behaviors, because what we monitor tends to change more easily.
I teach behavioral skills because there is good research evidence that they work. I use them on myself when I need to change something I’m doing.
I also teach clients to challenge negative, fearful and self-destructive thinking. People often believe the negative things their minds “tell” them. We work together to find a more realistic viewpoint. However, because it’s often very difficult to get rid of deeply rooted negative beliefs, even if you KNOW they are not accurate, I also teach clients to practice mindfulness.
People who have tried mindfulness or meditation sometimes think they failed because they were still distracted by their thoughts and feelings and couldn’t “relax”. But relaxation, a nice side effect of mindfulness, is frequently not present. Mindfulness is not about stopping what goes on in your mind, but noticing it. It does not require a huge time commitment. Fifteen minutes a day will make a difference.
Mindfulness also helps us to become more in touch with the present moment. Then we can listen to our own “gut” feelings, not just to the (often painful) chatter that goes on in our minds. This helps us to start moving towards what we really want to do. And new experiences, achieved by acting differently, change what we believe about ourselves, others and the world. These are the principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, a form of Cognitive Behavior Therapy which I find extraordinarily helpful.
When treating young people, I work also with parents (as appropriate to the client’s age). Parents can be the best coaches for kids.
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