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On Parenting: A Classroom for Healing the Generational Conflict Cycle

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On Parenting: A Classroom for Healing the Generational Conflict Cycle

By Jason Briggs, MA

 

“…The universe is part of this one cry,
every life is noted and is cherished,
and nothing loved is ever lost or perished.”
Madeleine L’Engle, A Ring of Endless Light

 

According to the Global Survey of Violence Against Children put out by the United Nations, “every year, between 500 million and 1.5 billion children worldwide endure some form of violence”. 1 Alice Miller, PhD, is a psychologist, sociologist, philosopher and renowned author of many books on child abuse describes in her book, Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Societies Betrayal of  the Child, how past child abuse is meted out against children in innumerable ways and typically by parents who assume consciously or not, a “for your own good” maxim.  Miller shows how the many parenting approaches endorsed in western society produce a multi-generational conflict cycle, through overt and covert trauma bonds. These bonds within the child/caregiver relationship are felt and aren’t impacted by analytical thought so they touch all our families equally, regardless of educational level, socio-economic status, race, etc. This blog will explore one aspect of this generational conflict cycle and be a part of a series of blogs with some solutions offered in each blog. The goal is to help parents identify and begin healing to eventually resolve the generational conflict cycle. (See Alice Miller’s book: For Your Own Good the Hidden Roots of Cruelty and Violence in Child Rearing for exploring the ways this cycle is perpetuated.)

 

The generational conflict cycle begins when parents with unhealed emotional wounds unconsciously attempt to get their own emotional needs met by their children. Parents will do this both consciously and unconsciously and often see their children through the veil of their own unfinished business (by bypassing this aspect of their powerful inner life), which consists of “…past internalized perceptions, which are ‘frozen’ and usually stemming from childhood.” The effects on children are they must idealize their parents to survive as their own healthy needs go unmet, the ability to soothe themselves is further perceived as hopeless, and the true self (the entire access to ones innate inner life: feelings, thoughts, wants, needs, choices, decisions, beliefs, sensations, dreams, fantasies) goes into hiding in the unconscious while a false self emerges. This child’s false self is the one that complies and relates from the parental emotional wounds as solidified judgments, which are projected onto their children, seen predominately as children’s misbehavior, oddities, attitudes, or any other judgement. This is the way a parent unconsciously ends up placing the emotional needs of the parent above their children’s emotional needs and maintains the generational conflict cycle.  

 

Emotionally neglected children, commonly grow up to be adults who in turn, emotionally neglect their inner emotional world and those of their children. Our neglected emotional and psychological needs by the now adult parent are automatically passed on to the next generation. This generational conflict cycle, when denied, operates as generational conflicts maintained in the parent/caregiver/child relationship and takes many forms (See Alice Miller’s book: Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Societies Betrayal of the Child, for exploring more in depth ways we function in society to hold power over children, to the betrayal of children).

 

As parents, cultivating a mindful stance that addresses the neglect of our own unmet emotional needs helps shift the parenting stance from mindless to mindful. The hope of making this shift from the mindless to the mindful means choosing to end the bypassing of doing one’s own inner work and being self-responsible for the condition of one’s own mind. One way to do this is by choosing to see our pain as an opportunity for healing and growth, rather than a curse. Exploring that opportunity as a healing choice means to begin addressing one’s own generational conflict cycle, regardless of the time, patience, and persistence required. Therapy that helps promote healing maintains that parents focus on certain essentials to recovery, by: 1) slowing down and understanding the steps in going from ‘zero to sixty’, 2) learning about projection and it’s guises (projection is an emotional wound that is seen in another, because it is been denied in ourselves), 3) seeking therapy that focuses on experiential work that at some point includes body awareness work, 4) learning about the nature of the psyche, what constitutes its dynamics, and explore if and when a self-help approach is limiting our efforts to heal (as we may be unknowingly perpetuating a belief  that we must do our inner work alone), 5) being willing to learn about mindsight research in attachment and effective parenting (see Daniel Siegel’s work), and the way the caregiver’s role, emotions, and psyche condition impact our children’s healthy and unhealthy development, 6) exploring new and creative ways to heal and nurture ourselves as parents, as the cause for our truly being there for our children, 7) being willing to cultivate understanding and compassion in our healing and growth process, as parents.

 

All parents have a thankless job with most never consciously wanting to harm their children, and appealing to that truth, I see this daily in service to my clients who are parents, and see this is true, being mostly out of awareness. The generational conflict cycle may mean we need help in understanding its causes, effects, and what heals it.  One way to explore essentials to healing it is to enjoy a great read by Charles Whitfield, MD, researcher and psychotherapist from Atlanta, Georgia, titled, Boundaries and Relationships, Knowing, Protecting, and Enjoying the Self. For help with understanding these skills more experientially by using emotional, psychological, or spiritual disciplines, ask yourself, “Is it time to give a gift to myself and my children by seeing my own emotional and psychological pain as a classroom for learning about my inner life?” For me, the answer is an unequivocal YES! Before I cultivated a proper focus on addressing my own unmet emotional and spiritual needs, I was a smiling, charming and successful parent but was only one half alive, meeting only my physical and mental needs! We are here to live life fully and with joy. As parents, one way of taking steps toward that fullness of life is to explore our choices for healing, and when ready, to decide to begin to explore what it means to see parenting as a classroom for healing our own generational conflict cycle.

 

Acknowledgements

Miller, Alice (1984). Thou shalt not be Aware, society’s betrayal of the child    Toronto, Canada. Collins Publishers

Miller, Alice (1997).  Drama of the Gifted Child, the Search for the True Self   Garden City, New York.  Basic Books

Trout, Susan (1990).  To See Differently, Personal Growth and Being of Service Through Attitudinal Healing. Three Roses Press

Whitfield, Charles (1993).  Boundaries and Relationships, Knowing Protecting and Enjoying the Self.  Health Communications, Inc.

https://www.compassion.com/poverty/child-abuse.htm United Nations, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children. Toward a World Free From Violence: Global Survey on Violence against Children, October, 2013.

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The Voices Within, Part 1

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The Voices Within, Part 1

 

By Paul Hubbard, MA

 

Voice Dialogue work is a psychotherapy modality developed by Drs. Hal and Sidra Winkelman Stone. It has roots in Jungian psychology and involves accessing different sub-personalities like the inner child and the inner critic, among many others. Most people go through their lives more strongly identified with particular sub-personalities, or primary selves, while generally dis-identifying from other, more opposite sub-personalities, or disowned selves (Stone & Winkelman, 1989).

In Voice Dialogue work one learns to identify both their primary selves, and their disowned selves. The primary selves are the part of the personality that one tends to be more identified with. For example, the selves that help one to better fit into and/or be more successful within a social circle or in the world in general that one moves in (Stone & Winkelman, 1989).

In Jungian terminology, the disowned selves are a part of the shadow (Stone & Winkelman, 1989). The shadow represents the aspects of “ourselves that we do not know or refuse to know, both dark and light. It is the sum total of the positive and negative traits, feelings, beliefs, and potentials that we refuse to identify as our own.” It is the “part of us that is incompatible with who we think we are or who we are supposed to be” (Richo, 1999, p. 1). 

In our relationships, we tend to attract others who reflect the disowned aspects of ourselves. The more these various aspects have been disowned or more deeply buried in the unconscious the stronger the reaction tends to be when we encounter others who live out more overtly the disowned parts of ourselves. “We can be helpless victims to the multitude of relationships in our lives that reflect our disowned selves or we can accept the challenge of these relationships and ask: ‘How is this person or this situation, my teacher?’” (Stone & Winkelman, 1989, p. 32).

What is common to all sorts of relationships is that people get in bonding patterns which are parent-child energetic dynamics wherein one person tends to be more heavily identified with a parental role and the other person tends to be more heavily identified with a child role. Bonding patterns happen in all types of relationships, including, but not limited to romantic relationships and actual parent-child relationships. The parental sides tend to be more power oriented and the child sides tend more towards vulnerability (Stone & Winkelman, 1989).

One of the goals in therapy using voice dialogue work involves accessing the aware ego, which is the part of oneself that has some separation from the sub-personalities and can even, through increased awareness, be aware simultaneously of two or more very different parts of oneself, like parental and child aspects, or our power and vulnerable sides. This is not necessarily an easy process and can be hard work at times, but it is possible even though generally one is not aware of a bonding pattern until after it expresses. With development of the aware ego, one can avoid getting into bonding patterns as intensely and then get out of them more quickly when they do occur. A key to this awareness is understanding the role of vulnerability in a relationship and how a disowned or unconscious vulnerability can be a trigger for going into a bonding pattern. If only one of the two people in the bonding pattern has some awareness that a bonding pattern is happening then it is much easier to avoid it being so painful. Having a sense of humor and being able to laugh is a good indicator of accessing the aware ego (Stone & Winkelman, 1989). 

 

Acknowledgements

Richo, D. (1999). Shadow Dance. Boston, MA: Shambala

Stone, H. & S. Winkelman (1989). Embracing Our Selves. San Rafael, CA: New World Library

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Hello, it’s Nice to Be Here!

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Hello, it’s Nice to Be Here!

 

By Dr. Kristin Kaminski, PsyD

 

One of the unique core values held by the director and staff of Healing Pathways is the dedication to community. The practice participates in many different community events and strives to model an inclusive and transparent environment within its walls and in the surrounding community. Given this dedication to community, it felt appropriate to introduce myself to our online community.

 

With that I would like to say, “Hello, I am Dr. Kristin Kaminski and I am very happy to meet you.”

 

Children are my passion. When I looked back on my life, I felt the most fulfilled in jobs where I was working with children. I decided to return to school to become a psychologist in order to help children and families in crisis. My education was focused on building the skills needed to support families. I gained specialized training in play therapy, infant and toddler mental health, school psychology, applied behavioral analysis and pediatric neuropsychology. Now as a member of the Healing Pathways team, I feel so fortunate to be able to use these skills with my pediatric clients and their parents. I truly believe every parent is trying their very best when raising their children. Sometimes, we as parents need support when facing difficult child behavior, divorce, trauma, and sometimes life. I hope all parents I work with feel supported and know I care about their child.

 

As is commonly said in the infomercial world… “But, that’s not all!”

 

Through my education and life experience, I found I also very much enjoy working with adults, particularly older adults. I have had the pleasure of working with adults with different dementias and traumatic brain injuries. Though very different from my pediatric clients, the unique lives of each adult client and the stories of resiliency fill my bucket with hope and perspective. Many times a neuropsychological evaluation is conducted to better understand an older adult client’s strengths and challenges. The intellectual side of my personality, loves working through the evaluative process or reviewing an evaluative report to create a treatment plan for these clients.

 

I love the career I chose; the hard work has been worth it. Still it is only part of who I am.

 

At home, I am the mother of two young boys, who keep me active and humble. For fun I enjoy endurance running, cycling, reading and dancing. I also love food (this is one of the reasons I have to run so far). When I need some brain candy, I turn to comedies or action movies.

 

Thank you for allowing me this time to introduce myself. Stay tuned for more posts focused on children and geriatric psychology. I am truly looking forward to sharing all of this information swirling around in my head!

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Mental Health Access and Equality: 3 Steps to Freedom!

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Mental Health Access and Equality: 3 Steps to Freedom!

By Dr. Leona Kashersky, PsyD

 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as many as one in five Americans will experience a mental health issue at some point in their lives. This report is likely an underestimation of how many Americans experience mental health challenges during a lifetime. Of the nearly 60 million Americans who experience mental health concerns each year, many will never seek treatment for a variety of reasons including social stigma, cultural norms, and lack of access. In fact, a recent report published in the journal Psychological Science and the Public Interest found that an estimated 40% of individuals with serious mental health concerns either never receive care or start an intervention program without completing it.

The stigma surrounding mental health issues can be a significant barrier to care. Unfortunately, many people unknowingly contribute to the stigma simply with their everyday language choices. A poor choice of words not only stigmatizes, stereotypes, and creates unrealistic assumptions about certain people, but also can trivialize serious mental health conditions and their accompanying experience. As we move forward into a more enlightened future where mental health access and needs are considered just as normal and standard as the need to address a flu or more chronic physical health challenges, let’s dream of this brighter and more hopeful world together here!

In this new and more beautiful world our hearts know is possible, we would accept mental health hygiene and seeing professionals as part of living a normal and healthy life. Acknowledging and discussing symptoms wouldn’t be secretive or shame-based. Just as our communities gather to support those with physical illness, we would gather to do the same for those with depression, anxiety, and neurological differences. We would have more open dialogue about how this gathering would look different because the needs of these individuals are different than those suffering from flu or other chronic physical health challenges. This more beautiful world would allow us to come together armed with education and support to face life’s most challenging mental health setbacks without the shame and judgement we often face in our world today.

In this more beautiful world our health plans would adequately cover inpatient and partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and outpatient programs. All of us would have access to appropriate levels of care when we need it. Communities and families would know how to embrace and integrate individuals who are struggling with appropriate and supportive boundaries. Substance abuse treatment would be easy to access and affordable, saving countless lives. If we really want this beautiful new world, we can begin this journey by taking 3 simple steps.

  1. Accept what is! All of us need mental health maintenance. All of us grieve. All of us suffer. It IS the human condition. Let’s accept it and help each other.
  2. Suspend judgement! Judging ourselves or others in their mental suffering only serves to extend the duration of suffering. LET GO of the should’s and other criticisms.
  3. Dream of the life you want and believe it is possible! Imagine how you will feel when this happens. Allow yourself to experience the full emotion and somatic sensation of those emotions. Allow your mind to fully appreciate all that is there for you.

These steps will allow you to magnetize to your ‘More Beautiful World’ tribe. This community will be the seeds to this more beautiful world in our hearts we all know is possible. These roots are already growing and taking hold, so let’s keep dreaming together. We are manifesting our hearts desire and creating a new reality together!

 

References:

  1. Corrigan, Patrick. (September 4, 2014). Stigma as a Barrier to Mental Health Care. Association for Psychological Science. Retrieved from: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/stigma-as-a-barrier-to-mental-health-carhtml
  2. Mental Health America. Mental Health Information. Retrieved from: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/mental-health-information
  3. Eisenstein, Charles. (November 5, 2013). The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible. North Atlantic Books.
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Ancient Ayurvedic Medicine and Its Application to Mental Health, Part 1

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Ancient Ayurvedic Medicine and Its Application to Mental Health, Part 1

family yoga on the beach at sunset

By Bonita Carol, M.A., CT. Ayurveda Health Practitioner

 

Ayurvedic medicine is a comprehensive holistic system of health care originating in India that spans over 5000 years. I have been an Ayurvedic health practitioner since 1991, having witnessed profound changes, such as stress reduction and reduced depression in clients in a short time, often within a month of adopting some of the techniques and knowledge of Ayurveda. This blog explores how the practice of Ayurvedic medicine can be a complementary modality to psychotherapy by including all aspects of the person: mind, body, environment, and soul. 

Ayurvedic medicine offers knowledge and techniques for understanding how to prevent mental and physical illness while improving well-being. In an age when toxins bombard the environment (EPA, 2016), high levels of stress and addiction plague society (Segura, 2013), and the cost of healthcare is skyrocketing (Bryan, 2016, para. 8), the need for preventive healthcare education and services seems to be at an all-time high. Ayurvedic approaches to psychology can help address some of the problems that challenge U.S. society, including Alzheimer’s (Rao, Descamps, John, & Bredesen, 2012), grief, depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, childhood autism, PTSD, adapting to change, and relationship issues (Elder, Nidich, Moriarty, & Nidich, 2014, para. 5). Ayurveda also offers alternatives for individuals who feel limited by the mainstream medical model or have not had success with medications or therapy alone, and want something more as an adjunct to therapy sessions.

Ayurveda also addresses existential questions, such as “Who am I?” It provides for personal and spiritual growth through knowledge about the experience of Atman and the numinous, which psychiatrist Carl G. Jung (1938-1940/1983) defined as “either a quality belonging to a visible object, or the influence of an invisible presence that causes a peculiar alteration of consciousness” that connects the individual with a force that transcends the personal self (p. 239). In addressing psychospiritual needs, Ayurveda defines two selves: The ego, or small self of ordinary awareness, is denoted by self with a small s; a capital S denotes the Self that transcends the ego, and is the silent witness and the universal backdrop for all thinking and feeling (Maharishi, 1983, lecture).

An Ayurvedic orientation may bring to therapy an extensive and comprehensive understanding of the source of the client’s problems on a physical, mental, intellectual, and spiritual level. An Ayurvedic treatment plan not only approaches the client from a cognitive level, but is inclusive of all areas of one’s life, from inquiry into the house one lives in, called Vastu or Vedic architecture; to lifestyle and habits, diet and nutrition, familial history, significant life events, and spiritual health. By understanding the etiology of the client’s issues from this comprehensive view, a solid treatment plan can be constructed that does not isolate any area of the client’s life and that contributes to growth toward wholeness.

This blog series explores how psychotherapy and Ayurveda might be used as adjunct therapy to provide additional support for clients to make profound changes in their psychological, cognitive, and physical health. The Ayurvedic practice of meditation, particularly Transcendental Meditation (TM), has been shown to support cognitive development and reduce psychological symptoms (Barnes, Bauza, & Treiber, 2003). For example, TM meditation is currently used in inner city schools to help students reduce violent behavior, improve grades, and reduce detentions (p. 1). There seem to be gaps in the fields of psychology and medicine to the extent that they may treat the mind and body as separate and body awareness appears to be left out of the therapeutic process. As heart health researcher Robert Schneider (2015) said, “Heart disease is now correlated with mental health” (lecture); to prevent heart disease, mental health issues need to be addressed.

Ayurvedic practitioners Nancy Liebler, a clinical psychologist, and public health expert, Sandra Moss (2009) impart about the mind–body connection in Ayurveda:

“Mind-body medicine and its emerging field psychoneuroimmunology are bringing the issue of the unity of the mind and body to the stage of modern science. The Vedic sages, on the other hand integrated this concept a long time ago. They looked for the unity that underlies all the systems of our physiology rather than the sole focus on the systems’ diverse functions. This is the holistic approach that we should consider when we study the global affliction of depression.” (pp. 32-33)

 

Ayurveda can have benefits for both clients and therapists. It brings attention to the way in which Ayurveda techniques can cultivate a deepened sensitivity, receptivity, and consciousness, making one a more effective therapist. This research supports therapists in working with clients who have an interest in integrative modalities and gives the client access to more choices in how to attend to mental health and cultivate personal growth.  In part 2 of this blog, I will discuss the effect of Ayurvedic enhanced interventions on ADHD and Autism.

 

Bonita Carol, M.A. is a certified Shaka Vansiya Ayurveda Practitioner and lineage holder by the late Ayurvedic Master Healer, Vaidya Ramakant Mishra.  She is a marriage and family therapist registered intern supervised by Dr. Leona Kashersky PsyD at Healing Pathways Psychological Services. For information on Ayurveda, please contact her at www.ayurvedahealthcoach.com(530) 401-8627

 

  

Acknowledgements

Barnes VA, Bauza LB, Treiber FA. Impact of stress reduction on negative school behavior in adolescents. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes. 2003;1:10. doi:10.1186/1477-7525-1-10. Retreived from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC155630/

Elder, C., et al. (2011). Reduced psychological distress in racial and ethnic minority students practicing the Transcendental Meditation program.” Journal of Instructional Psychology, vol. 38, no. 2.

EPA. (2016). Air quality management process. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/air-quality-management-process

Garrido, M. (2013, April,15). Vedic Philosophy and Quantum Mechanics On the Soul retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mauricio-garrido/vedic-philosophy-and-quantum-mechanics-on-the-soul_b_3082572.html

Jung, C. G. (1983). From Psychology and Religion (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In A. Storr, The essential Jung (pp. 239-249). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1938-1940)

Liebler, N.C. and Moss, S. (2009). Healing depression the mind body way, creating happiness through meditation, yoga and ayurveda.  Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, (April 1983), unpublished lecture, TM Teacher Training Course, Maastricht Holland.

Rao, R. V., Descamps, O., John, V., & Bredesen, D. E. (2012, June). Ayurvedic medicinal plants for Alzheimer’s disease: a review. Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy, 4(3), 22. http://doi.org/10.1186/alzrt125

Schneider, R. (2016, Nov. 10). Dr. Robert Schneider Discusses Ayurveda and Vedic Psychiatry. Published lecture. paper University of Management, Fairfield, Iowa. Retrieved from youtube: Robert Schnhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ugr_Mslc5gk

Segura, G. (2013, April 22). Mass nervous breakdown: Millions of Americans on the brink as stress pandemic ravages society. Retrieved from: https://www.sott.net/article/261360-Mass-nervous-breakdown-Millions-of-Americans-on

 

 

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The Healing Power of Sound

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The Healing Power of Sound

Photo credit: Blue Heron Crystals and Minerals

by Dr. Leona Kashersky & Nicolina Santoro, MA

The crystal bowls can assist in reducing stress, anxiety, and pain, promote happiness, peace of mind, and help you hear the music of your life-purpose.

The next class is on May 27th at Healing Pathways Psychological Services. 

For registration call: 916-595-7233
Email soundhealinghpps@gmail.com for registration details
Cost $140 3 hour instruction and experiential didactic

Please enjoy the following snapshot of some of the theory and practice used in the facilitation of sound healing at Healing Pathways! 

The Chakra System, in yogic practice

The seven chakras, in the yogic tradition are the centers in our bodies in which life sustaining energy flows through.It is thought that blocked energy in our seven chakras can often lead to illness, so it’s important to understand what each chakra represents and what we can do to keep this energy flowing freely.

The Chakras In Summary

  • Root Chakra — Represents our foundation and feeling of being grounded.
  • Location: Base of spine in tailbone area.
  • Emotional issues: Survival issues such as financial independence, money and food.

 

  • Sacral Chakra — Our connection and ability to accept others and new experiences.
  • Location: Lower abdomen, about two inches below the navel and two inches in.
  • Emotional issues: Sense of abundance, well-being, pleasure and sexuality.

 

  • Solar Plexus Chakra — Our ability to be confident and in control of our lives.
  • Location: Upper abdomen in the stomach area.

Emotional issues: Self-worth, self-confidence and self-esteem.

  • Heart Chakra — Our ability to love.
  • Location: Center of chest just above the heart.
  • Emotional issues: Love, joy and inner peace.

 

  • Throat Chakra — Our ability to communicate.
  • Location: Throat, just above the collar bone.
  • Emotional issues: Communication, self-expression of feelings and the truth.

 

  • Third Eye Chakra — Our ability to focus on and see the big picture.
  • Location: Forehead between the eyes (also called the Brow Chakra).
  • Emotional issues: Intuition, imagination, wisdom and the ability to think and make decisions.

 

  • Crown Chakra — The highest chakra represents our ability to be fully connected spiritually.
  • Location: The very top of the head.
  • Emotional issues: Inner and outer beauty, our connection to spirituality, wonder, and pure bliss.

 

EMDR 

EMDR is an acronym for Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, a tool to process traumatic experience. EMDR works through bilateral neural stimulation or brain stimulation to integrate traumatic material. The singing crystal bowls create a sense of bilateral stimulation, while the meditation focuses on reprocessing, and altering core belief patterns. The bilateral processing is not only possible using the eyes; we can use sound, touch, and movement of any bilaterally moving body parts with a split timed rhythm. Some psychologists conceptualize EMDR as a form of ‘Exposure Therapy’, desensitizing people to traumatic material and thus relating it to exposure therapy. A more accurate description would be that it integrates the traumatic material.

“Memories evolve and change. Immediately after a memory is laid down, it undergoes a lengthy process of integration and reinterpretation—a process that automatically happens in the mind/brain without any input from the conscious self. When the process is complete, the experience is integrated with other life events and stops having a life of its own. As we have seen, in PTSD this process fails and the memory remains stuck—undigested and raw.” ~ by Bessel Van Der Kolkata, M.D. In The Body Keeps the Score chapter entitled Letting Go of the Past: EMDR

 

Three summarizing factors about EMDR:

  1. EMDR loosens up something in the mind/brain that gives people rapid access to loosely associated memories and images from their past. This seems to help them put traumatic experience into a larger context or perspective.
  2. People may be able to heal from trauma without talking about it. EMDR allows them to observe their experiences in a new way, without verbal give-and-take with another person.
  3. EMDR can help even if the patient and the therapist do not have a trusting relationship. This is intriguing because trauma, understandably, rarely leaves people with an open, trusting heart.

 

 

Physiological and Therapeutic Effects of Drumming

Recent studies have shown physiological benefits to drumming meditation practices such as, the reduction of the physical symptoms of anxiety, stress, the body’s immune system, brainwave activity, dual cerebral hemisphere activation, and connection with the present moment.

Because of the deep sense of tranquility that the act of drumming facilitates within the Central Nervous System, the effects of stress, and the accumulation of trauma stored within our cellular memory can be processed and integrated through this non-confrontational and deeply personal act even in group settings. This form of mindfulness based attention has also shown to activate the cells themselves, allowing for deep trauma to be released from cellular memory with little interference from the mind’s protective measures and defenses as the trauma is engaged and released by group participants. The chemical messengers of the brain or neurotransmitters reinforce this practice by stimulating alpha wave activity, inducing feelings of well-being and happiness.

The shared experience of drumming in groups is observed to facilitate a shared space of connection and consciousness among its members, alleviating common feelings of isolation, social fear, and inhibition.

Drumming seems to provide a platform for people to experience religious or spiritual connection through a universal practice that has been used by all cultures in some form or another. Through this connection, a space is created to access the deepest parts of our human condition.

 

 

References

  • The Body Keeps the Score science grounding in sound, breathe, and movement as a healing modality. Bessel Van Der Kolkata, M.D
  • R. Damasio, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion and the Making of Consciousness (New York: Random House, 2000) 28
  • K. Holzel, et al., “Mindfulness Practice Leads to Increases in Regional Brain Grey Matter Density,” Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging 191, no. 1 (2011): 36-43.
  • K. Holzel, et al., “Stress Reduction Correlates with Structural Changes in the Amygdala,” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 5, no. 1 (2010): 11-17.
  • W. Lazar, et al., “Meditation Experience Is Associated with Increased Cortical Thickness,” NeuroReport 16 (2005): 1893-97. Pesso
  • N. Demos, Getting Started with Neurofeedback (New York: W.W. Norton, 2005).
  • J. Davidson, “ Affective Style and Affective Disorders: Prospectives from Affective Neuroscience,” Cognition and Emotion 12, no. 3 (1998): 307-30.
  • J. Davidson, et al, “Regional Brain Function, Emotion and Disorders of Emotion,” Current Opinion of Neurobiology 9 (1999): 228-34.
  • Bittman, M.D., Barry, Karl T. Bruhn, Christine Stevens, MSW, MT-BC, James Westengard, Paul O Umbach, MA, “Recreational Music-Making, A Cost-Effective Group Interdisciplinary Strategy for Reducing Burnout and Improving Mood States in Long-Term Care Workers,” Advances in Mind-Body Medicine, Fall/Winter 2003, Vol. 19 No. 3/4.
  • Winkelman, Michael, Shamanism: The Neural Ecology of Consciousness and Healing. Westport, Conn: Bergin & Garvey; 2000.
  • Bittman, M.D., Barry, “Composite Effects of Group Drumming…,” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine; Volume 7, No. 1, pp. 38-47; January 2001.
  • Winkelman, Michael, Shamanism: The Neural Ecology of Consciousness and Healing. Westport, Conn: Bergin & Garvey; 2000.
  • Friedman, Robert Lawrence, The Healing Power of the Drum. Reno, NV: White Cliffs; 2000.
  • Mikenas, Edward, “Drums, Not Drugs,” Percussive Notes. April 1999:62-63.
  • Diamond, John, The Way of the Pulse – Drumming with Spirit, Enhancement Books, Bloomingdale IL. 1999.
  • Winkelman, Michael, “Complementary Therapy for Addiction: Drumming Out Drugs,” American Journal of Public Health; Apr 2003, Vol. 93 Issue 4, p647, 5p
  • Mikenas, Edward, “Drums, Not Drugs,” Percussive Notes. April 1999:62-63.
  • Friedman, Robert Lawrence, The Healing Power of the Drum. Reno, NV: White Cliffs; 200

 

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Using Meditation to Tame this Mind of Ours

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 Using Meditation to Tame this Mind of Ours

family yoga on the beach at sunset

 

By Nicolina Santoro, MA

Mahayana Buddha, the progenitor and prophet of the middle way, had encapsulated an entire philosophy into short, clear directives. “Commit not a single unwholesome action, Cultivate a wealth of virtue, To tame this mind of ours; this is the teaching of all the Buddhas” (Rinpoche, 1993). Meditation is part of the practice of taming the mind. Often described as the still mind, or still waters of the mind, meditation appears to be a kind of martial art for one’s thoughts. To even begin to feel the stillness of mind that comes with the practice of meditation, one must endure the onslaught of thought as it runs through the beginning meditator’s mind rampantly. Even more interesting, is the realization that this pattern of thought is a regular occurrence in the mind. Meditation highlights the never-ending barrage of thought, as the student tries to negotiate the noise to a place of quiet within the mind (Fontana, 1992).

Meditation is actually a common practice among many different platforms of faith, although called many different names throughout time, but the goal of calming the turbulence in the mind remains the same. The practical applications of meditation have far reaching benefits to those who suffer from a variety of illnesses. Mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and manias have all shown to be positively affected by the regular practice of meditation. Some of the therapeutic benefits of regular meditation practice include enhanced self-esteem, reduction in feelings of hopelessness and depression, and a sense of spiritual connection (Lindgren & Coursey, 1995).

Since the mind, by its various sense mechanisms can create and maintain a subjective reality, one seems to be at the mercy of the mind and its myriad of emotional states of being. Thoughts create emotional experiences based on the electrical impulses that send messages to various chemical centers to whip up recipes for certain emotional states. These emotional states hold tremendous power over self-efficacy, and emotional well-being. Most people have had the experience of having a “bad” day, or a lack of desire to get out of bed. These types of feelings and their sources are often overlooked by people experiencing them, as the emotional tide they create has a strong influence in coloring one’s perceived reality. Over time, the continuing pattern of similar emotional states can create long-term relationships between neurons in the brain. In other words, relationships between a thought and the subsequent emotional state that the thought triggered become a learned response with different chemical markers for different emotional states (Berger, 2006).

Meditation is the act of awareness, noting a thought as it travels through the mind’s eye, rather than grabbing on to it for dissection. It is in the act of dissection that the emotional response is created. A sort of fixation then occurs, making it very difficult to regain a sense of calm detachment which is the focus of the meditation practice. Observe, but be not of the waves of thoughts that roll through the ocean of conscious awareness, and breathe which is certainly not as easy as one might think.  Buddhism imparts that suffering, and dis-ease are certainly inevitable in life however, there is an opportunity for personal transcendence in the observation rather immersion in this state of suffering  (Rinpoche, 1993). A meditation posture is grounded, comfortable yet deliberate. One may elect to sit on the floor with legs crossed in front of them, arms relaxed and poised comfortably in the lap, eyes closed. One then begins to notice their breath, every inhalation and exhalation is noted in the awareness space. As this practice begins, the mind seems utterly flooded with thoughts, worries, randomness, and chaos. However, through each breath, the subject becomes accustomed to the flow of thoughts which become a sort of background noise, and the central focus of breathing creates an altered or trance like state in the consciousness of the meditator. This altered state of being allows the meditator to observe self from a place of detached compassion which is the place of mindfulness that the Buddha described (Rinpoche, 1993).

Common mistakes that people make when entering into the practice of mediation exists in the misapplication of the quiet mind concept. The term is slightly misleading. The mind, it seems, is never truly quiet. Thoughts run constantly because the mind is always taking in information, processing it, encoding it, retrieving it, and deciphering it. The stillness of mind exists in the unfettered observance of this process. Unfettered meaning that one never holds on to, or tries to single out the thoughts as they steadily move through conscious awareness of the subject. As meditation becomes familiar to the mind itself, the thoughts no longer control the emotional state of the meditator, and stillness is observed by a state of total acceptance, and symbiosis  (Fontana, 1992).

The meditation process has been reported to be difficult, and even frustrating to those who are new to the experience, but long term benefits have also been relayed by those who were able to get through the frustration, and experience the trance-like state where feelings of calm and clarity exist. Meditation as a response and treatment for stress is now common advice from health practitioners even in the west because of the positive impact it has on the central nervous system (CNS), (Fontana, 1992).  The effect that mediation has on the body is noted further in the American Psychological Association’s book entitled Integrating Spirituality into Treatment. Meditation lowers respiratory rate, heart rate, and brain wave states, placing the body in a state of rest which is very helpful in dealing with chronic anxiety. Meditation has also been used frequently in the redirection of addictive behavior because of the altered state that it can enhance bio-chemically. In behavioral and cognitive behavioral types of therapeutic interventions, meditation is also useful in the reprogramming of negative thinking, through the natural change in thought patterns that are facilitated by the practice (2006). 

Research conducted by Lindgren & Coursey, published in 1995 shows a strong positive correlation between the use of meditation practice and increased feelings of well being among those who suffer from severe forms of anxiety and depression.  Those who are being treated for more severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have also reported positive cognitive effects on mood and self-esteem (Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal, Vol. 18(3), pp. 93-111). These trends can enhance the level of care that practitioners bestow upon their clients, giving them the tools to help alleviate some of the distress associated with negative automatic thinking, placing some of the control back in their hands with regard to better self-care.

Self-care is something that even mental health practitioners overlook for themselves. In the mental health fields, burn-out among therapists and social workers is high. The culprit seems to be a lack of self-care and over extension according to the (APA). Regular meditation practice can also help alleviate the stress that in the field of mental health seems almost inevitable to its practitioners. Self-care processes that the (APA) advocates include the awareness of the levels and types of stress in the practitioner’s environment, case load management, outside support networks, and extra-curricular activities that promote a sense of health and well being. A professional support network, boundaries, and realistic expectations upon the self are also highlighted as areas to which the practitioner should attend for optimum results. The clarity that accompanies regular meditation can also invigorate a flagging practitioner, providing a sense of calm and clarity toward the greater good of all concerned (American Psychological Association, 2006).

 

References

American Psychological Association. ed. by Miller, W.R. (2006). Integrating Spirituality into Treatment: Resources for Practitioners. Washington: American Psychological Association.

Berger, K. S. (2006). The Developing Person. New York: Worth Publishers.

Fontana, D. (1992). The Meditator’s Handbook. Rockport: Element Books, Inc.

Lindgren, K., & Coursey, R. (1995). Spirituality and Serious Mental Illness: A Two-Part Study. Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal, 18(3), 93-111. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Rinpoche, S. (1993). The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

 

 

 

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A Series of Writings for Clinicians on Common Factors Research and What Promotes Change in Couple and Family Therapy Part 2

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A Series of Writings for Clinicians on Common Factors Research and What Promotes Change in Couple and Family Therapy

Part 2

by

Jason Briggs, MA

JBII

(photo credit: www.shutterstock.com)

What motivates a client to change and what are the processes therapists can use to help?

 

In the last writing, in this series on Common Factors research, the discussion was on aspects of two Common Factors used to promote effective outcomes in therapy.  They were client factors and therapist factors. These two Common Factors will be addressed in this second writing as well, along with how they interrelate with a third Common Factor called the therapeutic alliance, all within the Stage of Change known as Contemplation. I will also discuss what some of the change processes I use are and how they are also supported by Common Factors researchers. I will begin with what Common Factors researchers find is essential to Motivational Interviewing, since this was not discussed in my last post. Again, as with all my writings on Common Factors, I am reviewing three Common Factors researchers’ work, authored by Douglas H. Spenkle PhD, Sean Davis PhD and Jay L. Lebow, PhD, referencing information found in their book Common Factors in Couple and Family Therapy, The Overlooked Foundation for Effective Practice.

Motivational Interviewing has elements that when brought together in the context of our clients’ lives, can help therapists join with clients, inviting them to engage in and explore change in whatever Stage of Change they might be experiencing. Common Factors researchers contend and I agree with them, that “within the Motivational Interviewing approach there is no such thing as an unmotivated client. There are only therapists that are out of sync with a client’s motivation” (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009). So, working systemically, it is often the case that each member in an individual, couple or family system, is in varying Stages of Change and thus motivated at different levels with the different issues they might wish to address. Common Factors suggests part of the therapist role is to shift homeostasis within an understanding of each person’s motivation and the there are five principles to consider, to help us form a better connection with our client and help them move through whatever Stage of Change they are in. We can “(1) express empathy, (2) develop discrepancy, (3) avoid argumentation, (4) roll with resistance, and (5) support self-efficacy” (Miller and Rollnick, 2002) (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009). These five principles are suggested to fall into three broad therapeutic alliances, which therapists can use three interventions within each stage and they are: “(1) building motivation for change, (2) strengthening commitment to change, and (3) the follow-through (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009). So what exactly do Common Factors researchers know about the value and importance of these five Motivational Interviewing principles?

“Unpacking” what these Motivational Interviewing principles ignite in our clients, is a great way to motivate therapists to learn these concepts both intellectually and experientially with their clients. As noted above, these Motivational Interviewing principles inherently ask each therapist to embody a sort of attitudinal stance in therapy that helps facilitate a client’s movement toward change. They are (1) expressing empathy and is particularly effective with client ambivalence and is promoted by a listening stance and abandoning a superior/inferior stance, typically embodied by telling a client what meaning we give to their story. Common Factors researchers describe the Therapists’ Alliance in this way: (to be) “a supportive companion and knowledge consultant, (rather) than a forceful instigator of change” (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009). (2) Developing discrepancy, the second Motivational Interviewing principle is reflected in understanding that most, if not all humans’ emotional and psychological pain exists in direct proportion to the disparity/discrepancy between where they are now and where they want to be, “and when they know better, they will do better” ( BJ Davis, 2012). Common Factors researchers point out, “Depending on which Stage of Change the client is in, the therapist focuses on gently amplifying the discrepancy that is already there (for those in contemplation or preparation stages) or developing a discrepancy (for those in the pre-contemplation stage)” (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009). Here, we see an emphasis on the therapist knowledge about the Stage of Change in general and needing to know where one’s client is in terms of each Stage of Change and on differing issues, exploring the likelihood of a client having varying levels of motivation to change depending on any given issue and the Stage of Change the client is in with each issue. (3) Avoiding argumentation is the third principles used in helping a client experience the motivation to change. Expecting a client to embrace a certain protocol type therapy, a label, etc. is one way an unsuspecting therapist can invite arguments  against, instead of for change (with us or within the client and likely both). Helping to understand a client’s point of view regarding their preferences in therapy, how they have experienced labels, even “mental health issues” can be one way we can allow their meaning to be held up to unequivocal predominance and then join with the meaning our clients make about how they identify this meaning, amplifying, and reflecting it to them. Closely related Motivational Interviewing principle (4), rolling with resistance, which is an essential facet of Motivational Interviewing and the idea of accepting and not rejecting a client’s ambivalence to change. Emphasis is placed on joining with the client not on any particular interventions, trusting a solution will, if acceptance is present, naturally emerge within the client in the space created for them to explore their problems. This assumes an intention on behalf of the therapist, which trusts the client has their own answers within them, assuming a stance of psychological and emotional safety around any issues the client is considering facing. If the therapist achieves this stance and creates emotional safety for a client to explore what they need, want, and are willing to do based on the clients view, their therapist is seen as an “enlightened witness” (Alice Miller, 97). Supporting this safe emotional and psychological space means supporting the next principle in Motivational Interviewing, (5) supporting self-efficacy, the belief that a client can change and unless this empowering attitudinal stance is demonstrated by the therapist in relationship with their client, “a discrepancy crisis is likely to resolve into defensive coping (e.g., rationalization, denial) to reduce discomfort, without changing behavior” (Miller, 1995, p.5) (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009).  

The therapeutic alliance, another essential Common Factor, will be given its proper weight in understanding how client and therapist factors unite within the processes of change during the Stage of Change known as Contemplation. The therapeutic alliance is defined by Common Factors as both/and, what it is, and what it is not. “It is collaborative. The alliance can be misunderstood as a quality that the therapist brings to the client. However, the alliance is fully interactional and systemic, an operation between one or more clients and the therapist (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009).” This is a foundational therapeutic Common Factor. It establishes emotional bonds between a therapist and a client to form a connection and assists with providing effective outcomes in therapy. So, helping a client see choices for healing that the therapist sees the client may identify with and find helpful is only half of the picture, the other half is seeing what our clients are contemplating and helping them negotiate the changes they seek to make within all the Stages of Change and processes of change they are in and viewed as meaningful. Stated in another way, “On more careful examination, (our) successful alliance formation is better viewed as a dance in which everyone participated as the alliance co-evolved between the clients and the therapist” (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009). I will add that a felt understanding by the therapist of the clients’ worldviews are essential, along with a sense of therapist “okay-ness” about the clients’ interactions within the therapy room. These perceptions and interactions the therapist has in turn, will impact the client in therapy, whether the client is in therapy with their family, in a couple, or individual unit of treatment. When the therapist creates psychological and emotional safety in the relationship to their clients’ ambivalent interactions, and helps the client contemplate what it might be like doing inner work using certain stage specific processes of change, the client will reveal more of their ambivalence and ideas to contemplate that which will promote change.  

In the Stage of Change known as Contemplation, clients are intending to act “within the next six months.” (Prochaska, 1999) (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009).  Clients seeking to make a change in this stage are expressing discontent with their problems, want to overcome it, want to see themselves living a life without their problems, but also see why they shouldn’t try to change. Clients in Contemplation “are not very good candidates for behaviorally focused, action-oriented programs. Their motivation is not yet at the level where they will put all of their heart into behavioral change efforts. They are better suited for more passive insight-oriented approaches that help them explore their problem, weigh the pros and cons of changing and so forth” (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009). Like in the previous Stage of Change the suggestion for this stage is to continue to weigh the pros and cons of changing and decrease the number of cons. The only additional processes of change aside from three mentioned in Pre-Contemplation is self-reevaluation, to assist in transitioning to the next Stage of Change Preparation. So, the therapist is supporting the client in evaluating themselves without the problem. Aside from active imagination, guided imagery, self-acknowledgement of healing and growth, help consolidate steps the therapeutic alliance has made and clarify steps one still might make in the therapeutic alliance to successfully transition to the Preparation Stage of Change. “Values clarification, encouraging congruence between one’s own values and behaviors and the like can be helpful in this stage” (Prochaska, 1999) (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009).

A therapist being willing to build a foundational relationship with their client depends to a large extent, on a therapist’s ability to listen, explore, and respect the worldview of their clients, not as an intervention, but more as an attitudinal stance toward their shared humanity, a facet of which was addressed above in the therapeutic alliance discussion. Understanding Common Factors research is important and then applying it in our therapeutic practices can help our clients regain a sense of connection often ruptured in their past and current relationships. Common Factors research can help therapists and clients move through change in their own and their clients’ lives in a much more empathetic and meaningful way. Remembering there is always motivation present is essential, and it is the role of the therapist to identify what motivates our clients to bring about effective change, and to “stay with them” as they contemplate ways to move forward while having a timing and pacing that works for them. See the first writing in this series on Common Factors (CF), wherein I discussed what CF researchers suggested as helpful processes of change in the Stage of Change Pre-Contemplation. Doing so will enhance your focus on the processes of change you can use to help clients focus on increasing insight about moving from Contemplation to begin working in the next Stage of Change known as Preparation, our next blog topic.

Acknowledgements

Douglas H. SprenkleSean D. DavisJay L. Lebow. Common Factors in Couple and Family Therapy, Guilford Press, Aug 10, 2009

Alice Miller. 1/7/1997. http://www.alice-miller.com/en/the-essential-role-of-an-enlightened-witness-in-society-2/

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A Series of Writings for Clinicians on Common Factors Research and What Promotes Change in Couple and Family Therapy

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A Series of Writings for Clinicians on Common Factors Research and What Promotes Change in Couple and Family Therapy

by

Jason Briggs, MA

jb-blog2

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What motivates a client to change and what are the processes therapists can use to help?

If you’re like me, most therapists have a period in their learning curve where they have spent countless hours being ahead of their clients’ abilities to promote effective change because we aren’t seeing what stage of change our clients are in, and aren’t sure what processes could help motivate our clients in therapy. We (therapists) can also be less skillful about being transparent with each other about our own work with clients and how we promote change and challenges to this process we call psycho (mind/soul) therapy (treatment used to treat issues, problems and symptoms one feels conflicted about). This series is  an homage to Common factors research (CFR), that points to common factors which underlie all therapy models that work together to promote change in therapy. The three Common factors researchers work I will be summarizing are authored by Douglas H. Spenkle PhD, Sean Davis PhD and (last but not least) Jay L. Lebow, PhD, which can be found in their book Common Factors in Couple and Family Therapy, The Overlooked Foundation for Effective Practice. Sean Davis is in private practice, a supervisor in the Roseville, CA area, and a local Professor at Alliant International University, Sacramento Campus. Dr. Davis was my past academic advisor and admittedly an “at a distance” self-selected role model.

In the age of having many models of therapy to choose from its helpful to know two Common Factors (CF) that help promote effective change in Common factors research (CFR), that being the ‘client factor’ and ‘therapist factor’ both, in connection with each other. What is it specifically about the client that lends itself to change and what is the role of the therapist in supporting this change, that both the therapist and client might have an effective therapy outcome?  Many therapists and clients assume it is what the therapist does that is the most important aspect of therapy, but Common Factors Research asserts that it’s not only what the client does in therapy, but what the client does in response to the therapist, or how a client uses and focuses on the information the therapist presents. Ultimately it’s a collaborative venture.

As is often the case, I will invite my clients to share in what is called a “here and now” time, at the end of our sessions to explore our shared experiences in the session. In the “here and now”, I invite my clients to share what they found was helpful, worked or what didn’t work, or just to relate their experience in our session and in particular, with me; their answers never cease to amaze me, often citing something I felt was just a passing comment, experience or interaction or some other very important aspect of their experience. Using this “here and now” time, it is a both/and way of interacting, the focus is on the client but the therapist is wise to find ways to work with clients’ perceptions, being curious about them, and helping them identify what works for them. This should include what they struggle with in sharing their own experiences, cultivating a focus on what a client may feel is “ok” in therapy according to their worldview, and then seek ways that help promote a motivation to expand their worldview and promote change.

The Common Factors researchers do note that an extreme view of Common Factors research may engender a therapist to say “even a poor therapist can do therapy” but in their book they actually say quite the opposite and tend to place great value and importance in their role, but not by placing their own role above the clients’ role. They note, that the therapist who places such extreme value on client factors, to the exclusion of the therapists’ own involvement and development, may run the risk of discouraging themselves to think they have nothing to offer to help the client change and a thus engender a “why try” attitude that could encourage therapist laziness and a lack of a sense of accountability to clients (p71).” The Common Factors research discusses the nature of clients’ and therapists’ factors as being reciprocal (giving and receiving in balance) and further discusses how the therapist can motivate a client to change also asserting that a client motivated to change can then impact the therapist’s motivation and behavior! That’s reciprocity! So, it is clear that their emphasis is on the value and importance of matching our own behaviors as therapists with the client’s motivation to change, and what processes will help them engage in such a change.

It seems all humans pass through Stages of Change (SOC-a common behavioral health model) and have various levels of motivation. Known by therapists as Motivational Interviewing (MI), MI has typically been thought to be helpful to only substance abusers, but it has been used successfully with individuals, couples, and families with other issues as well. Motivation is always present according to the researchers (Miller & Rollnick’s (SOC) and Prochaska’s (MI), but that it looks differently depending on each stage, and that each client is motivated by different things. There are 6 stages of change (SOC) and they are Pre-Contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Maintenance, and Termination. There are 9 processes of change which are Consciousness Raising, Dramatic Relief, Environmental Re-evaluation, Self-Re-evaluation, Self-Liberation, Contingency Management , Helping Relationships and Counter-Conditioning and finally Stimulus Control (Prochaska, 1999) (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009).

This will only focus on clients in the SOC called Pre-contemplation, the helpful process and interventions that Common Factors research has shown will help clients at this particular motivation level in their process of change. These clients it would seem are not intending to change anytime in ‘the next 6 months’ and they are either unaware of or uninformed about the severity of their problems. Clients who wish to successfully move from this stage to the next, Contemplation, “need to increase the number of pros (versus cons) they see in a life without the problem.” The Common Factors researchers suggest helping clients focus on increasing insight, suggesting that using the Consciousness Raising processes are ideal during this (SOC). A couple of Consciousness Raising processes offered that I find effective in my practice are, bibliotherapy (book therapy) and psychoeducation (education of the psyche, and how it becomes rigid and flexible in its structures). Another is making a list of what the positive effects of living life without the problem and envisioning a life without the problem.  Another I enjoy is helping clients experience guided imagery that focuses on adaptive information they may need to make a shift or change.

Another process of change that may prove helpful during the Pre contemplation SOC is Dramatic Relief, which much like guided imagery, it activates emotions that are felt during the problem. Interventions using this process could be role plays, guided imagery that focuses on a life with the problem in the future, and experiential interventions, such as empty chair/Gestalt, sculpting, inner dialog, etc.

The last process of change Common Factors researchers note that is helpful during this SOC is Environmental Re-evaluation. These interventions include helping the client to accept the perceptions of their family members by carefully exploring each person’s readiness to give and receive feedback, and when ready (can manage emotions), preparing the client to lean into the perceptions of their family, and helping the client experience understanding (not necessarily agreement). Another process is to use any experiential technique that will allow the client to cultivate empathy for those impacted by their behaviors, how it affects the system’s environment, and to see how those behaviors are experienced by others in the system (Prochaska, 1999), (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009).

Being willing to explore, understand, and apply Common Factors research can help therapists and clients move through change in life in a much more empathic way. There is always motivation to be found and it is the clinician’s role to see what motivates our clients so they can bring about effective change in their lives.

Coming soon,  my next writing in this Common Factors blog series is on Contemplation, the next stage of change following Pre-contemplation and helpful processes for the therapist to help clients embrace their own limitless potential for healing and growth.

 

Acknowledgements

Douglas H. SprenkleSean D. DavisJay L. Lebow. Common Factors in Couple and Family Therapy, Guilford Press, Aug 10, 2009

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The Components of Trustworthy Relationships

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The Components of Trustworthy Relationships

by

Cassandra Vogeli, Psy.D. Candidate, M.A.

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“Life isn’t fair. But Relationships can be.” – Janet Hibbs (2010)

In her book, Try to See it My Way: Being Fair in Love and Marriage, Janet Hibbs outlines the importance of fair give and take within relationships. We each come into life from families with various ideas about what is fair, what we are entitled to (constructive and destructive), and how to go about getting such needs met. Unfortunately, sometimes these ideas about fairness and the ways we go about meeting our own needs can end up working against our closest relationships and us.  Nagy & Krasner (1986) suggest that in order to create healthy and balanced relationships as well as get our needs met in a way that is constructive within our relationships; we need to understand our own fairness model. Hibbs (2010) outlines four very useful and practical elements in the process of being fair within relationships; first I will outline them below and then use them in an everyday example so that you can see what they look like in action.

 

  • The first is a concept called, reciprocity. Reciprocity as defined by Hibbs is, “The balance of mutual care and consideration.” Reciprocity is the act of giving to a partner or relationship with trust that they will reasonably give back in some way at some time. Be aware not to mistake this with tit-for-tat giving, where one might say, “I will do this for you (ONLY) if you do this for me”; this type of giving erodes trust.
  • The second concept is acknowledgment. Acknowledgement, although often undervalued and overlooked, is kind of a one-two punch for constructively giving in a relationship. It serves to give credit to your partner, affirm their good intentions, as well as validate their reality. This means putting yourself in your partner’s shoes and recognizing their effort or positive intentions.
  • Next there are (fair) claims. Fair claims are part of an earned entitlement based on past giving within the relationship, to ask for one’s needs to be met, or to request certain destructive behaviors to end. In order for a claim to be “fair” it should: (1) be realistic (2) not take advantage of your partner’s trust and (3) it must be earned between the two relating individuals.
  • The last element outlined by Hibbs is trust. Trust is created through each of the aforementioned: reciprocity, mutual acknowledgement of efforts and intentions, as well as fair claims. Trust can be built or depleted through different acts of reciprocity, acknowledgment, and fair claims. Trust grows when needs are considered, even if they are not met, this is important to remember. The more trust that exists within a relationship, the more a healthy “closeness” can exist between the couple (Hargrave & Pfitzer, 2003). Hibbs’ summarizes trust beautifully: “In a healthy relationship, you’re able to give freely and trust that you’ll receive care in return.”

 

Now let’s see these four elements of fairness in action. In the first example I will outline a situation in which reciprocity, acknowledgement, fair claims, and trust are not utilized:

 

Consider the couple James and Sara, who have been married for 12 years.  One evening Sara is working late, so James decides to cook dinner and have it ready when Sara arrives home. Sara enters and is so pleased to find dinner on the table for her.  After the couple finishes eating, Sara enters the kitchen and James sits down on the couch to wind down from the day. Upon entering the kitchen Sara sees a gigantic mess awaiting her, dishes everywhere, food all over the floor and counter tops, pans coated with a layer of sticky residue, and all she can think is, ‘why does he always make such a mess when he cooks!’ Trying to hold it together, Sara begins to clean the kitchen silently hoping that James will join in to help her. By the time she wades through the mess by herself, she is fuming, and her attempts to curb her aggression are futile. Unable to ignore the bubbling aggression, she explodes at James. “You always make a huge mess when you cook! You never clean up after yourself!” Triggered by her aggressive outburst James retorts, “You never appreciate anything I do, nothing is ever good enough! I tried to make dinner for you as a favor and this is the thanks I get?” Sara, still fuming, shoots back, “I didn’t ask for this! I would have rather picked up a pizza on the way home then have to clean up this mess!” The fight escalates and the emotional “bank account” within the couple system is eroded.

 

Now let’s look at how this situation may have gone using the four elements of fairness Hibbs outlines:

 

This time when Sara enters the kitchen she decides to handle things a bit differently.  Using acknowledgement, she states, “I appreciate you making dinner for me, I know you did it as a favor because I had a long day.” Not disregarding her own feelings, she makes a fair claim, “I am exhausted after today. Could you clean the kitchen for me?” James tired as well, acknowledges Sara and also makes a claim, “I bet you’re tired, I apologize for making such a big mess. I’m really beat as well, would it be okay with you if we left the dishes tonight and did them in the morning?” Sara acknowledges his effort and agrees while she also makes a claim for James to be more conscious of making a mess when he cooks and the couple leaves the situation having built trust and reciprocity, instead of putting more stress on their relationship. Following these guidelines may help to ensure that we grow from mistakes and shortcomings, rather than depleting our relationships unintentionally.

 

If you are interested in learning more about fairness within relationships, or about your own fairness model, I recommend checking out “Try to See it My Way” by Janet Hibbs. It is a wonderful book full of great resources and hands on exercises to really help your self-awareness and your relationship with your partner grow. Happy reading!

 

References and Further Reading

Boszormenyi-Nagy, I., & Krasner, B. R. (1986). Between give and take: A clinical guide to contextual therapy. New York: Brunner/Mazel.

Hargrave, T. D., & Pfitzer, F. (2003). The new contextual therapy: Guiding power of give and take. New York: Routledge.

Hibbs, J. B., Getzen, K. J. (2010). Try to see it my way: Being fair in love and marriage.

Penguin Group, New York, NY.

 

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