Thursday, August 28, 2008

When Life Gives You Lemons,... Make Lemonade

This is important, but not always easy to do. When life seems to be going sour (lemons), it does help to try changing your perspective to sweeten it up some (lemonade). So this is similar to positive thinking, and optimism, which you know I like to talk about. However, this is more along the lines of acknowledging and accepting the raw deal that we sometimes get dealt, but not allowing it to keep us down. Not allowing that to crowd out some legitimate good stuff that is also happening, and focusing more on that (yeah, I guess it is a lot like positive thinking). Here's an example....

We went on vacation last week. The "sour" part was the airline cancellations and delays, including an unscheduled overnight in Houston. At the same time worry about where Fay was going to hit. Do you ever notice that when you've been overstressed, and head out for a relaxing vacation, the stress takes a while to leave? Making the early part of the vacation less enjoyable (sour). So you need to schedule vacations that are long enough to have the relaxing effect that you need. Anyway, the whole week could have been soured by this turn of events. My daughter helped by texting me, "well at least you 2 are together." That was enough for me to take a look at what I do have, rather than focus on what I didn't have, and gradually change my sour mood. And that's how it can work for you. Don't just sit with the lemons and let them weigh you down. Squeeze them, add sugar, maybe water, and throw some ice in it. Sweet. Really, here's how it can actually work to lift your mood. Focus more on the here and now, in my case it was focusing on the person that I was with and appreciating the relationship we have, even though things around us were ugly. Also, you can consider less enjoyable situations that you've been in, and how good your situation is compared to that. For example, "I'm on vacation, not work" (and not in a hurricane).

So the point is to not let yourself stay in a negative place for too long. Except, sometimes it's hard to realize that you can get yourself unstuck. A good reason to have people in your life who can do or say the right thing to lift your spirits.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Psych 101: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the way I do therapy. Simply put, it refers to helping people by changing the way they think (cognition), and teaching them new behaviors. It works really well for a variety of conditions. People have what's called irrational thoughts, that cause them to act in a way that brings them unhappiness. For example, "I can't survive if everyone doesn't love me." Such thinking can make a person tolerate abusive treatment, get depressed because they feel unloved, or repeatedly get into superficial and painful relationships. In counseling I want to identify that thinking pattern, perhaps identify it's origin (much of this stuff starts in childhood),show them how it's not working for them currently, and encourage them to consider some other options for thinking about themselves. That's the cognitive part of CBT.

The other part is focusing on their unhealthy behaviors. In this example relationship behaviors. Having them practice different ways of interacting with important people in their life and getting a different response. Perhaps spending more time with the people who do care for them, and less involvement with people who don't show the caring, and see if it causes them to feel better. Often they'll also find that they can survive without the uncaring people, or sometimes those people change their tune once you leave them alone.

A very important part of this process is what occurs in the therapy relationship. My style is one of optimism, encouragement, focus on the client and their needs (instead of imposing my values on them), and giving them the attention and acknowledgement that they deserve. This type of relationship has a therapeutic effect. The client feels valued, and begins to feel better. More willing to take the risk of breaking old habits, and developing new healthy ones within the context of our safe relationship. CBT helps people break thinking and behavior habits that don't help them, and offers them an opportunity to develop ones that work. Ones that help them find happiness.

REMINDER: Freels Mental Health Group will be closed, on vacation(YAHOO!!) ,from Friday, August 15th until Sunday, August 24.