Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mastering Difficult Emotions and Troubling Thoughts

The skills training model for thinking about and responding to difficult emotions, troubling thoughts and unskillful actions has a lot of merit. This model differs from traditional counselling approaches in that the counsellor or coach functions much more like a teacher. These approaches –which include cognitive behavioural therapy and solution-focused therapy (as well as other approaches) -- strongly emphasize action and homework and help clients to develop and habituate new skills.

Expertise in skill development often takes up to 10,000 hours of deliberate or deep practice (certainly to gain expert status). This means breaking a goal into small chunks and taking small steps, making mistakes, getting corrective feedback and practicing again and again. In the field of counselling, this framework can be applied to concerns such as depression, anxiety, panic, social anxiety, relationship problems, as well as many other issues.

A framework such as Albert Ellis’ ABC model is a good example of a skill development model. In this approach, clients learn to identify the thoughts that they have about life events that generate unpleasant emotions that can lead to depression or anxiety. Clients learn different ways of thinking about these life events and thereby begin to have more positive emotions which then leads to more skillful action.

Behavioural experiments, keeping thoughts logs and homework assignments between sessions allow clients to continue to make progress by tracking their thoughts in relation to everyday experiences and practicing new actions in everyday situations. These between-session tasks are then discussed in counselling sessions and become the basis for further planning and taking next steps.

This model is attractive for clients who want to focus their attention in counselling on goals like increasing happiness, assertiveness, confidence, interpersonal effectiveness etc. and are highly motivated to learn from masking mistakes, practice new ways of thinking and behaving and do homework. The new brain science research is showing that this way of skill development creates real and lasting changes to brain structure. And online counselling is a great format for working on any goals that enhance personal and interpersonal effectiveness.

Best regards,


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