Less What, More Why

Less What, More Why

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In sessions, clients often contemplate important decisions, such as whether to quit a job or whether to end a friendship. We sometimes go into problem-solving mode and consider practical factors, like the pros and cons of their different options. But over time, I have found myself focusing less on the ‘what’ and more on the ‘why’. That is, why they would be making that decision. So often, I don’t think that either of the options they are contemplating is inherently right or wrong, good or bad; but the reasoning behind it can vary in how healthy or constructive it is for them.

Let me give you a couple of examples to illustrate what I mean:

1. Imagine that you want to stay home and cancel plans to go out with friends over the week end. Again, there is nothing inherently right or wrong about this decision. But the reasoning is important.

a. You might be doing this because you have had a busy week and you find alone-time nourishing, especially when you spend it resting and engaging in hobbies that you enjoy.

b. However, you might also be making this decision because social situations make you nervous and you’d rather not put yourself through that. Indeed, anxiety often elicits the urge to avoid. People struggling with social anxiety often find themselves avoiding social situations which make them anxious (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Importantly, avoiding something that makes us nervous can lead us to feel relieved in the short-term, but may actually serve to reinforce our fear over time (see Barlow & Craske, 2007).

In this example, the same behavior can be performed in the service of self-care in the former instance, and as an act of avoidance in the latter.

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2.Imagine that you often find yourself doing more than your fair share in a relationship. Over time, you might find yourself feeling hurt or resentful. You may be tempted to dial back how much effort you’re putting in for a while. There is no clear good or bad choice here, and this is where I would suggest that you pause and ask yourself why; what would be your goal in reducing your efforts?

a. You might be driven by a desire to make things more equitable in order to avoid feeling resentful toward your partner in the future. Indeed, some research suggests that relationship partners are more satisfied when they view the relationship as equitable (Stafford & Canary, 2006).

b. However, you might also be doing this to test your partner, that is, hoping that they’ll notice the change in your behavior, detect your underlying dissatisfaction, and adjust their behavior accordingly (e.g. by expressing more appreciation or doing their fair share). This can be risky for multiple reasons, including that your partner may not recognize the message you are trying to send and/or that they might not appreciate being tested in this way.

As you can see, the same behavior can aim to prevent resentment in one case, or to test the relationship in another case.

The practice of pausing and asking ourselves why may help us to get in touch with our underlying motivations, so that we can make more informed decisions. In so doing, it brings us one step closer to purposeful and thoughtful responding - rather than simply reacting.


Simcha Samuel is a clinical psychologist in Westmount, Montreal, Quebec, at Connecte Montreal Psychology Group. The team at Connecte loves writing about ways to boost our mental health and bring psychology into our everyday lives. For more helpful tips, check out Connecte’s blogspodcast, follow @connectepsychology on Instagram or like us on Facebook.


References and Resources

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Barlow, D.H. & Craske, M.G. (2007). Treatments that work: Mastery of your anxiety and panic (4th ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

McKay, M., Wood, J.C., & Brantley, J. (2007). The dialectical behavior therapy skills workbook: Practical DBT exercises for learning mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation & distress tolerance. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

Stafford, L. & Canary, D.J. (2006). Equity and interdependence as predictors of relational maintenance strategies. The Journal of Family Communication, 6, 227-254.

Purposeful Parenting: Rethinking Discipline

Purposeful Parenting: Rethinking Discipline

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Parenting behaviors are strong predictors of socioemotional, behavioural, and cognitive child outcomes (Altschul, Lee & Gertshoff, 2016; Scaramella & Leve, 2004; Shaw et al., 2003; Treyvaud et al., 2015). This means that, from the moment of conception, as parents we hold a significant influence over our children’s development; not only are we among the most important individuals in our child’s life, but what we do within this role is crucial for our child’s development. How’s that for sitting in the hot seat?

This idea can become quite overwhelming, as there are definitely moments in the day when we find ourselves reacting in ways we do not deem best (e.g. yelling over spilled milk), and we then spend time backtracking, feeling guilty, wondering if we were too lenient or too harsh, and ultimately feeling like we’ve failed. Parenting can feel like this sometimes… like rocket science… like an ever-changing abstract problem that continues to transform the moment we feel we are starting to figure it all out.

 https://ubisafe.org/explore/disciplining-clipart-teaching/

https://ubisafe.org/explore/disciplining-clipart-teaching/

Can you think of a time when you know you could have better handled a situation?

Well, here is the news: there is no such thing as the Perfect Parent. All parents make mistakes… parents are human, after all (despite superhuman talents in multitasking). The significant point here is, however, how we respond to our mistakes. If we model how to take responsibility for our shortcomings and take the time to repair relationships afterward, even our little slip-ups can become valuable lessons, and provide children with the opportunity to deal with difficult situations and develop new skills.

In this way, the impact and significance of parenting on children’s development becomes the gateway through which we can provide our children with continuous opportunities to learn to make good choices, instill positive self-regulation strategies, and teach them skills that they will carry forward throughout their life in order to become kind and successful individuals.Thus, it is clear that when navigating through our daily routines, our parenting must be both purposeful and intentional.

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One important way to engage in a more informed and intentional parenting style, as opposed to reactive behaviours, is by beginning to reflect on the purpose of our parenting practices. A particular aspect of parenting that holds a great impact on development and achievement is discipline.

Let us take a moment to reflect on the concept of discipline. What does discipline in your home look like? Oftentimes, when our children are misbehaving and doing things they know they should not be doing, we sometimes result to the following: we raise our voices, we yell, we wave our finger back and forth, we take an item or activity away, we send our children to their rooms or to time-out… we provide consequences.

This is completely understandable. At times, we cannot help but feel frustrated, angry, and exhausted when we walk in on our child jumping up and down on the new couch in our living room while holding his crumb-filled (or no longer filled) plate. And after all, these immediate actions or consequences do tend to put an end to the misbehavior in that moment. And then that’s it… we’ve laid down the law, the behaviour stops and we have a moment of (what we can attempt to call) peace.

In the short term, we have succeeded. However, what was our long-term goal in this strategy? What has our child taken away from this experience? Is the goal of our discipline practice to meet each misbehaviour with a consequence?

As explained by Dr. Siegel and Dr. Bryson in “No-Drama Discipline” (2016), the goal of discipline is to teach. Thus, when disciplining, it becomes important to think about what lesson it is we want to teach in that particular moment.We use these discipline moments to build skills so that our children can handle themselves better both in the moment and in the future. When disciplining, there are often better ways to teach than providing consequences.We want our short-term goal to include cooperation and doing the right thing. We want our long-term goal to involve the development of new skills in order to make better decisions and develop self-control.

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As we hold such an important role in the life of our children, and as our actions have a longstanding impact, it is imperative that we take the time to start reflecting about the purpose of our parenting approach and about the lessons we want to teach through discipline.

Below are a number of questions outlined by Dr. Siegel and Dr. Bryson (2016) that can help guide your discipline approach and help you reflect on engaging in more purposeful parenting:

  • Do I have a consistent discipline philosophy that I implement when my child misbehaves?

  • Is what I’m doing working? Am I able to teach the lessons I want to teach?

  • Do I feel good about what I’m doing? Am I enjoying the way I am engaging with my children?

  • Do my kids feel good about it? Do my children feel love through my approach?

  • Do I feel good about the messages I’m communicating to my children?

  • How much does my approach resemble that of my parents? Am I repeating old patterns?

  • Does my approach ever lead to my children apologizing in a sincere manner?

  • Does it allow me to take responsibility and apologize for my own actions? Am I a model for my children?


Margarita Miseros is a PhD Student in the School/Applied Child Psychology at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, and a therapist at Connecte Montreal Psychology Group. The team at Connecte loves writing about ways to boost our mental health and bring psychology into our everyday lives. For more helpful tips, check out Connecte’s blogspodcast, follow @connectepsychology on Instagram, or like us on Facebook.


References

Altschul, I., Lee, S. J., & Gershoff, E. T. (2016). Hugs, Not Hits: Warmth and Spanking as Predictors of Child Social Competence. Journal of Marriage and Family, 78(3), 695-714. doi:10.1111/jomf.12306

Scaramella, L. V., & Leve, L. D. (2004). Clarifying parent-child reciprocities during early childhood: the early childhood coercion model. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 7, 89–107.

Shaw, D. S., Gilliom, M., Ingoldsby, E. M., & Nagin, D. S. (2003). Trajectories leading to school-age conduct problems. Developmental Psychology, 39, 189–200.

Siegel, D., & Bryson, T. P. (2016). No-Drama Discipline Exercises, Activities, and Practical Strategies to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Developing Minds. Ashland: PESI Publishing & Media.

Treyvaud, K., Doyle, L. W., Lee, K. J., Ure, A., Inder, T. E., Hunt, R. W., & Anderson, P. J. (2015). Parenting behavior at 2 years predicts school-age performance at 7 years in very preterm children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 57(7), 814-821. doi:10.1111/jcpp.12489

Choisir

Choisir

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Du choix du repas au choix de carrière, du choix des vêtements le matin au désir d’avoir des enfants, des activités à faire dans la fin de semaine à une décision médicale… la vie est ponctuée d’un enchainement continu de choix à faire, de décisions à prendre. Parfois, le fait de faire un choix peut devenir déroutant, angoissant, insupportable!

Je marque une pause pour partager une réflexion personnelle que j’ai eue en voyage. Quand on visite d’autres pays, d’autres endroits de la planète, nous sommes confrontés à l’évidence que tous et toutes n’ont pas les mêmes possibilités. Je revois ce jeune pêcheur avec qui on prend le temps de discuter pour se rendre compte que son père était pêcheur, son grand-père aussi, son arrière-grand-père également et ainsi de suite. Auparavant, on pouvait observer la même chose au Québec ou peu de choix de vie s’offraient à nos arrières grands-parents ou mêmes à nos grands-parents: peu de possibilités quant au choix de carrière, on se mariait jeune, on avait des enfants, etc. Le fonctionnement de notre société a maintenant changé. Les différents changements, cette évolution, placent également les individus devant un plus grand nombre de choix à faire. C’est passer d’un monde où on survie, à un monde où on choisit.

Dans le monde où on vit actuellement, nous avons donc «la chance» d’avoir plusieurs opportunités différentes, de choisir des chemins différents, la chance de faire des choix! Cette chance qui… pourrait s’avérer ne pas en être une!

Dans ma pratique professionnelle comme psychologue mais aussi dans ma vie personnelle, il ne m’est pas rare de rencontrer des individus qui sont aux prises avec le choix, perdus dans l’ambivalence. Barry Schawrtz, psychologue a écrit un livre à ce sujet: Le paradoxe du choix. Il discute de l’univers dans lequel on vit, de l’effet pervers de l’abondance de choix et de son lien avec les difficultés psychologiques que certains peuvent éprouver. Il décline son propos en trois effets majeurs créés par cette abondance de choix. Il nomme d’abord la paralysie que peut provoquer un trop grand nombre de possibilités. Ensuite, il aborde la plus grande chance d’être insatisfait de son choix étant donné qu’on peut le comparer à un ensemble de possibilités qui auraient pu être choisies et le troisième qui est l’escalade des attentes qui se résumerait par le fait que si j’ai autant d’options devant moi, l’une d’entre elles devrait être parfaite. Le psychologue résume également son propos dans un TED TALK que vous pouvez consulter ici: https://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_on_the_paradox_of_choice.

Plusieurs individus de différents horizons ont tenté de résoudre le problème découlant des choix à faire, de proposer une solution qui aiderait à calmer l’angoisse qu’on peut ressentir devant l’absence de réponse. On passe de propositions plus farfelues, à des propositions ésotériques, à des propositions plus scientifiques. Je me rappelle d’une petite boule (la Magic 8 ball) qui répondait à toutes nos questions seulement après l’avoir secouée. Des applications pour les téléphones mobiles sont maintenant disponibles pour aider à faire des choix. On peut aussi penser aux voyantes et autres qui tentent de répondre aux indécisions face à l’avenir. Des outils plus sérieux ont également été développés pour nous aider à prendre des décisions. Isabelle Falardeau, psychologue et conseillère d’orientation, a écrit un ouvrage sur le sujet: Sortir de l’indécision. Elle y propose des outils et des pistes de réflexion intéressantes. Notamment, elle y aborde quatre peurs principales qui peuvent nous maintenir dans l’inaction, dans une paralysie par rapport aux choix à faire.

1. La peur de se tromper

Je suis certaine que plusieurs d’entre nous (pour ne pas dire nous tous!), ont été confrontés à cette peur de se tromper, de prendre une mauvaise décision, de choisir le mauvais chemin. L’auteure du livre mentionne que cette crainte est souvent observée chez les perfectionnistes qui peuvent avoir tendance à croire qu’il existe une seule et unique bonne solution! La vérité, c’est que plusieurs choix peuvent être bons, tout dépendamment du contexte. Même en sachant que plusieurs chemins sont possibles, la pression à faire les bons choix demeure difficile. En ce sens, je vous invite à consulter la publication de ma collègue Jacinthe Lemelin intitulée Le perfectionnisme: un avantage ou un inconvénient?. Elle y donne des astuces pour vaincre le perfectionnisme malsain qui peut assurément être observé chez certaines personnes qui sont paralysées par la peur de se tromper en faisant un choix.

2. La peur de l’échec

Parfois, cette peur peut être si intense qu’elle nous empêche de prendre des risques et ainsi, nous empêche d’avancer. Il est nécessaire de garder à l’esprit que TOUT le monde fait des erreurs et vit des échecs. Il est difficile d’adopter cette vision après une mauvaise décision ou un échec, mais ces situations sont souvent bien utiles pour apprendre et se développer personnellement.

3. La peur de l’inconnu

Lorsque l’on prend une décision, il est impossible de connaitre l’ensemble des impacts que celle-ci aura dans l’avenir. Isabelle Falardeau mentionne que “décider, c’est à la fois prendre du pouvoir sur sa vie tout en acceptant de perdre momentanément le contrôle sur les événements à venir”.

4. Peur de déplaire

Chaque individu accorde une importance plus ou moins grande au regard extérieur et à l’opinion de l’autre. Certains en arrivent même à être contraints par ce regard et à lui attribuer davantage de valeur qu’à leur propre vision. Il s’avère toutefois que faire des choix ou prendre des décisions impliquent dans certaines situations de déplaire aux autres. Il faut se rappeler qu’il est impossible de correspondre aux attentes de tout le monde! C’est donc important de prioriser nos attentes internes plutôt que les attentes externes.

Il peut donc être intéressant de réfléchir et de prendre conscience de la peur ou des peurs qui vous habitent pour être davantage en mesure de les affronter dans un contexte de choix!

Dans la même lignée, soit celle d’améliorer notre conscience de soi par rapport à notre façon de faire des choix ou de prendre des décisions, Nadine Sciacca propose dans son livre trois profils de «décideurs». Ainsi, pour vous permettre de vous connaitre encore mieux dans un contexte de choix, voici une courte définition de chacun des types et en prime, certains trucs qui pourraient s’avérer être pratiques!

A. Le décideur évitant

C’est qui? Trois types de comportement peuvent être observés chez le décideur évitant. Le statut quo, la procrastination ou encore la délégation à autrui. En étant passif, en repoussant ou en octroyant à autrui le pouvoir de faire les choix, le décideur évitant ne développe pas l’autonomie et la confiance nécessaire pour les choix éventuels.

Des conseils? Le décideur évitant doit se souvenir et se confronter constamment à l’idée que de ne pas prendre de décision peut avoir des conséquences à la fois de façon concrète et identitaire (confiance en soi, sentiment de pouvoir sur sa vie, etc.). Il doit également s’accorder le droit à l’erreur qui elle, permet ultimement le développement personnel.

B. Le décideur hypercontrôlant

C’est qui? Le décideur hypercontrôlant essaie d’avoir un portrait exhaustif (avoir tous les avis, toute l’information disponible, etc.) d’une situation avant de prendre une décision. Il a également tendance à vouloir tout décider soi-même. Malheureusement, cette stratégie qui vise à préserver le contrôle peut avoir l’effet inverse! En effet, le décideur hypercontrôlant peut devenir très anxieux dans les contextes dans lesquels il se retrouve impuissant. Cette stratégie peut également nuire aux relations interpersonnelles du décideur hypercontrôlant.

Des conseils? L’auteure suggère la pratique du lâcher-prise et encourage ce type de décideur à déléguer davantage. Elle suggère également des trucs concrets comme se fixer des limites raisonnables quant à la recherche d’informations (nombres d’avis, information), accepter le risque d’erreur et laisser une place à l’entourage.

C. Le décideur impulsif

C’est qui? À l’opposé du décideur hypercontrôlant, le décideur impulsif va choisir rapidement en esquivant l’étape de l’analyse, de la réflexion et de la recherche d’avis extérieurs. Il est souvent difficile pour le décideur impulsif de tolérer l’angoisse ressentie devant la prise de décision.

Des conseils? Le décideur impulsif devrait apprendre à se laisser du temps, à prendre un recul. Pour ce faire, il est nécessaire d’accueillir les émotions difficiles qui accompagnent l’attente et tenter de les apprivoiser. Sciacca donne des trucs plus concrets comme se fixer un temps d’attente, s’exiger d’avoir un minimum de deux avis avant de prendre une décision, retarder la mise en action, etc.

J’espère maintenant que vous connaissez mieux votre profil de décideur qui est souvent relié aux différentes craintes que l’on peut éprouver par rapport aux choix qui s’offrent à nous. Il n’en demeure pas moins que le fait de faire un choix est souvent difficile…

Je terminerais avec la citation d’une artiste que j’affectionne particulièrement:

Malgré moi

Puis aussi malgré vous

Et malgré la vie

J’ai choisi

De choisir

DUVAL1


Stéphanie Landry est une psychologue à la clinique Connecte Groupe de psychologie de Montréal. L’équipe de Connecte aime bien écrire sur les diverses façons d’améliorer notre santé mentale et inclure la psychologie dans notre vie quotidienne. Pour plus de conseils utiles, consultez les blogues de Connecte, les baladodiffusions, suivez-nous sur Instagram @connectepsychology ou aimez notre page sur Facebook.


Références

Falardeau, I. (2007). Sortir de l’indécision. Canada: Septembre éditeur.

Schwartz, B. (2009). Le paradoxe du choix: Et si la culture de l'abondance nous élFalardeau, I. (2007). Sortir de l’indécision. Canada: Septembre éditeur.

Schwartz, B. (2004). The Paradox of Choice: Why more is less.

Schwartz, B. (2005). Barry Schwartz: The paradox of choice [video file]. Repéré à https://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_on_the_paradox_of_choice

Sciacca, N. (2016). Comment prendre de bonnes décisions.


1Pour voir son travail: @duval.art sur Instagram et DUVAL Art sur Facebook

Getting Grounded and Showing Up for You

Getting Grounded and Showing Up for You

 Photo by  Jen Loong  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jen Loong on Unsplash

Whether it’s our to-do lists, a frustrating conversation we had earlier in the day, the constant nagging temptation to check our phones, the guilt over not exercising enough, worries about our loved ones, etc., our thoughts and feelings may be pulling us in various directions all day long. I find it’s easy to get lost among all this chatter, and when I say lost, I mean lose myself and lose sight of what is important to me. Instead of acting based on what I really want and what’s healthy for me, I feel like I have no solid centre and am stuck in reacting mode.

I try to counter this reactive, uncentred way of being by “getting grounded”. I hear the term “getting grounded” often, and to be honest, I’m not sure if it means the same thing to everyone. I’m defining here what it means to me, and hopefully it’s helpful to you too. I think of getting grounded as getting out of the ruminating/worrying/spinning/not constructive thinking that is happening in my head, pausing, and paying attention to what is happening in my body, without judgment. By getting out of my head and dropping into my body, and noticing the sensations that are there, not only do I have more of sense of a centre, of being grounded, but I am more likely to be in touch with what is going on with me, the emotions I’m feeling, the motivations that are driving me, etc. By paying attention to myself in this way, I’m able to get unstuck from distractions and negative thought patterns and show up for myself in a mindful, and maybe even loving manner.

There are plenty of tips out there for “getting grounded” or what clinical psychologist and meditation teacher Tara Brach might call “the sacred pause”. For example, you might meditate, go for a walk in the forest, or do some yoga. I’ve outlined a simple “getting grounded” technique here that you can do in your every day life, during your busy day.

Pause and Pay Attention

  1. Pause

  2. Drop into your body and notice what is happening there. Notice the sensations in your body (e.g., muscle tension, tingling, heaviness, pressure).

  3. If you have trouble getting in touch with your body, simply try noticing your breath as it travels in through your nose, down your throat, and into your lungs.

  4. Keep breathing and noticing, without judgment and with curiousity.

  5. Proceed

This is a pretty “bare-bones” technique, but I’ve kept it that way intentionally. The purpose of this technique is to simply get us to pause and notice, to check in with ourselves. It may take some practice, but from this place of groundedness and attentiveness, we will likely be better able to recognize what we need to move forward in a way that is healthy and nourishing for us and for those around us.


Lisa Linardatos is a clinical psychologist in Westmount, Montreal, Quebec, at Connecte Montreal Psychology Group. The team at Connecte loves writing about ways to boost our mental health and bring psychology into our everyday lives. For more helpful tips, check out Connecte’s blogspodcast, follow @connectepsychology on Instagram, or like us on Facebook.


References

Baer, R. A., & Krietemeyer, J. (2006). Overview of mindfulness- and acceptance-based treatment approaches. In R. A. Baer (Ed.), Mindfulness-based treatment approaches: Clinician’s guide to evidence base and applications (pp. 3–27). San Diego, CA: Elsevier

Harris, R. (2009). ACT made simple: An easy to read primer on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life. New York: Hyperion.

Resources

3 Simple Mindfulness Practices for Coping with Difficult Experiences and Emotions in Day-to-Day Life by Dr. Natsumi Sawada

A Shout Out to Simply Noticing by Dr. Danit Nitka

Be Here Now… But How? 3 Steps Towards Experiencing Life More Fully by Dr. Maryann Joseph  

Stressing Out? S.T.O.P. by Dr. Elisha Goldstein

Psychotherapy can help, here’s a story about how…

Psychotherapy can help, here’s a story about how…

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I am a psychologist. Psychologists are people who spend a significant amount of their life studying how people work and why they do what they do* (for me that started at age 19 and has continued for the past 20 years). We practice psychotherapy. Psychotherapy helps empower people to think differently, feel differently, and do things differently while at the same time helping them see that they are a worthy person just as they are. It’s good stuff.

Here’s a little story about psychotherapy, I hope you like it…It takes place on the planet Edo.

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I know of a planet called Edo. On this planet people are born in a machine that looks like a little space ship. You live in your own ship. You can see other people and interact with them but you cannot really see into each other’s ships. Your ship has a lot of buttons and if you push them you can go forward, backward, and stop. When you are little your parents teach you how to use your ship; they teach you basic things like flying, hovering, and ship maintenance. You can learn other skills by going to school, like how to communicate with other ships, how to quantify things, and a lot of other information about the world outside your ship.

You have dreams about flying to the moon in your ship, you see other people do it and think, “I can do it too”. As you grow up you realize there are still a lot of buttons that you don’t understand in your ship. Your parents try to help you but you realize that they are limited too in their understanding of their ship and so their help only goes so far. Sometimes you feel overwhelmed by your ship and using it feels hard. You push buttons and sometimes you go places you don’t want to go and that’s scary so you stop pushing some buttons. But what if you need those buttons to get to the moon?

As you become an adult you find yourself using the same set of buttons over and over again and it feels monotonous. You start to think maybe your ship is no good, or not as good as others. Sometimes, you wish you had a different ship. You can’t see inside anybody else’s ship so you feel like you’re the only one that feels this way.

You find out about this person who studies how to help people understand and use their ships better. She helps people when they feel stuck. She’s called a psychologist**. She spent a long time studying people’s ships, getting as close an inside glimpse as possible, and she thinks that she can help you understand some of those buttons better and create new sequences and move different places.

You’re scared, what if it doesn’t work? What if I go somewhere I don’t want to go? What if I find out that this ship cannot in fact get to the moon?

She seems to understand your fears, she says that you’ll take it one step at a time and asks you where you would like to go with your ship. You tell her and she seems to understand. She says she’d like to try to help you get there and that she’ll need you to tell her what it’s like in your ship for her to be able to help you. You are scared again, because you don’t really talk about what’s inside your ship. She asks about the stuff that feels like it’s not working. You tell her about the buttons that you’ve pushed that have taken you to bad places, the buttons that seem like they should work but that do not, the ones that you’ve only looked at but never even tried, again she seems to understand. She asks you about the stuff that is working and you’re kind of caught off guard because you never really think about what is working. She says she thinks you’ll start by looking at a sequence you’ve been using and change it up just a bit to see where that takes you. You think this is a pretty small step but it’s actually hard to do and so she helps you through it and once you do it you feel better, more confident, more empowered.

She is really interested in your ship and asks you tons of questions. She helps you decide what sequences of buttons you want to try pushing more and which ones you want to push less or not at all. She is patient when you find it hard to stop pushing a button and never judges you. She sits beside you when you push a new sequence and reassures you that it’s normal to fall, “everybody falls,” she says.

She let’s you be angry when buttons feel like they’re stuck and you wish you had another ship, and then gently brings you back to your ship and what you can do in it. You start to move to places you have not gone before. At first you feel like it’s all because of her, but the more steps you make the more you realize it’s you. You start to feel comfortable in your ship, to appreciate your ship, and to take care of your ship and your ship works pretty well. You hit bumps, but you know how to get up when you fall.

You say goodbye to your psychologist. Maybe you’ll come back to see her if you hit a very big bump or want to make a very big leap, but then you’ll be off again, you and your ship, exploring the world together. You’re not sure you really want to go to the moon anymore, but if one day you do you’re pretty sure you will figure out how to get there.


Jodie Richardson is a clinical psychologist in Westmount, Montreal, Quebec, at Connecte Montreal Psychology Group. The team at Connecte loves writing about ways to boost our mental health and bring psychology into our everyday lives. For more helpful tips, check out Connecte’s blogspodcast, follow @connectepsychology on Instagram or like us on Facebook.


For more reading on psychotherapy check out these blog posts:

CBT: WHAT THE &^%#O IS THAT?!

DIALECTICAL BEHAVIOUR THERAPY: LOOKING FOR THE PLAID

THE SKINNY ON ACT

5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW TO MAKE THERAPY WORK FOR YOU

A few references:

Hofmann, S.G., Asnaani, A., Vonk, I.J.J., Sawyer, A.T., and Fang, A. (2012). The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: A Review of Meta-analyses. Cognitive Therapy Research, 36(5), 427-440.

Chambless, D. L., & Ollendick, T. H. (2001). Empirically supported psychological interventions: Controversies and evidence. Annual review of psychology, 52(1), 685-716.

Tsai, K, C. (2012). Play, Imagination, and Creativity: A Brief Literature Review. Journal of Education and Learning, 1(2), 15-20.

Notes:

* In Québec the current requirement for a psychologist is to have a PhD in psychology. You can read more here.

** We’re using “she” only for purposes of coherency in this story, but please be advised that good psychologists come in every gender.

Special acknowledgement to Dr. Natsumi Sawada for inspiring this story with her creative ideas and for brainstorming the content with me.