Counseling Approach

When I think of counseling approaches, I generally think of Cognitive-Behavioral, Solution Oriented, Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, or perhaps schools of thought like Psychodynamic or Behaviorism, or perhaps I think of a tool like the empty chair technique, which I first experienced or learned of as part of the Gestalt counseling approach, so perhaps a definition of counseling approaches is in order.

From Wikipedia;


Most forms of psychotherapy use spoken conversation. Some also use various other forms of communication such as the written word, artwork, drama, narrative story or music. Psychotherapy with children and their parents often involves play, dramatization (i.e. role-play), and drawing, with a co-constructed narrative from these non-verbal and displaced modes of interacting.[4] Psychotherapy occurs within a structured encounter between a trained therapist and client(s). Purposeful, theoretically based psychotherapy began in the 19th century with psychoanalysis; since then, scores of other [counseling] approaches have been developed and continue to be created.

Therapy is generally used in response to a variety of specific or non-specific manifestations of clinically diagnosable and/or existential crises. Treatment of everyday problems is more often referred to as counseling (a distinction originally adopted by Carl Rogers). However, the term counseling is sometimes used interchangeably with "psychotherapy".

While some psychotherapeutic interventions are designed to treat the patient using the medical model, many psychotherapeutic approaches do not adhere to the symptom-based model of "illness/cure". Some practitioners, such as humanistic therapists, see themselves more in a facilitative/helper role. As sensitive and deeply personal topics are often discussed during psychotherapy, therapists are expected, and usually legally bound, to respect client or patient confidentiality. The critical importance of confidentiality is enshrined in the regulatory psychotherapeutic organizations' codes of ethical practice."

So there you have it, counseling approaches can mean different things to different people, but I like the Rogerian definition, of working with everyday problems rather than the diagnostic issues that other professionals work with.

So as a counseling professional, who has seen many people make extraordinary changes using the 12 Step model of AA, what is my counseling approach? I know counseling works and I believe deeply in the process of change. I communicate that belief to my counseling.

I think the 12 Steps hold some truths for us as a counseling approach.

So when I work with folks, I work very hard to get them to see patterns in their thinking and behavior and to make choices, using that old definition of insanity, 'If you keep doing what you have always done, then you will keep getting what you have always gotten'.

That means that I have to discern and choose thinking or feeling or behavioral patterns very rapidly, and choose whether to continue them or change them, and we now have some great tools that were not available to clients even 15 years ago that help clients understand how fast that process of awareness and choice really needs to be.

(Hint-awareness and choice needs to be as fast as we blink our eyes, at least, which is 1/10th second)

(Hint 2-Michael Merzenich,Ph.D. says that Senior Drivers need to be aware of changes in driving conditions in 1/45th second)

(Hint 3-Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi,Ph.D. in his book FLOW says that we process 7 bits of sensory data at a time, and the shortest amount of time between packets is 1/18th second).

So this awareness and choice process needs to be done frequently and changes made frequently.

Most folks will say that it is impossible to be that aware of thinking, feeling, and behavioral patterns, because to do that will take them totally away from the external world and nothing will get done in their work.

I say that is right, but you have actually been doing this for a long time, and we are just going to refine your skills, so that you look for particular cues, and I love to use the metaphor of driving at this point.

Everyone understands that in order to journey in an automobile, they need to adjust the position of the vehicle on the road constantly because with each turn of the tire, new traffic variables come into play, and you sometimes arrive at your destination totally preoccupied with some thinking process, not even remembering the journey, because your body has learned how to drive successfully while your mind is elsewhere.

The driving analogy helps folks understand that they are already paying attention and making quick changes, we are just going to refine that skill and point it at everyday problems.

Counseling Approach With Biofeedback 

I like the counseling approach of biofeedback, because neurofeedback for example works with your brainwaves which cycle up to 42 time per second in beta, and folks can learn to manage their attentional style in cycles per second, which is helpful in the awareness and choice process.

In fact, there are even some Peak Performance practitioners out there who train folks to hold the alpha state for periods of time to access higher perceptual centers of the brain for problem solving.

I find Heartmath or heart rate variability biofeedback to be an excellent counseling approach, because it teaches folks that they can manage what is usually a subconscious physiological process, the time between heart beats, which has some excellent health benefits and confidence building benefits.

Most clients are amazed that they can learn this so easily, that it feels so good, can be cued on demand when necessary, if they forget, and is based on thinking and breathing, with tremendous brain fitness implications.

And then I teach in my counseling approach that they need to practice heart rate variability biofeedack every five minutes for two heartbeats, until it becomes a habit for your body, which will then remind you if you stray too far from this new comfort zone. (Yes, it will)!

Then we can move on to other counseling issues with the clients success at Heartmath as a platform for making fundamental change and movement to health and contentment.

If you can change the time between your heart beats, you can change thinking and feeling patterns also.

Folks learn that they do not have to believe every thought they have, or act on every feeling they have. And the learn how fast the body changes in response to thinking or breathing patterns, and how fast those can be changed, just like you change the position of your car on the road when you speed up or slow down or change lanes or turn or back-up.

If fact, you can get the Heartmath heart rate variability biofeedback program and put it on your home computer, and learn it yourself, without the help of a counselor.

Imagine getting everyone in your family on the same heart beat? Never thought about the heart beat of the family? It has one, and it needs to be attended to.

Please see the Heartmath link in the right column.

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