When I was a kid, seeking good counseling was not typically what we did when troubled by difficult choices, or the consequences of choices in our lives. We might talk to our Pastor or Priest or Rabbi, but we did not seek out a mental health specialist.
There were not laws that mandated counseling for some of the things that counseling is mandated for now, and there was definitely no where near the research or the research tools available.
For example, driving under the influence laws and domestic violence laws were written differently and enforced differently.
That research, including what fMRI or SPECT scans reveal, for example, can make counseling a much more precise process than it once was, and models like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Solution Oriented Brief Therapy and biofeedback tools like EEG and heart rate variability biofeedback were not available.
Tools have emerged and continue to emerge which make counseling good, or more effective than perhaps it once was, and now you can find coaches too.
There are three things we human beings can hope to exert some management ability over, our thinking, our feelings, and our behavior.
The one thing nobody tells us about is how fast those three things happen inside our head and body, and how quickly I can move into a thinking pattern or feeling which can drive a behavior which takes me toward or away from my desired goal.
When we study heart rate variability biofeedback, which is learned on your computer, another tool not available when I was a kid, you see how fast your physiology changes in response to what you are paying attention too. And what you are paying attention to is impacted by the memory of stressors from your childhood and/or the human orienting response.
I have yet to have a client using the HeartMath program not be amazed to see the machine respond to a change in thinking on their part. I can see it, and when I ask, they report some change usually. Often clients will test it to see if there is any truth to what I claim.
While the feeling accompanying that change in focus is subtle, it is visible, and my clients learning that technique get their first experience of how quickly we change attention internally, and how quickly that change impacts heart rate variability.
Clients will learn to recognize subtle changes and decide whether or not to correct them so feelings and behaviors stay acceptable.
That change is visible in less time than a heart beat takes.
In fact, Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi,Ph.D. who wrote the book FLOW in 1993, reports that the central nervous system can process seven bits of nonverbal data at the same time, and the shortest time between seven bits and the next seven bits is 1/18th second.
Paul Ekman,Ph.D., who has worked for decades studying facial expressions says that we humans respond to a look of contempt in 1/25th second, and Michael Merzenich,Ph.D., one of the world's leading researchers in the emerging field of neuroplasticity says Senior Drivers need to be prepared to respond to changing road conditions in 1/45th second.
In comparison, it takes me 1/10th second to blink my eyes, so my good counseling tools need to be in place to help me stay centered and choose my thoughts and behaviors wisely, so they serve my life plan.
The good news? We are mostly successful at managing our behaviors, our thinking, and our feelings.
The bad news? When we break down the consequences can be very serious, so life changes fast, doesn't it?
Counseling Good For Love
Earlier I mentioned fMRI, or functional magnetic resonance imaging, which is a tool allowing us to see into the human brain and watch it as it handles various tasks.
Helen Fisher,Ph.D has used fMRI to examine human brains in and out of love, and has come up with a very intriguing model of love and the brain. I mention that here because relationships and problems in them are a major issue that folks seek counseling for.
When I take a look at her model I get a sense that the experience and stages of love can be recognized and managed, which hopefully does not diminish the passion and the poetry.
Fisher's work is an example of how the field of counseling is changing, and how counseling good down the road will happen. Counseling could be brain based.
Fisher has taken her work into the commercial arena with Chemistry.com, which is a dating site based on establishing "chemistry" with an individual, and this is a real chemistry based on her studies.
Daniel Amen,M.D., has written extensively about his use of SPECT brain scans to formulate individual treatment plans for clients that include medication, nutritional, supplements, physical exercise, biofeedback, and cognitive behavioral components.
Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D. have written a very comprehensive e-book or hard cover if you are a traditionalist, called
Brainfit for Life which tells us exactly how to take care of our brain's fitness, because your brain's fitness impacts every feeling and thought and behavior you have.
Evans and Burghardt want us to take advantage of newly discovered capacities of the human brain called neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, which can be enhanced and encouraged by attending the pillars of brain fitness, physical exercise, nutrition including lots of omega 3 fatty acid, stress management, sleep, and novel learning experiences, which might include the use of computerized brain fitness programs like Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro or Lumosity or Merzinich's Posit Science Brain Fitness Program.
Counseling good includes all of the technological developments mentioned above, and hopefully they will be included in your counseling experience by a counselor who is a skilled communicator well versed in communication skills like reflective listening.
Counseling does include the use of some other models like psychodynamic and experiential models, and different practioners will approach their work with a different theoretical model.
For example, a psychiatrist will typically only prescribe medication, while a psychologist may offer testing and counseling, and a counselor will do the talking part and refer for testing.
At any rate, please check out the tools below for good counseling.
Good Counseling From the Heart
HeartMath is a biofeedback tool that I have used in my practice for about nine years, and I love it because it is easy to learn, and folks are really excited to master a skill like managing the time between heart beats which has tremendous ramifications for their stress levels, and for their brain fitness also.
HeartMath has grown out of the new research on the hearts own nervous system or brain, which can learn and make decisions independently of any other brain I have.
What that brain will do, when it learns a cue and a breathing pattern, is move the heart into a coherent beat which soothes the entire body, and even opens the higher perceptual centers in the brain for brain storming. Imagine getting you and the folks in your office or your family all on the same heart beat? Could be great fun.
HeartMath is good for test takers, and golfers too, actually anybody who is under stress.
The the right column links are to computerized brain fitness programs like those discussed by Evans and Burghardt in the section of their book concerning novel learning experiences.
Novel learning experiences involve the kind of brain activity one finds when learning a new language or a new musical instrument.
So for me as a counselor to read another counseling book will not count. No matter how sophisticated the text, my brain already knows how to do counseling. So the challenge has got to be in a new area, and the challenge must allow step-ups in challenge level while maintaining an acceptable level of success.
The following programs meet those criteria for learning, and enhance my neurogenesis and my neuroplasticity, which enhances my "counseling good".
Curious about what Helen Fisher knows about chemistry?