This unique text, developed by the author with the help of his students at Nova Scotia Community College, provides an overview of the field of helping, discussion of the field's 12 major theories and corresponding techniques with a special focus on helping readers develop their own counseling style or orientation. After reviewing and applying the content, readers decide what theory or combination of theories and techniques resonate for them.
The term counseling intervention has taken on a little different meaning since the A&E show about addictions interventions, although this particular kind of intervention has been around since Vernon Johnson began it in the 1970's, I believe.
To me though, as a domestic violence and anger management trainer, the words counseling intervention mean interventions that I use in my counseling sessions.
Those interventions come from Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Existential or Experiential models, from the 12 Steps, from Grief Counseling, from journaling models, from Gestalt, from T.A., from any number of counseling models, from brainwave and heart variability biofeedback, from sound and light and binaural beat technology, from Chi Gong, but most importantly they reflect my orientation toward Solution Oriented Brief Therapy, Positive Psychology, and the Pillars of Brain Fitness. Brain fitness is a great lifestyle and counseling intervention which is the foundation for the growth of new neurons.
I have been involved in my own personal growth for 30 years, and have sought out tools to try out that have continued to move me towards what I believe is an effective and efficient use of my strengths.
I have been blessed to walk with others who are making similar transitions, so there is an experiential truth for many folks that finding strengths and operating from them is healthy.
The most important counseling intervention is listening. Understand that listening is a discreet skill with discernible steps.
Listening non-judgementally is usually perceived by the speaker as confirmation that they are basically OK, even though a significant part of their life right now is occupied by some current problem.
Once clients have managed to relax a bit, and begin to get comfortable that they can find a thinking or feeling or behavioral or some combination of all three kind or road map, we can begin to discuss signature strengths and solution orientations.
Sometimes clients will profess powerlessness over their thinking or feelings or behavior, and at that point, I like to take them to a biofeedback tool called Heartmath, or heart rate variability biofeedback, which combines a number of what I believe to be very helpful tools together in one package, including feedback from the computer screen about how they are learning the skill.
Once clients get it that they can exert some (or alot, it they practice) control over something like heart rate variability coherence, which is usually a subconscious physiological process, they are more confident to tackle thinking and and behavioral interventions which offer less clear cut feedback.
The thinking goes that if I can do the heart rate variability thing, then I can surely dispute irrational thoughts, or communicate assertively, or set boundaries, or do the 12 Steps, or go to a Holotropic Breathwork.
So what happens in Heartmath heart rate variability biofeedback?
Clients are hooked up to a computer which monitors the time between their heart beats, and gives them audio and visual feedback about the coherence between heart beats.
Clients are taught to pay attention to the area around their hearts, and to remember a positive fun time, then ask their heart for a less stressful way to handle this kind of event in the future, and when clients get the breathing and thinking for a bit, they will see their heart rate variability move into coherence, and they also can track how problem thoughts lead to incoherence and stressful feelings.
With practice folks learn that they can feel relaxed for long periods of time, by attending to their thinking and breathing, and if they get untracked, a simple reminder will cue the relaxed physiology again. After all, biofeedback means that the process is learned by the brain in the heart.
Your heart has enough neurons in it to learn and make decisions, and nobody knew about your heart's sophisticated nervous system until a few years ago, so that is why heart rate variability biofeedback is not a widely know counseling intervention yet.
Clients learn quickly that changing or controlling the external world actually has nothing to do with changing how they feel, and if they change their thinking to the inside (ask the heart a question), they can feel better quicker, and can continue to steer their thinking and feelings for long periods of time.
Probably not. No one had until about 10-15 years ago, when it was discovered that we grow new brain cells every day, and that we could lay the ground work for that by attending to the pillars of brain fitness.
The two key terms to be concerned with in regards to counseling interventions here are neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.
Neurogenesis is the growth of new brain cells, and we can encourage that capacity of our brain, just as we can encourage the increased connectivity of neurons, which we call neuroplasticity, by taking care of the pillars of brain fitness, which are physical exercise, nutrition which will include lots of anti-oxidants and omega three fatty acids, sleep, stress management (Heartmath), and novel learning experiences.
Those novel learning experiences can include learning a foreign language or a new instrument, or perhaps one of the newly available computerized brain fitness programs like Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro, which will train attention and memory for heart rate variability biofeedback, and has an interesting side effect of increased IQ.
So we counselors should start with tools that enhance our clients efficacy and skills, increasing their confidence, and Mind Sparke and Heartmath heart rate variability are excellent for that.
What a great model for a counseling intervention
Very early in my personal growth experience, a wise person taught me to use the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was resentful or afraid and that phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
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