What happens in the counseling process? Is it so mysterious?
Does the counselor hold the secrets to ancient wisdom, pills, and potions?
I am reminded of a book about short term or solution oriented counseling written by Steve DeShazer that I read perhaps 30 years ago, where clients were asked during their first session, "What has changed since you called for an appointment?"
Change is the essence of the counseling experience. An individual will decide that for right now, they need to consult with an outside source for resources for a cognitive or feeling or behavioral problem.
(In fact, Sharon Begley answers this question, "Is it really possible to change the structure and function of the brain, and in so doing alter how we think and feel? The answer is a resounding yes.)
And often once an individual makes a phone call to schedule the appointment, change starts to happen, the problem begins to unravel.
Depending upon the counselor's theoretical orientation, which model they like to use, the actual session could go in any number of directions, perhaps cognitive behavorial or rational emotive behavioral therapy which are models that work with self-talk, or psychodrama could be used which is an experiential model, or solution oriented brief therapy, and an addiction issue or sexual abuse issue will involve different techniques.
No matter what the model, the counselor and client will talk about the problem and the goals, and set some goals.
The non-judgemental and in depth listening done by a counselor allows the client to talk about something that has been troubling them, and the human validation of non-judgemental and in depth listening is a key factor for the client in finding some emotional relief.
That relief happens inside the body, of course, and reflects neuroplastic change in the brain.
Neuroplasticity is a capacity of the human brain which we are just beginning to understand, and I think teaching our clients about neuroplasticity and how it can be enhanced is a key part of the counseling process.
One of my mentors in this field, many years ago told me that "teaching the road map" was very important for clients.
In a sense, clients need to know that they are not outliers, way outside the norm, and teaching the road map is a key piece of that part of the counseling process.
Technology has added some interesting knowledge about the human experience and added some interesting tools to our change tool box.
We can now work out the brain for brain fitness, and we can use biofeedback to train brain waves which can cycle at 15 to 42 cycles per second, or heart rate variability can be trained, which might mean we are maintaining an internal homeostasis 60 times per minute.
Attending to my thoughts about my life and my physiology that frequently makes change easier I think because I can adjust my thinking a feeling quickly in small increments, like the adjustments I make to my car as I steer it on the road.
If you stop and think about how you drive, you are attending to many variables very quickly and very frequently and constantly adjusting the speed of the vehicle and its position on the road.
I think the counseling process is just like that.
Awareness offers choice.
The Counseling Process and Neuroplasticity
Sharon Begley has written a wonderful book, "Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain", just one of many coming out these days, about our brains and how they can change.
In this particular case the change is in the brains of Buddhist meditators, and fMRI has shown that the brains of meditators have changed based on their practice of a particular kind of compassion meditation.
The counseling process produces change in the same way, though neuroplastic changes in neuron connections and encouraging neurogenesis, or the growth of new brain cells.
As a domestic violence educator, I find that my court ordered clients are very open to this kind of counseling process, the imparting of knowledge.
And the rest of us can undertake the skills of brain fitness on our own by utilizing biofeedback or computerized brain fitness programs to begin the neuroplastic and neurogenesis process.
As clients demonstrate change, a great part of my job is recognizing it, and literally shouting out congratulations.
Encouragement works in the counseling process.
I have tried the following brain fitness programs, Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro, Posit Science Brain Fitness Program, and Lumosity, and I endorse all three for my clients.
The HeartMath program is a key tool in the counseling process for me, because clients are amazed that they can exert control over the inside of their body so effectively, heart beat by heart beat.
As they are successful learning that, the cognitive side of the counseling process flows very easily.
I mean, I prefer to feel love more than anxiety, and if all I need to do is work with the brain in my heart to do that, great.
Would You Share Something That You Are Grateful For?
When I was beginning my personal growth journey, a wise person told me that when I was feeling resentful or afraid or sad, that I should remember the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was ready to feel better. That phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
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