Counseling Techniques





Counseling Techniques will vary given the training, inclination, experience, philosophy, and theoretical orientation of a clinician.

In other words, someone doing psychodrama or holotropic breathwork will use different techniques than a cognitive behavioral or rational emotive behavioral therapist who will use different techniques from a behaviorist.

A social worker will approach her work differently than a psychologist who will approach a client's issue differently than a psychiatrist or a counselor, for example.

As I build this website, I will speak to theoretical orientations, but first I want to offer some idea of practical, useful cognitive behavioral techniques for clinicians and readers, based on the work of Matthew McKay PhD. in his book "Thoughts and Feelings, Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life."

I have been using Dr. McKay's work with domestic violence and anger management clients for about 10 years and it is accepted by clients as accurately reflecting their experience. In his work, Dr. McKay speaks to the foundation of Cognitive behavioral techniques as;

Uncovering Automatic Thoughts

Changing Patterns of Limited Thinking

Changing Hot Thoughts

Counseling Technique # 1-Uncovering Automatic Thoughts

"Thoughts cause feelings. This is the essential insight of cognitive therapy. All of the cognitive techniques that have been developed and refined in the last half of the twentieth century flow out of this one simple idea; that thoughts cause feelings, and many emotions you feel are proceeded and caused by a thought, however abbreviated, fleeting, or unnoticed that thought my be."

Dr. McKay uses the word abbreviated for how fast we create thoughts.

Fast really means in 1/18th second, which is just about 2x as fast as I can blink my eyes. That means that I can pull up an automatic thought about my wife's scowl and create resentment chemistry inside my body in 1/18th second, before I discover that she just stubbed her toe. (Hopefully the resentment will not drive a pre-emptive comment by me). So uncovering automatic thoughts requires creating the habit of paying attention to what is happening inside me.

The Nature of Automatic Thoughts-

"You are constantly describing the world to yourself, giving each experience or event some label. You automatically make interpretations of everything you see, hear, touch, and feel. You judge events as good or bad, pleasurable or painful, safe or dangerous. This process colors all of your experiences, labeling them with private meanings."

These labels and judgements are fashioned from the unending dialogue you have with yourself, a waterfall of thoughts cascading down the back of your mind. These thoughts are constant and rarely noticed, but they are powerful enough to create your most intense emotions. This internal dialogue is called self-talk by Rational-Emotive therapist Albert Ellis, and automatic thoughts by cognitive theorist Aaron Beck. Beck prefers the term automatic thoughts because it more accurately describes the way thoughts are experienced. The person perceives these thoughts as though they are by reflex-without any prior reflection or reasoning; and they impress him as plausible and valid (Beck 1976)."

Characteristics of Automatic Thoughts:

1. They often appear in shorthand.

2. Automatic Thoughts are almost always believed. They have the same believable quality as direct sense impression. (But automatic thoughts are not based on current direct sense impression).

3. Automatic Thoughts are experienced as spontaneous.

4. Automatic Thoughts are often couched in terms of "should", "ought", or "must".

5. Automatic thoughts tend to "awfulize".

6. Automatic thoughts are relatively idiosyncratic.

7. Automatic thoughts are persistent and self-perpetuating.

8. Automatic thoughts are different than your public statements.

9. Automatic thoughts repeat habitual themes. Chronic anger, anxiety, or depression results from a focus on one particular group of automatic thoughts to the exclusion of all contrary thoughts. The theme of anxious people is danger. They are preoccupied with the anticipation of dangerous situations, forever scanning the horizen for future pain. Depressed individuals often focus on the past and obsess about the theme of loss, perhaps also focusing on their own failings and flaws. Chronically angry people repeat automatic thoughts about they hurtful and deliberate behaviors of others.

10 Automatic thoughts are learned.

Here are some techniques which will help me become aware of my automatic thoughts, because if I change the thought, I will change the feeling.

Recording Your Thoughts in a Thought Journal

Get out your pencil and paper (yes, it may sound tedious, but it is free!)and make three columns on the paper, one called Sitution, the second called Feelings, and the third Automatic Thoughts. Get ready to write each time you notice an unpleasant feeling.

The Situation Column will include information on Where, Who, When, What Happened.

The Feelings Column will be a one word summary of the feeling, rated on a scale of 0-100.

The Automatic Thoughts Column will include information on what you were thinking just before and during the unpleasant feeling.

With practice you will identify certain thoughts which happen during certain circumstances, and in the next chapter, we will work on some tools to change those thoughts. You can then categorize them.

More Counseling Techniques-Thought Counting

Sometimes automatic thoughts come very fast, and are unidentifiable. But you know you have had one, because you do not feel good.

Therefore you cannot use the worksheet from above, so keep an index card with you and count the number of automatic thoughts, until they begin to slow down enough that you can identify them and report them on the worksheet from above.



Techniques for Counseling

Counseling Technique #2-Changing Patterns of Limited Thinking

Counseling Technique 3-Changing Hot Thoughts

Counseling Technique-Relaxation

Counseling Techniques-Relaxation Without Tension

Counseling Technique-Cue Controlled Relaxation

Counseling Skills

Counseling Techniques-Worry Control

Counseling Techniques-Solution Oriented Brief Therapy

Group Counseling Techniques

Family Counseling Techniques

Marriage Counseling Techniques

Counseling Techniques Strength Based

Counseling Therapy Techniques

Effective Counseling Techniques



Resources for Your Use



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.

Would you share what you are most grateful for? Your story could be just what another person is searching for to renew themselves? Thanks.


Have a question and want to talk with a therapist? Call 815-316-2621 for Julie Logan, LCSW, RN. 7121 Windsor Lake Parkway, Loves Park, Illinois 61111 jlogan7264@myway.com

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