Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Psychology of Brer Rabbit: Psychological Resiliency

I know for all four of my readers out there, it is obvious that I have an affinity for many things, Disney. Much of that has to do with its capacity to remind me of childhood, and for the positive memories I have with family and friends. I grew up watching old Disney cartoons on Sunday evenings with my siblings. They were good times and I remember them fondly and hope to give my children similar memories. Today, I was reviewing the old movie, "Songs of the South" made by Disney. It has been years since it was shown on TV. Despite the reasons for its discontinuation, I find the story of Brer Rabbit to be helpful. You have the main character, Brer Rabbit who was born and bred in a briar patch. When he got to the point where he didn't like it anymore, he left his home and went off to explore the world for himself. He eventually finds himself caught in the middle of a "Tar Baby," or a trap set for him by Brer Fox and Brer Bear. Brer Fox hopes to make a quick meal of him and Brer Bear wants to "knock his head clean off." Though it appears that he is about to meet a gruesome ending, Brer Rabbit convinces the Fox to throw him back into the briar patch where he was born. Though it is a harsh environment, he is familiar with it and able to handle it. We can look at this in a metaphorical sense. Many people are born into situations that may not be exactly optimal. Life gave them their own "briar patch" to be raised in. However, research demonstrates that life's difficulties can result in a type of psychological hardiness that would not be present if the person had not been otherwise exposed to hardships. That is not meant to say that some difficulties are harder than others, because they are. Simply put, many of life's challenges can become the stepping stones by which we can survive later difficulties. If you buy into Victor Frankl's ideas in "Man's Search for Meaning," he said that it does not matter what we ask of life, but rather what life asks of us. At times, life gives us things that are challenging as if to ask us "what are you going to do with that, now?" We can use our prior experiences, whether they were easy or difficult to work through our own personal "Tar Babies." Therefore, when in difficult situations, it can be beneficial to think through prior struggles and come up with a plan with reasonable steps to work through it. And, if there are no steps, then leave it alone and see if things will resolve themselves. Of course, if you don't know the answer, that's when you turn to others such as family, a friend, a counselor, and/or your spiritual beliefs to work through them. Dr Law

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Carl Rogers' Counseling Skills CAN WORK!

I just returned from a week long Residency experience with a National University. During this Residency faculty members are assigned to train Mental Health Counseling students in basic counseling skills. Many of the skills are based on, though not limited to, skills that Carl Rogers suggested. Much of Rogers' Human Centered counseling approach was based on the idea that all people are inherently good, and that if individuals are provided the opportunity to receive unconditional positive regard from a professional, then the chances of personal growth increases. Carl Rogers also said that the therapeutic relationship is necessary and sufficient for change. Therefore, counselors are trained to utilize methods such as reflective listening (i.e. being an emotional mirror), echoing, paraphrasing, summarizing, appropriate use of open/closed-ended questions, validation, etc. to help clients feel that they are receiving an empathetic ear to their problems; thus having the environment to promote change. If you want to learn more about it, click on this youtube link to see Carl Rogers talking about his method and demonstrating it in the all-too-familiar case of Gloria. What I find to be interesting is that the basic counseling skills can transcend just the counseling office. There have been times that I have worked with couples where they have an issue with communication. It is interesting to see what can happen if they are taught how to use these basic communication skills in their relationships. They can learn how to talk with their significant others and be able to come to a better understanding of one another. They can also be used as a teacher or instructor communicates with learners. As counselors begin their training in the field, I would strongly suggest that they study the methods that Carl Rogers and other humanist psychotherapists utilized as a means to understand how a therapeutic relationship can help a person change. Think about it, how often do we need an understanding ear to work through our own problems? Being skilled in these methods allows that to happen and can often lead to a person discovering the answer to their own questions. Thus, the client is left empowered and accountable to themselves for their own change and growth. The counselor then becomes a willing observer and partaker in their process, though they do not provide the answers, which strengthens the counseling relationships and maintains ethical boundaries. When I began as a counselor, I remember being overwhelmed with how many clients who wanted the "answer" to their problem. Can you imagine how much knowledge one would need, as well as how much responsibility one would have if they truly did have all of the answers? Also, can you imagine the liability and accountability one would have if their answers are not "correct" for the client? Therefore, a person who can competency use basic counseling skills can provide a means to help their client/learner find their own answers. See you later. Dr Jamison Law