Psychologist Kristin Neff has recently released an exciting new book on a newer field of psychology: Self-Compassion. Self-Compassion is just what is says, having compassion for oneself. It may be easy to confuse this concept with that of narcissism, which applies to those people who believe they are special, self-entitled, and as a word from my own childhood describes it, "stuck-up". Self-compassion, on the other hand, is knowing that you did the best that you could, and leaving it at that without judgment of yourself and your abilities.
Often we are very good at judging our own performances as "good" or "bad", rather than simply observing our performance. And for the most part, we are very good at ruminating on the "bad" over the "good". This is where self-compassion comes into play. Having the ability to acknowledge that you tried your best, and thats all you can do, and letting go of the need for self-evaluation. This concept is also popular in sport psychology, simply because an athlete is usually only as good as their last performance, and it is easy to get down on yourself when you are not performing well in your sport. Sport Psychologists use the same techniques in sport psychology work, asking athletes to simply observe their performances in practice, rather than thinking about if they did "bad" or "good" at hitting the ball. Often times, when we focus less on these self-evaluations, we do better in our performances later, or even in the moment, simply because we are not judging ourselves.
One way to begin this practice, as Neff discusses in her book, is an exercise designed to help you think from another person's perspective. While we spend a lot of our day getting down on ourselves over things like little mistakes, or a relationship thats turned south, the second part of the exercise asks you to write a response to these negative thoughts from a perspective of an imaginary friend who provides unconditional support to you, and likes you regardless of your flaws. As a therapist, I will sometimes ask people to tell me the advice they would give to a friend if their friend was having problems with a flaw. Its always easier to understand and help ourselves when we leave a mind that poisons us on a daily basis.
So please, when times are rough, have compassion for yourself, and take note of all of the people who surround that can support you. Whether its a family member, friend, pastor, therapist, or a significant other - anyone (for the most part) can provide support, you simply have to ask for it. For more info and self-compassion exercises, check out Kristin Neff's new book "Self-Compassion" or go to her website at www.self-compassion.org, and if you are interested in the sport psychology perspective, check out W. Timothy Gallway's classic, "The Inner Game of Tennis".
If you are on Twitter, check out all of the posts coming up today on mental health as a part of the mental health blog party day, and mental health month, at #mhblogday.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Monday, May 16, 2011
Continuing a discussion of previous posts on psychotherapy, I'm using today's post on how to seek a therapist. Just like choosing a doctor, you should be even MORE picky about choosing your therapist. From what we know about the effectiveness of therapy, two major factors are at play, which are the techniques used by the counselor, and placebo (your belief that the treatment will work/is working). So, if therapy is something you are considering pursuing, here are some things to consider:
- Insurance. Some therapists take health insurance, leaving you only a small co-pay, or sometimes nothing at all. If you are unsure of mental health providers that you would be able to use your health insurance with, consult your insurance provider. Most tend to provide an online directory. Be advised, that any diagnosis rendered during your treatment (which usually needs to happen in order to pay the therapist via insurance) will be revealed to your insurance company. Due to this, some people will choose to pay out of pocket instead.
- Training. If you ever look for a therapist, you will notice a variety of letters that will follow their name. Each of those letters signify both a degree, and a type of training associated with that degree. All therapists generally come with the same basic skills in counseling, but some may be more specialized than others, and additional training may also be a significant difference. Here are some of the more popular letter combinations you may see for psychotherapists:
- Ph.D., LP - Doctorate of Philosophy. These individuals are trained to both be researchers or practitioners, which means they could work as a professor at a major university, or be a psychotherapist. In order to practice, the degree must be in either Counseling or Clinical Psychology. In practice, these people are called "psychologists" and can use the term legally in practice. "LP" stands for Licensed Psychologist.
- Psy.D., LP - Doctorate of Psychology. These individuals are primarily trained at the doctoral level in practice. While they know how to read and interpret research, they have spent a majority of their training focusing on working with clients. These people can also be called "psychologists". Psychologists can also give psychological assessments, and are the only mental health professionals trained to do so.
- M.D. or D.O. - Medical Doctor or Physician. Typically this would be a psychiatrist, who is a medical doctor specializing in mental health. It is uncommon nowadays to see psychiatrists practicing counseling, since they have a rare specialty, and hence their time then becomes more valuable.
- LPC - Licensed Professional Counselor. These individuals have at least a Master's degree in Counseling or Clinical Psychology.
- LCPC - Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor. These individuals have the same training as those with an LPC, but have achieved more clinical hours working with clients.
- LCSW - Licensed Clinical Social Worker. These individuals have a Master's degree in Social Work, and have a speciality in counseling, which is their primary work.
- These are the most common mental health professionals you will find, however, there can be additional types of providers, which are dependent on state governing boards. All mental health professionals have to pass some sort of licensing exam, in addition to their training and degree, and have to complete a varying number of supervised hours based on the title.
- Website/Advertisements. Many therapists will put ads for themselves on website directories such as Psychology Today magazine or the American Psychological Association. These are good resources to find out what kinds of therapists are in your area, and are typically verified by the directory as existing and legitimate. Other therapists may have a website for their practice. Check these out and get as much information as you can!! Finding a therapist is very similar to finding a spouse, in that you need to find someone who can understand your personality, and you can deal with their particular style of therapy.
- Speciality Areas. If you are going into therapy with a very specific type of problem, this would also be a good place to check with online resources or with the therapist themselves on how and if they can help you. The vast majority of therapists are prepared to help individuals with anxiety and depression, however, if you have another problem, like coping with ADHD, or Asperger's Syndrome, or are looking for couples counseling, its good to check which therapist may be able to better help you with this problem. If not, therapists will often refer you to another therapist they know who can better help you.
- Referrals. While talking about being in therapy can be an awkward and private subject for some individuals, you may know some people who have gone to therapy and had a good experience. If so, ASK who they saw! While there may be no guarantee of a therapist-client match, its always worth a closer look, and a possible initial meeting. Therapists themselves can also refer you to other therapists in town they may know who can help you, if not them.
- Meet and Greet. It is perfectly legitimate to meet with several therapists before choosing one to work with, because it will save you and the other therapists time and money in the long run. After all, you are hiring this person to help YOU! Don't be afraid for a test drive. The therapist will likely conduct an initial interview with you, asking you questions about what you are looking for help with, and talk about what they can do to help you. Look for a later post on possible questions to ask in this meeting.
These are some of the basics to keep in mind when seeking a therapist, and I will likely talk more about these points in the future. May 18 is Mental Health Month Blog Party Day (and May is Mental Health Month!)! Expect a Wednesday post here, and follow twitter posts with the hashtag #mhblogday for posts related to Wednesday's blog party!