KINGS BEACH, Calif. - For most people, the idea of seeking psychotherapy is negative, threatening, useless or the best thing ever. When I was accepted into my master's degree program at California Lutheran University in California, my father's response was "why would you do this, you are not crazy." Needless to say, there was my answer - I wanted to better understand people and the world in which we all live.
The objectivity offered by a trained professional in a crisis situation or in events of everyday life can create safety, make sense of the event and offer insight without controlling clients in their decisions. The difference between talking with friends versus a licensed clinician are many - friends keep secrets, friends exchange gifts, friends can lose objectivity in offering support, while the licensed clinician is guided by regulations of the licensing state to place client safety, both physical and emotional, above all else.
As a clinician, I deal with the risk and benefits of choices people make in their lives; good, bad, right or wrong does not apply in my professional view. Effective psychotherapy supports clients in understanding the inherit risk or benefit of life choices. Every reaction or response to life events can results in benefit or the risk of choice.
Milk or fruit can go bad - however, the choice to eat or drink the item can be risky or beneficial depending upon the understanding of the individual. As a cognitive behavioral therapist, I view therapy as a class in life where there are no grades, just the ability to learn to make more beneficial choices in life.
Reactions are defined as automatic behaviors - we don't stop and think, we just do. Responsive behaviors involve stop, drop and think patterns of behavior, similar to the fireman telling youngsters to stop, drop and roll if clothes catch fire. The oxygen is prevented from feeding the heat source and the fire is extinguished; in human behavior, when we can learn to stop, drop and think before we act, more often the outcome is beneficial.
If the milk or fruit looks or smells "bad," we throw them out. In human interactions, using the skill to think before we say or do can increase the chance of beneficial rewards, thereby decreasing the oxygen to the heat source to put out the fire. Cognitive behavioral theory helps clients think about reactions versus responses to achieve more beneficial communication between us and other people.
In the next article, I will address feelings in relationship to this concept of reaction and response. Or, if readers have questions regarding situations of concern, please email the newspaper and I will hopefully be able to offer guidance in a general way.
- Joanne Snyder, LMFT, has a master's degree in marriage and family therapy. She practices out of Kings Beach and can be reached at 805-717-0849.