Counselling and other forms of “talking therapy” have evolved quite a bit since they first became mainstream. Indeed, therapists and coaches can now take any number of approaches to provide their clients with relief, all while using the latest techniques and strategies.
In my practice, I use a variety of these approaches myself.
Of course, like any other coach, my goal is to talk to my clients and help them make long-term changes that ultimately improve their lives. This necessitates both a strong sense of compassion and a deep understanding of the science behind the coaching and therapy techniques being used. After all, these new modern therapy techniques are often built upon solid theoretical foundations and have been further supported by years of neuroscientific research and clinical trials.
Good therapists have been more than happy to embrace these new approaches to counselling. In most cases, they are guided by a desire to be both more effective and more efficient in relieving their client’s psychological afflictions. To these men and women, the development of faster, easier, and less stressful therapy techniques is a godsend.
In the early days of psychoanalysis, the process largely consisted of an “expert” speaking to a client they considered to be “broken” or “damaged.” This proved to be very disempowering for the client and created a power dynamic that often did more harm than good.
Modern therapy strives to create a balance between the counsellor and the client. In this case, the latter brings their knowledge off their life and experiences to the table, while the former brings their insight, training, and ability to spot patterns of behaviour that might be affecting the client negatively.
In modern therapy sessions, a councillor will guide their clients toward workable solutions to help them get over problems or get through difficult situations.
Earlier, I mentioned that modern approaches to therapy often come from a foundation of neuroscience. Put simply, this means that these techniques are designed around how the brain works. Of course, this was not a large factor in early psychoanalytic techniques because science did not yet know about how the brain was structured, what neurochemicals were in play, or what those various chemicals did.
Today, we do. This allows councillors to make much faster progress with their clients and put their feelings of compassion to good use. To that point, modern therapy has given us some highly regarded therapeutic interventions, specifically ACT, Havening, Coaching and Mindfulness, and NLP. In the following paragraphs, I’ll go over each of these in detail.
ACT stands for “acceptance and commitment” therapy. Though it remains relatively unknown, it has been gaining traction among coaches and therapists since the mid-1990s. In fact, it is often preferred over both cognitive behavioural therapy techniques and medications.
The core of the technique is Mindfulness, but it also focuses on several distinct factors:
- What is happening to the client.
- Changing the relationship between the client and the thoughts and feelings that are causing them harm.
- Following a life based on the client’s values.
- Taking committed action in alignment with the client’s values.
As an ACT therapist, I rely on a combination of storytelling, questions, metaphors, and simple exercises to interact with my clients. This is not me telling them what to do, but the client and I working together as a team to find workable solutions for my client. Most clients not only find this easier but often much more satisfying, as they get to be a major player in their recovery.
A breakthrough treatment for stressful events and traumas, this technique combines talking with therapeutic touch to “unlink” memories of past traumas from the emotions of that event. In many cases, clients who benefit the most from this therapy suffered traumatic events in their past that still affect them today.
Havening can be used to change memories that conventional talking therapies fail to address.
It’s worth noting that while havening can be highly effective in dealing with past traumas, it will have a greater impact when used with coaching.
Memory Reconsolidation is not actually a type of therapy. It is a mechanism that already exists in our brains. In essence, it is there to allow our brains to update stored information we have learned, but that are no longer relevant to our daily lives. It is a completely unconscious process and one that none of us would ever notice.
That said, within a counselling situation, this mechanism can help us tap into a special class of memories: emotional memories.
These are events that are recorded by our brains whenever we find ourselves in a particularly emotional situation. When we approach a similar situation later in our lives, our brain recalls these past experiences as a warning. Unfortunately, the system can trigger these memories in situations that are only mildly related, giving current events an excessive and disturbing emotional charge.
Changing Habits and Coping Strategies through NLP and Coaching
As we age, we tend to rely more and more on habits and strategies that we’ve developed through our various experiences. Many of these works quite well for us and benefit us in countless ways. Others, however, were developed automatically by our brains in error and do far more harm than good.
NLP, or Neuro-Linguistic Programming, helps us identify those coping strategies and habits that don’t benefit us and trade them in for ones that do. On a deeper level, this approach helps us realize how the language that we use can affect our behaviours, thoughts, feelings, and – therefore – our lives.
Developed in the 1970s, this unique approach to behaviour modification is like being given the “owner’s manual” for your own mind. With that manual in hand, we can get rid of mental programs that we don’t need anymore. Afterward, we can “update” our system with new habits and strategies that help us live a better, more positive life. With enough support, these habits will eventually become as “automatic” as the old ones.
Mindfulness is about taking a step back to get a clear view of what is happening in your life. This sense of perspective is often overlooked in modern society, but it can dramatically reduce stress levels and keep us from feeling overwhelmed. This allows us to make better decisions, nurture good relationships, and enjoy a lot more peace of mind.
When people learn to develop their mindfulness abilities, they often become much more resilient and adaptive. When faced with challenges that used to frustrate them, they now feel empowered to push through.