Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Existential Therapy: What is it and is it a good fit for me?

by Jamie Williams, M.A. LPC-Intern
Supervised by Beverly Newman, LPC-S, LSSP, RPT-S

Existential therapy takes an entirely different approach to counseling and is based on the premise that people are free and are responsible for their own actions and choices. There are no set techniques that are used in this type of therapy and the counselor’s role is to grasp from many different theories and use techniques as needed to fit each individual client. The main assumption behind this type of therapy is that people are free to make their own decisions and guide their own lives. The existential approach is based on the theory that life circumstances are what people make of them and that people are not simply “victims of circumstance,” but rather the authors of their own lives (Corey, 2009).

The main goal in Existential Therapy is to reflect on current situations and problems, realize different options to current problems or life situations, and to choose an alternative. Often, when someone is experiencing an issue or symptom it is because they have fallen into a rut and "accepted" their life for what it is without making any changes. Through therapy, the client can increase awareness of different alternatives to their life and realize that if they make different choices, they have the ability to not only change that issue/symptom, but also shape other areas in their life as well.

In the Existential approach, it is presumed that psychopathology, ineffective functioning, and problems arise from people surrendering control of their own lives and submissively accepting circumstances in their lives without accepting responsibility. A major theme of this form of therapy is freedom; that we are responsible for our own lives, actions and choices. When someone has evaded their commitment to choosing how to live their life, they develop existential guilt that arises from feelings of incompleteness and the fact they are not living their lives to the full capacity.

The client/therapist relationship is of utmost importance in this form of therapy. The therapist strives to be him or herself, and offers honesty and integrity to the counseling relationship. Through modeling authentic behavior, the therapist invites the client to grow and to not be guarded. In the initial phase of change, the therapist works with the client to identify the client’s assumptions about the world. In this beginning phase, clients are asked to question themselves and their life, which is often challenging for clients. In the middle phase of change, clients are asked to examine their value system. This is done with the hope of the client re-evaluating his or her life and re-structuring his or her values and life choices. The final stage of change is action. In this stage, clients are encouraged to take what they have learned about themselves and their reality and put it into practice to make their life what they want it to be (Corey, 2009).
Existential therapy can be used to treat a variety of presenting issues and can be utilized both brief and long-term therapy. If you are interested in learning more about Existential Therapy and believe you may benefit from it, please contact us to set up an appointment with a trained therapist.

Corey, G. (2009). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (8th ed.). Belmont, CA:
Thomson and Brooks/Cole.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Teaching Children to Manage Anxiety

by Courtney Suddath, M.A., LSSP, LPC

Like adults, it is inevitable that children will experience anxiety from time to time.  Anxiety can be situational in nature, or it can be a general feeling of worry that spans across situations and environments. When children are experiencing anxiety, a common response for adults to have is to help them avoid what they are afraid of or worrying about. While this may provide temporary relief, the feelings of worry and anxiety are likely to return.
While helping children gain relief from their anxiety, there are a few things to should keep in mind.  First, it is important to acknowledge a child’s fear and assure them that we understand that this is a real fear for him.  Next, it is important to remind children that adults are in charge of safety. Sometimes it is helpful to go through a list of adults that the child is often with, to assure them that those adults are in charge of keeping him safe. This list of safe adults can often provide assurance  that he is taken care of.

Defining strategies for anxiety reduction with children can also provide relief.  One strategy that is often helpful is rationalization. Rationalization encourages a child to determine how likely his fear is to come true. This helps him recognize that often he is worried about something that rarely happens.  If it is a fear that is more common, we can help a child rationalize what plans will be in place to keep him safe, if the worst case scenario happens.  It is important to be aware if a child begins to avoid situations that cause him anxiety. Using strategies and reassurance as a child moves through anxiety is critical to helping children manage their reactions.
Finally, after a child has moved through the difficult moment, it is very important to help him celebrate his success!  This is a great time to reflect on how hard it felt to face what was making him feel anxious, and how amazing it is that he did it and is okay now. The goal is that after some practice, the same situation will be easier next time.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Negotiating Styles

by Jamie Williams, M.A. LPC-I
Supervised by Beverly Newman, LPC-S, LSSP, RPT-S

As a therapist, I find that many children and adolescents I work with have difficulty in problem solving with others. This not only causes distress for the child or adolescent, but also makes it much more difficult for them to make and keep friends. Conflict arises when two people have different opinions about an issue or issues. Disagreements are a natural part of any relationship.  One of the most beneficial skills that I aim to teach many of my clients is the skill of negotiation. Negotiation is a special skill from which everyone benefits.  Your ability to negotiate will allow you to get what you want without alienating or manipulating others, possibly by compromise, and reach a mutually agreeable solution.

In providing therapeutic services for children and adolescents, I have found that most fall into one of four categories: Talker, Aggressor, Preparer, or Listener.  There is no one best style to use in all situations in which you are negotiating. You do not have a single specific style for dealing with all negotiations.  People are able to use all four styles.  Many of us, however, rely on and get comfortable using one of the styles more often than the others. 

Read the descriptions of each style below to find out which style is most like you. Once you are able to identify which negotiation style fits you most accurately, you have a much better chance of learning to use your communication strengths and weaknesses to use the process of negotiation to benefit everyone involved.

People with a Talker Negotiation Process Style prefer to talk through the negotiation process and to dictate the pace of the process. They prefer to talk rather than listen, and they rely on their conversational skills to try to control the negotiating process. They tend to rely more on emotions and gut feelings than on logic and analysis.  In the end, they need to feel good about the end results.                         

People with an Aggressor Negotiating Process Style rely on facts and logic to accomplish their purpose and meet their needs.  They have clear goals and tend to try to try to steam roll others with little regard to their emotions.  They can become aggressive if pushed in the negotiation process. They are primarily concerned about succeeding in getting what they want out of the negotiation process. They like to be in control of the process and will do what they need to in order to win.                   

People with a Preparer Negotiation Process Style believe that proof of what is right will often determine the outcome of the negotiation.  They believe that if you cannot prove your point logically, then why even negotiate.  They have little need for emotions and feel that emotions play no part in the negotiation process.  They like to be prepared and believe that the best prepared people win in the negotiation process.       

People with a Listener Negotiation Process Style usually prefer listening to talking or arguing.  They will gladly accept assistance from other people during the process because they do not enjoy the negotiation process.  They are guided by their value system, and the process is often more important to them than the end results.  They respect the rules of the negotiating process and desire win-win results.

To learn more about the above mentioned negotiation styles please refer to Self-Regulation for Kids K-12: Strategies for Calming Minds and Behavior by Patricia K. Tollison, Katherine O. Synatschk, and Gaea Logan.