PLACING THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE
Over the past 3 or 4 decades many clients and/or patients have been held hostage in long-term therapy. This has been in great part due to the prevailing mindset of the “Pop-Psyche Community” that focused on feelings rather than perception and behavior. Certain schools of thought within the psychological community have affectively protected themselves from criticism by committing to absolutely nothing in terms of what is, or is not, positive and productive behavior. The fact is… a person can have a “feeling” without ever moving from that feeling to an actual positive behavioral change. After all, anyone can have a feeling. The question remains, what action does one take regarding that feeling?
The philosophy of, I’m okay, you’re okay, we are all just peachy, gave tremendous latitude to the less industrious members of the mental health community. The idea that everyone’s feelings are just wonderful manifestations of that person’s unique identity ignored the fact that we do not live in a vacuum and that people’s goals are usually intertwined with their interaction with their environment (including of course other people). To the pop-psyche-therapist’s benefit, that “open-ended” philosophy provided job security by creating “therapeutically dependent clients and patients” often captive to years of counseling while accomplishing little. Whether it was by intent or by consensus the result was the same. I can’t begin to tell you how many people have come to me with statements like this… “Dr. Holder, I’ve been in counseling for years (psychological, psychotherapy etc.). After all the counseling I know why I feel lousy but the problem is, I still feel lousy”. In my opinion this approach to therapy is not a competent one. In fact it is useless. Our job should be to help people accomplish their goals in a reasonable amount of time (preferably before the person has lived out most of his or her natural life).
In recent years (thank God) there has been a greater acceptance of “brief therapy”. Hypnotherapy in fact has always been brief therapy. The competent hypnotherapist doesn’t expect to have a client for months or years on end. Hypnotherapists know that what the mid perceives as real is real to the mind. If you alter perception you can quickly and easily change behavior. As well, as one practices positive behavior their perception is further changed for the better. There is a very simple formula that I use to facilitate an upward spiral of behavioral and perceptual change.
“Dr. Holder’s Formula”
1. Hypnosis will facilitate behavioral change through suggestion aimed at creating perceptual change. [Note: Without the behavioral change the perceptual change will lack reinforcement and will not last over the long-term.]
2. When we practice positive behaviors, those behavior patterns become who we are (The person we practice to be, is the person we will ultimately become).
3. The behavioral and perceptual changes must precede the feeling in order to achieve permanent change.
4. The client or patient must be invested in the process (He or she must have both the power and the responsibility for the changes they seek.).
Often when a client or patient is unsuccessful in achieving long-term positive change, it is due to a reversing of priorities within the therapeutic process. Long-term success is not facilitated by soft, fuzzy, touchy-feely therapy that focuses on how someone feels. The focus must be on how they perceive their circumstance and about their actual desired target behavior. It is not a result of a therapist’s caring heart or intuition (even though these may play a lesser role in the therapy). It is a product of establishing within the client or patient’s belief system the idea that they themselves possess the power over, as well as the responsibility for, their lives. That great power can be tapped by altering perception in order to facilitate the practice of new behavioral patterns. As the client or patient practices these new behaviors, the behaviors become who they are. It is no different that practicing the piano or practicing baseball. The more you practice something the more a natural part of you it becomes.
Hypnotic suggestion can make it easy for a person to make the initial behavioral change they desire. This begins a self-perpetuating cycle of personal development. As behaviors are practiced they become normal and natural to the person. As they live out these more positive behaviors, their perception of themselves and of the world around them begins to change. The cycle continues, each element reinforcing the other. It is the principal of the Yin and Yang. Perceptual change with no behavioral change will not in itself change the dynamic of a person’s life, nor will it have the long-term effect that will best serve the client or patient. Behavioral change will impact directly upon the person’s life in a real way thereby leading to a more positive self-image and attitude.
If you practice baseball, you will become a better baseball player. If you practice piano, you will become better at playing the piano. If you practice carpentry, you will become a better carpenter. By the same token, if one practices confident behavior he or she will become more confident. If one practices positive self-talk, he or she will develop a more positive attitude. You see… the behavior and the perception do precede the feeling, not the other way around. When you change behavior and perception, as a residual effect, the person will “feel” better about them selves. Start with the behavioral and perceptual changes and the feeling will take care of itself.