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Self Counseling: Be Your Own Therapist

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Many, many people in recovery from alcohol or substance abuse or other addictions often come out of rehab treatment feeling energized and full of hope. They have detoxed and removed substances physically. They likely received a lot of support with individual and group counseling sessions. At the end of treatment, it's easy to feel uneasy without this support and slip into bad habits or behaviors. 

Follow-on counseling is recommended for many to smooth out this transition and stay on course. But what if your therapist appointment is on Friday and you have a crisis on Tuesday? What if your therapist didn't fully understand you and what you're going through? What can you do yourself to take more control of your destiny?

self-counseling-man-mirrorThis isn’t too far of a stretch. People can master reading, writing, and arithmetic - why not their psychological make up too?

With a good grasp of the basics, a person has the ability to address their own anger, anxiety, addictive habits, and despair. That's why this state-of-the-art approach to issue resolution is so exciting and groundbreaking!

Self-counseling can be incredibly effective with the proper training. It doesn’t take an advanced degree. By taking the time to learn what counseling professionals know, those in recovery and therapy can catapult themselves into a world of peace, happiness, and a mindset that no problem is too hard to handle.

Many of us practice some “self-counseling” skills innately already.

Listening with an open heart, asking for clarification, and probing around options can help the majority of people get better. Further, learning how to work with deep-seated emotional wounds can also be mastered if one learns the proper structure. To get started, all it takes is the human skill of compassion to heal deeply seated wounds that may have been there for years. Amazingly, I have seen everyday volunteers do a better job than some psychology graduates from prestigious colleges because they were compassionate.

Let’s look at the top five mainstream counseling approaches, break them down into easy steps and show you an example of how they are applied in a self-counseling session.

5 Top Psychotherapy Approaches That Can Be Used for Self Counseling

1. Person-Centered Therapy (PCT)

Carl Rogers developed person-centered therapy (also known as person-centered psychotherapy, person-centered counseling, client-centered therapy and Rogerian psychotherapy) in the 1940s. He didn’t give advice. He did the exact opposite – all he did was listen. But it was how he listened that was the key. He did so with a full heart. Basically, PCT is based on listening to another person from a heart-centered place, asking clarifying questions, and then repeating back to them what was heard. Person-centered therapy allows people to explore their mind and get in touch with their own solutions. Through active listening, engagement and facilitation, person-centered counseling helps people to find solutions to their own problems.

2. Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT)

Begun in the 1950s by Albert Ellis, rational emotive therapy (also known as called rational therapy and rational emotive therapy) looks at the logic of our thought process to help change negative consequences into positive ones. If thoughts are based on irrational beliefs, consequences would be disastrous. Ellis used an A-B-C model to change a person’s irrational beliefs and their resulting behaviors in order to restore proper functioning.

The A-B-C Model:

  • A - An actuating event takes place
  • B - A person determines a plan of action due to their belief system
  • C - The consequences of their actions are either beneficial or detrimental
  • D - If detrimental consequences are expected, the legacy belief system must be disputed and a new belief must be created
  • E - the effect of this new belief system will result in a perfectly rational person.

3. Gestalt Therapy

gestalt-therapy-empty-chairBegun in the late 1950s by Dr. Fritz Perls, Gestalt therapy addresses unfinished emotional issues at their core. Gestalt therapy emphasizes personal responsibility and focuses upon the individual's experience in the present moment. Gestalt therapy is an emotional approach that defies logic. When traumatic events take place they are stored in our consciousness differently and need to be addressed in a different manner. With trauma, a portion of our self becomes fixated at this point of our life. Perls referred to this as having “unfinished emotional business" and believed that when a traumatic experience is viewed from many angles the issue heals. Dr. Perls often used an “empty chair” for his clients to interact back and forth with other people, their emotions, or parts inside of them.

4. Reality Theory (RT)

Developed by William Glasser in the 1960s, RT focuses on what Glasser calls psychiatry's three Rs: realism, responsibility, and right-and-wrong, rather than symptoms of mental disorders. Reality theory emphasizes dong the right behaviors over and over again until they get cemented into place. Simply stated, with RT a plan of action is created, a commitment is made to it, doing it, and adjusting it if needed.

5. Spiritual Psychology (SP)

Honed and further developed by Dr. Ron Hulnick and Dr. Mary Hulnick of the University of Santa Monica, Spiritual Psychology begins where other psychotherapies end. Spiritual Psychology is concerned with the health of the individual's soul. This soul-centered approach believes that “when love is applied to hurt we heal.” Practically applied, Spiritual Psychology uses other psychotherapy approaches in progression. It helps a person become aware of a recent upset, ride the emotion back in time to the root of the matter (its core), communicate with that portion inside that is fixated, and apply love to it.

Self Counseling Tips & Example

self-counseling-2-faces-arrowsSelf counseling can be viewed as having a counseling session on paper. Though there is no formal book on the subject, here is a brief example of what it looks like:

Inner Counselor: How can I help you today?

Client: I have been angry lately and I am tired of it.

Inner Counselor: What is your intention for the counseling session?

[Note: Setting an intention gives direction to the session.]

Client: My intention is to heal at the deepest level possible.

Inner Counselor: {silent}

[Note: Person-centered therapy (PCT) lets the client take the lead.]

Client: I have an issue with anger. I seem to be angry all the time now and it is ruining my relationships at home and at work. I am getting so frustrated over little things that I can’t stand myself.

Inner Counselor: So what I am hearing you say is that anger is ruining your relationships at home and at work and you can’t stand yourself. Is that correct?

[Note: This is an example of “perception checking” which is used in PCT.]

Client: That’s right. I got into an argument with my boss and I was so upset I took it out on my wife when I got home.

Inner Counselor: Was there a certain event that happened at work?

[Note: With Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT), let's look at the ABC’s.]

Client: During my yearly review my boss lectured me about something that wasn’t my fault. I felt he wasn’t giving me the proper respect so I went off! Then he told me to get out of his office and go home to cool off.

[Note: A= Boss gave a lecture. B= Belief was no respect. C= Sent home due to angry outburst. The opportunity is to D = Dispute this belief.]

Inner Counselor: If I hear you correctly, you were accused of something that wasn’t your fault, you judged your boss as disrespectful, then reacted with anger and were sent home. Looking back on this situation, how would you do it differently?

Client: I guess I could have taken a breath, calmed myself, slowed down, and explained myself while more at ease.

[Note: Here is where the client changes his belief.]

Inner Counselor: This sounds like a wonderful learning. Would you like to give that angry part inside of you a voice?

[Note: To heal an issue it is important to work on the thoughts and emotions. Now the session moves to Gestalt Therapy to address the angry emotion.]

Client: Sure. I'll ask the angry part inside of me to sit in the “empty chair.”

[Note: Now the excitement begins. Empty Chair work is at the heart of deep emotional healing.]

Anger: Your boss deserved to get yelled it. He was making assumptions and demeaning us.

Client: Well your stepping in and taking over could've gotten us fired.

Anger: I am tired of people stepping all over us. This has happened so many times at work that I couldn’t sit quiet anymore. You need to speak up for yourself. I stepped in because you didn’t.

Client: You’re right. I haven’t stood up for myself. I knew he was going to pin that on me and I should have said something to him weeks ago.

Inner Counselor: Would you be willing to make a commitment to this new plan of action to voice something when it first happens?

[Note: This is an extremely abbreviated version of the reality therapy (RT).]

Client: I would be willing to make that commitment.

Inner Counselor: Take this opportunity to thank Anger for coming forward. Also take this opportunity to appreciate yourself for a job well done.

[Note: This will bring an end to the Empty Chair approach and will apply love as with the Spiritual Psychology approach.]

Client: Thank you Anger. I have learned a lot. And I appreciate myself for learning and growing from this experience.

Summarizing Self Counseling

The above is an abbreviated example of a self counseling. Self counseling sessions usually run a few typed pages and take on a rich life of their own. After completion, it is important to print them out, delete the file, and then shred or burn the hard copy to release it. What is important to realize is that virtually everybody has the capacity to take dominion over their own inner self using this skill.

About The Clearing

The Clearing is a residential treatment center located on beautiful San Juan Island, Washington. We created The Clearing in response to the pervasiveness of treatment centers that focus more on luxury than modern, evidence-based therapy.

Our approach is based on healing the underlying core issues that cause addiction. If you'd like to learn more, contact us, or download our free eBook:

Download eBook:  Healing Underlying Core Issues

  Download eBook:  Healing Underlying Core Issues
Gregg Makuch

This post was written by Gregg Makuch

Gregg helps get the word out about The Clearing. When he’s not riding his bike and enjoying the beauty of the San Juan Islands, Gregg loves to cook and spend time with his family.

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