As a counselor, I see client's who are grieving, hurt, confused and overwhelmed by stressful situations and events that have transpired at some point in their lives to bring them to a place of desperation, loneliness or crisis. Most clients who come in for counseling from me, the therapist/clinician/counselor to fix them or their situations. In the complexity of the therapeutic process, It's my responsibility to inform the client that I can not fix them. One of my first disclaimers to the client is to inform them that I am here to help them process, express and better understand their feelings, thoughts and actions that has brought them to my practice. This is done by helping them understand how to recognize negative thought and to replace them with new positive Actions. This is done by helping the client to identify, evaluate and then change their thoughts and negative beliefs.
Gaining a better understanding of the “why”, behind the “what”, is where this therapeutic process begins to do its job. Everyone’s way of thinking is based on many factors but one cognitive model of psychotherapy illustrates it this way. In life, we all have and will continue to experience “Events”. In some event like who we decide to choose as friends, or the person we choose to be our spouse, we have influence on those events. But in other instances like who are parents are, or what the weather will be tomorrow, we have no influence or control over. Events can be good and/or bad, however, the event influences the next step in the cognition process as it transitions that event into our “Thoughts”. Thoughts can likewise be good or bad but they have a direct influence on the next step of this process in that thoughts are then transitioned into how we feel or our “Feelings”.
Good thoughts usually produce good feeling and bad thought or bad thinking usually produce bad feelings. We can have control or influence on our thoughts and what we think, but feelings, not so much. For example, you can think about a book, pen or paper, right? Now feel anxious. Yes, just go ahead and feel sad. You can’t do it can you? Not with out making yourself THINK about something that will make you anxious or thinking about something that will make you sad.
Understanding that we are able to have some control or influence of our thoughts, then we likewise can have some influence to what we feel by retraining how we think. Don’t misunderstand me, all thoughts can not be controlled. Some thoughts just pop up out of no where, right? But, as we begin to recognize our thoughts and process them, we can indeed begin to change or influence how they make us feel.
Thoughts are different from feelings. For instance, one may say, ‘I feel like she no longer loves me’. That is not the feeling of being unloved but the thought of being unloved. That thought can certainly lead to one feeling unloved, sad or hurt. How or what we think will determine what emotions we then feel.
The next process that moves from what we are FEELING to how we act or react is in our “Actions” or Behavior. Do we control how we ace? Yes, We are almost alway in control of what our actions will be. We not only influence but we control of how we act or what our “Actions” will be.
Our Actions then influence the Result. Actions do not control the result because we can not choose what the result will be, and it is possible to do what is right and healthy and the results end up bad. Like choosing the Action of wearing a seat belt, a correct, smart, responsible and healthy choice, right?, But it doesn't guarantee that you won’t be in an accident. We can Influence the result but not control.
How we think has been shaped from what we were taught to believe in our childhood. This is why most counselors will begin by asking a client to share about their earliest memories. Events that have influenced us over the years and has caused us to think one way may not be healthy for us to think about ourselves now. So in order to influence better results in our lives is to begin to change negative or unhealthy thinking which will influence how we feel and will influence our actions to be better.
The counseling process is hard work. Research has proven that client who learn the art of practicing new and positive thoughts, feelings, and actions or behaviors, can actually re-wire the brain to be more effective and even change traumatic memories and in turn will help the client change the way they respond to life circumstances,
In short, It not really about what happens to one that makes them unhealthy mentally, but what are you continually negatively telling yourself about what happens.
Fred has a Master of Art's in Church Ministries (MACM) and a Master of Art's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (MACMHC) from the Pentecostal Theological Seminary in Cleveland, TN. With more than 20 years of pastoral counseling and numerous hours of clinical mental health counseling, Fred's belief that strengthening the family through establishing healthy relationships and providing personal empowerment through motivational counseling has been foundational in his success as a pastor and a counselor/therapist.