Last week I spoke about writing down your thoughts as a way of looking over your emotions and goals. Unfortunately, one of the most difficult problems I have experienced in counselling and casework is getting someone to commit to making a change, even if it’s doing a homework exercise. Let’s be clear. If a client comes to see me, they are looking to change something and I want to assist them with that. I won’t be taking a passive role. Talking through a list of your weekly stresses from session to session may help relieve some of the tension, but how do we reduce your distress in the long term? How do we have you cope with the necessary distress?
From all of my experience and my studies, helping a client understand their values is the time when someone will invest in change. There are two types of motivators that helps explain how this works. They are called intrinsic motivators and extrinsic motivators. Research has shown that time and again if a motivator is outside of your values (i.e. an extrinsic motivator) then it won’t be an effective force for change. The most obvious example of an extrinsic motivator is the pressure you perceive from social expectations.
Imagine a client is speaking with her mother and she knows her mother is not comfortable with the client’s pursuit of her career. The mother thinks her daughter should “settle down” and have children. The client trusts her mother, she is close to her and respects her opinions. However, the client wants to continue with the time-consuming pursuit of her career. The question to ask here is what part of the client’s values are in line with her mother’s opinions? How can we resolve the conflict the client has between her family values and her career values?
Let’s wrap this up with a simple example that brings us back to where we started. Are structured writing exercises a successful step toward achieving clarity? Undoubtedly. Do you want your life to be clearer? I would imagine so. Can you keep that goal in mind while you are experiencing the anxiety that comes along with trying something new? Can you trust in the process of writing more than the thoughts that you have that say this won’t be useful, or this is too hard?
These questions are not just about the process of writing, but the process of trust and that will be the subject of my next blog.