Why would a psychologist be a coach? Why should a coach be a psychologist? While both fields these days seem to be in competition with each other, and each side has a critique for the other, the critiques are important and real! Sometimes we think psychology is only for people with a diagnosable disorder. As a psychologist, I certainly see many people with a wide range of big issues. But psychology isn't just for people who have a diagnosis. We use psychology all the time in every day life. Advertisers use it to get us to buy something. We use it to help our children learn and grow. We use it when we listen to our friends. Psychology is for everyone. Often people who are coaches have very very very little training in psychology. Often coaches have some minimal training in interpersonal skills and asking the right questions. But every one should have the benefits of the knowledge and training and skills psychologists have. Additionally, the critique coaches have of psychologists is that we look to early childhood patterns and take forever for healing. While that may be the case for some, it isn't the case for all. Some things take more work than others. Understanding patterns can be helpful. Coaches sometimes take on patients for long periods of time as well. So the question isn't really about length of time, but fit and expertise. Does the coach/psychologist work for you? Do you feel you are getting what you need? How is the rapport? Do you feel you can trust the person? Does the person have sufficient training and skills? Are you getting where you want to be getting? You have the right to question the work you are doing with your psychologist or coach. You decide if you are reaching the goals you want to be reaching. Challenge the person working with you to get where you want to go. Of course, you have to be ready to work hard too!
What is healthy for the body is healthy for the mind. It may seem cliche for anyone who is health conscious, but it is good wisdom.
Exercise not only makes our bodies strong and healthy--keeping our hearts healthy and our immune systems strong--it is also good for our mental well being! Did you know that when you exercise vigorously, your body releases endorphins which are the body’s natural morphine substance?These endorphins wash through our brains and bodies leaving us with a sense of peace and well-being. Over time, it is this experience which starts a positive feedback loop, making us WANT to exercise more to get that feeling. So go out there and get some exercise! Check out a gym. Find a yoga studio. Most importantly, when there's beautiful weather, it is the perfect time to take advantage of the great outdoors. Plus the infusion of a little Vitamin D from the sun is good for you too! Figure out what what you like to do--is it hiking in the mountains, or skiing? Is it surfing, walking, biking, or skating? There are lots of local groups for all types of sports. Take a few moments to really think about what you enjoy, what you like, what you would actually get excited to do....and go out there and do it!
I just read this article today in the Washington Post about happiness. What I love about it is that HAPPINESS is NOT what we get when we work really hard. It isn't the reward at the end of hard work. The story that our society tells us that is a foundation for this country is that we have the right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. We have been telling ourselves that this right is bought by seeking to obtain success and whatever the white picket fence means to you. Ironically, this article reminds us that happiness can happen now and is it NOT tied to work or accomplishment! In reality, happiness is related to inner states that can be, I believe in part---not in whole, fostered within us. Read the whole article for full details. But I will outline the quick five exercises towards happiness.
1) Foster gratitude in your life. Pick three things each day. Not three general things, but three very specific things that happened today. Do this each day.
2) Savor. One of the best ways we can increase happiness is to ruminate on the things that have made us happy. When we do that, we are strengthening the neuropathways around the things that make us happy. As the article reminds us, our inner world does not easily distinguish between the actual happening and remembered memory of the happening. We can build up that feeling just by going back to it and letting ourselves be in reverie over it!
3) Exercise. As I have noted before, helping those endorphins help you is a great way to increase your well-being! Get your heart rate up just enough to get the endorphin release!
4)Breathe. Research is showing more, that doing some mindful cleansing breaths each day for a few minutes can do you a world of good. Scared or unsure about healthy breathing? Check out this website: 6 Breathing Exercises to Relax in 10 Minutes or Less
5)Kindness. Wow. Kindness can be so underrated. Not only does kindness spread the love and happiness, but it actually makes us feel good about ourselves. It can also work like a boomerang and come back to us. It can be the gift that keeps giving.
What is wonderful about these five exercises is that they are applicable in a wide range of places in your life. Imagine how interpersonal relationships might change at work if you tried this. Imagine how your family life would blossom when you try this. Imagine how wonderful it would be to not have to wait years to have happiness now! Granted, nothing works if you try it once. You have to work hard to change the direction of your neuropathways and strengthen them. So just doing this today, isn't going to make the change. Doing this for three months as much as you can, that is when you will see the difference!
What if you stop or forget or have an overwhelming day? Start again. You get infinite mulligans! If you let a small miss become a monster that eats up all of the good, then you will be opposite of happy. We are all human. We are not robots. We won't every do anything perfectly consistently. So start over. Do it again. Do it again. Do it again. The sticking with it even through the failures is what leads to success.
I dare you to try it! Make it fun! Make it a game with your friends, family, or coworkers and see what happens.
Here's the awesome article: Washington Post Article
Bring balance to your life. Did you know that too much of anything can become a burden in your life? Make sure you have a healthy mixture of activities in your life. Take a look at the Circle of Life picture. Which areas in your life could use a positive boost?
Thriving with your MIND.
Have you noticed that your life seems to be getting busier and busier? Our society has become so technologically advanced that we are able to accomplish more in a day than we ever have before. We have become masters of multi-tasking. With the multi-tasking has also come the blurring of boundaries between work life and home life. In a sense, some of us are always working. While getting more things done and making more time to play can be incredibly gratifying, the multi-tasking can wear on our minds and on our relationships. Did you know that our brains can take in about an hour and a half of information before it gets saturated and needs a break to process what we have taken in? Have you noticed your pet, your child, or your partner trying to get your full attention when it was split between them and your smartphone? Studies are showing that our mental health depends on our mental hygiene--keeping our brains healthy! Research is showing us that our brains need a break, a rest, in order for us to be healthy physically and mentally. When our minds get a break, we are less stressed and happier. However, giving our minds a break is not so easy. It is a learned skill. Some of the research is showing that activities such as mindfulness, guided imagery, and meditation are good hygiene for your mind. The meditation being studied is not attached to any religion but is meditation for meditation sake. So go ahead, get a good night’s sleep, take a shower, brush your teeth, wash your face, and meditate!
Here are a few good resources regarding your mental hygiene:
Jon Kabat-Zinn on Mindfulness, Stress Reduction and Healing
Investing in the Process to be Happy
Needed Downtime and Rest
Guided Imagery (I particularly recommend CDs by Belleruth Naparstek, and Reduce Stress by David Illig)
Navigating the world of coaches, therapists, counselors, and psychologists can be daunting. Sometimes all we hear are a bunch of letters in our word soup. Let's pull out a few words and letters and look at them!
Doctorates! PhD and PsyD and MD. PhD's are people with Doctorates in Psychology or some other field. The "PH" stands for philosophy. Often this degree includes research and theories more heavily than the PsyD. PsyD's are more focused on the clinical aspects of psychology. PsyD's dissertations are usually more practical than theoretical. Someone licensed with a PhD or PsyD is called a psychologist. This is a person who provides "talk therapy." There are a few states where psychologists can prescribe, but very few. MD is the designation for a medical doctor. Someone working in this field is usually a Psychiatrist. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications. Some Psychiatrists offer hour long sessions like the psychologists and include talk therapy. Some offer the shorter 15 minute sessions for medication management. Psychologists are particularly trained to handle major psychological disorders, pathology, difficulties with the mind, interpersonal relationships, and psychological assessment. There are MANY kinds of psychologists with many different specialties. Just because someone has a PhD does not mean they are licensed as a psychologist. Many people are licensed from their lower degrees. So pay attention to which degree a person is licensed under. Licensure varies from state to state. But psychologists' training includes around 3000 hours of experience, 3-10 years in course work and dissertation, plus a national licensing exam. Often state licensing exams are required as well. Psychologists who have attended APA (American Psychological Association) accredited schools are more well respected as are Psychologists who are licensed by the ASPPB or the National Register. Analysts have even more training, often 5-10 years more specialized training in a particular field.
Masters! There are a few different kinds of Masters level degrees including counseling degrees, marriage and family degrees, and social work degrees. Often professionals at this level are called "therapists" or "psychotherapists" or "counselors." Each of these have their own licensing regulations. These regulations also differ from state to state. Usually there is around 1000-3000 hours experience and 2-4 years of degree training. Almost every state has a state licensing exam. According to the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, Counselors, "conduct assessments for the purpose of establishing counseling goals and objectives to empower individuals to deal adequately with life situations, reduce stress, experience growth, change behavior, and make well-informed, rational decisions." Whereas Social Workers, use counseling and psychotherapy with individuals, families or groups. They provide information and referrals and arrange for social services. They are more involved in community organization and social justice. Often Social Workers are found in non-profit settings or hospitals. A person can have a Bachelors (BSW) or Masters (MSW) in social work. If someone is licensed as as a social worker, they will have an LCSW. Meanwhile according to the the California BBS, Marriage and Family Therapists "perform services with individuals, couples, or groups wherein interpersonal relationships are examined for the purpose of achieving more adequate, satisfying, and productive marriage and family adjustments. This practice includes relationship and premarriage counseling. The application of marriage and family therapy principles and methods includes, but is not limited to, the use of applied psychotherapeutic techniques, to enable individuals to mature and grow within marriage and the family, the provision of explanations and interpretations of the psychosexual and psychosocial aspects of relationships." In California, the designations MFTI means the person is an intern still in training. The designations LMFT shows the person is a fully licensed marriage and family therapist.
Coaching! What is a life coach or an executive coach? Life coaches and executive coaches have a large range of backgrounds. Many people hang their shingles without any particular training or certification. Coaches, like therapists who do Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, are very goal oriented. Coaches expertise is in helping HEALTHY people move through difficult portions of their lives or to maximize potential in a particular area. Many coaches have particular niches. Executive coaches usually have extra training or experience in the corporate world. ICF is one of the organizations that has created some standards for coaches. These standards include three levels of certification. An Associate Certified Coach, "practiced" has 60 hours of training and 100hours of experience. A Professional Certified Coach, "proven" has 125 hours of training and 750 hours of experience. A Master Certified Coach, "expert" has 200 hours of training and 2500 hours of experience.
NOW WHAT? Whew! That is a lot! Now what do we do with it? Only you know what is right for you. It is really important to be informed about what kind of expertise you are receiving from whomever you choose to help you. Are you getting the expertise you are paying for? Knowledge and research can go a long way! It is important to use the vast amounts of research in the psychology field to your advantage! Technique and training can go a long way! Be sure to match your needs with the person with the right kind of expertise and therapeutic style. Different professionals will be using different techniques. Some will fit you better than others. There is recent research that tells us that one of the major variables in healing has to do with the relationship and rapport between the person and the therapist. In spite of the training or technique or style, what ultimately becomes the most important is the feel the client/patient has with the psychologist/therapist/coach. Do your homework. Shop around. Most importantly, don't be afraid to try a few different people. Let your mind be your guide. Let your heart be your guide. Let your body be your guide. How do each of those feel when you are talking with that professional? Which one feels the best? Who do you feel most comfortable with? Who knows what you need for the issues at hand? You want to feel like you can trust the person. It is amazing how important trust and comfort really are!
A few weeks ago, I was talking with my students about a psychologist named Heinz Kohut. One of his major ideas is called "mirroring." One phrase he uses is "mirror hungry." A mirror hungry person is someone who has not been mirrored enough and is longing to be seen. The theory is that this type of person has not received enough attention from primary caregivers in his or her life (i.e. family) to make them feel of value. This person does not feel seen.
It made me begin thinking about selfies. They are all the rage right now. What does this say about us? About our society? What if we are in a mirror hungry era? We are seeking to see our own image to know we are of value. We are playing out this need by making countless pictures of ourselves to prove our value. What happens we we see our selves in the pictures? Do we see what we want to see? Does the picture give us what we are truly longing for--to be seen? I am toying with a hypothesis that we are stuck in the symbol of the selfie as if it is reality and are being left with far less than we are looking for. Yes, the selfie does give us a mirror. We see who we are and what we look like. But what we see is our surface, our outer beauty or lack thereof. In actuality, we long for someone to see our insides--our deepest needs, what makes us click, and what we love. We long for someone to value who we are at our core--to truly see us beyond looks or the picture that is reflected back to us through the camera.
The Nautilus, a deep sea cephalopod grows into increasingly larger chambers of its shell throughout its life. It is one of the natural expressions of an equiangular spiral. The shell is often considered a symbol for expansion and renewal. As the nautilus moves into a new chamber, it moves into a new portion of its life that is built onto the old, yet the old is integral to its current reality and forms a beautiful shell. As the nautilus creates new life, the chambers form a spiral around itself. Thus at times, the nautilus passes a place it was in the past only in a new expanded place in the present. Carl Jung talks about the idea of circumambulation. He says, "the goal of psychic development is the self. There is no linear evolution; there is only a circumambulation of the self." Circumambulation is often referred to in spiritual rituals where one walks in a circle around a sacred object. The famous pilgrimage to Mecca, one of the pillars of Islam, entails the Hajj which is a circling around the Sacred House. In a Jewish wedding, the groom (and/or bride) will circle around his or her beloved. In some Christian spirituality, a person might take a circling walk through a labyrinth. Thus, as we circumambulate our selves, we change, we grow, we expand, we approach our wounds from different places, we are renewed, we are transformed. And so goes the circle of life.