June 14, 2021

What is your life worth? The importance of connections

connections_A1

I.                   Actuarial tables and a radio program

The other day, I was listening to a radio program on NPR (a therapist who listens to NPR I hear you say?  Shocking!).  I forget which program, but the host described going to see a person who did actuarial work for insurance companies.  This person’s job was to figure out how much a life was worth so if they were injured or killed the insured parties would be properly compensated.  Pretty cold, I know…but it’s a real thing.  In any case, the guy doing the piece was shocked to find he was only worth about $35,000.  The piece went on to talk about how people with families and kids tend to be worth more, because they are connected to and valued by others.

 

II.                 Let me google that for you…

This radio piece got me thinking.  On the one hand, life is priceless.  The whole actuarial process is pretty cold and ruthless.  Then again, the idea that one’s connections to others adds value to ones life is a profound and fascinating truth.  I decided to explore the idea further.

The first thing I did was go to google and type in the search “how much is my life worth.”  Go ahead…try it.  What I found was mostly fun, time-waster sites (although there were a couple of insurance sites that came up in my search).  They all let me take little surveys that purportedly placed some sort of value on my life.  I spent some time playing with these.  I know the results aren’t remotely valid or scientific, but is was interesting.  One thing I did was enter in data as a single man (keeping age, income and health stats constant) and then as my true self as a married father of 5 kids.  As a single man, I was worth about $50,000 but as my true married self, I was worth anywhere from 1.5 to 1.8 million dollars.  Quite a difference, eh?

What does this mean?  My life is enhanced by being married to my wife.  My life as further enhanced by the birth of my two children.  When Lorrie and I set about doing foster care, my life was enhanced further.  Everytime I make a new friend or help out someone else, it leaves me feeling good and thus enhances my life.  There’s something to the idea of being connected to others adding value to one’s life.  How much is it worth when I help one of my clients resolve some personal issue and live a happier, healthy life?  That person now interacts more positively with their friends and loved ones.  How much is all that worth?  How much does a teacher helping a student discover their passion and talents add value to that student’s life?  How much does that student then add to others as they pursue their talents as a functioning adult?

golden gate bridge

III.              The story of a bridge

If you are still not convinced of the importance of the connection to others, then let’s talk about suicide.  It’s one of my areas of specialty interest.  When I was a young therapist doing his internship at the Lehigh University counseling center, the director of the center told me that to save a the life of a person who was suicidal you needed to get them connected to at least one person.  He felt that single connection would often be enough to keep the suicidal individual from going from ideation to attempt or completion.  Later on, as  Devereux clinician, I became a gatekeeper instructor in the QPR suicide intervention system by Dr. Paul Quinnet (http://www.qprinstitute.com/).  As part of the training that I received (and the training I give on this topic), we tell the story of a bridge.  Here is a condensed version of that story.

There is a bridge in a major western city (it’s the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco).  This bridge is a magnet for people who are suicidal.  They come from miles around to leap from this bridge.  It’s a pretty long fall that is almost always fatal.  However, every once in a while someone leaps from the bridge but does not die.  In all the years the bridge has been in existence, never has a person who survived the jump climbed onto shore, gone back up the bridge and tried to jump again.  Some researchers were examining this phenomenon came up with an elegant intervention.  They met with all the people involved in the upkeep and maintenance of the bridge.  All the workers, security, administration, etc.  They trained these people to be on the look out for people who might be suicidal (lone people hanging around the edge of the bridge, people looking forlorn and sad, etc.)  They then tasked everyone who worked on the bridge to approach anyone acting suspiciously and ask them if they were ok.  They were to offer their help and listen to them…no threat, no intimidation. In short, they were to connect with these people.

The results of this intervention were surprising to say the least…incidents of suicide attempts on the bridge were reduced by something like 40% (I’m not sure of the exact results as I don’t have my training materials at hand right now).  Just think about that for a second…by simply asking people if they were ok and offering to listen to  them, there was a dramatic reduction is suicide attempts.  How many lives were spared by the mere act of connection?   How much value is added by that?

IV.             Ways to connect

I want you to add some value to your life.  Go out there and make some connections with people.  You could go out and make new connections.  You could also go out and re-connect with someone with whom you’ve lost touch.  In either event, add some value to your life (and their life) by making those connections.  Still not sure how to do that?  Here are a few simple tips to grease the wheels of connectivity.

A.                The 8-5 rule

I learned about this while researching ways to teach my Asperger’s clients how to socialize more comfortably with others.  In a book by Craig Kendall, he discussed the 8-5 rule. The 8-5 rule is used by high-end hotels. These hotels instruct all their staff to smile at customers when they are 8 feet away from them.  When they get within 5 feet, they are to say “hello.”  A nice simple guideline to give a friendly greeting.  I‘ve found that not only is this a good tool to teach my Asperger’s clients how to greet  others, but a handy way to be more warm and friendly towards others in my own life.  Try this out for yourself and see if you don’t make those connections a little easier.

B.                 Two ears, one mouth – listen

It has been said that we are gifted with two ears and one mouth…and we should use them proportionally.  We should listen twice as much as we talk. People like to feel they are being heard.  When you spend the time to listen to them, they feel like you care about them.  This increases your connection.

C.                 Ask lots of questions

Finally, when you do speak to someone with whom you are trying to connect, ask questions.  Asking questions shows that you are interested in them and what they have to say.  It encourages them to give you more information that you can use to deepen your connection to them.  I guarantee that if you listen more than you talk and that if you ask questions when you do talk that you will find yourself easily connecting with others and thus adding life value to you both.

As always, I hope you’ve found this information entertaining and useful.  I welcome your stories and tips on how to connect. You can post them in the comments section below.  Also, please feel free to share this or any of my articles with others.  If you are interested in working with me to learn more about how to connect with others then contact me at erikyounglpc@vrizon.net to schedule a free consultation.

©Erik Young, M.E., LPC 2013

 

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New Article “The Power of Play” and Online Parent Support Group

Play therapy at work

Play therapy has become a very important element of my work with families and children.  In this article, I hope to give you parents some idea of how powerful play can be as an intervention as well as some ideas of how to utilize play with your own children.

It is Father’s Day as I write this article and I am reminded of one particular case where play therapy had a profound impact on a family.  This family had a child with severe autism.  They were unable to manage him at home and he was living at the residential treatment facility where I worked.  The child in question was very routine oriented and had an extremely restricted range of activities in which he would engage.  Basically, if he wasn’t repeatedly watching small snippets of Disney videos, he wasn’t happy.  To make matters worse, if he wasn’t happy, he tended to tantrum, hit and bite those around him.  As a result of these behaviors, not only could he not live at home but the family was challenged to even have him home for short visits.  They literally had to put the entire house on lock down to prevent their son from wandering away and at least one of them had to take time off of work to stay up all night to supervise their son.

Read more…

 

Starting on Tuesday, July 16 at 8:00 pm to 9:30 pm, I will host an online special needs parent consultation and support group on the 3rd Tuesday of every month.  As a special needs parent myself, I know how hard it is to get help and support.  It takes a lot to find time and childcare to go out to a support group.  For this reason, I’m bringing the group to you.  Through a secure video chat I will host a discussion on “How to get your child to do more of what you want and less of what you don’t want.”  This is your chance to get together with other parents and share your stories as well as learn about my system of Functional Behavior Analyses made just for parents.  These sessions are free to current clients seeing me for sessions and only $10 for all others.  Simply sign up for the sessions in the secure patient area of this website.   I look forward to seeing you then!  If you have any questions, please email, call or leave them in the comments section below.

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BABY STEPS – USING MICRO-CHANGE TO MAKE MAJOR CHANGES

baby-steps

I.                   What about Bob?

I love movies.  Watching movies is one of my favorite off-task activities.  Since I’m a therapist, it probably comes as no surprise that I have a fondness for movies that involve therapists.  Of those movies, one of my favorites has to be the Bill Murray/Richard Dreyfuss comedy “What about Bob?”  True, the portrayal of Dreyfuss as a therapist is less than flattering… but the movie is hilarious.  At the beginning of the movie, Dreyfuss gives Murray’s super-neurotic character, Bob some advice.  He tells him to take “Baby steps.”  Do one little thing, then do another little thing…. Keep going until you get to where you want to go.  Using this advice, Murray is able to leave his apartment and make his way “on vacation” to New England where he then intrudes upon Dreyfuss’ family vacation.  Much hilarity ensues.

Now, it might seem strange to take therapy advice from a goofy comedy, but I’ve always said that good advice is good advice regardless of the source.  Frankly, the idea of making big changes by taking lots of little steps makes sense to me.  Back when I was a piano teacher, there would always come a time where my students would start freaking out over learning their first long piece.  “It’s TOO long!  I can’t do it!” Is what I would hear.  I would ask them a question my mom posed to me when I was young.  I would ask them, “How do you eat an elephant?”  Inevitably, they would scrunch their faces up, think about it… then say “I don’t know.”  The answer is “ONE BITE AT A TIME.”  Like baby steps in “What about Bob?” you eat an elephant (i.e. Tackle a big problem) by taking the first step (or bite) and then do the next thing and the next until you get to where you need to go (or there’s no more elephant left).  What if you aren’t hungry for elephant?  Then I guess you’re out of luck.

II.                 Defining micro-change

This idea of taking lots of little steps to solve problems is what I’ve come to term “micro-change.”  Big changes take lots of work.  Big changes take lots of planning.  Big changes take significant sacrifices and resources to make them happen.  This is why people often avoid making big changes or start but never succeed in completing big changes in their lives.  How many times have you thought how nice it would be to have something about your life be different, but when you sat down and looked at the situation you said “Nah, too much work.”  I know I’ve done this more times than I like to admit.

Using micro-change we take a different approach.  We decide on a goal (something big or long range) and then simply decide on what the first steps are going to be.  Then we focus our efforts on the first easily attainable objective.  We focus all our efforts like a laser on accomplishing that objective.  Once it’s done, we then move on to the next step.  We don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the end goal or how long it’s going to take.  We just focus on where we are at and what we are doing until we get the step done.

I like to use this strategy with diet and exercise changes.  Instead of saying “I need to lose 50 pounds, deadlift 500 pounds and get to 12% body fat.”  (All measurable and attainable goals… but pretty big and daunting all at once).   I might say, for the next week I’m going to go to the gym at least twice and stop drinking regular sodas.”  What seems less daunting?  It’s really hard to lose a lot of weight.  It’s really hard to lift heavy.  It’s easy to cut back on sodas (and thus calories) for a week and commit to going the gym a couple of times.  At the end of the week I can look back and see exactly how I did and then set new short term objectives.  If every week I lift a little more than the week before while cleaning up my diet a little more, I will lose weight and get stronger.  Making all the lifestyle changes needed to lose a lot of weight is scary and confusing, but making one small change at a time and giving the change time to become a habit is easier.

I’ve used this same strategy to teach kids how to organize for school and get on top of homework.  I’ve used this strategy to help people overcome anxiety and fears (also known as gradual exposure therapy).  I’ve become a big fan of doing “lots of little bits” to get “big bits” done.  My motto is “keep it easy.”

III.              Guidelines to implement micro-change strategy

So, here are some tips on how to plan out and use this strategy to make changes in your life or your child’s life.

A.                Pick clear, well defined goals (measurable)

For this strategy to work, you need a clear target…. Something to shoot for.  While having a goal of “being happy” is nice, what does that mean?  What’s happy for you?  How would I, as your therapist, be able to quantify and measure happiness?  Is it how often you smile?  Is it how many friends you have?  Pick a measurable goal.  “I will lose 20 pounds”  or “I will see 16 clients a week” are measurable.  Whatever it is you want to change, focus on those things you can count and craft your goals around that.

Additionally, make sure you make note of your baseline when you start.  It’s important to know where you are at so that you can see where you are going as you make your goals.

B.                 Break goals up into smaller objectives

This is the essence of micro-change.  Figure out the steps you need to take to accomplish your goals.  Sometimes, you will be able to map the whole process out from beginning to end.  At other times, you may be able to figure out the first steps, but later steps may not be clear (depending on how those first steps go).  Either way, figure out small, attainable first steps and take action to accomplish them.  For that 20 pound weight loss goal, cutting out sodas might be a great first step, followed by cutting back on starchy carbs and then upping protein intake.  Making one change a week will lead to a virtual overhaul of one’s eating habits in the space of a month or two.  In the case of “seeing 16 clients a week” a goal might be to publish 2 articles this month (and then do it again next month) to get my name out there.  Another step might be to schedule a free community talk based on one of my articles in the next month to attract new clients.

C.                 Pick realistic target dates

Give yourself deadlines.  If you have an objective but no end date, it becomes very easy to procrastinate and put things off.  By giving yourself deadlines, you add a little bit of urgency.  However, it is crucial that your target dates are realistic.  Losing 20 lbs in a month is not a realistic target date.  Losing 6-8 pounds in a month becomes more realistic.  Cutting out soda for a week is easy…. Cutting out soda forever might be impossible.  I can always re-commit to no soda week after week as long as that change is helping meet my goal.  If anything, it is better to be a little more liberal with your target dates just to give yourself enough wiggle room for success.

D.                Collect data on progress

Since your goals are measurable, it makes sense to measure them.  If you don’t, how do you know if you are making progress?  I can make the goal of losing weight… but if I never weigh myself, measure my body, try on old clothes that did not use to fit… how do I know I’m making progress?  What if I’m making progress and then I choose a change that doesn’t work?  If I’m collecting data, that will be reflected and I can make adjustments to my plan sooner.

E.                 Reward yourself and celebrate your little victories

Finally, you need to make every effort to reward yourself and celebrate your successes.  It might not seem like a big deal that you cut out soda for a week.  It’s such a little thing.  However, you made a commitment and you met it.  That deserves a pat on the back.  We are creatures that thrive on reinforcement.  That’s what drives our behaviors.  So, reinforce your positive changes.  Celebrate your daily victories and be proud of yourself.  This will help keep your enthusiasm and motivation up while you transform your life.

So, take those baby steps.  Eat that elephant.  Celebrate the little victories and change your life!  I know you can do it.  Please tell me about times you’ve changed your life with micro-change in the comments section below.  I look forward to hearing from you.

If you wish to learn more about micro-change or would like to schedule a free consultation with me, please call 484-693-0582 , email me at erikyounglpc@verizon.net or click on the “schedule appointment” button on the right side of this page.

©2013 Erik Young Counseling LLC

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Irritating thoughts

Irritating thoughts:  Change your thinking to reduce you stress

irritating thoughts

I.                   What are “irritating” thoughts?

It happened to me during an end of semester performance at music school.  I’d been working all semester on three pieces that my teacher thought would showcase my talents and stretch me a little bit.  I had two pieces down solid, but the third piece, a Chopin etude was not fully memorized.  My teachers said I should go ahead and just play it with the sheet music out as it highlighted my technical skills at the piano.

On performance day I made one crucial mistake.  I did not have someone act as my page turner for that etude.  As usual, nerves were high.  I knew I was being graded and judged, so I was more anxious than usual.  The first two pieces went well but it all changed during that etude.  It started out OK.  But then about half-way through my performance, I heard a thump in the ceiling and then felt a warm gust of air wash over me and the piano.  It was the heat system kicking in.  The air caught the corner of the page I was reading and started turning it.  Next thing I knew, I was staring at the next piece in the book five pages from where I was playing.  Did I mention I DID NOT have the piece memorized?  I lost my place and my fingers started stumbling over the keys like drunken Irish clog dancers.

It was terrible.  Immediately, my legs started trembling.  I lost sensation in my hands.  My heart was beating so hard I thought it might burst out of my chest like that creature for the movie “Alien.”  I was in full-on panic induced adrenalin dump.  As I tried and failed to finish the etude gracefully this is the stream of consciousness that was running through my mind:

“#*&^$!! Oh no!  I lost my place.  My performance is ruined!!  I’ve just been exposed as the worst pianist in the school.  Everyone will know what a fraud I am.  I’m going to fail this course.  I’m going to fail the semester.  I’m getting kicked out of school.  I won’t be able to get a job.  I’ll lose my apartment.  My family will leave me.  I will die alone and broke.”

Pretty crazy huh?  In fact, everyone loved he performance and felt terrible that I had the bad luck to have my sheet music get disturbed by the heating vent.  I got an A for the performance and kept my 4.0 gpa (I was never in any danger of failing anything).    The thoughts that stampeded through my mind were examples of what I’ve come to call “irritating thoughts”

Cognitive behavior therapists call them “irrational” thoughts.  I prefer to call them “irritating” thoughts, a concept I picked up from a fellow therapist.  I find the former term implies something wrong with you while the latter term is more focused on what the thought does.  We all have them.  We pick them up throughout our lives like a long-haired dog picks up sticker-burrs running through a field.  Sometimes they are thoughts that were necessary to mentally survive a particular situation that no longer fit the current circumstances For example, your thoughts on the opposite sex from when you are seven are not applicable to dating in your 30’s.  Other times they are messages we’ve absorbed from other people in our lives.  Often, these thoughts are sub-conscious and automatic.  They pop in and out of our head without our being aware of them.  But these thoughts impact our behaviors and emotions in subtle yet powerful ways.

II.                 Mountains and Mole Hills

molehill-mountain

In my piano performance, I experienced a cascade of irritating thoughts that took a small situation and a little panic was kicked up a notch by another thought that in turn led to more panic which led to more thoughts…with the whole thing spinning out of control in my head.  It’s the classic “making a mountain out of a molehill” situation.  It’s like your brain gets hijacked.

The problem is that when these cascades of irritating thoughts run amok, it activates the fight-flight-freeze reaction.  The physiological response to this is fine if one is in a true life or death situation, but the limitations on language, planning, forethought combined with the effects of things like the stress hormone cortisol on our system are problematic when we are NOT in a life or death situation.  In my case, while my disrupted performance was embarrassing, it was not life threatening.  Reacting as if it were did not improve the situation and caused me undue distress.  The fact of the matter is that many people have similar reactions all the time.  In a sense, we pile unneeded distress and stress upon ourselves in addition to the actual stress that life throws our way as a matter of course.  There is good news though.  Just as our thoughts can trigger a stress response in our body, our thoughts can also trigger an anti-stress relaxation response.  We can take control of that which feels out of control.

III.              Thought stopping

Thought stopping is a technique used in Cognitive-Behavioral psychology to change these irritating thoughts and thereby change your mood and behaviors.  It starts by identifying when these thoughts are present.  As a rule of thumb, when you feel nervous, anxious or irritable (especially when these feeling are not in proportion with what is going on around you) you can bet irritating thoughts are present.  Learn to identify the early warning signs of an activated nervous system (for me , I usually feel it in my stomach first).  Once identified, check in with your thoughts and listen to your self-talk.  What are you saying to yourself?  Are the thoughts logical? Do they fit what’s going on?  Are they leading to increased emotionalism or are they calming?

In my example, the thoughts of how bad I played and how that would destroy my career and life were clearly illogical.  They were out of proportion with the situation.  Not only that, they were totally unhelpful.  I needed to calm my mind and focus on my performance, but the thoughts running through my mind made that task darn near impossible.

So, be critical of your thoughts.  They might not be true.  They might not fit the situation.  They may be true, but also unhelpful.  In any of these cases you need to stop cascade in its tracks.  The procedure to do this is pretty straight forward.  Once the irritating thought is identified, you need to mentally yell “STOP!”  if you are someplace where you won’t be embarrassed feel free to say that out loud.  To add an extra degree of impact, some people add a physical sensation to the stop to help interrupt the thought.  I like wearing a rubber band on my wrist.  I snap it a little bit as I think “STOP.”  This serves to distract my brain briefly and stop the thought.

IV.             Calming thoughts

calming thought picture

The next thing to do is to replace the irritating thought with a calming thought.  If you don’t, the irritating thought will just start-up again.  By putting a competing thought in its place (one that is helpful and relaxing) you make it harder for that irritating thought to hijack your brain.  For example, if the irritating thought is “I’m stupid.  I can’t do this.”  You should think about ways in which that thought is inaccurate (perhaps you’ve done this thing before with no problem so clearly are capable).  In my example, the thoughts that I was a terrible piano player ere inaccurate because I had just played two pieces well…something a poor pianist could not do.  If I’d tried to keep that fact forefront in my mind I might have been able to stay calmer and recover easier.

Admittedly, this technique takes some practice.  If you are not used to thinking like this it will seem strange at first.  For this reason, I invite you to take some time and practice it.  Don’t wait until you are feeling anxious and out of control…take time to check in with your thoughts when you are feeling relatively calm.  You’ll be surprised at what kind of automatic thoughts pop into your head.  In doing this you will be able to start becoming aware of your irritating thoughts.  Once identified, it is easier to notice when they are present.  When you are calm, it’s also easier to figure out what kinds of calming thoughts will best  take the place of your irritating thoughts.  By practicing when you are calm, it will be easier to put this technique into practice when you are not calm.

One final note on thought stopping, you should combine this technique with the stress management skills I have talked about such as deep breathing and deep muscle relaxation.  By combining calming techniques you will be better to reduce your current stress and inoculate yourself against future stress.  All it takes is a little practice and patience to take control and improve your quality of life.

I hope you’ve found this information helpful.  I invite you to comment on how irritating thoughts have impacted your life and ways in which you’ve managed them.  I also welcome any questions you might have in the comments section.  Until next time, remember, Breathe…You got this.

©2013 Erik Young, M.Ed., LPC

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Media Roundup: Transition article, Askimo Videos and Video Sessions

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated the blog.  Things have been busy behind the scenes and I’m not ready to unveil some exciting new stuff.

Transitions — How to make them easier for your autistic child.

First, I have a new article up at GoodTherapy.org.  My latest contribution in an article on how to help your autistic child with transitions.  Anybody who cares for someone on the spectrum knows how challenging it can be to move from place to place or from activity to activity.  This article gives a few practical tips to make transitions and change a little easier.

Read it here.

I invite you to leave feedback or questions about the article in the comments section here or over at GoodTherapy.org.

Askimo video interviews

Back in March, the fine folks at Askimo.tv, an online video information resource, asked to interview me on a number of topics.  The videos are up and I hope you take a moment to check them out and that they prove informative and useful.  Again, I invite you to leave questions and comments here and at Askimo.tv.

Special Needs Parenting

Attachment Disorder

Stress and Tension

Stress Management

Foster Care

Foster Care for Children with Special Needs

 

New Services at the Office!

I’ve partnered with Counsol.com to add some exciting new services.  On the menu bar you should see a link to the secure patient area.  There you can register with me to schedule sessions.  Access Secure email and journaling features.  Most exciting is the secure video chat feature.  With this I will be able to conduct online video sessions for those of you who might be challenged to get to the office.  With this new feature I will be hosting online group parent consultation sessions once a month.  These sessions will be free for current clients (those seeing me for in-person sessions) and will cost $15 per session for anyone else.  With these sessions, I will cover general special needs parenting topics as well as answer more specific questions.  You will also be able to network and talk with other families who may be struggling with similar issues as yourself.  The beauty of this is you don’t have to worry about hiring a sitter, you can access this service from home.  If you would like more information about this, you can call me at 484-693-0582 or shoot me an email at erikyounglpc@verizon.net.

 

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The Importance of Communication

communication1

One common problem in autism and other neurological disorders is difficulties with communication.  Communication problems range from a complete inability to speak to difficulty in interpreting spoken language.  When present, communication problems should be a major focus of treatment because the developmental and behavioral consequences ignoring communication issues can be severe.

In this article published at Goodtherapy.org, I discuss the importance of communication training:

“Erik Young, MEd, LPC – Particularly among children with autism spectrum, learning to 
effectively communicate is key to improving behavioral outcomes.”

 

They also posted my article reviewing Communication Assistance technologies commonly used to facilitate communication.

Erik Young, MEd, LPC – All strategies and technologies for improving communication among 
children with autism and other special needs have their pros and cons. 
Here’s a closer look at five common ones.”

 

If you have any experience with communication training for autistic or other disabled individuals, please share your experiences in the comments below.  I would love to hear from you!

 

Peace,

Erik

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ANTECEDENT MODIFICATIONS (in “Normalspeak”, changing what happens before the behavior)

 

doctor cartoon

Did you ever hear the old joke about the guy that goes to the doctor?  He says to the doctor, “Doc, it hurts my arm every time I do this,” (as he raises his arm).  The doctor, looking thoughtful, says, “Well, don’t do that!”  I’ll bet you’re wondering, “What does an old vaudeville routine have to do with behavior modification?”   Simple!  By avoiding or changing the THINGS THAT TRIGGER behaviors, we can better manage them.

ABC’s

Behaviorists describe behaviors in three parts labeled “the ABC’s”:

  1. 1.     Antecedent,
  2. 2.     Behavior,
  3. 3.     Consequence.

Antecedent behavior consequenceIn the previous articles, you learned about the Behavior (What is the function?) and you learned about consequence (reinforcement).   This article will focus on antecedents...the things that happen before the behavior.

For practical purposes we are concerned about two things that happen before a behavior:

  1. 1.     Triggers  &
  2. 2.     Setting events.

Triggers are the things that consistently cause the behavior to happen.  For example, if someone jumps out and startles you, you jump.  Analyzing the triggers allows us to answer the question: “What is the function of the behavior?”.  It also allows us to predict when a behavior is going to happen .

Setting Events are situations and environments where the behavior is more likely to occur.  Example: I am not much of a morning person.  To get through the morning, I rely on set routines because my brain is not typically fully engaged when I first wake up.  Change my routine even a little bit and I am more likely to forget things, become grumpy, etc.

What do we do with this information?

At the very least , if you understand the triggers and setting events of behaviors…you can use that knowledge to  eliminate the behaviors by:   1) removing triggers and/or 2) avoiding setting events .  Conversely, you can elicit  desired behaviors by:  1) creating setting events and/or 2)  putting triggers into the environment .

 

Try this to reduce “stop” behaviors:

  • Write down all the possible setting events and triggers of the behavior.  (You should have a good idea about this from when you were figuring out the function of the behavior).

 

  • Now, for EACH event and trigger, ask yourself,  “Can I make this go away?”

 

  •  If the answer is yes, then take steps to eliminate the stressor.
  • If the answer is “no”, then ask yourself “Can I reduce this or make it happen less often?”
    •  If that answer is yes, take steps to make the stressor less prevalent in your life.
    • If that answer is “no”, then ask yourself, “What do I have to do to live with this?”

v  The answer to that question will lead to a CONCRETE PLAN you can follow.  Simple…but not easy. Most good thing in life are like this.

Try this out and let me know how it’s working for you.  Above all, DON’T PANIC.  Breathe.  You’ve got this.

I welcome your questions.   I can be reached at erikyounglpc@verizon.net

Find out more about me and schedule a complimentary session at www.erikyoungtherapy.com

Copyright 2013 Erik Young, M.Ed.,LPC

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