March 16, 2011

Therapeutic Self-Talk: What it is, Why it's Helpful and How it Works .

Therapeutic Self-Talk: What it is, Why it's helpful and How it works .

Talking to yourself used to mean that you were crazy. For year however, therapists have used a form of self-talk to help their clients. Today we're going to show you how Therapeutic Self-Talk (TST), a simple yet powerful technique, can help you to more effectively deal with everyday common emotional problems.

1. What is Therapeutic Self -Talk ?

-- Ordinary self talk is that continuous internal monolog or stream of consciousness that runs through our heads. Sometimes the thoughts are very negative can have a destructive impact on our mood or behavior. " I can't go on", "You ruined my life." or "I have no reason to live" are common examples of negative self talk .

-- Therapeutic Self-Talk is a healthy mental habit which changes our passive internal monolog into active internal dialog which challenges and questions the accuracy and legitimacy of our negative thoughts and feelings.

-- TST is not self-affirmations. (Remember Al Franken's, Stuart Smalley's " I'm good enough, smart enough and gosh darn it people just like me.") nor is it simply repeating encouraging slogans that you find on inspirational posters in store at the mall.

-- TST applies critical thinking to one's own thoughts and feeling, i.e. TST asks questions to establish or discredit the factual/logical basis of our thoughts and feelings.

2. Why Therapeutic Self-Talk is Helpful?

--When trauma or stressful events create emotional and cognitive distortions and exaggerations, TST can help restore a calmer and more reasonable perspective.

-- TST can also help slow down impulsive behavior.

--Therapeutic Self-Talk is also useful because it provides a way to deal with mixed feelings and

even contradictory desires, e.g. do I want to lose weight or eat donuts ?

3. How Does Therapeutic Self -Talk Work ?

The key to Therapeutic Self-Talk is self questioning, i.e. TST employs a skeptical outlook which does not automatically believe or follow whatever is thought or felt.

For example, one time when I was in training to be a therapist, I came in to my mentor and said, " This is the worst day of my life." To which my mentor said. "Really ?" To which I replied, "Well... maybe not the worst." and gradually I was able put my day into a more reasonable and accurate perspective which turned out to be not even in the top 40. With practice anyone can learn to question his/her own thoughts and feelings without a mentor or therapist. (For starters you may want to recall Woody Allen cross examining himself in the movie Bananas .)

Here are some other common examples of difficult situations and the questions that can help to:

-- Restore a rational perspective / How bad are things - really ?

-- Calm down and clear up emotional distortions / Is there really an imminent crisis or threat ?

-- Clarify priorities between conflicting Goals / What is really more important donuts or diet ?

-- Discover other options / What else could I do instead of acting on my immediate impulse ?

-- Slow down racing thoughts and resist impulsive behavior/ What are the consequences of acting on my impulse ?

-- Make a difficult decision when you can' t decide / What are the positives and the negatives
of each option?

In the heat of battle, we often lose our cool and our ability to think straight. Therapeutic Self-talk is a simple, but effective, way to hit the emotional reset button and regain a reasonable perspective.

These remarks were prepared by the Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC for Bridge Street 3 16 2011.

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