For many of us, life problems become so entrenched in our everyday life that they consume our thoughts and feelings. When we get stuck into these difficult patterns, solutions seem almost impossible to find.
Many of the parents I see in my practice have seen numerous helping professionals such as psychologists, counsellors and psychiatrists but haven’t seen the outcomes they had hoped for. There are still unsolved problems. Many of these parents feel lost and unsure of what their next step should be. They don’t see light at the end of the tunnel and feel worried every day and night about the wellbeing and safety of their child.
Now there are two sides of parenting an adolescent that is struggling with behavioural or emotional issues and we see these issues in the bush as well. Firstly, there is the “Crisis Management” aspect involving managing those angry outbursts and oppositional behaviour. The second is all about where we focus our attention. That is what this blog is about.
One of my assumptions as a solution-focused therapist is that “Change in inevitable.” Things cannot stay the same. But the truth is that this is all a matter of how we choose to see things. I recommend pulling out your imaginary magnifying glass and emphasising the times where things are going a bit better than usual. In our clinical work, this is called “Searching for Exceptions.”
This, for example, is when our child seems less depressed or less angry. Or the class in school our child actually enjoys attending, and why? Is there a day that you don’t fight with your partner as much? What happened that day that made a difference? Can we do more of it?
This is hard to do but we have created an easy to use worksheet that you can use each week to find these exceptions and help to amplify them. When I review this worksheet each week with one of my clients we talk about exceptions that were important to them and see what it took to make this happen. If we have more awareness about what we did, how we did it and why we did it, we will feel more in control about doing it again.
Here is how you can do it this week step by step.
1) Think of an exception that happened this week. For example, a time when you didn't feel so angry or felt happy in your relationship.
2) How did you feel when this exception was happening?
3) What did you, or someone else, do to make this exception happen?
4) What do you have to do in order to make it happen again?
I like to use a fun metaphor for the last question. Think of a recipe for your favourite dinner or dessert. Some complicated dishes can have a lot of ingredients and methods to get to the final product. Think of your exceptions this way.
Lets say you had a conversation with your son and he didn't get angry or explosive with you. What were the ingredients that made this happen? You can even ask him this question as well if you’re still in conversation with him.
The point for us is that there is always an exception to the problem but we have to be there to find it. Then we can try to make those exceptions happen a bit more often. This will help you to de-stress, feel happier and more centered.
If you would like to learn more about solution-focused approaches, finding exceptions or would like help in finding new solutions, feel free to contact us. For families living in Adelaide we have a beautiful counselling suite that you can visit. For those living interstate, ask us today about our 14-day adventure therapy program for adolescents and learn more about what services are available for you.
Will Dobud MSW
True North Expeditions
I cannot say enough about how great it is to see meditation and mindfulness apps surface during the last decade. With everyone having smart phones, its now easier than ever for people to gain some clarity during their busy lives.
Not only do I use these apps personally but they are incredibly useful during counselling sessions. A lot of children I see have heard of meditation or mindfulness but think of it as something that adults try to persuade them to do as an alternative to acting out, getting angry or feeling depressed. I don’t think this is a very good sell.
Emily wrote last week about connecting body and mind with the girls on our August Expedition and these apps are great ways to help this process. During any given session, whether its in the bush or in my counselling suite in Adelaide, I offer these apps on the iPad or iPhone to clients for them to try.
Just yesterday I was working with a 17-year-old boy on some anger management strategies and I offered a quick meditation for him to try. We spoke about how it can be helpful to practice with guided meditations before practicing mindful breathing on our own. He enjoyed his 8 minute meditation before we drank green tea and talked about how he felt calmer and more relaxed. It changed the entire second half of our session into a relaxed experience with less blaming of others and more insight into our own personal feelings. Here are the apps we use:
1) Headspace – This is my personal favourite. Not to be confused with Australia’s national mental health service, this app, created by meditation teacher Andy Puddicombe, gives 10 free meditations lasting 10 minutes each. These are incredibly practical and great for beginners. There is no need for previous experience. I love it. There are great videos in the app that teach us how just 10 minutes of mindfulness can help us think more clearly and de-stress. Definitely worth it!
2) Smiling Mind – One of my younger clients taught me about Smiling Mind. I offered him a Headspace meditation and he asked if I had hear of Smiling Mind before. I downloaded it immediately. This app provides more interactive meditations such as guided imagery, quick check-ins and many mindfulness experiences. This app provides mindfulness meditations for all ages divided up between children, adolescents and adults. This app would be great in schools and has been very useful with my younger clients that may benefit from more mindfulness experiences.
3) Stop, Breathe & Think – This is the newest to my collection and I’ve loved it. My favourite part is the feelings check-in. If I am unsure of which of their many meditations I should try then I complete a quick survey telling the app which feelings I am currently experiencing. As a “feelings professional” I like that there are many feelings to choose from, not just happy, sad or tired. It's quite comprehensive. The app then gives me a list of meditations that may be good for me at this time. Today I completed a 6 minute meditation focused on gratitude and wellbeing and I’m feeling refreshed and tuned in.
Whether or not you’re an experienced meditator or a beginner, these apps can help bring some freshness to your day. They’re free and worth it. Let me know how you do! Likewise, if you’d like to come to our Adelaide counselling office and talk about brining more mindfulness into your life you can schedule that here or email me. I'd love to hear from you.
Do you have a favourite app that I should know about? Send it to me!