Focus

I recently returned from a two week vacation overseas. My travelling companions made up a dynamic that I had not been together with in many years. Without thinking about it, I slipped back into an outmoded way of being. As I’ve grown, and learned new ways of living in the world, I’ve moved past some of the less effective ways of my youth. However, sometimes I find myself in a situation where I feel or act in a way I haven’t for a long time. Is that something you can relate to at all, dear reader? When removed from a situation that is uncomfortable, we often find adaptive ways of preventing similar situations in the future. Other times, we turn a blind eye to how things were, and may end up coming across the same obstacles we haven’t yet surmounted.

Upon returning home, I was exhausted. I was jet-lagged, I hadn’t been sleeping well, and I was getting over a sinus infection that had kicked my butt. Standing in my living room, I reflected on the trip. I recognized that having an awareness of my style of life would aid me in accepting, and ultimately forgiving the person that I was. By feeling compassion for ourselves, we are able to recognize that we are doing the best that we can with the resources we believe are available to us. By recognizing and gaining awareness of our actions, it frees us up to choose differently in the future.

I spent time in quiet reflection, and in expressing myself to my partner. Having someone to listen, acknowledge, and reflect my thoughts was incredibly validating. I found the forgiveness for self that I was looking for. Once released, I found a quiet spot and wondered: now what? I understand where I’ve been, now where am I going? What do I want? Why am I here?

It’s easy to let life live me, it takes conscious effort to live an intentional life. I would like to identify what it is that I want out of life, and why it is that I’m here. Once I’ve figured that out, I’d like to feel what it would feel like to accomplish those goals. Following the feeling of accomplishment, I would like to release any sense of need or attachment to those successes. This will aid me in creating a motivated, creative environment with which to move towards my goals. In that environment, a nonattached style of living will aid me in feeling content with whether or not those goals come to be. Either way, I am moving in the direction of what I want in life, focused on the journey and not the destination.

“Where the world like a loose garment. Don’t ignore it, and don’t let it dominate you.”

“The dark night of the soul is the evolution of one’s spirit.”

“Be towards the world the way you would want it to be towards you.”

Here’s what I came up with:

Wishing you the ability to choose your greatest good!

JP

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A Developing Counselor’s View on Laws and Ethics

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to deepen my understanding of the connection between the ethical and legal considerations in regards to mental health counseling. As a new counselor it is my desire to use the codes of ethics as well as current laws to develop a framework with which to grow my skills as a counselor. Because of the need for skill and precision in what we do as counselors, there are many laws that have been put in place to hold us accountable for our actions. I have found that the codes of ethics contain within them the laws which we uphold, as well as expand upon what our role is as an ideal. While not everything within the codes of ethics is also law, we can view ethics as the playing field, and the law as the boundary line within which we operate.

A Developing Counselor’s View on Laws and Ethics

This is my first semester in the LMHC program. Coming in, I did not have a firm grasp on what it was counselors did. The process of knowing what to say, having a plan, and ethically aiding a person is still daunting to me. The therapeutic relationship often involves a person being open and honest in ways that they are with no one else in their life. The importance of morally and ethically navigating these relationships is paramount to the success of a counselor. While initially intimidating, the number of laws and the codes of ethics now form a backbone of my understanding of how to interact with clients in session and out. It seems to me that the metaphor of a playing field could be used in describing the relationship between the ethics and laws. We can see the boundary lines of the playing field as the laws, and the playing field itself as the moral and ethical ways in which we behave as counselors. I would like to further grow my knowledge of how best to navigate this counseling field. A deep understanding of the similarities and differences between the laws and ethics will aid me in doing what is best for the clients I have. We will begin this discussion by looking at laws that apply to us here in New York. From there, we will branch out and have a look at the acts that ensure individuals rights are upheld in a variety of situations. The ACA, and AMHCA, codes of ethics will be used to compare and contrast these documents. We will conclude by summarizing the connection between the ethics and laws that are present.

Starting at the beginning in the American Counseling Association (ACA) code of ethics, A.1.a. states that the primary responsibility that we have as counselors is to respect the dignity, and promote the welfare of the clients under our care (American Counseling Association, 2014). The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) similarly states that a counselor’s prime directive is to have respect for a client’s autonomy, dignity, and to promote that person’s welfare (AMHCA, 2015). We can see that here in NYS there are laws in place that uphold this core responsibility. A part of the NYS Mental Hygiene Law describes how when a person is admitted to a psychiatric center, they retain all of their civil rights. They are to be protected from any abuse or mistreatment within that center that might come from other residents, or from the staff. The personal rights that are required within these centers extends to the provision of clothing, the food that is provided, and that the environment is kept sanitary (Office of Mental Health, n.d.). We can begin to see how the laws that govern uphold the ethics that we follow. In this way we are all held to a high standard of providing care to those who may be having difficulty caring for themselves. Perhaps a more direct connection between this aspect of the Mental Hygiene Law and what we provide as counselors would be in regards to confidentiality and privacy. Looking at B.1.b. and B.1.c. within the ACA, a client is given respect for privacy and confidentiality. It states that we are only to ask for private information from a client when it is believed to be beneficial to the therapeutic process. Similarly, counselors are only to disclose information when there is ethical justification for doing so (American Counseling Association, 2014). I.A.2. of the AMHCA is where we find the discussion of confidentiality. It discusses how keeping information about clients safe is a primary duty. The wording here is slightly different, as information is communicated to others only with the client’s consent, or when dictated by state law (AMHCA, 2015). These codes hold true legally when we look at the Mental Hygiene Law. The Office of Mental Health is required to provide a Notice of Privacy Practices, which states that generally no information may be given out without a patient’s written permission (Office of Mental Health, n.d.).

The case of personal rights is very clear cut. Privacy and confidentiality rules held true across both codes of ethics, as well as state law. This right and wrong way of viewing things is not always the case. Within the profession of counseling, there are many grey areas where the correct answer is not always so apparent. One example of this ambiguity would be in disclosure of the communicable disease HIV. If we look at the ACA, B.2.c. describes how in some cases it may be ethically appropriate to disclose that someone has an infectious condition (American Counseling Association, 2014). If a client has serious intentions of having sexual contact with someone, and would infect that person with a potentially fatal disease as a result, there may be good cause for disclosing to the third party. This is where the situation becomes complicated. As counselors, it is our highest priority to work in the best interest of the client. In this case, that would mean attempting to work with the client towards their realization of the negative impact of infecting the third party with a harmful disease. If the client makes their intent to act anyways known, ethically it may be correct to warn the person before damage is done. This is not the case in New York, however. Within our state, there is Public Health Law, Article 27-F, which protects the privacy and confidentiality of anyone who has been tested for, exposed to, been treated for, or has HIV or an AIDS related illness (New York State Confidentiality Law and HIV: Questions and Answers, n.d.). Both the ACA and the AMHCA contain statements that above all else a counselor should comply with state and federal statutes concerning mandated reporting (AMHCA, 2015). This is an interesting case of ethics and the law diverging from each other. While it may seem that the most correct thing to do may be to speak up and warn the person in question, legally that is not the case. After discussion, I believe that the most correct course of action would be to communicate with the client the dangers of what they are thinking. Through effective counseling it may be possible to show them alternatives to not communicating their condition.

With the vastness of topics the counseling field contains, it makes sense that morally grey areas would present themselves. Upon entering this program, my most anxiety-inducing questions all pertained to these grey areas. There seemed to be many topics that could catch a counselor off guard. As the semester has gone on, I have found a sense of confidence as a result of learning about ethical decision making models. An article entitled Privileged Communication Between a Patient and Clinician discusses a morally grey area where we may use such a model. In this case, a patient suffering from schizophrenia was admitted to a behavioral care facility for experiencing auditory hallucinations telling him to kill himself. The psychiatrist that treated him filed a petition for the patients continued residency after learning that he planned to kill himself. The patient attempted to have the petition thrown out, saying that he was not informed that what he said to the doctor may be used in legal proceedings. The judge presiding over the case ruled in favor of the doctor, after determining that the privileged communication was overcome because of the threat of imminent harm (Sarathy & West, 2015). The psychiatrist in this scenario decided to act after learning of the patient’s intent to inflict harm upon himself. How did he decide to speak up and take action in this circumstance? In the HIV situation, the most ethical thing to do was to attempt to work together with the client and aid them in finding a different solution than infecting their partner. In the situation involving the suicidal patient, speaking out and petitioning for more treatment time was seen both ethically and legally as most correct. This decision is made more easily when looked at through the context of an ethical decision making model. Corey, Corey, and Callahan (2015) presented a model that has stayed with me, and has eight steps to consider. Instead of going through each step, I will point out a couple of important points. There are several models for ethical situations, some for specific situations; what they have in common is that they require the counselor to pause and break down a problem into parts. By looking at the situation in a structured way, one can be sure that an informed decision will be reached. I have learned that if something doesn’t feel right in session, it is correct to run through the steps of a model to see what comes up. Identifying the problem or issue provides direction, reviewing ethical codes focuses a counselor on providing the best care possible, seeking supervision provides context from those who may have insight upon the situation (Sheperis, Henning, & Kocet, 2016). Having these tools at my disposal makes me feel more confident moving forward.

Another tool we as counselors use are records and documentation. In regards to ethical decision making, it is important that a counselor keep a record of the process they went through to arrive at the decision they did. This could possibly aid a counselor if they were to be court-ordered, or asked to elaborate upon their decision making process. The ACA, under section B.6.a. requires that a counselor create and maintain the records and documents that are needed for providing professional services. Section B.6.b. discusses how these records must be kept secure, and that only those who are authorized have any access to them (American Counseling Association, 2014). The AMHCA ethics code follows suit under 2.i. stating that counseling records must be maintained under conditions of security, and that they must be destroyed after five years of cessation of treatment (AMHCA, 2015). So important are privacy considerations that a federal law was introduced in 1996 to create a uniform level of security among healthcare records. Prior to its introduction, laws were made by state and differed upon where a person was within the country (Wheeler & Bertram, 2015). HIPAA has since been reformed so that it now covers both paper and electronic documents that pertain to a patient’s healthcare records. On the educational side of document confidentiality, FERPA is an act that retains student privacy. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, also known as the Buckley Amendment, was created in 1974 in order to maintain privacy and accuracy of educational documents and records. While the importance of privacy at that time was no less valid, the invention of the internet has created even more need for security and privacy of this information. Educational records may contain a student’s place of birth, information about their parents and family life, grades, any disabilities they are experiencing, as well as medical records (Toglia, 2017).

While privacy and confidentiality are a cornerstone by which we as counselors practice, there are some instances in which we are required to disclose information about the clients we see. A situation like this is called mandated reporting, and is required by law in some instances (Welcome, n.d.). An example may be a case in which a juvenile in counseling reveals that they have had sex with someone who is older than they are. Age of consent laws vary to a small degree by state. In New York, the age of consent is seventeen. This is the age at which a person is recognized as being legally old enough to consent to sexual activity. If a counselor learns that a child under the age of seventeen is being taken advantage of, it would be ethically correct to discuss the illegality of this with them. The counselor would need to be attentive to how the client feels about the situation, and to communicate to them the ethical obligations that they are bound by. The key here would be to work together with the client, and to discuss with them before making any action. Looking at the ACA code A.2.d., we see that when counseling minors we must seek their assent (approval), and to balance including them in the decision making process with our ethical obligations (Sheperis, Henning, & Kocet, 2016).

I believe that counseling is a service that should be made available to all those who seek it out. This profession is non-discriminatory, culturally sensitive, and inclusive of all peoples. It reminds me of the preamble at the start of the U.S. Constitution. “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America” (Convention, 1787). Phew! A long winded sentiment, but one that applies to the high ideal we reach for as counselors in a position to help.  This can and does include those individuals who are living with disabilities. Because of the possibility that those who have difficulty speaking for themselves will be taken advantage of, there are both ethical rules and laws that are in place. Looking at the ACA code, we can see subject A.2.c. concerning developmental and cultural sensitivity. This item describes the importance of a counselor communicating information in a way that is both developmentally and culturally understandable, to the best of our ability. It is on us as counselors to adjust our practices to accommodate these individuals. Further, A.2.d. discusses how when counseling minors, or adults who are incapacitated, a counselor receives their assent (or approval) and includes them in the decision making process (American Counseling Association, 2014). The AMHCA does not single out those with disabilities in its code, however the code itself is openly worded to include those with disabilities. Under I.B.1., the AMHCA discusses how the counselor and client must work together to create an integrated, individualized plan that makes a reasonable promise of success, and is consistent with the abilities of the client (AMHCA, 2015). It is important that we as counselors be familiar with the ADA, or the Americans with Disabilities Act. Created in 1990, and amended in 2008, the ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits any discrimination against those with disabilities in public areas; this includes jobs, educational institutions, and all “public and private places that are open to the general public” (What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?, n.d.). A counseling practice with 15 or more employees may want to seek legal advice in regards to hiring those with disabilities. It is a necessary and altruistic service to provide employment to those who require reasonable accommodation. Providing accommodation extends to the services counselors offer as well. It may be necessary to alter a counseling practice in small ways in order to accommodate someone who is experiencing a disability. An example of this may be a larger font on an informed consent form for someone with limited vision, or a wheelchair access ramp for someone who has lost the use of their legs (Wheeler & Bertram, 2015). Considering the scope of the service that counseling provides, these accommodations seem a natural fit for this profession.

Continuing in the direction of accommodation, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law that works with children who have disabilities in the public school setting. IDEA controls how both states and agencies administer early intervention, special education, and other services to the youths of America. The act also makes available formula grants (to support special education and early intervention) and discretionary grants (to support research, demonstrations, assistance, development, and parent training and information centers) (About IDEA, n.d.). Working together IDEA, Section 504 is a part of the Rehabilitation act of 1973. This act prohibits any discrimination a student might endure as a result of a disability. It is a civil rights statute that makes sure the needs of these students are met to the same degree as students who do not have disabilities. “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the Unites States, as defined in section 706(8) of this title, shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” (Durheim, 2017). Lastly, on December 10, 2015 president Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act into law. This was a newer version of what used to be called the No Child Left Behind Act, from 2002. This revitalization of the school system put many changes into place that benefitted students. Protections were put into place for the countries disadvantaged and high-need students. It put into place an expectation that there will be positive growth in the lowest performing schools. It also requires, for the first time, that all the students in the country be taught to high academic standards that help aid them in success in college (Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), n.d.). It is interesting and important to note the connection between these acts and the codes of ethics that we adhere to as counselors. In our profession we are concerned most primarily with promoting our client’s well-being. Our goal is for them to reach higher levels of functioning and life satisfaction. It is heartening to see that the ethics by which we practice have been implemented to a degree into the laws that govern our country (and our youths!). While the major codes of ethics may create some grey area with laws that are in place, there are far more circumstances it would seem where the two complement each other.

While it may have been intimidating to begin this course with little knowledge of ethics, I feel increasingly confident that the knowledge of the different codes and the law will aid me in making the right decisions. I plan on always putting the client’s well-being first, and to openly communicate with them about the direction we are headed in. I can see the importance of keeping organized notes on the sessions I participate in, and of the need for vigilance in keeping all documents classified. The most intimidating aspect of counseling I identified at the start was the ethical dilemmas I couldn’t see a way of handling. With knowledge of several ethical decision making models I feel much more confident that I can level-headedly approach complex problems, and come up with a solution that most benefits the client (while adhering to ethics and state laws, as well). I’m excited to be taking this class my first semester in the program, as it has given me a feeling of confidence to handle unique situations. I’m looking forward to expanding upon my knowledge of ethics, and using them to benefit the clients that I come into session with in practicum. I’ll be sure to stay within the boundary lines of the field!

 

References

About IDEA. (n.d.). Retrieved from U.S. Department of Education: https://sites.ed.gov/idea/about-idea/

Association, A. C. (2014). 2014 ACA Code of Ethics. Alexandria: American Counseling Association.

Association, A. M. (2015). AMHCA Code of Ethics. Alexandria: American Mental Health Counselor’s Association.

Convention, P. (1787, September 17). U.S. Constitution. Philadelphia , Pennsylvania, United States of America.

Durheim, M. (2017, November 3). A paren’ts guide to Section 504 in public schools. Retrieved from Great! Schools: https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/section-504-2/

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). (n.d.). Retrieved from U.S. Department of Education.

New York State Confidentiality Law and HIV: Questions and Answers. (n.d.). Retrieved from Ny.gov: https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/aids/consumers/testing/confidentiality_law.htm

Office of Mental Health. (n.d.). Retrieved from Ny.gov: https://www.omh.ny.gov/omhweb/patientrights/inpatient_rts.htm

Sarathy, S., & West, S. (2015). Privileged Communication Between a Patient and Clinician. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online, 529-531.

Sheperis, D. S., Henning, S. L., & Kocet, M. M. (2016). Ethical Decision Making for the 21st Century Counselor. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.

Toglia, T. V. (2017). How does FERPA affect you? Tech Directions, 21-25.

Welcome. (n.d.). Retrieved from Mandated Reporter Resource Center : http://www.nysmandatedreporter.org/Welcome.aspx

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? (n.d.). Retrieved from ADA National Network: https://adata.org/learn-about-ada

Wheeler, A., & Bertram, B. (2015). The Counselor and the Law. Alexandria: American Counseling Association.

 

 

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Developmental Reflection

Sitting on my bed, I began to prepare for what was to become this reflection paper. I had the textbook, a notebook, and a leather-bound photo album that smelled like the bottom of my mom’s purse. I intended to use this album to help me remember some of my earliest memories. It worked, to a degree! I don’t remember anything before the age of about three. What happens then is a hazy collection of near-to-the-ground images that coalesce to form an idea of what toddler Joe was like. Conversations with my mother also helped me put things together. From there, the memories came more easily; gelling together in a way the earlier ones did not. Assigning the memories that came up to developmental tasks and theory was the next step. I will begin this reflection at the age of three, when locomotion aided me in escaping from robotic dinosaurs, and we will end up with ten year old me having developed a sense of competence while tinkering with my dad’s Power Macintosh computer.

I was born in Texas, and lived in a dry, arid, flat space until the age of five. My earliest memory that I could come up with was standing in my family’s backyard and feeling small looking out at the vast desert that lay in front of me. Upon visiting as an adult, I learned that it was a fenced in space that would take approximately thirty minutes to mow. I began walking in this space, aided by the freedom of not wearing diapers. I can see that my psychosocial development was aided by my ability to have a slew of new interactions with my environment now that I could move from room to room, and from play to caregiver. My mother told me that she remembered my playing with planes, and the noises I would make as I would walk along with my hand outstretched. These locomotor skills made it possible for me to develop new ways of play that I was not capable of before. Dynamic systems theory applies to my view of how I was growing. My arms and legs were becoming more muscular and able to carry my weight more efficiently. My central nervous system was developing, which aided in my coordination. I was also getting lots of practice! My parents took me to a science center during this time. There was an exhibit featuring animatronic dinosaurs that I expressed interest in. My mother brought me close to one of the dinosaurs that wasn’t moving, and let me walk near it. It jolted to life, turned its head and roared! I used all of the locomotion I could muster to gallop away from that dinosaur. A landmark moment in coordinating all of my developing motor skills.

As I grew and moved about more freely, I was also developing in my abilities to think and speak. Semiotic thinking refers to a developing child’s ability to understand symbols. This, coupled with my newfound motor skills aided me in imaginative play. At the age of four I was constructing castles out of couch cushions, vast cave networks, and escape routes. I used pillows, sheets, and broom handles to serve as building materials. This representational thinking would continue to develop as I grew. My younger sister began to partake with me in play time. Being two years younger than me, she didn’t participate as much; but I included her in the stories I was creating just the same. I would assign her tasks and duties within the castle, and make sure she knew her way around. These representational skills were important for me to be able to share the experience with her (even if she wasn’t quite that far along developmentally). My mother related to me that I would rattle off about various goings on during our play, some of which made sense and some that did not. Often times she would engage me in conversation as I was playing. When she noticed that I was using the wrong word, she would give me a different one. Sometimes she would give me simple reflections to show me that she understood what I was talking about. This was great practice for me to continue learning our language. What she was doing was exhibiting verbal scaffolding, which helped me to more easily reach higher levels of language skill.

I was surprised to learn that between the ages of three and four I was difficult to get along with! Years later I would fill the role of mediator, and would avoid conflict and disagreements at all costs. However, during the psychosocial crisis of autonomy versus shame and doubt I could be cross, seemingly selfish, and would disagree with what my parents had to say. My mother expressed exasperation at my need to use the bathroom by myself, and for her not to watch as I did so. This yielded mixed results, and further frustration on my mother’s part as she would have to clean up after me on a couple of occasions. I began taking ownership for household objects, interestingly. Often I would take something, a drink coaster at one time, and run off with it. This behavior did pay into a negative event for me that would impact my self-concept and family relationships. One summer afternoon my family was outside in our front yard. We had neighbors over, and everyone was milling about, conversing, and getting ready for a barbeque. A few of the older kids were playing with a ball, and I ran over and snatched it. As was my habit, I ran away with the ball; except this time I ran towards the street. There was a car coming towards me, and my father yelled for me to stop. I did, petrified at his tone, and he ran over and scolded me. I don’t remember being aware of all the people that were watching as this happened, but I do have a sense of the frustration and humiliation that came up while it was happening. In that moment I felt shame, and did not understand why he was so mad at me. That experience would stay with me, and pay heavily into how I viewed and interacted with my father moving forward.

My family moved around a lot when I was little. My father worked as a school principal, and we moved from Texas to Maryland when I was five. Upon arriving in Rockville, MD, I began kindergarten and started socializing with a group outside of my family for the first time that I can remember. An interesting event stood out to me about a year later in first grade. There was a girl in my class named Sarah. Sarah was very vocal, athletic, a little rough, and dressed like a boy. One day in class Sarah came up in conversation, and I said that “he was playing with…” in reference to an activity we had done. The teacher corrected me in saying that Sarah was a girl. I remember the slight confusion and embarrassment at incorrectly stating a person’s sex. This was my first experience with a person’s gender identification, and that not all boys enjoy traditional masculine activities, and that not all girls enjoy regular feminine activities. My incorrect thoughts about a gender label at this time made me more aware of the differences between people, I believe. Sarah and I played on the same basketball team, and knew each other for years after that. My own gender identification came as I understood increasingly the concept of gender, and the differences between man and woman. As I continued to grow I identified and aligned with what was masculine, except in some ways with my father. There was a disconnect between us, and I identified far more with the empathic and kind methods of my mother. Being stoic, stern, and rigid did not seem appealing to me. This rift in parental identification put some strain on our relationship. He and I had a couple of formative conversations of what he believed to be the correct way of being in the world. Now that I’m grown, I’m able to take what he said that I agree with and add it to my worldview. At the time, I disagreed and opposed his viewpoint.

First grade was a time full of memories for me; more so than second or third grade. My teacher’s name was Mrs. King (easily recalled), I had several friends, and we were loud, boisterous, and full of initiative. My first memories of being immersed in nature come from this age as well. My neighborhood friends and I would explore Rock Creek Park, which was at the end of my road. Pulling from the sense of independence and autonomy I had felt earlier, I investigated the woods and creek with much joy. We would turn over rocks, and discover crawfish, salamanders, and all sorts of bugs. We built small boats out of paper and hollowed out bark to float down the creek. We developed social competence by positively interacting with each other, forming bonds, and being aware of how the others in our group felt. I became more vocal in school, and started wanting to feel like a leader, or like someone who was in charge. This feeling perhaps arose from a misidentification with my dad. I did feel some amount of guilt during this time. Not being close with my father made me feel like I had done something wrong. I did not understand why things were that way at the time, and my behavior showed signs of someone out to prove that he was worthy of a father’s affection. This behavior may have been my mirroring my perceived idea of how he was in the world. This would show my attempt at identification with him. The fear of the loss of love would contribute in this way as I tried to behave like him in order to establish a positive relationship. My identification with the aggressor also makes sense as my behavior mimicked in some ways those of the parent who I felt fearful of. My mother, in contrast, was an exuberant and energetic person. My ideal self-image contained aspects of her positivity, and I moved towards this ego ideal that I held by moving in the direction of the things that made me feel spirited and lively. Mostly, this included spending time with friends in nature.

At the age of ten my family moved again, this time to Amherst, Massachusetts. I left behind the friend group that I had made, and was immersed in a completely new social setting. I was sad to leave my friends, and wanted to have that feeling of inclusion again. I worked hard to make friends in this setting, and displayed social competence by joining a group of kids in my new neighborhood. I sought to fit in with this group of kids, and my desire for peer approval was shown in the way that I conformed to the way that they were. They had an interest in skateboards and mountain bikes, and I was thankful that my parents provided me with both. Although skateboarding has a rebellious connotation, I was straight-laced and did not act out. I had developed a relatively positive relationship with my father that was based on rules and actions. My use of rules and the more logical way of thinking I had during this time is characteristic of concrete operational thought. My dad brought home a computer in this time, and I was fascinated by this piece of technological wizardry. I remember that it was a Power Macintosh, and that it looked like an object from a Star Wars movie. As long as I behaved myself, I was allowed to tinker with it, and explore the operating system it was built on. Although realistically I was a novice typing away on it, I felt like an expert in no time. The computer was built on logical rules that carried over to its many processes. I developed computer skills by combining my knowledge about how it worked, and practicing those skills by using different programs. I felt a sense of competence as a result of learning about the computer. I became quite dexterous with the machine, and used it to word process and play a couple of games. This internalized sense of ability made me feel great, and soon all I wanted to do was play on the computer, or on the Sega Genesis hooked up to the TV in the living room. My friends also became interested in electronics, and soon we spent less time outside and more on the couch or seated at a desk.

My development from my earliest memories until the introduction of computers and electronics has had a strong influence on my thoughts about parenting. I now have a ten year old son of my own. I find that he has followed a similar path with an early exposure to nature, and a middle-childhood interest in electronics. Around the time that he was five, I rediscovered my love for the outdoors. I like to try and find a balance between exploration and adventure, and the enjoyment of technology. I get excited that he enjoys both, and is willing to turn off the TV and go for a hike. Both activities are ones that we can enjoy together, which satisfies my desire to do things differently than how my father did them. As we have aged, he and I have remained distant from each other. I have a deeper understanding of the experiences he has had that led him to where he is, and I have expressed myself to him in meaningful ways so that he can see who I truly am. I’m thankful for the opportunity to write about this, as the reflection makes me think about my own development in new and interesting ways. I look forward to what comes next!

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Love, thanks

I’d like to
Express
How much love
Thanks
I wouldn’t be
If it weren’t
For all it took
Here and there
I think of
How it was!
I take that
Forward and
Express
How much love
Thanks

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Person-Centered and Reality Therapy

Person-centered therapy puts great emphasis upon the relationship between the therapist and the client. Carl Rogers himself theorized that the necessary conditions for change depended upon the quality of the relationship between therapist and client. This is accomplished in therapy through the therapist presenting themselves as being genuine, or congruent (Corey, 2013). The next way the therapy is applied is through a therapist’s unconditional positive regard for the client. By showing the client that they legitimately care about their well-being, the relationship deepens. There are no judgments placed upon the client; it is important that the therapist accepts the client just as they are. The greater the level of care and accepting between these two people, the greater the chance that the therapy will be successful. Another aspect of the process is to accurately understand the client’s experiences and feelings as they are related to the therapist. The point of this is to get the client to feel closer to themselves, in the hope that they will be able to recognize and do something about the incongruities they identify (Corey, 2013). There are no techniques in particular for this form of therapy; what is of greatest importance is that the therapist remains engaged deeply with the client, and that they feel as safe and well-regarded as possible in their attempts at undoing the incongruity that they are experiencing (Corey, 2013). This form of therapy is certainly a positive approach to managing crisis in a client’s lives. The unconditional positive regard that a therapist shows for a client may be above and beyond the kindness shown in any of their other relationships. In this environment a client should feel completely free to express, recognize, understand, and to work towards resolving the blockages in their life.

            The key concepts of reality therapy include its view of human nature. Reality therapy states that we are not born “blank slates” that are impressed upon by the world (Corey, 2013, p. 336). Instead, we are born with five needs that motivate our lives. These needs are survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun (Corey, 2013). Of these needs, to love and feel a sense of belonging are of prime importance. Generally, people who enter reality therapy have no one to relate to, or have great difficulty relating to the people who are in their lives (Corey, 2013). Choice theory is central to the workings of reality therapy. Choice theory states that what we do in life is behave, and that the vast majority of the time what we do is chosen. Total behavior is a component of choice theory that tells us all behavior is made from four parts: acting, thinking, feeling, and physiology. When talking about symptoms, choice theory would say it would be more accurate to describe someone as depressing, rather than being depressed. This switches a client from being passive to active in their role of experiencing (Corey, 2013). Reality therapy focuses on poor relationships, or the absence of a relationship, within a client’s life. The therapist would ask the client to reflect on how their choices of behavior may affect their relationships. The emphasis here is on what the client can, in fact, control themselves: their behavior. By emphasizing choice and responsibility, a client is made aware that they are the one in charge of how they act. By changing these behaviors a client will learn that the consequences also change. Differing from therapies such as psychoanalysis, reality therapists act as themselves within therapy, and reject the idea of transference (Corey, 2013). All of this works to empower the client to understand their behavior, and to choose to make different decisions in the future. Reality therapy would certainly be applicable in a multicultural approach. The therapist shows respect for the client by aiding them in figuring out how well their current behavior is working for them and the people they are in relation with. The therapist is not telling the client how their behavior is or is not beneficial, but instead they are leading them to make their own conclusions about what their behavior is bringing them.

References

Corey, G. (2013). Clinical and Counseling Psychology. Mason: Cengage.

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Anxiety and Children: Causation and Treatment

Anxiety is a feeling that is experienced throughout the life cycle. The well-adjusted individual will come upon anxiety, and work to alleviate the feeling; hopefully, learning something in the process and creating the ability to avoid a similar situation in the future. Unfortunately, childhood anxiety is a real problem that is commonplace in today’s society (Butcher, Hooley, & Mineka, 2014). A child who experiences a traumatic event, abuse, or perhaps a scary situation may become predisposed to developing an anxiety disorder that could last as they learn and develop. Children who develop these disorders are seen to have more serious versions of anxiety disorders than older individuals. As opposed to a child who experiences a regular amount of anxiety, and adjusts, a child who has developed an anxiety disorder exhibits specific traits. These negative traits include being irregularly timid and irritable, overly shy in front of people, fearful of new situations, they sleep poorly, and often feel as though they are not good enough in their endeavors. A child with a high amount of anxiety often learns to cope with these feelings by becoming overly reliant on parents and family for support (Butcher, Hooley, & Mineka, 2014). Experiencing these emotions this early in life may cause a condition that, if not dealt with, could cause problems throughout the formative years and into adulthood. It is of great importance that causal factors are identified, and corrective treatment paths are laid out to support these youths.

The most common form of childhood anxiety takes the form of separation anxiety (Butcher, Hooley, & Mineka, 2014). Past health studies have shown it occurring in rates between 2 and 41 percent of children studied. Traits that children experiencing separation anxiety exhibit are similar to those of the other anxiety disorders, as well as a focus on a lack of self-confidence, apprehension, and a tendency to immature for their age. They feel easily discouraged, worry excessively, and cry comparatively easy to others their age. Anxiety over detachment from major figures in their lives is the essential feature of this disorder. Many times, a stressor from the child’s past is seen to trigger the disorder: such as the death of someone who was close to them, or a beloved pet. When actually separated from the figures in their lives, these children become distracted by thoughts of their parents becoming ill, or dying. Children who experience separation anxiety as a disorder often go on to developing other anxiety disorders if not treated effectively (Butcher, Hooley, & Mineka, 2014).

Factors that cause anxiety disorders to arise during childhood have been studied and identified. Genetic predispositions are thought to be one cause, as well as social and cultural factors. An example of this would be a study by Potochnick and Perreira (2010) that found immigrant Latino youths were at a higher risk for anxiety and depressive disorders. Many studies have focused on the influence of parenting types, family stress, and belonging to a minority family as factors for the causation of anxiety disorders in youths (Butcher, Hooley, & Mineka, 2014). Children suffering from anxiety disorders will often become highly sensitive, which will make reacting negatively to situations an increasingly common affair. As a result, they may become more upset, more frequently, by small disappointments. As this process continues, a child may find it increasingly difficult to calm down, compounding the problem. Overly anxious children also show a modeling effect of a parent who is overanxious and protective. By sensitizing a child to perceived dangers and threats in the world, a parent may show a lack of confidence in a child’s ability to handle themselves; this may act to reinforce a child’s belief in their own inadequacy (Butcher, Hooley, & Mineka, 2014).

Although chronic anxiety does in some cases progress later into life, causing maladaptive disorders, typically it does not. One cause of the alleviation is more and varied experiences in social settings such as school. When a child begins to make friends and succeed at tasks that they are given, their self-concept and esteem improves. Teachers who are aware of children who are struggling with anxiety can also play a beneficial role by aiding them in having successful experiences that aid in alleviating anxiety. In addition to this, there are also biological and psychological treatments that are available for children (Butcher, Hooley, & Mineka, 2014).

Psychopharmacological is a big word for drugs for mental disorders. These drugs are becoming more widely used for treating anxiety in children than they have in the past. Using these drugs is a delicate decision, as the symptoms of anxiety disorders also arise in other disorders, of which medication would not be the correct solution. A careful diagnosis is required to ensure that these drugs are correctly implemented. It is this writer’s opinion that drugs not be used to treat anxiety in children, and that psychological treatment is instead used.

Behavior therapy is another treatment that is available, and is often put into use in school settings. These therapies often include assertiveness training, which help in learning beneficial coping strategies and desensitizing them to their anxious behaviors. Positive reinforcement is seen to provide a benefit to children in learning to cope with their fears. Behavioral treatment for children is best used on a case by case basis. The use of real-life situations has been shown to be more effective a treatment than having a child imagine a situation (Butcher, Hooley, & Mineka, 2014). The use of cognitive behavior therapies has also been shown to reduce anxiety in youths. By teaching children about how to identify the feelings they are experiencing, and beneficial ways to deal with them, marked improvements have been made in children experiencing elevated levels of anxiety (Butcher, Hooley, & Mineka, 2014).

One other interesting therapy approach is what’s called the FRIENDS program for preschool-aged children (4-7 years). This program addresses five areas of social and emotional learning: 1) developing a sense of self, 2) social skills, 3) self-regulation, 4) responsibility for others, and 5) prosocial behavior (Barrett, Fisak, & Cooper, 2015). This system goes above and beyond what traditional cognitive therapy has focused on. As opposed to focusing primarily on strategies that reduce current symptoms, the FRIENDS program has a dual focus. While working to reduce current symptomology it also promotes protective factors to prevent the onset and progression of any future disorders; this is done with a focus on resilience and well-being. In a study of 31 children diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, a study done by Barrett, Fisak, and Cooper (2015) showed a significant decrease in anxiety and shyness, and improved resiliency, as a result of completion of the treatment.

There will be events in children’s lives that will cause anxiety, there is no preventing that. By attempting to shield one’s child from the world may only make matters worse, possibly creating a separation anxiety disorder. Although these events mat transpire, there are methods available to aid in the development of resilient coping techniques. Cognitive therapy has been the go-to treatment in child anxiety treatment, and a new program entitled FRIENDS is now being shown to be even more effective. By facing life’s challenges alongside their children, parents and teachers alike are capable of aiding in the creation of beneficial outcomes to alleviate the pain, fear, and discomfort caused by a child experiencing an anxiety disorder.

 

References

Barrett, P., Fisak, B., & Cooper, M. (2015). The treatment of anxiety in young children: results of an open trial of the fun FRIENDS program. Behaviour Change, 231-242.

Butcher, J. N., Hooley, J. M., & Mineka, S. (2014). Abnormal Psychology. Upper Saddle River: Pearson.

 

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Simple Tools of Great Value

A member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and a psychiatrist for fifty years, David Hawkins was also a world-renowned researcher into the nature of consciousness. Several of his books focus on theories of the different states of consciousness a person is able to experience, as well as how to ascend to high states of being while transcending lower levels.

Towards the end of the book I’m in, Hawkins describes how it is easy to get caught up in the vast library of knowledge available on spiritual studies. He goes on to say that while valuable information does arise from deep research, it often ends up being an interference. To move towards spiritual ascension he believes it is really only necessary to know and apply a few simple tools. The efficacy of these tools is empowered through the consistency of their use.

To be useful, the tool must be simple, and brief; perhaps consisting of only a single concept. He points out that spiritual evolution is not the consequence of knowing about the truth, but the willingness to become the truth.

*It must be noted by me at this point that I wholeheartedly support the choosing by intuition, and attraction, a spiritual teacher, teachings, or a school to which one feels aligned. Whatever that source may be.

From the list below, one could pick a primary tool, plus a few others, but many are not needed. Hawkins discusses how simple tools applied consistently will result in tremendous results.

  1. Be kind to everything and everyone, including oneself, all the time, with no exception.
  2. Revere all of life in all its expressions, no matter what, even if one does not understand it.
  3. Intend to see the hidden beauty of all that exists.
  4. Forgive everything that is witnessed and experienced, no matter what.
  5. Approach all of life with humility and be willing to surrender all positionalities and mental/emotional arguments or gain.
  6. Be willing to forego all perceptions of gain, desire, or profit and thereby be willing to be of selfless service to life in all its expressions.
  7. Make one’s life a living prayer by intention, alignment, humility, and surrender. True spiritual reality is actually a way of being in the world.
  8. Accept that by spiritual declaration, commitment, and surrender, knowingness arises that provides support, information, and all that is needed for the entire journey.

Phew! Easier said than done, am I right? ^_^ Certainly these are valuable ideals to reach for, if one were so inclined. I’d love to hear of anyone’s own simple tools, or rules that they live with!

Best wishes to all,

JP

Reference:

Hawkins, D. R., M.D., Ph. D. (2006). Transcending the Levels of Consciousness. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House.

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The Effects of Mnemonics on Memory Recall

From the time that we are very small we begin to use mnemonics. We may not be aware that they are what we are using, but they aid us in the process of learning and remembering just the same. The earliest mnemonic I can remember using was Roy G. Biv. This is what is known as an acronym mnemonic. It stands for red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet; the colors of the rainbow. Without this memory tool, it would not be as easy to remember the colors (or the correct order of the colors) contained within a rainbow. A mnemonic itself is a tool that we use to expand the capacity of our memory by linking the material we are trying to learn to something that is easy for us to remember (Cacioppo & Freberg, 2013). These tools have been in use since the times of the ancient Greeks, who were the first to begin using them as a means to improve memory. The Greeks realized that a large amount of information could be condensed down in to one letter via the process of chunking; this is how an acronym works. The Greeks came up with several types of mnemonics that we still use today. Another would be the method of loci, wherein you visualize yourself walking through a familiar place. As you walk through, you visualize items to be remembered in specific places. To remember these items one need only take the same trip through the familiar location (some practice may be necessary for accurate results!) (Weiten, Dunn, & Hammer, 2015). These two methods are great for remembering a sequence of colors, or not forgetting your grocery list, but are mnemonics of use above and beyond these relatively simple examples? Just what sort of effect does the use of mnemonics have on memory? This research paper will set out to answer this question through a look at several mnemonics that are used in interesting settings to provide a benefit that extends beyond groceries.

Sometimes I’ll hear a song that will get stuck in my head for days. It wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine the use of music, or a melody, as a mnemonic device. Musical mnemonics are often believed to help children and adults in learning new information. In an attempt to lend scientific credibility to this belief, a team of researchers set out to discover whether they could use musical mnemonics as a means of aiding patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease in remembering written song lyrics (Deason, Simmons-Stern, Ally, Frustace, & Budson, 2012). The experiment studied both patients who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, as well as healthy older adults. The experiment consisted of written song lyrics that were presented to both groups. Both healthy older adults, and those with Alzheimer’s, were broken down in to two groups. One group was show the song lyrics while they were read out loud in a normal voice. The other group was shown the song lyrics while they were being sung. After the test, the subjects went back to their daily lives for one full week. At the end of the week the patients were brought back in and tested to see how well they remembered the lyrics. The findings were quite interesting! Both groups that were sung the lyrics remembered them better than those who did not. However, the healthy older adults who were sung to only remembered the lyrics slightly better than the group of healthy older adults who were merely read to. The group of Alzheimer’s patients who were sung to remembered the song lyrics considerably better than the patients who were spoken to. This shows that the use of the musical mnemonic had more of an impact on the Alzheimer’s patients than it did on the healthy older adults (Deason et al., 2012). Using musical mnemonics as an aid for memory recall for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease is a possibility following this experiment. Through further research it may be possible to determine to what extent it can help with memory recall. This is exciting news to the patients, and families of the patients, that are dealing with this tragic disease.

Learning biology can be a difficult task. But what if you are trying to learn biology in English, and it isn’t your native language? This was the task that students at Malaysian Matriculation Colleges faced when M.P. Yeoh (2015) conducted her research. The students were having difficulty remembering the light-dependent reactions of photosynthesis. The purpose of the experiment was to see if a mnemonic would aid the students in remembering the facts, and also remember them in the right order. The mnemonic that was used was a song from “The Sound of Music,” except the lyrics to the song were replaced with the reactions of photosynthesis. Two groups were formed, one that would learn the song and lyrics, and the other which would not. As expected, the group that was taught the musical mnemonic responded to more questions correctly than the group that did not learn the song. While studies of this nature had been done prior to Yeoh’s research, there had not been one that investigated the use of mnemonics on students who were speaking English as a second language. Yeoh notes that biology is a “wordy” subject that can be difficult for those learning it in a language that is not their own (Yeoh, 2015, p. 387). This study shows the usefulness of mnemonics for those who are learning a subject in a language that is not their own. What could easily be a daunting task is made easier through the use of mental tricks such as the song and lyrics that are used in this example.

Teaching students is an admirable, and often times difficult, pursuit. This profession can be made exponentially more difficult when students with learning disabilities are in the classroom. How are we to best aid those students that learn at a different pace? A team of researchers set out to learn what sort of mnemonics work best in a social studies classroom, in regards to students who have learning disabilities (Hall, Kent, McCulley, Davis, & Wanzek, 2013). They found that several types of elaborations (a visual mnemonic) aided students in recalling information learned in the classroom. The first type of elaboration used is an acoustic elaboration, which aid students in remembering people, places, or events that have difficult to remember names. An acoustic elaboration is a visual image that would connect the people, place, or event that needed to be remembered with the important information regarding the subject. The teacher would then discuss how the image connects the information. A symbolic elaboration is similar to an acoustic one, however the image would contain a symbol as opposed to an acoustic keyword. Instead of finding a keyword in the image, a symbol would be identified. The last type of elaboration the researchers studied is a mimetic elaboration. These are interaction on pictures that represent facts without the use of a symbol or keyword. The research conducted showed that when these visual mnemonics worked best a teacher created a visual elaboration picture, and explained it to the students. Once this had been done several times, the students were given information and asked to try and come up with a picture of their own as an elaboration. This helped to solidify the information in their minds. The idea is that when a question is asked regarding the information in question, the elaboration image is pictured in mind. This aids with memory recall. The elaborations were found to aid students in this social studies class with their memory recall. By branching out and studying the effects of elaboration mnemonics perhaps their use could be expanded to encompass more disciplines, and aid those with learning disabilities in new and interesting ways (Hall et al., 2013).

College and university are a step-up in difficulty from grade school. Information is often taught at an accelerated pace. In order to take in and recall all of the information that is being presented, sometimes a mnemonic may be of use. Gregory Kenneth Laing (2010) conducted a study to determine the effects of mnemonics on learning for accounting students during their freshman year at university. Laing discusses how previous research in the field of mnemonics shows that its greatest use is in accelerating the rate that new information is learned and recalled. The study that he conducted tested two acronyms that the students would use to remember accounting equations. There was a control group in place that was not taught either acronym, as well. What was found was that both of the mnemonic devices aided the accounting students in recalling the equations, with one working slightly better than the other. Laing concluded from his research that the acronyms aided in the student’s formal reasoning skills, and that the use of mnemonics has a practical application for more varied tasks than just accounting (Laing, 2010). Given the success that these students seem to have through the use of mnemonics, the question arises why not use more and more such techniques to further benefit the students’ learning? Laing notes that the use if mnemonics as a strategy to increase memory recall is not a replacement for traditional verbal or written learning. He placed heavy emphasis on the importance of discussions, and thinking, about subjects. The use of mnemonics are an exercise in rote learning, Laing continued, and although they are beneficial in aiding memory recall and learning, they are not a substitute for other forms of teaching (Laing, 2010).

The most prevalent form of mnemonic that we as a culture use are acronyms and abbreviations. The media uses acronyms all the time to simplify organizations and teams. Good examples would be the NBA, NHL, or PGA for sports organizations. Many companies such as GM, IBM, and the NSA use acronyms to shorten their lengthy titles. When we go to a physician and see their title on the door we don’t think twice (after the first couple visits) as to what the letters mean (LPN, RN, PA, Dr.). Airports often use acronyms to shorten the lengthy names of other airports. When checking a bag, the identification tag is much more likely to read LAX than Los Angeles International Airport (Wubbolding, 2015). Counseling also makes extensive use of acronyms. Arnold Lazarus put forth BASIC I.D. to identify the seven modes of human functioning. The B stands for behaviors; A for affect; S for sensory complaints; I for imagery or fantasies; C for cognition such as attitudes, values, and beliefs; I is for imagery, and the D stands for drugs and the health of the client in question. Looking back on BASIC I.D., that does not seem like an easy learning tool. Truthfully, it is not easy. In order to remember and make sense of the information, a person must spend time studying the meaning behind each letter. Only after learning the concept to a degree does the aid of the acronym become apparent. This is an important concept to grasp. Although mnemonics may be of use for remembering facts, they work best when they are combined with knowledge gained through reading, writing, and discussing topics (Wubbolding, 2015). Of all the acronyms discussed in Wubbolding’s (2015) article on mnemonics, my personal favorite was one used in the field of mindfulness. Daniel Siegel created the acronym COAL, which stands for being curious about what is happening, remaining open to what is happening, accepting what is taking place in the now, and maintaining a loving stance towards the experience. The fact that acronyms and abbreviations are so deeply ingrained in our culture shows how good they are at aiding us in memory recall.

The connotation of the use of mnemonics seems to be for simple matters, such as PEMDAS, which is taught in math classes to signify the order of operations. However, the use of mnemonics is far greater than that, and perhaps they have the potential of even further use. Mnemonics have been shown to aid memory recall in those with serious debilitating diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. This could provide the basis for some form of treatment in the future, or relief from loved ones when the patient remembers something they previously could not. Another use for musical mnemonics is in aiding students who are learning a subject that is in a language that is not their native tongue. Research has shown that learning a song and lyrics that pertain to information that is being taught aids in the recall of the information. Students with learning disabilities also benefit from the use of mnemonics. Pictures that represent topics being taught can aid a student in re-constructing information that was taught in class. After a teacher provides a visual elaboration, a student may then also be given free rein to create a visual mnemonic of their own, further solidifying the learning process. Students of all kinds benefit from the use of mnemonics. Accounting students at the college level have shown improvement in their grades through the use of acronyms that simplify complex equations. Acronyms and abbreviations are the most common form of mnemonics. We see and hear them every day, though we may be so accustomed to them that we don’t even notice! I set out to discover what sort of effect the use of mnemonics has on memory recall. What I’ve found is that mnemonics aid us in simplifying information, and this in turn makes it easier for us to recall that information. The use of mnemonics stretches far and wide, and aids people of all backgrounds. There is significant room for further analysis on the use of mnemonics. Though studies have been conducted on their use in classrooms, the subjects that have been tested have been rather narrow. Perhaps mnemonics have a particularly beneficial effect on those learning a second language, or maybe acronyms will aid a boy or girl on a sports team remember a set of plays. While the use of mnemonics aiding memory recall is well documented, there are still many areas that they may be of use that have been not yet been investigated.

References

Cacioppo, J. T., & Freberg, L. (2013). Discovering psychology: the science of mind. Belmont: Wadsworth Cengage.

Deason, R. G., Simmons-Stern, N. R., Ally, B. A., Frustace, B. S., & Budson, A. E. (2012). Music as a memory enhancer: differences between healthy older adults and patients with alzheimer’s disease. Psychomusicology: music, mind, and brain, 175-179.

Hall, C., Kent, S. C., McCulley, L., Davis, A., & Wanzek, J. (2013). A new look at mnemonics and graphic organizers in the secondary social studies classroom. Teaching exceptional children, 47-55.

Laing, G. K. (2010). An empirical test of mnemonic devices to improve learning in elementary accounting. Journal of education for business, 349-358.

Weiten, W., Dunn, D. S., & Hammer, E. Y. (2015). Psychology applied to modern life. Cengage Learning: Stamford.

Wubbolding, R. W. (2015). Acronyms and abbreviations in ct/rt. International journal of choice theory & reality therapy, 14-17.

Yeoh, M. P. (2015). Musical mnemonics to facilitate learning of matriculation biology: light-dependent reactions of photosynthesis. Pertanika journal of social sciences & humanities, 375-389.

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The Main Tenets of Positive Psychology

Abstract

Positive psychology is a relatively new area of study within psychology. This article will identify what the main tenets are within the study. Weiten et al. (2015) defines positive psychology as a movement that focuses on individuals’ strengths, and how they can become successful in their lives. Gratitude for what one has, and savoring of one’s experience rank high in importance. Setting goals, and monitoring one’s progress towards goal achievement, are important routes towards well-being. A person’s resilience towards events that occur in their life predict overall wellbeing. All of these factors combine to create a study of how to enhance the human experience.

Keywords: Positive, psychology, gratitude, resilience, achievement

The Main Tenets of Positive Psychology

Within the study of psychology there is a branch that has distinguished itself as being concerned with the strengths humans possess, and how they can become more successful (Weiten, Dunn, & Hammer, 2015). Positive psychology (PP) was introduced in 1998, when a man named Martin Seligman became the president of the APA (Weiten et al., 2015). Up until this point, the study of positive qualities of the human experience had been done outside of mainstream psychology (Weiten et al., 2015). Seligman proposed a shift in the paradigm of the psychological community as a means of moving away from the negative language it had been associated with. As PP became better defined, specific terms formed the backbone of the initial research, and became the main tenets from which research would grow from. Maiolino and Kuiper (2014) believe that gratitude has been shown to correlate with well-being, and that a person’s ability to enhance their positive experiences, or savoring, will also have a positive effect. Leontopoulou (2015) sees goal setting as a meaningful path to well-being, as it makes a person focus on their efforts to move towards the goals they set. Resilience, and the ability to recover, also help to make up the backbone of where PP has come from.

Gratitude may be defined as the ability to recognize and focus on the good things in a person’s life, and being thankful for them (Weiten et al., 2015). Maiolino and Kuiper (2014) conducted research that showed that individuals who spent more time paying attention to the feeling of gratitude in their lives reported fewer symptoms of depression. Higher levels of gratitude are associated with indicators of positive well-being; aspects such as life satisfaction, and positive affect (Maiolino & Kuiper, 2014). A person may experience an added benefit from the feeling if they are able to articulate it to the party in which they feel gratitude for. If a person is feeling thankful for a good deed they have received, they would add to the positive affect of gratitude by expressing the feeling towards the person for whom they feel grateful (Maiolino & Kuiper, 2014). Expressing this feeling will also strengthen social connections with others. It is important to note that expressing gratitude seems to extend the amount of time that a person feels positive emotions regarding a subject (Weiten et al., 2015).

We have all taken a moment in a positive experience to stop, and pay attention to what is happening. This strategy, known as savoring, is defined as the process of enhancing a positive experience through the use of different “cognitive and behavioral strategies” (Maiolino & Kuiper, 2014, p. 558). An example of this might be after having a positive experience, a person relates what had happened to family and friends. This process prolongs the amount of time a person receives satisfaction from a positive experience, increasing the overall affect the experience ends up having. Savoring can also be explained by the use of a well-known quote: “enjoying the journey is more important than arriving at the destination” (Weiten, et al., 2015). Research on a person’s ability to savor positive experiences has been shows to reduce depression symptoms and negative emotions, while raising the amount of positive emotions and making a person feel more relaxed (Weiten et al., 2015).

Leontopoulou (2015) sees goal setting as one of the main routes to well-being. This strategy helps a person to move in the direction of meaningful life goals, and achievements (Leontopoulou, 2015). Seligman originally included goal setting in his model of PP because he believed that people needed goals and challenges in their life to have feelings of competence and mastery (Leontopoulou, 2015). By creating goals for oneself, a person is self-regulating; this may lead them to avoiding negative scenarios, as well as staying in line with what they believe to be enhancing their own well-being. Leontopoulou (2015) notes that research has shown that matching up goals with one’s developing interests and values is linked to greater overall well-being. Related to goal setting is the feeling of hope. Hope refers to a person’s expectations that their goals may actually be achieved (Weiten et al., 2015). Having a hopeful outlook on one’s experiences has a positive effect not only on their goals, but on their overall well-being. A person who remains hopeful of their situation tends to believe that they will be better off in the future. This may lead them to be better prepared for situations they may face, and maintain a positive outlook on their goals (Weiten et al., 2015).

Throughout life, everyone comes across challenges, bumps in the road, and character building situations. The ability to recover, and often prosper, following one of these events is referred to as a person’s resilience (Weiten et al., 2015). Research done on resilience often focuses on major threats to a person’s well-being. Accidents, war, natural disasters, and family issues are all prominent courses of research (Weiten et al., 2015). These incidents are seen as damaging, sometimes even life threatening, to the individual. Despite the negativity surrounding these events, there are those who come out the other side psychologically resilient (Weiten et al., 2015). Resilience is a factor that anyone may use to their advantage; it is not a trait, but a way of coping with negative situations (Weiten et al., 2015).

While the study of PP is still relatively knew in comparison to many branches within the field of psychology, there is already a great amount of research showcasing its viability. By focusing on the positive aspects of the human experience, PP sets itself apart from other areas of inquiry. The use of gratitude, savoring, goal setting, and resilience all correlate towards an increase in a person’s overall sense of well-being. These main tenets within the field are a good base from which to build off of in the future. Research continues to be conducted, and other areas of PP, such as flow, mindfulness, and spirituality, continue to provide a glance at how one may foster a positive experience (Weiten et al., 2015).

References

Leontopoulou, S. (2015). A positive psychology intervention with emerging adults. European Journal of Counselling Psychology, 113-136.

Maiolino, N. B., & Kuiper, N. A. (2014). Intergrating humor and positive psychology approaches to psychological well-being. Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 557-570.

Weiten, W., Dunn, D. S., & Hammer, E. Y. (2015). Psychology applied to modern life. Cengage Learning: Stamford.

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From the Bottom, Looking Up

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I sit on a patch of ground that has dropped far below the area surrounding it. I look up and see a bright light; the sun. I raise my hand to obscure the light on my face; down here it is quite dark. The walls are crumbly, and dust lingers in the air. A deep sigh sends it billowing, visible in the light from the sun so far above.

I’m down here with my thoughts. I’m unsure of what to do with them. I juggle them. They drop, and the futility of doing anything at all with them hits me hard. I take a deep breath. It’s very dry, I would like a drink of water. I’ve forgotten how I came to be in this narrow, dimly lit, and vapid place. I remember walking along, perhaps I tripped? I was put here, the thought begins. Someone did this to me! I know better. I turn, and my arm brushes against the brittle walls of the hole, adding to the loose dirt on the ground. I pick up a handful, and let it fall.

There is someone else here too, gliding through my mind, graceful and happy. Moving in and out, sowing together the edges of a blanket that doesn’t keep me warm or dry. Why do I wear this? Self-imposed suffering. There is some small pleasure in the pain. The ego, I’ve been told, relishes in the small hurts of the lower levels. A sudden gust blows down, grabbing and yanking the blanket from about my shoulders. I let go; it dances up the walls of the hole, and is gone. I miss it terribly. I don’t understand.

I hear voices far above. They are laughing, discussing something that sounds familiar. I long for the comradery! I mean to shout up to them, but my voice falters. Who is this shell of a person masquerading in the ashes of my once greatness? When does the phoenix rise from this dead place and soar far above? I remember soaring, the feeling of creating, of connection, of pleasant intuition. And of a deep well of love, one that comes from within. One from which to dip into, to feed those who I care most about.

Suddenly: I’m in that well. I’m at the bottom of it, grasping at the dry dirt of self-love. How have I become so dry?

Slowly, the dust cloud in my mind gives way. I see a younger version of myself, I’m on a stage. I’m trying to explain myself, and I feel guilty. The audience, they don’t understand. They look angry, and the boy is afraid. I walk out on to the stage, fully grown. I kneel beside the younger version of myself. I see in my eyes the good intentions, the insecurity, the hoping for the best. I smile and put my hand on his shoulder.

“Everything will be okay,” I say.

“How do you know?”

“I don’t, but wouldn’t it be great if it was?”

“I hope it is, I don’t want to feel alone like this.”

“You’re never alone. You’re connected to everything. Listen to your heart, speak love and kindness. Keep your eyes open to the hurts and the pitfalls, learn the lessons as they come up. Don’t you run in place for too long. Nothing will come of it, and you will tire yourself out. Fall down, but don’t stay down. Give only thanks. Be grateful for all that you have. Most importantly, let go. Keep letting go until there’s nothing but love for you to give, and peace in your heart.”

He looks at me for a long moment, then a smile. The boy turns, and runs off the stage. I stand, and see that the audience is still out there. I face them, unsure of what to do or say. I strain to see if I know these people. It’s dark, and I make out only faces. I put up my hand to obscure the light shining on the stage, and I am back in my well.

A whisper: “let go”

“How?” I don’t remember how to do it.

“Feel it, whatever it is, allow it.”

“But then what?”

“Keep feeling it until there’s nothing left there to feel.”

I sit, and feel awful. The feeling settles in the pit of my stomach. As I continue to sit with the feeling it moves into my chest. I can’t breathe. I feel a panic, an anxiety. I sit with the feeling of it. It passes. I feel a profound loneliness. The despair of the feeling threatens to overtake me. Desire washes over me, and I remember my blanket. It wasn’t mine to begin with. The absurdity of my thoughts and actions fills me with anger. How could I have been so stupid? Why did I think my idealized version was how it was going to be? Why couldn’t I have just something? Anything? The anger burns and smolders, and then comes to an end.

What is left is nothing. I sit with the empty feeling of the nothingness. It expands until I feel completely empty. The negative emotions bite at the edges of my mind, but don’t take hold. I continue to let go. I breathe in deep, and think “So.” I breathe out fully and think “Hum.” The basic breath meditation. I feel… Lighter.

I don’t have any idea who I am or what I’m doing.

But I know that I want to be… Happy. Motivated. Inspired. Joyous! I want to be interested. I want to be engrossed. I want to revel in the moment. I want to lead. I want to rest, and do nothing. I want to play, and make believe. I want to create, and work with my hands. I want to let go of attachments, and be free. Free to be whatever it is that I am.

I brush dust off my shoulders. I stand up, using my hands on the walls as support. Looking straight up, I wonder: “how in the fuck am I getting out of here?” It seems an impossibility. “Let go.” I’ve already forgotten how to do it.

“Think of what it is that you want to accomplish, have you got it?”

“I think so, yes.”

“Now, let go of all feeling of wanting it. Let go of any desire for it. Completely surrender yourself to it”

“How am I supposed to get it if I let go of the wanting it?”

“It’s never the wanting it that brings it to you, it’s the allowing of it to be whatever it’s going to be.”

“That literally makes no sense. If I stop wanting it, I won’t get it.”

“By letting go, you are removing the obstructions that you have set between yourself and your goals.”

“I don’t understand.”

I receive no response. Standing in the silence, I stare up at the mouth of the hole. I dig my fingers into the dry dirt of the well, and begin to climb. The going is slow, but I am making progress. One hand at a time: scratch away a small hole to grasp. Repeat. I am exhausted. As I continue to climb, I tell myself “don’t look down.”

A moment later, curiosity gets the better of me. I see a faint shimmering of the light from above reflecting on something covering the bottom of the well. I smile, and continue.

JP

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