How to give yourself a nudge

What might nudge you in the right direction, as you see it?

Often in therapy, you will find yourself encouraged to fit in to any one or two ways of working - from the several hundred available. Cognitive behavioural, integrated, psycho-dynamic, to name just three.

These 'models' offer an ordered way to understand what makes us 'tick'. They offer guidance on how to behave differently if our 'tick' becomes erratic. So models are fine, but they tend to rely on assertions to explain human behaviour. Models find it difficult to respect the uniqueness of each of us.

For many years, research has consistently demonstrated that models are a less reliable indicators of success in therapy, as compared to the quality of the relationship created by therapist and client. Models are not a 'be all and end all', but rather a means to learn how to be skillful in the art of safe experimentation.

In some therapy settings you will be encouraged to develop your abilities to experiment.

Principles  and practice in safe experimentation

Let's start, in no particular order, to summarise some of the principles and practices used to inform the 'safe experimental' way to 'nudge' ourselves along. 

Please encourage yourself to value any experience and to ask: "what do I learn from this and in what way is it inviting me to change?".

  • Welcome change through safe experimentation, even if the results are not always what was expected
  • Improve the 'safe' element by taking small risks and inviting small changes one after another
  • Shift your attention to small details and respect them. Dismissing 'small' outcomes as unimportant or trivial may block your ability to change
  • Be patient in the face of defeats and victories and learn from all of them
  • Translate other peoples' ideas into your own view of the world. Find what others say in therapy or in a self-help book and make it work in your own way
  • Work and play with your experiments and any outcomes you obtain
  • Be creative. Be open to spontaneous change when something happens, just because...
  • Keep moving. If you find an experiment continues not to help you then let it go for now, and move on to another one. Even so, be willing to come back later. Discover what works for you and when it works. Timing might be crucial
  • Make notes. This does not require you to write a journal. I recommend you to note outcomes in bullet-point form, as they arise. You can do that on post-its
  • Revisit notes and experiences as often as you wish. Your experience may well not be the same each time. Just notice what captures your attention.

Success may mean feeling rotten when mistakes are made. That is unavoidable. Notice how you feel - whether good or bad. In the language of 'safe experimenting'. This is called the art of 'just noticing' - seeing, hearing and becoming aware of something, however small.

Safe experiments that promote small changes make it possible to step back and redirect ourselves when we have moved in the wrong direction a little bit. Beware of learning to tight-rope your way over the Grand Canyon, only to find yourself at the wrong destination.

Take pleasure in deciding what you are going to do differently, tomorrow, fully accepting that you will live with the consequences. Use counsellors as consultants to audit the results you generate.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Robin Trewartha

I am an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society (BPS) and I have worked as a freelance chartered (BPS Member: 90091)and registered counselling psychologist for eighteen years. I am registered with the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC Reg No: PYL23028). In addition, I have:

Fifteen years experience as a qualified social worker, in probation and child & fa… Read more

Written by Robin Trewartha

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