Teaching clients to “VOUCH” for themselves: Using perspective taking to facilitate learning in those who are highly self-critical and shame-prone

Last month we wrote about the importance of helping clients identify trustworthy others. How others respond to an individual’s disclosure of feeling shame or self-criticism can have a profound impact on the likelihood that that individual will continue to disclose content they often keep hidden. In that post we mentioned Brene Brown’s BRAVING framework as one way to help clients determine who to trust when disclosing their vulnerabilities.

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April 2016 Tool of the Month: Video recordings for highly self-critical clients

This month’s tool: Video recordings for highly self-critical clients

We have updated our resource page with some of our favorite videos that we find useful in working with shame-prone and self-critical clients. Some of the videos are educational for clients, some are emotionally evocative, and some are both educational and evocative. Videos can be a powerful tool for engaging working with clients to approach difficult topics from a place that is non-judgmental and connected to a sense of common humanity. If you have your own favorite videos, we would love to hear about them!

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March 2016 Shame and Self-Compassion Research Update

Every month, we scour the scientific literature for interesting studies that have practical implications for therapists working with shame, self-criticism, or compassion. Below are a few of our favorites for this month:

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Why is it important to know about shame as a psychotherapist?

My experience is that my most complex, chronic and stuck clients are often laboring under a great weight of shame. I’ve seen how shame leads them to withhold clinically useful information, how it leads to defensive and blaming behavior, and how it gets in the way of intimacy. I’ve seen how shame about their emotions, their bodies, and their thoughts impedes their self-awareness and makes it hard to be responsive to their own needs. Research also shows these observations to be true.

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March 2016 Tool of the Month

This month’s tool: Recognizing trustworthy others with BRAVING (adapted from Brene Brown):

People don’t operate in a vacuum

Have you ever worked with a client to change the way she treats herself, only to have her come back the following week beating herself up  because of a difficult interaction she had with a loved one that week? The fact that people don’t operate in a vacuum has been the frustration of many a clinician! At ACT with compassion, we believe it’s important that we help client’s change their relational/social context that serves to maintain their struggles with self-criticism or shame. We need to take into account not only our clients’ relationships with themselves, but also the factors in their environment, which may be shaping or reinforcing their self-criticism and/or self-compassion. One primary contextual factor affecting clients’ shame and self-criticism is their relationships with others.

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February 2016 Shame and Self-Compassion Research Update

Every month, we scour the scientific literature for interesting studies that have practical implications for therapists working with shame, self-criticism, or compassion. Below are a few of our favorites for this month:

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Doubting the impact of self-doubt

Have you ever felt unsure about how to help a client? Have you felt powerless to change a difficult situation in a client’s life? Have you ever worried that you were doing a client more harm than good? While those may be painful thoughts to have for you as the therapist, they may actually be good news for your clients.

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February 2016 Tool of the Month

Each month we highlight some practical resources for therapists interested in compassion. Our aim here is to provide a brief overview and offer you a few resources where you can find out more information if these ideas are of interest to you.

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January 2016 Shame and Self-Compassion Research Update

Every month, we scour the scientific literature for interesting studies that have practical implications for therapists working with shame, self-criticism, or compassion. Below are a few of our favorites for this month:

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Collaborative Case Conceptualization with Highly Shame-Prone and Self-Critical Clients

Case conceptualization with highly shame-prone and self-critical clients may often be thought of as case re-conceptualization. That is, clients with high degrees of shame and self-criticism often arrive in therapy with their own conceptualization of their problems, one that is often driven by fusion with the story that they are broken, damaged, incompetent, stupid, or in some way inadequate. For example, the client may state, “I’m not doing anything with my life. I’m basically a failure.” Or they may present self-critical ways of relating to internal experiences, for example, “I just want to stop being sad. It’s pathetic,” or even, “I hate my anxiety.” The goal of case conceptualization is to develop a new viewpoint that that is not based on a critical view of a self that needs to be “fixed.” This conceptualization forms for the core of the subsequent therapy contract. Furthermore, a collaborative re-conceptualization process may serve to loosen fusion with self-related content and begin the development of a new perspective on oneself that is more flexible, warmer, and more conducive to living a valued life.

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