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.

It’s not just trusting, but WHO you trust that matters

We often work on helping clients who are shame-prone and highly self-critical bring their shame out of the shadows and disclose those painful thoughts, memories, and past actions. However, that disclosure must occur in a facilitative context if it is to help break the cycle of self-criticism and shame. Disclosing shame-related content with people who are able to respond in a way that is supportive and validating tends to loosen the grip of shame, disclosing shame-related content to people who respond in negative or harsh ways tends to feed shame. Sometimes it can be difficult for clients to recognize the right people to share with and differentiate them from the people with whom it might be useful to hold back. Thankfully, Brene Brown has created a framework based on her research, which she refers to by the acronym “BRAVING”, for identifying trustworthy behavior in others. In addition to helping a client to decide with whom to disclose, this framework can be used to help clients ask for what they need from others. It can also be adapted and applied to clients’ relationships with themselves. For example, clients can ask themselves whether they respect their own boundaries and act based on what is okay with them or not.

The BRAVING framework helps clients determine who to trust

We at ACT with compassion have created a handout based on the BRAVING framework for use with clients. This handout guides clients through a series of questions to help them decide with whom to disclose shame-related content. You can also use it with your clients as a perspective taking tool to help them determine the extent to which they are treating themselves in a trustworthy manner.

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