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Copyright: 2012 Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors
WELCOME  

Welcome to Edition 233 of Institute Inbrief! Six basic principles form the foundation of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a form of clinical behavioural analysis developed in 1986 by psychologists Steven Hayes, Kelly Wilson, and Kirk Strosahl. These principles work in conjunction with one another toward the main goals of effectively handling painful thoughts and experiences and creating a rich, vital life. In this edition we take a brief look at what these six basic principles entail.
 
Also in this edition:
  • Latest news and updates
  • Articles and CPD information
  • Wellness tips
  • Therapist Q&A
  • Social media review
Enjoy your reading!
 
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INTOstudies  
 
Diploma of Counselling
 
It’s time to start loving what you do!
 
We’ve been training qualified Counsellors for over 24 years. Overwhelmingly, the number one reason people cite as why they became a Counsellor – to start loving what they do. They were stuck in a rut doing something they had no passion for, and it was dragging them down.
 
If you want a deeper understanding of yourself, and to use that knowledge to assist others overcome their challenges and start enjoying life again – then counselling is likely for you.
 
Too often we get drawn into a career that offers little personal satisfaction. Counsellors are passionate about the important work they do. They’re often someone that friends and family naturally come to for assistance. And they get immense personal reward helping others.
 
If that sounds like you, then it’s time to start pursuing your passion:
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You can learn more here: www.aipc.net.au/course_dippro.php
INTOnews  
 
2015 Mental Health Super Summit – have you registered yet?
 
Have you submitted your registration to this year’s premiermental health event?
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The Summit is a strictly limited event and an extremely rare opportunity to learn from some of the most influential leaders in mental health of modern times.
 
This event will not be repeated. So you must act now.
 
To learn more and register, visit www.mentalhealthacademy.com.au/summit
 
Note: Click here to join the Summit’s Facebook event page.
INTOcounselling  
 
Six Principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
 
Acceptance and commitment therapy (usually pronounced as the word “act” rather than the initials “A-C-T”) is a form of clinical behavioural analysis developed in 1986 by psychologists Steven Hayes, Kelly Wilson, and Kirk Strosahl. Originally called comprehensive distancing, it gets its current name from one of its core messages: the injunction to accept what is out of one’s personal control and commit to action that improves and enriches one’s life.
 
Six basic principles form the foundation of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. They work in conjunction with one another toward the main goals of effectively handling painful thoughts and experiences and creating a rich, vital life. The principles are:
 
  1. Cognitive defusion
  2. Expansion and acceptance
  3. Contact and connection with the present moment
  4. The Observing Self
  5. Values clarification
  6. Committed action (Harris, 2006; Harris, 2007)
In this article we take a brief look at what these six basic principles entail.
 
Principle 1: Cognitive defusion
 
This skill is about learning to perceive thoughts, images, memories and other cognitions for what they are – nothing more than bits of language and images – rather than what they often appear to be: threatening events, rules that must be obeyed, or objective truths and facts.
 
The opposite psychological process – cognitive fusion – refers to a blending of cognitions (products of the mind, such as thoughts, images, or memories) with the things that they refer to. In cognitive fusion, for example, our mind might have the same reaction to the phrase “chocolate cake” as if we were presented with a slice of it. That is, the mere presentation of the stimulus – the words “chocolate cake” – might be enough to start us drooling, imagining the sweet taste, and feeling the heavy, creamy texture in our mouths of the frosting. In a state of cognitive fusion, it seems as if:
 
  • Thoughts are reality: as if what we are thinking is actually happening
  • Thoughts are the truth: we totally believe them
  • Thoughts are important: we treat them seriously, giving them our full attention
  • Thoughts are orders: we automatically obey them
  • Thoughts are wise: we assume they know best and we follow their advice
  • Thoughts are threats: we let them frighten or disturb us (Harris, 2007)
But, as any dieter can tell you, the word or image of chocolate cake is not the same (at least in terms of both pleasure and caloric intake!) as the real thing. The process of cognitive defusion aims to separate unpleasant, unwelcome thoughts, feelings, urges, memories, or other products of the mind from ourselves. It is the stepping-back from them (a process called disidentification in traditions such as Psychosynthesis – Assagioli, 1973/1984) to get a perspective and see them for what they are: just bits of language passing through. Successful employment of cognitive defusion leads to a more spacious psyche, as we see from the second principle.
 
Principle 2: Expansion/acceptance
 
Called “acceptance” by some other ACT practitioners and theorists, this skill is termed “expansion” by Harris because “acceptance” is loaded with other meanings. It refers to the practice of making room for unpleasant feelings, sensations, and urges, instead of trying to suppress them or push them away. By opening up and allowing them to come and go without struggling with them, running from them, or giving them undue attention, we find that they bother us much less. They also move on more quickly, instead of hanging around and bothering us (Harris, 2006; Harris, 2007).
 
Imagine the situation for the client who says, “I feel so anxious about going out on a date. I’m so afraid that I won’t have anything to say, or that I’ll say something really dumb.” Through the use of CBT techniques we, as counsellors, could help the client dispute the negative beliefs that she is a poor conversationalist or a boring date, replacing her anxious thoughts with positive, affirming ones, such as that she is interesting, good at conversation, or a worthy social companion. Through longer, psychotherapeutic processes, we could help her to discover the experiences in her past (probably early childhood) which created the sense of her as socially inept. Psychotherapy takes a long time, however, and even when the effect of past history on present experience becomes known, there is still the “war of words” as the various voices within her – the critical ones and the affirming ones – clamour for attention. Being in such a war is a major drain on resources!
 
The ACT principle of expansion/acceptance works differently. It would ask the client to imagine that she is about to go out on a date. She would then be instructed to scan her body, observing where she felt the anxiety most intensely. Let’s say that she reports that she experiences a huge lump in her throat. She might be then asked to observe the sensation of the lump as if she were a scientist who had never seen anything like it before: to notice the shape, weight, vibration, temperature, pulsation, and other aspects of it. She would be invited to breathe into the lump, making room for it, allowing it to be there (even though we would be highly empathetic in understanding that she did not like it or want it there!). She might be given the “homework” between sessions to practice observing her lump of anxiety: not trying to get rid of it, but just letting the sensation of the lump, and possibly other sensations associated with anxiety, come and go as they pleased: acknowledging them, not resisting them, but also not engaging with them.
 
Principle 3: Contact (connection) with the present moment
 
To allow ourselves to experience sensations, feelings, and thoughts which have arisen is to follow the third ACT principle, that of making contact with the present moment, which Harris prefers to call “connection” (Harris, 2007, p 47). It means living in the present, focusing on whatever we are doing, and bringing full awareness to the here-and-now experience: with openness, interest, and receptiveness. Instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, we are deeply connected with what is happening right here, right now. With connection, we are fully engaged in whatever we are doing (Harris, 2006).
 
In practicing connection, we might ask: why bother pulling ourselves out of the past or the future to come back to the present moment? Why is doing so considered so beneficial for us? Harris points to three primary reasons:
 
This is the only life we’ve got (even for many who believe in such concepts as reincarnation, this is the only life we are aware of living right now, or tend to have information about), so why not make the most of it? To be only half-present is to miss half of it. Lack of present-moment contact is akin to listening to a favourite piece of music with ear plugs in the ears, or eating a favourite food when the mouth is still numb from a visit to the dentist; we miss the richness there could be.
 
Right now is the only time when we have any power. Given that a foundation of ACT is being committed to appropriate, values-guided action, we can remind clients that, to create a meaningful life, we must take action, and the power to act exists only in the present moment. As the Arab saying goes, “One cannot mount a camel which has not yet arrived (the future), nor one which has already departed (the past)”.
 
“Taking action” means effective action, not just any old action. Effective action in ACT is defined as that which helps us to move in a valued direction. To find out in which way lies that direction, we must be psychologically present to be aware of what is happening, how we are reacting, and therefore how it is right for us to respond. Harris advocates recalling a mnemonic for ACT: “Accept your internal experience and be present; Choose a valued direction; and Take action”: ACT (Harris, 2007, p. 152).
 
Even those who tend to live their lives through the mediating influence of their thoughts generally have some experience of present-moment-contact: times when it arose spontaneously and unexpectedly. The client fearing social ineptness, for example, could be asked to reflect on any time when she might have been totally engrossed in being with someone else (date or otherwise): the experience of, say, hanging on every word the person uttered, noticing the movements their mouth made as they were speaking, recalling the scent of the person, and how their hair was combed (or not). Full engagement with other person is likely to have ejected (however temporarily) thoughts of social inadequacy from her mind.
 
To practice this skill it is not necessary to go on an actual date (in the case of the person fearing social ineptitude), or even have another person around. We can ground ourselves in the present moment whenever or wherever we like, simply by tuning in. An ACT therapist, for example, might ask a client to notice every little aspect of their experience of taking a shower: the feel of the water as it hits the skin and runs down, the sight of the rising steam in the bathroom, or the scent of any soaps or other products applied to the body in the process of showering or after-shower care. Or a person could practice the present-moment-connection principle by observing minute details of the dishwashing experience after dinner: the clinking sound of the plates against the bench top, the feel of the soapy water washing over them, the sensation and sound of squeaking as the items become truly clean, and the visual experience of placing them on the drain board.
 
Even easier: an ACT-oriented counsellor could give a client a single piece of food – say, a dried fig – and ask the person to focus on nothing else but the eating of it. The client can be instructed that distracting thoughts and feelings may arise; these can be allowed to come and go as they will; the client’s attention should remain focused on the fruit. Upon “graduating” to an interpersonal situation, a client such as we have been discussing would be encouraged to have a conversation with another person focusing totally on that person rather than on her own thoughts and feelings. However the connection/contact with the present moment happens, it occurs through the Observing Self.
 
Principle 4: The Observing Self
 
The Observing Self is a powerful aspect of human consciousness, one largely ignored by Western psychology. To connect with it is to access a transcendent sense of self: a continuity of consciousness that is unchanging, ever-present, and unable to be harmed. From this most inclusive perspective of oneself, it is possible to experience directly such statements as found in some body-feelings-mind relaxations that, “I am my body, and I am more than my body; I am my feelings and I am more than my feelings; I am my mind and yet I am more than my mind” (Palmer, 1997). From this place, we are able to experience that our thoughts, feelings, memories, urges, sensations, images, roles, and physical body are peripheral aspects of ourselves, but as they are constantly changing, they are not the essence of who we are.
 
To understand the principle of the Observing Self is to comprehend that when we become aware of our thoughts, there are actually two processes occurring: that of thinking, and that of observing the thinking. We can draw the client’s attention – again and again if necessary – to the distinction between the thoughts that arise and the self that is observing them. From the perspective of the Observing Self, no internal experience (that is: thought, feeling, image, or urge) is dangerous or controlling (Harris, 2007).
 
We stated earlier that the six principles work together with one another to help us create a meaningful life. We can state now that present-moment-connection happens with the Observing Self. It involves bringing our full attention to what is happening here and now, without getting distracted or influenced by the thinking self. The Observing Self is said to be non-judgmental by nature, because judgments are thoughts, and therefore a product of the thinking self. The Observing Self doesn’t get into struggles with reality; it sees things as they are without resisting them. It is only when we judge things – such as “bad”, “unfair”, or “mean” – that we resist them. It is, then, the thinking self which tells us that “life shouldn’t be as it (reality) is”, that we would be happier if we were somewhere else, someone else, or somehow different. It is thus our thinking self that puts a veil of illusion between ourselves and life, disconnecting us from reality through boredom, distraction, or resistance.
 
The Observing Self, conversely, is incapable of boredom or resistance. It greets each stimulus, each experience, with openness, curiosity, and interest. Boredom and resistance are thought processes: stories that life would be more interesting or better if... (fill in the blank). The Observing Self, always present and available, is able to cut through that, waking us up and connecting us to the infinite possibilities of human experience that we may encounter, regardless of whether the experience is novel or familiar. Paradoxically, by engaging the Observing Self as we encounter unpleasant experience, we often find that the aspects we were dreading become much less bothersome than they were before. Things are seen in a new light (Harris, 2007).
 
To connect with the Observing Self is to have the ready capacity to disidentify from pain and unhappiness. As we stand in the shoes of the (disidentified) Observing Self, we can still feel pain and unhappiness (our thinking self may still be giving us thoughts that we hurt or are unhappy), but not all our consciousness is tied up in that, because some of it is involved with the Observing Self in watching ourselves feel the pain. Thus, the experience becomes more bearable as we experience – through the choice of two positions in which to be – a more spacious psyche.
 
Within the context of any given experience, we can choose – consciously or unconsciously, by default – where we stand. Our choice is determined by the values that we hold, so a key component of effective living is to be clear on what those values are.
 
Principle 5: Values clarification
 
This ACT principle is about clarifying what is most important in the deepest part of ourselves that we can access. It involves asking what sort of person we want to be, what is meaningful to us, and what we want to stand for in this life. Our values provide direction for our lives and motivate us to make significant changes. Guided by values, not only do we experience a greater sense of purpose and joyfulness, but also, we see that life can be rich and meaningful even when “bad” things are happening to us.
 
Thus, ACT-oriented counselling might ask the client to complete a “life values” questionnaire, which asks respondents to reflect on their values in ten domains, from family and marriage relationships through education and spirituality to community life and relationship with nature. Some clients would prefer to skip values clarification exercises, and there may be several reasons why this is so.
 
Values versus goals. Some people may not be clear on the difference between values and goals. Harris explains that goals are a one-shot deal where values are so because they are consistently in our lives as something we hold dear. He uses the analogy of someone going on a journey, saying that he will keep heading west. That consistent direction is analogous to a value, because no matter how far the person may travel there is always more westerly direction in which he can proceed. Saying that he intends to ascend to the peak of a particular mountain along the way, however, is a goal, because once he climbs to the top of the mountain, he has achieved the goal, and it is a done deal (Harris, 2007). Once we know what we value, we can derive meaningful goals in order to live by our values. But therein may lie another obstacle to enacting this principle.
 
But are they my real values? Some individuals may resist enacting Principle 5, or even completing any questionnaires around it, because they are uncertain whether the answers that they provide will reflect their “real” values. Of course, simply because someone says that they value a particular thing – say, being compassionate – it can be counted as their value, because by definition, a value is something we hold dear. Merely to answer that we value a certain thing above others is to cherish it, to have it as a value. This is a similar objection to the person who says...
 
I don’t know what I want. Again, whatever we might choose is already our value, simply because we have valued it by naming it. But it does bring up the issue of...
 
What if my values conflict? Presumably if you are working to help clients using ACT methodologies, you will encounter this one; it is valid. To not have values pulling one in different directions is difficult to impossible, especially in hectic modern life. A client may, for example, dearly value the importance of quality time with family, and just as dearly want to rise through the ranks at work, thus giving primary attention to that; the two values are likely to conflict at some stage, if not regularly. The reality is that we sometimes must prioritise one domain over another, asking ourselves: “What’s most important at this moment in my life, given the conflicting values I’m experiencing?” The person then needs to act on the chosen value, without worrying about what he or she is missing out on, knowing that, if necessary, the balance can be “corrected” at some later stage. Still, some will object to clarifying their values on grounds of past failure or frustration.
 
I don’t want to think about it; I’m just setting myself up for disappointment. Those who have experienced a lot of frustration or failure to live chosen values may be afraid to acknowledge what they really want, for fear that – yet again – they will fail to achieve it. These twin objections to choosing clear values speak to the “I can’t change”, “I’ll only fail”, or “I don’t deserve any better” fears that reside in many hearts. The past is the past and it cannot be changed, but the future begins right now. Clients expressing this sort of resistance can be encouraged to breathe into their discomfort and acknowledge that these statements are only thoughts; they can come and go as the client refocuses on the valuing exercise.
 
I’ll do it later. Yeah, right. As a counsellor or other mental health helper, you certainly will have heard this one before! Principle 5 of values clarification will go nowhere when the procrastination beast is roaming. Tell the client that it’s “later” now, and time to do what is enshrined in the very name of ACT therapy: act (Harris, 2007).
 
Principle 6: Committed action
 
At this last principle, the person sets goals and takes action: but not just any action. Here the person understands that the rich and meaningful life s/he desires is created by taking effective action, which is that guided by the chosen values. Will followers have a perfect record in pursuing the goals they have set? No, of course not, but no matter how many times someone may go “off the rails” – or not even get going down the track – the values are there to provide inspiration and motivation for re-engaging action. The goals are there to remind the person of the actions that will help him or her to arrive at the visualised life (Harris, 2006; 2007). In the final analysis, it is up to each person to supply the will and energy to take the action.
 
We can find analogy in the would-be traveller who really, really wants to go to Africa. The person buys informational and tour guide books on Africa, contacts travel agents, and plans out the itinerary for the particular spots he wants to visit. He is sure his life will be fabulous if he can just get to Africa! But at the end of the day, he won’t actually be present for any of his planned safaris – and nothing at all will change in his life – unless he gets out of the armchair, packs his bag, and fronts up on the appointed day to board the plane. No amount of reading about Africa will give him the actual experience of Africa that he desires. He must, ultimately, supply the will and energy to go there in order to be changed by the rich and meaningful experience of Africa.
 
This article was adapted from the Mental Health Academy CPD course “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy”. This course covers the basic concepts and techniques of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and we invite you to examine as we go through the material, just how and why it may be effective with clients.
 
References:
 
Harris, R. (2006). Embracing your demons: An overview of acceptance and commitment therapy. Psychotherapy in Australia (2006); 12, 4. Retrieved on 15 July, 2013, from: hyperlink.
 
Harris, R. (2007). The happiness trap: Stop struggling, start living. New South Wales, Australia: Exisle Publishing.
 
Palmer, H. (1997). Guided relaxation with group of Psychosynthesis trainee-psychotherapists. Helen Palmer is founding director of the Psychosynthesis Institute of New Zealand, an accredited provider of Psychosynthesis counselling and psychotherapy.
 
 
Course information:
 
 
Join our community:
 
 
 
 
INTOwellness  
 
Understanding loneliness and how to overcome it
 
Consider two scenarios. In the first, you are walking down a bush track, enjoying the view and stunning foliage; in solitude you are happy and fulfilled. In the second scenario, you enter a party. You know none of the chatting, laughing guests, but are sure they would not want to know you. Shamefaced, you go between the punchbowl and the food table, waiting until you can politely go home.
 
Alone versus lonely
 
In the first scenario, you are alone. Aloneness here is a social fact. In the second situation, you may be lonely, which is a subjective state of mind: a lethal one we now know. Studies agree that loneliness is associated with a wide range of conditions leading to premature death. Psychologist-researchers John Cacioppo and Steven Cole have asked why chronic loneliness is so toxic for us, and the answer emerging is that the sense of isolation it brings causes us to feel threatened. Under threat, our caveman instincts for protection kick in, elevating our stress hormone cortisol to help us prepare to defend ourselves. That’s a survival-friendly reaction in the short term, but constant release of cortisol and other stress hormones into our system wears out our immune system over time, leaving us vulnerable to many illnesses.
 
Put another way, when we feel socially disconnected, our brain responds the same as if the threats were to physical safety. Why? We are social creatures, hard-wired to seek (safe) connection throughout life. Feeling isolated or abandoned is like being cast out of the tribe, an experience most of our forebears did not survive. 
 
The health consequences of loneliness
 
60 million Americans, 5 million Britons, and one-third of Australians experience an alarming truth: their loneliness makes them far more likely than their non-lonely counterparts to fall ill from all of these health risks:
  • Depression and suicide
  • Cardiovascular disease and stroke
  • Increased stress levels
  • Decreased memory and learning
  • Antisocial behaviour
  • Poor decision-making
  • Alcoholism and drug abuse
  • Alzheimer’s disease (progressing more rapidly in lonely people)
  • Altered brain function
In fact, loneliness is more of a health threat than smoking or obesity!
 
Healing loneliness: Rx for action
 
So what can the afflicted do to remedy that sense of being an outcast? We don’t mean occasional isolation or rejection (the state of loneliness); rather the chronic experience of it, (trait loneliness). Most expert advice boils down to three simple steps: (1) recognise and acknowledge loneliness for what it is – and what it does to us; (2) change the thinking patterns that are causing the pain; and (3) reach out and connect. Let’s look at these.
 
Loneliness is a feeling, not a fact, but it is also a sign that something needs to change. It is a painful, scary feeling and the brain is wired to pay attention to pain and danger to keep us alive. So far, so good; we must fully acknowledge how truly dangerous for body and mind it is. But then the brain tries to make sense of the feeling.  
 
Lonely feelings tend to confuse people into thinking that they are “losers”, “hopeless”, or “incompetent”. Such thoughts need to change. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) can help people learn to recognise and change the thoughts. Best action here: a plan to fight the mental and emotional habits of loneliness, which typically include someone squashing him/herself down and retreating, pushing others out. Instead, if we are lonely we must . . . 
 
Reach out; find similar others. Options abound here. The lonely-thinking person could take a class (flower arranging or French, anyone?), volunteer to do community work, or join a sports club (tennis or kayaking?). The beauty of this sort of outreach is that, when we join an activity or cause that we are genuinely interested in, we automatically have something in common with others doing it, thus creating a foundation for friendship. Community service has the added benefit of satisfaction-engendering altruism.
 
While connecting with others, focus on their needs and feelings, thus giving less attention to lonely feelings and thoughts (these can wither from lack of nurturance). Related to this, it helps to...
 
Open up. Vulnerability, while scary, breeds closeness. Deeper, more meaningful conversations form stronger ties. Remember, it’s the strength of intimate connection in a safe, trusted relationship which most strongly defeats loneliness.
 
Attempt to be interested rather than interesting. Curiosity about others attracts them, because they are getting attention. You will get attention in return.
 
Kindness and generosity of spirit go a long way; everyone is dealing with something.
 
Beware of the internet. Don’t totally discount its potential, but be warned; it is easy to establish superficial, unsatisfying relationships in the cyber domain (see my last blog, about Social September). If you are hungry for authentic relationships, it is better done face-to-face, where you have all the non-verbal clues about what is happening with another person.
 
Persist. The first group (or individual) you try to connect with might not be the right one for you.
 
Get a pet. Rescuing an animal combines both altruism and companionship, plus – if you choose a dog – you can meet others who are also out walking their dogs!
 
Loneliness is a scourge, because we are hard-wired to connect. It need not be permanent, however. You can choose to reach out. As W. H. Auden noted, “We must love one another or die.”
 
Written by Dr Meg Carbonatto B.S., M.A., and Ph.D.
 
This article was originally published in Asteron Life’s Balance Blog. AIPC regularly contributes to Balance’s wellbeing blog category.
INTOarticles  
 
Treating Substance Addiction
 
Treating any type of substance abuse and substance addiction is challenging because they both have so many dimensions and they both disrupt so many aspects of the individual’s life. Effective treatment programs typically incorporate many components, each directed to a particular aspect of the condition and its consequences. Ultimately, treatments aspire to help the individual stop using substances in an abusive or addictive way which would usually entail maintenance of a drug-free lifestyle, and achieving a productive level of functioning in the family, at work, and in society.
 
Click here to continue reading this article.
 
 
A Brief Comparison of Psychologies: Part 1
 
Who or what is a human being? How we respond to that query has implications for almost everything we do, but in this two-part series, we examine what it means for us as counsellors and mental health practitioners helping clients to achieve desired changes in their lives. Specifically, given what we understand about the nature of human beings, what can the different schools of psychology and counselling modalities tell us about how to help change happen?
 
Click here to continue reading this article.
 
More articles: www.aipc.net.au/articles
INTOpractice  
 
Q&A with Toula Gordillo (Clinical Psychologist)
 
Q. Our younger generation is the first in history in many areas. What impact can this have for our older clients (the parents/carers)?
 
A. Your older clients may be aware that their child/teenagers are among the first generation to not only experience a number of realities, they are initiating them. Creating virtual realities may present various challenges for your clients. Older adults, for example, may find it increasingly difficult to know how to raise our current generation – the first generation to grow up ‘online’. Let your clients know that feelings of confusion or a ‘digital division’ are normal. Our younger generation has never known a world where the internet did not exist and most cannot fathom what it is like to never have had access to new media tools and devices. Modern TV and computer screens have re-wired their brains so that this generation think differently, react differently, communicate differently, and process information differently. Known as “screenagers”, the “web generation” or “app generation,” this is the first generation that:
 
1. Doesn’t rely on adults to get information. For the first time, information is everywhere and adults are no longer the givers of information and younger people passive receivers. This generation of youth do not need adults for information. Rather, they need adults for interpretation. Explain to your adult clients that it is important to make time to talk to teens and pre-teens, to assist with the interpretation and assimilation of the knowledge, rather than giving them the knowledge.
 
2. Broadcast their thoughts, emotion or experiences via social media. Children and youth are now active consumers of goods and products on and offline and post their thoughts and experiences on a regular basis – making many of them feel more empowered than previous generations. Help parents and carers to gently guide their teens and pre-teens to know what is appropriate to share, and consume, and what is not.
 
3. Has external stimuli at the touch of a button. Because portable devices travel with them everywhere, young people can receive outside stimulation at any time. They can use new media when they are bored, without the effort of creating their own stimulation. Their nervous systems can become highly stimulated with no ‘down-time’ or they may have reduced internal motivation. Explain this to parents/carers struggling to understand the over or under stimulation of their teens and pre-teens.
 
4. Is socially connected at all times, but often connects in isolation. This may be the most ‘connected’ generation in history, but it may also be the most community deprived. Encourage your older clients to help their son/daughter to develop empathy, communication ability, social skills and emotional intelligence in the non-virtual world by encouraging outdoor, social activities. Some young people may require an incentive to do so!
 
5. Learn more from a portable device than from a classroom. The portable devices our young people carry may now be considered the compass that guides them. They consume data, form relationships, and develop their learning and creativity through portable devices. Encourage older clients to learn about their son or daughter’s world so they can stay ‘connected’ with them. 
 
6. Use a phone instead of a wristwatch, camera, wall calendar or board game. Young people no longer manage their lives via various different methods. Today, smartphones tell them the time, provide entertainment, take pictures, give directions, help them calculate tasks and connect with friends. Encourage parents and carers to keep an open mind and learn about the technology. Some of our older clients e.g., grandparents may be fascinated with what smartphones can do!
 
Why talk to our teens and pre-teens?
 
Enthusiasm, entrepreneurship and creativity are wonderful attributes possessed by our present generation. Adults can assist them to ‘tap into’ these attributes for the betterment of humanity, and themselves. Our young people require regular guidance, however, regarding ways to develop positive attributes according to the era in which they live. Encourage your older clients to learn about the technology and talk about some of the stories and images delivered online. Help your older clients understand that the world has changed, and so has their parenting/caring role. It is not better or worse, just different.
 
Toula Gordillo is a Clinical Psychologist, AIPC private assessor/tutor and regular contributor for Institute Inbrief. Toula has an extensive work history as a Clinical Psychologist, Teacher, and Guidance Officer. For more information, visit www.talktoteens.com.au.  
INTOdevelopment  
 
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INTOconnection  
 
Have you visited Counselling Connection yet? There are over 650 interesting posts including case studies, profiles, success stories, videos and much more. Make sure you too get connected (and thank you for those who have already submitted comments and suggestions).
 
Reconnecting by disconnecting
 
At a local café yesterday the sign said: “No free Wi-Fi. Talk to each other like before the internet.” What? And be there just for the coffee and conversation? We are more connected today than ever before (Facebook, for example, has more than 1.28 billion active users), but experts warn that we are also lonelier and more disconnected in our unplugged lives: hence the launch of Social September in 2012. It encourages us all to “press pause in September – disconnect from our digital lives and reconnect with each other, and ourselves. The aim is to create spaces for face-to-face social connection, promoting positive mental health and wellbeing.”
 
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Many students of the Diploma of Counselling attend seminars to complete the practical requirements of their course. Seminars provide an ideal opportunity to network with other students and liaise with qualified counselling professionals in conjunction with completing compulsory coursework.
 
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