The Fine Art of Compassion
Welcome to Issue 311 of Institute Inbrief
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Issue 311 // Institute Inbrief
Dear <<First Name>>,

Welcome to Edition 311 of Institute Inbrief. Our featured article highlights the vital role of compassion - for yourself and for others - in providing effective counselling and leading a more fulfilling life.

Also in this edition:
  1. Bachelor & Master of Counselling [Intake Open]
  2. Loss and the Chronic or Terminally Ill
  3. Time Management and Wellbeing
  4. Why Therapists Need Therapy
  5. Quotations, Seminar Timetables & More!
Enjoy your reading!

AIPC Team. 
Diploma of Counselling
It's time to start loving what you do!

We’ve been training qualified Counsellors for over 27 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:
  1. Learn about yourself and help others lead better lives
  2. Be employed in one of the fastest industry growth sectors in the nation
  3. Self-paced training, so you can fit learning around your life
  4. Flexible and supported training with quality learning materials

LEARN MORE 
Community Services Courses
Helping You Help Your Community
 
By gaining a qualification within the Community Services sector, you will be contributing to an industry that serves a very important purpose: to assist those with personal or relationship challenges. There is nothing more fulfilling than helping others overcome seemingly impossible obstacles. And there’s no better time to do that than now!
 
Diploma of Financial Counsellinglearn more
Do you want to help others who are facing financial hardship?

Diploma of Community Services (Case Management)learn more
Join one of the fastest growing employment sectors in the country!
 
Diploma of Youth Worklearn more
Do you want to positively influence the next generation?


LEARN MORE 

 
Semester 2 Intake Bachelor & Master of Counselling
Our Semester 2, 2019 intake is now open for the Bachelor of Counselling and Master of Counselling. 


As places in our 2019 intake are strictly limited, we ask that you express your interest early. The programs are both government FEE-HELP approved, so you can learn now and pay later.
 
Some unique features of the programs include:
  1. Study externally from anywhere in Australia, even overseas
  2. Residential Schools in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth*
  3. [Master] Receive up to 6-months credit for prior Counselling studies
  4. [Bachelor] Affordable, high quality tertiary education
  5. Start with just 1 subject
  6. Learn in friendly, small groups.
You can learn more about the programs here:
 
Bachelor of Counselling: www.aipc.net.au/degree
Master of Counselling: www.aipc.net.au/master-of-counselling
 
As applications always exceed available places, we urge you to submit your obligation free expression of interest now.

*Perth - Bachelor of Counselling only.
The Fine Art of Compassion
Heightening compassion - for yourself and for others - is a key ingredient to effective counselling and a more fulfilling life. 


Imagine this scenario: you are keen to get a particular job and an opportunity for it comes up. You prepare meticulously for the interview, but somehow, it doesn’t go well. The interviewers don’t seem to warm to you, and you know in your heart that you will not be chosen: a gut feeling confirmed a week later by a polite rejection letter. What is your reaction? More specifically, how willing are you to extend compassion to yourself for having failed in this, the most important of goals to you?
 
And what if that same job candidate is not you, but your partner? Let’s say you really need him or her to get the job because the time in unemployment has been biting your household, causing financial and relational difficulties. Yet you know your partner suffers from self-esteem issues and tends not to present well at interviews, thus losing out on many jobs that he or she could do; you are at your wit’s end with frustration. Now what is your reaction? Are you willing to extend compassion to your partner for this failure? 

If you have been ruminating over the outcome of the interview and beating up either yourself or your partner, you will not be alone, but you do not have to suffer in this way. You can practice the fine art of compassion instead. Let’s focus first on self-compassion and then look at having it for others.

Self-compassion

Granting compassion to ourselves involves being aware of our own pain and suffering, and understanding that this is a difficult but normal human experience. It is about creating a kind, caring space within ourselves, free of judgment, within which we can alleviate our pain and increase our wellbeing (Neff; 2010; Emel, n.d.). Moreover, the compassion that we learn to direct toward ourselves is the first genuine step toward embracing compassion for all beings, and is integral to preventing the burnout so rife in the helping fields. 

What gets in the way of self-compassion

It would seem that those of us in the helping fields would be blessed with an abundance of self-compassion, given that we have made compassion for others into our life’s work. Yet we create barriers by telling ourselves some of the following.

"I would be indulging myself." Self-indulgence involves getting everything you want without regard for the consequences, whereas self-compassion moves toward your health and wellbeing. You become aware of your pain, and lean into it, softly, whereas self-indulgence would have you deny pain and go numb to it.

"I won’t be motivated if I don’t criticise myself." Maybe your inner critic developed in order to keep you safe from harm, but do you really need it now? Being kind to yourself engenders a healthier motivation (Emel, n.d.).

"It would be selfish of me." How does beating up on ourselves make us kinder to others? The Dalai Lama states: “If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love others. . . . If you have no compassion for yourself, then you are not able of developing compassion for others” (Dalai Lama, in Ohlin, 2018).

"It’s for whiners." We’ve probably all been admonished: “Man up!” “Suck it up, princess!” Developed societies tend to reward toughing it out more than pausing to nurture oneself (Emel, n.d.). Yet toughness without gentleness is like iron: strong but brittle; it cracks. Better we develop strength with the gentle kindness of compassion: like steel, it is strong but resilient.

The components of self-compassion

Dr. Kristin Neff (2010) notes three components of self-compassion: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. 

Self-kindness

When our inner critic gets activated through the threat and drive systems within us, we experience anxiety, anger, and depression. We need to activate the self-soothing system, which can calm the threat and drive systems. Enter the skills of self-kindness. Imagine for a moment that the scenario we introduced at the beginning – not getting a strongly desired job – happened to a good friend instead of you or your partner. How would you have reacted to the news?

Few of us who would call ourselves a “friend” would have said, “Well, you probably didn’t get it because you’re lousy at doing interviews.” Very likely you would have consoled your friend, saying how terrible it was, how much you knew the friend wanted the job. You might have suggested going out for lunch to process things. 

You can soothe yourself similarly. You initially might think that this should not be happening to you: what’s wrong with you? After all, everyone else is clearly living happy, normal lives. Neff argues that, with this type of negative, unkind thinking, you just end up suffering more because you feel isolated, alone, and different. With the self-kindness of compassion directed to yourself, the inner talk can go more like, “Well, everyone fails occasionally; everyone has issues and struggles” – because you understand that is inherent in the human condition. This opens the door for you to grow from the experience.

Embrace your common humanity

This component asks us to acknowledge that all beings populating the planet are imperfect in one way or another, and all of us suffer. In fact, even the one particular “flaw” that you are flagellating yourself for will not be uniquely owned by you; others will have it, too. Thus, as we come to embrace the perfection of our common imperfection, we experience a connection to all of humankind, a sense of belonging that, “We are all in this together”. Ultimately, you may be able to see how your setbacks or weaknesses are gifts, because they help you to understand yourself better, rather than liabilities that should make you feel bad about who you are (Gordon, 2018; Emel, n.d.).

Mindfulness at the heart of it

When we are mindful, we are living in the present moment, without denial, avoidance, or judgment. Here self-compassion can enter in. Most people avoid their pain and hurt, trying to make it go away. In doing that, the opposite happens, as we experience suffering. Buddhist Shinzen Young has proposed the formula that Suffering = Pain x Resistance. That is, the more we resist pain, the more suffering we have. But if we quietly allow the hurt to have its moment, it will come and then we can let it go. Mindfulness allows you to stay with the pain without the resistance. Thus you are able to reflect on the struggles and failures and why they might have happened without the negative judgments against yourself which tend to preclude learning from the situation (Emel, n.d.; Gordon, 2018). Mindfulness is a highly useful tool against the inner critic who opposes our self-compassionate efforts, because in a mindful state, we can watch the critical thoughts and not engage with them if they are not helpful. 

Self-compassion in action 

Gently, then, what can you do to increase your self-compassion? Here are some steps deemed essential by positive psychology proponents:
  1. Practice forgiveness. How long must you punish yourself for past mistakes? People in your life already know that you aren’t perfect, and they love you anyway: for whom you are, which does not include “faultless”. Note if you are wholly dependent for a sense of self-worth on having a good performance or seeming to exude perfection. Create a mantra and leave it where you will see it to remind yourself to be forgiving. It could say something like, “I’m ok like I am”, or “Nothing is owed for that mistake; I forgive myself and let it go”, or possibly, “I am worthy of love because I have a pulse” (Ohlin, 2018). 
     
  2. Employ a growth mindset. Those who have embraced a growth mindset have consistently been shown in research to embrace, rather than avoid, challenges. Growth-mindset people learn rather than shrink from criticism. They can appreciate others’ successes, in part because they can see others – through seeing themselves – with compassion (Dweck, 2008).
     
  3. Express gratitude. We can foster gratefulness through a gratitude journal, gratitude walks, or even a stillness practice focusing on that for which we are grateful. By tuning in to what we do have rather than pining for what we don’t, we move the focus away from ourselves and our shortcomings and out to the big, gratitude-worthy world (Ohlin, 2018).
     
  4. Be generous – at the right level. Positive psychology advocates assert that giving is important, but only insofar as it does not keep you from meeting your own needs. Research by Raghunathan (2016) has identified three reciprocity styles: giver, taker, and matcher. The givers are the most generous people, employing their compassion through giving. But for generosity to work, it shouldn’t be totally selfless: that is, given in a way that reduces one’s own wellbeing. 
     
  5. Practice mindfulness. As above. Remember: it lessens self-judgment, positively impacting on self-compassion (Ohlin, 2018).
Compassion for others: The same deal

We said that we would look first at self-compassion, and then at compassion for others. Here we are at the “others” part, and guess what: it’s the same deal. If we want to experience compassion for others, we can re-trace the steps we took to gain it for ourselves. In other words, we can act in kindness, we can call up our recognition of our common humanity with the other person (and thus, their “imperfection” as a fellow human being), and we can be with them mindfully: that is, accepting them – warts and all – in the present moment, without judgment. 

When the “other” is a client and we would foster that same compassion in them for themselves, the drill is no different. Clients with greater self-compassion are able to more easily move through difficult material, forgive themselves and others, and become happier, more productive human beings (Desmond, 2016).

Moreover, research supports the idea that self-compassion engenders positive emotions (such as observed by positive psychology researchers like Martin Seligman, Ed Diener, and Kristin Neff (Seligman, 1992 and 2004; Biswas-Diener & Dean, 2007; Neff, 2010), increases our ability to notice more possibilities (such as Barbara Frederickson has espoused with her Broaden and Build Theory, 2001), helps us perform better on cognitive tasks, and decreases the incidence of heart disease and cancer (Desmond, 2016). 

Psychotherapist and author Tim Desmond gives us five ways to help engender compassion in our clients:
  1. Unlock a client’s natural compassion. This can be done by helping clients to contact the deep wellspring of compassion residing in every person. Citing the discovery of neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp, Desmond explains that we can activate clients’ “Care Circuit”, a primary emotional circuit in the brain which creates the experience of warmth, caring, and compassion. It is essential for bonding and caretaking in all mammals. Ask the client to focus on some object of their affection, such as a child, a pet, or a religious figure and to imagine sending that being love and compassion. The client then focuses on the feelings of warmth and openness that this engenders. As the client learns to unlock compassion for others, the Care Circuit can be directed toward their own suffering in order to create healing (Desmond, 2016).
     
  2. Use compassion to transform suffering in the present. We can break this down into two steps: first, we simply ask the client to notice the suffering and to give themselves permission to feel exactly what they’re feeling (which is not the same as saying that they want to continue feeling that way: only that they aren’t fighting themselves on it). It is about recognition and acceptance. The second step is to respond to the recognised suffering with care and kindness, which might mean the client asking that part of themselves if there is anything it needs – and then listening for a response. The answer might call for action, such as leaving a dangerous situation, or merely reassurance, such as hearing, “No matter how this turns out, you still deserve to be loved”. 
     
  3. Use compassion to transform suffering in the past. Here Desmond explains how we can use a process called memory reconsolidation, a fairly new discovery from neuroscience which enables clients to activate their Care Circuit at the same time that they activate a distressing memory. By getting in touch with the source of suffering (say, feelings of neglect from early childhood) and generating compassion in the same moment (say: loving-kindness directed toward the client’s “little one” to reassure that it won’t be neglected again), a new association is built in the brain so that the memory itself becomes less distressing. We can understand it as emotional healing on a molecular level (Desmond, 2016).
     
  4. Help clients understand why they engage in self-criticism so that they can overcome it. True compassion means extending care and kindness to even the parts of ourselves that we consider to be dysfunctional or pathological. Desmond gives the example of a person doing something clumsy: say, spilling water on the floor. The uncompassionate response might be something like one’s inner critic leaping up to say, “You idiot! Now everyone will think you’re clumsy”. Many clients reckon that they would leap to their own defence at this point, telling their inner critic, “No, I’m not an idiot; everyone spills things sometimes”. The critic would insist otherwise and the two parts of the client would be off to the interpersonal races! To gain peace, Desmond instead advises slowing down the reaction (taking a deep breath) and bringing loving presence to the critic, by noting, “I hear you don’t want me to look clumsy in front of others. Are you trying to tell me to be more careful?” In this scenario, the client may be able to hear the warning part of the message (be more careful) without being “poisoned” by the criticism (“You’re an idiot”). It will take the client practice, but it can be done (Desmond, 2016).
     
  5. Practice self-compassion. When you can model self-compassion, you put into the environment a vibration that promotes all-around healing and positive change, which helps all who enter your life to feel better (Desmond, 2016). 
Extending compassion is an art, but science is increasingly supporting its role in helping us show up as our happiest, healthiest self, even as we inspire that in others.
 

References

  1. Biswas-Diener, R., & Dean, B. (2007). Positive psychology coaching: Putting the science of happiness to work for your clients. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 
  2. Desmond, T. (2016). Five ways to put self-compassion into therapy. Greater Good. Retrieved on 4 April, 2019, from: website.
  3. Dweck, C. (2008). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, U.S.A.: Ballantine Books.
  4. Emel, B. (n.d.). Developing self-compassion and learning to be nicer to ourselves. Tiny Buddha. Retrieved on 4 April, 2019, from: website.
  5. Frederickson, B. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, March, 2001, 218 – 226.
  6. Gordon, S. (2018). How self-compassion helps you cope with the ups and downs of life. Verywellmind. Retrieved on 4 April, 2019, from: website.
  7. Neff, K. (2010). Self-compassion: Stop beating yourself and leaving insecurity behind. New York, New York: William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins. 
  8. Ohlin, B. (2018). 5 Steps to develop self-compassion & overcome your inner critic. Positive Psychology Program. Retrieved on 4 April, 2019, from: website.
Loss and the Chronic or Terminally Ill
Australians, like Americans and their other Western counterparts, are living longer but suffering more chronic diseases. While the Australian boy born today can expect to live to 79.9 years and the Australian girl to 84 (the American statistic is similar), the odds are that they will be plagued by chronic illness, which will eventually kill them. Eighty percent of deaths in the United States now occur among persons age 65 years and older (Lyness, 2004). The majority of deaths occur in the context of chronic illness associated with functional decline. In this article, we explore some of the major losses which engender grief for those who are chronically or terminally ill.

READ MORE 
Time Management and Wellbeing
If we want to understand our relationship with time, we have only to look to how we talk about it. In the more relaxed Spanish-speaking cultures, people say, “Anda el reloj”: “Time/the clock walks”. In the German culture where emphasis is on things working, it functions. In the precise French culture, time marches. In English, of course, our watch – and time in general – runs, as in “running out”. It should be no surprise, then, that in the English-speaking world, we view time as a precious commodity: we can “buy time”, live on “borrowed time”, or try to “save” time.

READ MORE 

More articles: www.aipc.net.au/articles

 
Learn from Global Mental Health Experts
Mental Health Academy puts quality learning by global experts at your fingertips, 24/7. Accessing cutting-edge evidence and practice-based knowledge has never been more convenient.

Topics explored by MHA courses include: Evidence-based therapies, mindfulness, CBT, focussed psychological strategies, children & adolescents, relationship counselling, motivational interviewing, depression & anxiety, addictions, trauma, e-therapy, supervision, ethics, plus much more.

Join MHA now to enjoy:
  1. Access to on-demand, video learning (200+ hours)
  2. Access to self-paced, text courses (120+ courses)
  3. Invitations to select events and Masterclasses
  4. Earn professional development points/hours
  5. Online, 24/7 access to courses - from anywhere
  6. Personalised online classroom to facilitate learning
By learning with MHA, you'll also make a real, measurable contribution to some of the world's poorest communities (through MHA's local and global social impact initiatives).

LEARN MORE 
Have you visited Counselling Connection yet? Our official blog has over 500 posts counselling, psychology, self-growth, and more! Make sure you too get connected. Below is a link to a recent post.

Why Therapists Need Therapy
Have you ever sat in session, listening to your client explain why they were angsty over some issue, only to find that you experienced a rising panic and sense of helplessness – because you, too, were dealing with the same issue? Have you ever finished a session with a deeply depressed client, only to find that you then felt very down, even though you were ok before the session? Both of these examples constitute sound reasons to engage a consummately helpful yet infrequently discussed aspect of professional self-care: that of therapy for the therapist.

READ MORE 

More posts: www.counsellingconnection.com
"What is success? I think it is a mixture of having a flair for the thing that you are doing; knowing that it is not enough, that you have got to have hard work and a certain sense of purpose."

~ Margaret Thatcher
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.
 
Seminar topics include:
  1. The Counselling Process
  2. Communication Skills I
  3. Communication Skills II
  4. Counselling Therapies I
  5. Counselling Therapies II
  6. Legal & Ethical Frameworks
  7. Brief Interventions and Loss & Grief Support
  8. Individualised Support and Working with Mental Health
  9. Advanced Counselling Techniques
Click here to access all seminar timetables online.
 
To register for a seminar, please contact your Student Support Centre.
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