Going Beyond Conventional Psychotherapy
In my early years of working, I was very focused on a conventional view of psychotherapy: decreasing people’s pain. Whatever they struggled with…I helped them reduce their anxiety, depression, fear etc.
But soon, I realized that even though I was able to decrease someone’s pain–and as a result have a positive effect on their level of happiness–I did not necessarily teach them how to be happier. Or even more importantly, how to optimize their happiness.
In other words, I was focusing on what doesn’t work well with my clients, rather than also focusing on what does work well. We knew what their weaknesses were, but what about their strengths? How could they use more of their strengths? What could increase their positive and creative energy? Their focus? And so on.
So, I started playing around with the concept of what it means to be a happier being. About how you can make intentional choices to take care of your whole being…your mental, emotional, and physical self.
Taking Care of Your Whole Being
As a leader, your role is not only to empower others with knowledge, but to facilitate them with the opportunity to operationalize it. I once worked at an outpatient mental health clinic. There I led group therapy for a number of courageous souls who struggled with their mental health.
During our group time, I’d talked many times about the importance of movement and the outdoors for well-being. But, as is usually the case in clinical settings, the group sessions were held indoors, sitting down in a circle on comfy chairs. I thought to myself, this isn’t taking care of their whole selves.
So, to drive the message home, I decided to go beyond the usual practice. I made up a new conditional rule. Those who wanted to participate in the group had to go on a group walk with me before each session. We called it “The Walking Club.”
Unsurprisingly, over time I noticed improvements in the patients’ moods. Many of them started showing up for The Walking Club earlier than scheduled. Some came to my room prior, confirming that the walk was still happening each day. It was obvious to them too, that the physical effort had a positive psychological ripple effect. I was proud of their participation and thankful that just a little bit of walking showed marked improvements in their overall well-being.