In most cases, directly reconditioning thoughts and emotions can help clients achieve therapeutic outcomes. But there may be too many different thoughts or emotions that may need to be reconditioned. I am sure as a therapist you have come across where a client had the same thought or emotion for multiple triggers or had different thoughts and emotions with the same trigger.
What do we do in such a case?
We work with beliefs.
Things you must know about beliefs
Here are the top 7 things you must know about beliefs before you can help clients identify and change the same.
- Beliefs are ideas or statements about self, others, or situations that our minds accepted as true.
- Beliefs can be specific to an individual or a situation or can be generalised to a group of individuals or situations. For example, a person may believe they are not good at public speaking or believe they are not good at anything.
- Beliefs help us make sense of the world within and around us. They act as a guiding principle or a point of reference for our mind to accept, modify or delete information that we receive through our senses.
So, for example, If I believed no one loves me, then even when someone expresses their love, my mind would either delete the information, so I may not even hear it or distort it in a way that I draw a different conclusion like the person doesn’t really love me, but just wants something from me. In short, when we have a strong belief in something, we will do almost anything to maintain that belief, even when evidence is available to the contrary.
- Belief, in most cases, also acts as a basis for the decisions we make and the actions we take. In fact, many people believe that beliefs create self-fulfilling prophecies i.e. once you believe in something you end up doing things in a way that the resulting outcome will support your original belief.
- Some beliefs can help us grow, make it easier for us to face difficulties, and take consistent actions towards our goals, at the same time some beliefs can limit us, make us feel helpless, and stop us from taking action.
- Belief can be formed as a result of multiple similar experiences over a period of time or even a single experience that was highly emotionally charged.
- Some beliefs the client may be consciously aware of but most beliefs exist at the level of the unconscious.
So in order to help a client change their beliefs, one needs first to help the client identify the limiting beliefs and then use certain techniques for helping the client change the identified beliefs.
How to help clients identify limiting beliefs?
Let us now focus on different techniques that you can use with clients to help them identify their limiting beliefs.
1. Active listening and observation.
I am sure some of you are wondering that is so cliche. What is it really that I am listening to or that I am supposed to observe? While most things that we speak are an indicator of our beliefs, to start with look for
- Generalisations i.e. words like always, never, no one, everyone
- Model operators like can, can’t, should, shouldn’t, must, must not and
- Judgements like right, wrong, good, bad.
These words are really good indicators of the client’s belief wrt the person, thing, action, or situation for which these words are being used.
2. REBT irrational beliefs model
You can use the REBT irrational beliefs model as a starting point to understand the types of irrational beliefs that clients may have. There are 14 irrational beliefs which can be further condensed into 3 core beliefs. We have a detailed webinar on youtube that talks about each of these beliefs and how to work with them. You will find the link to the same in the description of this video.
3. Exercise sheets
You can also use certain exercise sheets to help clients identify their beliefs about specific areas of life.
For example to help the client understand their beliefs about money, give the client a sheet that contains the statement Money is followed by a blank. Ask the client to fill up the statement with 10 different answers. You will notice by the time the client reaches the end of the activity, they have some amazing insights about their belief.
You can replace the word money with any other area like relationship, family, or even do an activity with the statement “I am” followed by a blank. This is a good activity when you are working with a client towards an outcome about a specific area and you would like to explore beliefs about the same.
In this post, we have looked at things you must know about beliefs and techniques that any therapist should be able to use to help clients with limiting beliefs. There are additional techniques based on Hypnosis, NLP, and metaphors that can be used to identify deeper beliefs. We will be looking at some of these techniques in future posts.
If you are a psychologist or a coach or aspiring to be one who wants to make it big, we would really recommend that you explore and understand the Cognitive Hypnotic Coaching framework.
If you are already convinced and want to just know how can you become a Cognitive Hypnotic Coach, check out our Comprehensive Coaching Diploma