Sunday, July 28, 2013

Nuts and Bolts Series: The Elements of Change

Here is a reprint of a blog I wrote last year....enjoy.

 Nuts and Bolts Series: The Elements of Change
God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it's me. ~Author Unknown

"Can people really change"?
I invariably answer the question the same way. I believe everyone has the ability to change and grow under the ideal circumstance and with the right approach.

My philosophy and approach to therapy is a practical one, in which the client and therapist partner together to identify strengths, clarify goals, and develop a plan to achieve those goals. Therapy is not something that is administered, the way a medical doctor administers a medicine. It is a journey that one undertakes, a journey of self-discovery and self-awareness that cannot be rivaled. Understanding yourself, and engaging in self-examination, can be one of the most rewarding, and also scariest, tasks of your life. But, as poet Robert Frost states in his work A Servant to Servant "The best way out is always through" - you must take an honest look inside yourself to move forward.

So, what are the elements of change? Obviously these vary from person to person, but we can look at them in three main categories:  Insight, Motivation, and a Tour Guide. Let's look at these one by one:


In my therapy practice, I often hear a common theme, "My life isn't working", "I am not happy", "I am stuck".  One of the firsts tasks in therapy is to find out what's wrong, what works well, and to begin to  identify goals of therapy.  Insight is a key component of this process. Insight is understanding the specific cause of impact of a certain situation or behavior. For example, a person with low self-esteem may realize that they feel poorly about themselves because they were always put down by a parent. This past hurt has carried over into their feelings and beliefs about themselves in the present day.   Understanding this process is the first step at improving the way we feel about ourselves, and the first step in the journey of changing our lives.


Motivation is the desire or interest in doing something. Without motivation, we would not get out of bed, go to work or accomplish our goals. The motivation to change and grow is an important key to therapy. I often hear clients discuss their problems, without real motivation to change. Change is hard, it often hurts, and it's work every bit of the pain to becoming the person you want to be. Patients sometimes realize they have negative patterns or habits in their lives, or they have past hurts they need to heal, but the lack the commitment and motivation to attend therapy sessions or do the hard work that entails.  This is similar to enrolling in a class, but not doing any of the work, and having poor attendance to boot! You won't get your money's worth and certainly won't learn as much as you want.

Tour Guide (aka Psychologist)

The last component to lasting change is someone who has the skills, expertise, compassion and training to serve as your guide in this process. Like the Sherpa who guides the mountain climber at the highest reaches of the Himalayas, the Psychologists uses their knowledge, education, training and intuition to help clients unlock their hidden potential and guides them in solving their life's mysteries.

Different mental health professional have different levels of education, training and experience. Psychologists are often doctoral level professionals, and have the highest level of education and training, often with an internship and research experience. In addition, psychologists have the experience and training to do psychological assessment and testing, such as IQ testing. Other mental health workers, such as licensed social workers, or licensed professional counselors, have a Master's degree and have supervised experience in counseling. Other non licensed professional act as life coaches or executive coaches and often have a certificate and training in coaching.

If you are interested in the exciting process of therapy and self awareness, ASK A PSYCHOLOGIST!!!

Michelle Herrigel is a licensed psychologists in Northeast PA, serving adolescents, adults and families with a variety of concerns. She currently practices therapy in her Mountainhome, PA office. For more info, or to schedule an appointment, please see her contact info by viewing her profile or contact her at

If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies. ~Author Unknown

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end"

Monday, April 15, 2013

Teaching Children to be Kind in the Face of a Violent World

Teaching our kids to be better, kinder people.

It’s a simple concept. One that you can’t deny is the goal of ANY good parent. Nobody ever has children and says “Hey, I think I’ll really screw this one up”.  In spite of this, we continue to witness random (or not-so-random) acts of violence and aggression.  Is it parenting? Society? TV violence? Interactive, first person shooter games? The breakdown of the family? Polarization of political views and religions?
At any rate, maybe it’s a combination of these elements that have come together to form a “perfect storm” of conditions that have taken away our compassion, empathy and caring about others.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe there are a lot of good people out there. Lots of em. And someone pointed out that there were way more people running to the scene of the bombing to help, than probably perpetrated this horrific event. I believe that there may be some fundamental parenting strategies that can help kids learn the right values, maintain their compassion, and teach them empathy. 

 Here are some basics that we can use everyday to teach kids to care:

1. Talk to your child! Let them know it’s important to you that they be a care, kind, helpful person. Explain things in simple language and be brief. DO NOT LECTURE!!
2. When your child does something nice, helpful or compassionate, tell them you noticed and praise them!!
3. If you child does something mean, hurtful or violent, let them know this is not acceptable and what acceptable behavior you expect from them. Explain what they did that was inappropriate or hurtful, in simple language. Identify the behavior as being wrong, not that they are wrong. For example say “It was not nice to take Joey’s toy.” Instead of “You are not very nice”.
4. Limit exposure to extremely violent programming and games. Yes, it really does matter. Be sure your child has a lot of creative outlets and stimulating, positive activity. Especially physical activity and reading nonviolent material!
5. Teach your child to be a helper.
6.  The single most important thing you can do to teach your child is walk the walk. Being a good role model cannot be overstated, and children see and hear everything you say and do. Even if you think they don’t.
When events occur such as the Boston bombings, we have to sit down with our kids and have honest and frank discussions about them. Ensure they know you care and that you will do everything you can to make sure they are safe. Help them feel secure and don't expose them to repeated new coverage of the event. Tonight would be a great time to turn off the TV and have family game night.

Providing  a stable, positive and caring environment is one of the key ingredients to raising a caring, helpful and empathic child.  If you are concerned about your child, and need help, ASK A PSYCHOLOGIST!!!


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