Neuro-Linguistic Programming

Welcome to 2018! And to this here blog if you’re newly come to it.

NLP and brain injutyI am thinking that maybe 2017 was the year your brain was injured. I can only imagine how that might be for you. Confusion, fear, a sense of confinement, bereavement, anger – the rise and fall of a whole ocean of emotions. I wish you strength, perseverance, and all the support you need. Including from me – where, when and how I can.

Maybe 2017 was a year of achieving little goals. Sometimes, the first goal is finding a goal. Is “goal” the right word? For some “ambition” or “sense of direction” says it better. It depends how you experience yourself. The most meaningful word or phrase? The one that keeps it real.

Why little goals, small successes? Small successes are more probably achieved sooner than big ones. And let’s face it, a big success, when you look at it, is really a collection of small ones.

If I seem to have started straying off track I promise I haven’t. This month’s post is an introduction to Neuro-Linguistic Programming. NLP’s co-inventors are Richard Bandler and John Grinder, who got their heads together in the 1970s to see if they could scientifically study the mechanics and psychology of successful people.

I’ll deal with each of the three parts of the “NLP” name in turn.

(Neuro)

This first part implies the biological science of the nervous system, and therefore the brain, doesn’t it? The truth is that NLP is a set of theories. Modelled on our brain’s evolution and function as science currently understands it, but still a set of theories. It is not a science in the same way as brain surgery. Or neuropsychology.

It was developed from social studies into how successful people behave and communicate.

(Linguistic)

Language – the use of words. I’ve been using a bit of wordplay above. I’ll recap.

Is “goal” the right word? For some “ambition” or “sense of direction” says it better. It depends how you experience yourself. The most meaningful word or phrase? The one that keeps it real.

The word, “goal” goes with something clearly identified. What about times we cannot think what to aim for?  Or when we don’t yet want to? Sometimes we only have a rough idea of where to aim, and that’s enough: “Don’t know what I want but I know how to get it,” you might say.

Some of you may be thinking: “Don’t know what I want but I know how to get it”? What utter nonsense! Some of you may be thinking it makes perfect sense. (And I bet some of you are already remembering the Sex Pistols.)

(Programming)

In a nutshell: Brain (together with all the other sensory systems) = Computer. Belief & Behaviour = Routines and Sub-routines. Language = Machine Code. Therapy = Reprogramming.

Yes, Whovians and Trekkies, we are talking cybermen and borg… Symbolically speaking, that is.

And on that point, I shall leave you. In February’s post we’ll explore our cyberman / borg insides through the NLP lens.

Meanwhile, click here to see and hear Bandler’s own definition of NLP.

Take care, everyone.

Sean

 

 

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Bubble Bursting

bubble-burst

I have an apology to make. Last time I said I’d write a post about Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). Something has knocked me off that particular track for now. Something came up at the end of November, urging me to get something out of my system first. It stands in the way of everything else until I stop trying to dismiss it. So sorry about this change of subject.

The subject is this…

(Second-Guessing Prejudice)

Not all of you will be aware that as a counsellor I am required to have counselling supervision. My supervisor I see is trained to help me monitor my own skills, knowledge and performance for my clients. She helps me do my job well.

Recently, I ended a term of couple counselling. My clients were kind enough to allow me to add their praise to my testimonial page. Happy clients. Fantastic.

As great as their gratitude is, it again raises the question of institutional “bubbles”: Closed systems, wilfully deaf and blind to more than one approach. Why is it people wanting counselling get automatically and inconsiderately syphoned down the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy funnel?

The answer is that, unlike other approaches, C.B.T. in the UK is done more to a formula. This means it has more easily produced statistics. It is true, C.B.T. works for a good number of people. But not for all. I myself don’t get on with how it’s taught and administered.

(As I write, I’m seeing a hard, rigid and cold, sausage making machine. Beside it is a squidgy, shape changing organism. An image I’ve had many times before.)

Here was my confusion as I told it to my supervisor:

  1. I am aware of a number of people who’d benefit more from person-centred counselling than C.B.T.
  2. Am I just being bitter for being outside the System’s “bubble”? Bitter for having my service overlooked or judged ineffective by the System?
  3. Is there a real element of prejudice towards my brain injury, my service, or both? Or is past life experience around my brain injury making me just think there is?

How many of you with your own brain injuries ask number 3 every day? I’d be interested to know.

Together we reflected on the unique gifts my cerebral palsy allows me to bring to clients. And what makes research studies good studies.

(How reliable are statistics?)

Last Christmas I was at a dinner party. One of the guests, learning that I’m a counsellor, vented their anger. Months earlier, my fellow guest had seen their G.P. about their anxiety. He’d referred them to a “counsellor” who had just provided tick boxes and homework to do.

I was told the therapist had not really wanted to listen. Instead the therapist wanted them to persevere with the homework. This had made things worse. In the end, my fellow guest had written and said what the therapist had wanted to hear.  Better to get away and not be seen as a failure.

The therapist had ticked their case a success.

It was not the first time I’d heard this kind of story. Such recorded, so-called “successes” muddy the waters. Let’s not forget that some outcomes truly are successful. However, cases like the one above make the statistics questionable. It is healthier to burst the bubble and be open.

Click here to learn what Judith Beck, the daughter of C.B.T.’s originator has to say on the subject. I’ve run on too long.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, ONE AND ALL!!Xmas17

 

Tying Things Together

Hello everyone. I hope you had a chance to click the links last month. If not all of them, do have a look at the Occupational Therapy video. It’s fun to watch.

Group Holding Together

How do you like this month’s title picture? Looks a bit like a brain cell, I thought. Not just that, all the coloured threads come together as the background professions come together.

Part 3: In Practice

The bare bones of CRT is a set of activities. Activities designed to help injured brains practice finding their own way from one point to another: A) answer / solution unknown, to B) answer / solution known.

Here is an example – one you can do at home:

  • Take a pack of playing cards.Tying Things Together Pt 3a
  • Look at each card in turn.
  • See or feel what it is.
  • If it has an “N” in its name, like “Queen” or “Nine of Diamonds”, or any other name with an “N”, place it face up on your left.
  • Place cards without an “N” face down on your right.

You might think playing this game is enough to re-knit connections. It isn’t.

The flesh around CRT’s bare bones is the therapeutic relationship between therapist and patient / client.

Activities + Relationship = Knowing.

We practitioners have this term, “Metacognitive skills”. There’s an old saying that goes: “Wisest is he who knows he does not know.” Metacognition is basically the neural knitting that gives us this self awareness.

Did you do the card game? Scroll up and have another read if it’s helpful.

If you’re with someone wanting to have the first go, they might be happy having you say things as they have their turn. Things like: “I see you’re hesitating”; “you seem to be asking yourself something”; “I’m curious that you went straight to that pile”; “I don’t mind stopping if you’ve changed yours”.

If you’re on your own, no one will hear you describe out loud to yourself what you are doing as you do it. I’ve had clients help themselves – one card in their hand, spelling its name out loud, telling their hand which pile to put the card on.

Therapy is mostly done in groups. Sessions are run at clinics or organisations like Headway. Like-minded group members can share experiences. Worksheets can be worked on by the group together. Some find working alone better. And that’s okay too.

Some excellent self help books have been published. For example, Speechmark Books have published exercise books and workbooks for use by therapists, support workers, carers, family members or the injured person themselves.

Having someone as a so-called “soundboard” is good – someone to review your solutions with and discuss your experience that went into making them.

I’ve a view – nothing clinically proven – just my own picture of fibre optic brainways and personality illuminations. What I’m about to say to you, whether you’re the one with or without a brain injury, is important.

It’s this: NEVER push; ALWAYS nudge. Go with your flow more and mind how you go.

Be like Olivia Newton-John playing Goldilocks. Settle for the challenge that’s just right. Experience how well you feel while doing what you’re doing. Get physical by listening to your body talk.

Seriously. Your brain’s personality, and your personality’s brain need to get on together to go on together.

Next month, a few paragraphs on Neuro-Linguistic Programming. (“Hurrah!”) Until then the Society for Cognitive Rehabilitation website is worth a visit.

Tying Things Together

Tying Things Together Pt 2

Did you watch the clips of the real life Helen Keller and the dramatised version? You’ll have noted Helen’s learning through touch. In fact the clip with the water pump underlines this by showing her throwing away the pale to feel the wet stuff flowing. Only then can she make the connection. It’s also obvious to us that it’s her frustration with herself and/or loss of patience with her teacher, Anne (most likely a bit of both) that throws the pale away.

All emotions serve their purpose.

Let’s look some more at Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy.

Part 2: Development

CRT is a coming together of four professions. Let’s treat them as threads – look at them separately, then see how they’re knotted.

(Neuropsychology)

This is the study of how different areas of the brain work to make us do what we do, learn what we learn, know what we know, share what we share.  The grand-daddy of this science is Alexander Luria. (Click on his name if you want to know more about him.)

(Physiotherapy)

Most of us understand this. Exercises for the body – having limbs and muscles yanked about for us and/or stretching, bending, lifting and moving our bits as much as we can by ourselves. How does this help rehabilitate our brains? Well, take my brain, for example.

I have a daily routine of eight exercises I try to stick to help improve the thickness of my right leg. (If I do them every day from Sunday to Saturday without fail I reward myself with a flapjack and a beer. I especially enjoy them as I watch the latest crime thriller on BBC4.)

Anyway, my point is: co-ordination. For me, it’s not a matter of automatically stretching the tendons behind my right knee. Oh no. I have to think about how my left leg straightens so I can tell my right leg to have a go at matching it. So far, this means telling my right knee to pay attention to where my right heel and my right hip are, so it then learns for itself where it is and tells me if it’s ready to play along. To persuade my right knee,  I get my head to kind of speak kindly to it. If it is happy to listen, it allows the back of itself to get closer to the floor.

In this way my brain and right leg are teaching each other.

(Occupational Therapy)

Occupational Therapy is more than physiotherapy. It specialises in the physical, environmental and social needs of the individual. This way of looking after patients actually has its beginnings in the 1700s and what was called “The Moral Treatment Movement”.

To learn more about it and the advancement of OT, click here.

These days some Occupational Therapists are interested in how specific occupations benefit communities too, not just individuals. They look at what we are most happy doing, how and where we can do it, and who else we make happy by doing it.

(Psychotherapy / Counselling)

The treatment of troubled, injured or disabled minds by talking, has a long history. Sigmund Freud looms large in both neuropsychology and psychotherapy. (Click his name if you want to know more.)

What’s the difference between psychotherapy and counselling?

To my mind the two are so closely entwined, like the two threaded twist in DNA, it’s hardly worth asking.  When the trained professional employs congruence, empathy, unconditional positive regard and listens, (s)he is a counsellor. When (s)he considers what they’re hearing and the suitability of an intervention or coping strategy, and suggests it, (s)he is a psychotherapist.

So, there we go – the four professions that interweave and knit together into this thing called Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy.

How?

  1. Luria and Freud often corresponded, sharing their ideas and inspirations regarding how brain sections, personality and society are linked. In this way they tied neuropsychology and psychotherapy together. Changes to the brain = changes to the person. So, talking to the person = talking to the brain.
  2. Physiotherapy is, effectively, body-talk. People talk about the brain and body as though they’re separate, or at least revere the brain as if it’s somehow superior to our other organs. This IS NOT the case! Yes, our brains influence our movement, muscle tone and general physique and give us a sense of “being behind our eyes”. But here is the bigger truth: All body parts together, brain included, depend on each other.
  3. Occupational Therapy, puts 1 and 2 together. Like psychotherapasists, occupational therapists treat the whole person because thinking, doing and emotional wellbeing depend on each other.

Enough for now. Next month we’ll see how Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy is practiced. Take care one and all.

Tying Things Together

Thank you to all of you who encouraged me to join the Bloggersphere – all you who said I should carry on from where Cogs, Strings and Other Things (my article in BACP‘s Therapy Today, July 2017) left off.

I ended with a brief description of Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy (CRT). I wasn’t entirely happy about that, so it’s nice to have the opportunity to explain a bit more at length. But I want to keep things as brief as possible, without need for a caffeine fix. I’m going to do it bite-size. So, to begin at the beginning.

Part One: Origins

CRT is generally accepted as having its beginnings in World War I. Veterans returning to their countries severely injured were mostly seen as heroes. Yet their disabilities, whether due to the loss of limbs and/or brain damage, prompted a need for care and whatever rehabilitation was possible for them at that time.

There was no single therapy to look to. (Hardly surprising. As is often said: “When you’ve seen one brain injury, you’ve seen one brain injury”.) Neither does CRT have a godhead figure such as Freud, Jung, Rogers, Beck, Yallom, Perls. et alia. Those of you out there studying and practicing neuropsychology may well be thinking of Alexander Luria, Alexei Leontiev and Lev Vygotsky.

It’s true these three began tying together psychology, sociology, physiology and behaviour in the 1920s into what became known as “Soviet Psychology” and worked with brain injured patients. But their interest strikes me as more to do with the organism of the mind than an intent to enhance the quality of lives, which is what CRT is about.

No. My nominations are Prof Anne Sullivan Macy and Helen Keller.

Okay, yes I know we’re mainly talking Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) here, and they would not have consciously linked what they were doing to an academic thing called “brain plasticity” (the brain’s ability to rejig itself). That had yet to be noted, analysed and played around with rather than merely witnessed. But watch and listen to Macy here as she explains her method by which she taught Keller to first learn to produce the sounds of our alphabet, and later string them into words and thereby communicate more and more with her expanding world.

It all comes down to environment and sensory learning. And what makes sense of the senses and tells us there’s a world, a universe around us? Our brain.

I’m also putting their work in the context of Keller’s championing disabled people’s right to as much of an active and independent life as is possible. Working with the American Foundation for the Blind, she helped set up rehabilitation centres and at the end of World War II visited hospitals to counsel soldiers.

That’s it for now. Part Two is to follow in which I’ll go into CRT’s development. For now I leave you with Hollywood’s dramatisation (and I mean DRAMATISATION – you won’t know whether to laugh or cry)  of Helen Keller’s eureka moment at the water pump in The Miracle Worker.