Level of functioning and quality of life
Regarding my role as a psychotherapist and as it relates to the practice of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I have two goals when working with clients. First, I aim to help improve an individual’s level of functioning.
As an example, if person X presents to therapy with a report of being unable to tolerate exposure to large crowds, this perceived inability is considered as a lower level of managing stress. Using a collaborative approach with person X, the hope is that the client will eventually be able to tolerate distress by engaging in social activities to whatever level person X desires.
My second aim is to help improve the quality of a client’s life. Admittedly, this may seem like an ambiguous objective. However, I allow individuals to determine what emotional and behavioral progress is acceptable to them and we work towards that ambition.
For instance, if person X was initially apprehensive about engaging with sizable crowds and thus evaluated life as a no good, low down, and altogether rotten experience, I’d assist the client in determining what a better experience would look like. This is a subjective measure for each person with whom I work.
From an REBT perspective, person X’s appraisal of the self relates to a global evaluation or what is commonly considered a rating of self-worth. As an example, person X may believe, “I’m broken, because I get so anxious when in crowds.”
Suppose that at some point in the psychotherapeutic process person X expresses that because the individual is able to function at a higher level when in social settings, person X maintains a more balanced perspective on life and perhaps experiences a reduction in negative emotion (e.g., misery versus annoyance). This constitutes evidence of an improved quality of life.
Note that my goal isn’t to completely take away suffering, help induce a perpetual state of euphoria, bring about the experience of ongoing joy or pleasure, or to evoke the state of happiness. Rather, I monitor a client’s success based predominately on an improved level of functioning and an enhanced quality of life.
Purpose and meaning
When working with clients, I incorporate elements of existentialism into my use of REBT. Per one source, “Existentialism is the philosophical belief we are each responsible for creating purpose or meaning in our own lives.”
When considering purpose and meaning, I think of purpose as something an individual does and meaning relates to worth derived from purpose. As an example, person X is a parent and this responsibility entails many facets of childrearing which isn’t necessarily easy or comfortable.
When fulfilling the often difficult role of parenthood, person X subjectively ascribes value to life which is predicated on accomplishing the tasks associated with purpose. An important consideration herein is that it isn’t necessarily a painless or pleasant purpose which leads to meaning.
An existentialist acknowledges truth—that one day each and every person alive will die and until then we will suffer. We don’t avoid reality, lie to ourselves about the inevitable, or seek escapism to mask the fact that one day we will cease to exist in our present form and experience discomfort until then.
Some people irrationally believe they can’t stand this fact and they tend to awfulize the experience of a life filled with inconvenience, hardship, offense, and sometimes trauma. In doing so, they needlessly disturb themselves.
Therefore, I encourage clients to choose activities in which some amount of suffering is inherent. Through use of chosen suffering exercises, people can learn to tolerate and accept adversity and thus lead a purpose-driven and meaningful life.
Note that my approach to therapy isn’t a “feel your feelings,” vent your frustrations, or an activistic-centered method of interfacing with life. Rather than concerning oneself with matters which cannot be controlled or influenced by individuals, my clients are encouraged to first focus on personal purpose and meaning.
Personal responsibility and accountability
I also incorporate elements of Stoicism into my practice with clients. According to one source, “Stoicism is an ancient philosophy dating back to 300 B.C. that focuses on reframing the mind to not react to what we cannot control.”
Regarding control, I invite clients to consider that the only thing in this world over which they have any verifiable control is the self. Even at that, we have exceedingly limited domination.
For example, the average person cannot simply stop the operation of the cardiovascular, endocrine, lymphatic, and other major body functions for a lengthy period of time and with little more than one’s own will. The conscious mind has little control over unconscious processes.
Because we can’t fully control even ourselves, we can admit that we have no command over other people. In this regard, we may be able to influence some people though we cannot actually control them. In this way and when working with clients, I seek to influence and not regulate them.
As we have no control and little influence over others, we have even less impact on life (i.e., the past or future, societies at large, occurrences on the other side of the globe, etc.). Therefore, I promote the use of personal responsibility and accountability—collectively, personal ownership.
If purpose is what one does and meaning is value derived from purpose, I think of responsibility as one’s duty to do something and accountability as the consequence of action or inaction regarding that duty.
For instance, person X’s responsibility, at minimal, is to keep the individual’s children alive. Suppose that person X also considers it a personal responsibility to instill morals and ethics to the children under the individual’s care.
Neglecting to take action on the inculcation of what is good, bad, right, wrong, or otherwise could result in the consequence of person X being held personally accountable for child X’s criminal behavior at school (e.g., physical battery of another child).
Aside from duties of a caregiver, there may rarely ever be a case in which person X is tasked with demanding what other people should, must, or ought to do in life. Generally speaking, we are personally responsible for our own reactions and are accordingly held accountable for our own behavior.
Feeling better versus getting better
With focus on one’s level of functioning and quality of life, I enter the therapeutic process with an intentional goal for treatment. During this process, I employ use of purpose and meaning in order to instill in my clients the individual aims through which they can achieve the overall goal of therapy.
As well, I encourage use of personal responsibility and accountability in order to frame the focus of an individual’s abilities along the path of wellness. Combining each of these elements, an REBT practitioner is generally concerned with helping a client get better, not necessarily feel better.
Imagine person X attending therapy with the expressed goal of achieving catharsis—the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong emotions. This is akin to an individual wanting to feel better as a result of coming to therapy.
However, research indicates that a cathartic effect is a novel feature of therapy that has little long-term value. Person X may temporarily feel joy or reprieve from unpleasant emotions; however, without specific tools designed to foster resilience, the individual may not actually get better overall.
Therefore, my ultimate objective when working with clients is to help them get better by use of the psychotherapeutic elements described herein. Given the framework I’ve identified in this post, are you prepared to get better?
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
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Hollings, D. (2023, May 18). Irrational beliefs. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/irrational-beliefs
Hollings, D. (2022, December 2). Low frustration tolerance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/low-frustration-tolerance
Hollings, D. (2022, June 23). Meaningful purpose. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/meaningful-purpose
Hollings, D. (2023, October 2). Morals and ethics. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/morals-and-ethics
Hollings, D. (2023, April 24). On truth. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/on-truth
Hollings, D. (2022, November 7). Personal ownership. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/personal-ownership
Hollings, D. (2022, March 25). Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/rational-emotive-behavior-therapy-rebt
Hollings, D. (2022, November 1). Self-disturbance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/self-disturbance
Hollings, D. (2022, October 7). Should, must, and ought. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/should-must-and-ought
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Hollings, D. (2023, February 16). Tna. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/tna
Hollings, D. (2022, November 15). To don a hat. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/to-don-a-hat
Hollings, D. (2022, August 8). Was Freud right? Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/was-freud-right
Hollings, D. (2022, September 3). You gon’ die: The existential window. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/you-gon-die-the-existential-window