Normalizing as a Therapeutic Approach

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By Daniel Keeran: Sometimes a person may experience increased anxiety because they believe they are emotionally and psychologically wounded and unable to control their emotions. This anxiety can be mitigated by helping the person realize that their emotional reaction fits their experience, that almost anyone would have a similar reaction or emotional response if they had a similar experience.

The following statements may have therapeutic benefit to a person presenting in counseling.

“How do you separate or distinguish a normal reaction that anyone might have, from an overreaction that has to do with earlier trauma or painful experiences, like in childhood?”

“Ask yourself this question: What would other people feel if they went through what happened to me?”

“It makes sense you would feel that because of what you have been through.” “Does it make sense you would feel that way because of what you have been through?”

“What purpose did your behaviour have at the time?”

“So your pattern of ……………………….. served a purpose to survive a difficult situation, and many people would do the same rather than suffer more.”

“So it makes sense you would have done that as a child because it served a purpose then to protect you or help you survive, and now you find the pattern does not work for you as well in your life.”

“How has the pattern worked for you and how has it worked against you?”

“What emotional reactions that you have today, do you think may be related to unresolved experiences from your past?”

“What do you think is a normal emotional response to the triggering event?”

Daniel Keeran, MSW, is a guest contributor for Social Work Post, he resides with his wife Jennie in Victoria, BC, and he is the founder and President of the College of Mental Health Counselling. He is also the author of Effective Counselling Skills: the wording of therapeutic statements and processes as well as numerous other books and articles available online, and he has trained thousands of people in counselling skills and approaches addressing many different issues that arise in counselling sessions.

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