Tag Archives: psychology

Behavior Change–Easier to Say Than to Do

In recent #InnoPsy chats, we have talked a lot about the fact that many healthy choices (from regular movement to taking insulin) are actually behaviors.  So, helping people make healthy choices is, at the root of things, helping people choose or change behaviors that support their health.

The truth of the matter is, behavior change is complicated.

It sounds simple on paper.  Do this more. Do this less.

In fact, it sounds so simple on paper (or on the screen, or in the exam room) that we expect people to be able to hear about a beneficial behavior change and immediately begin implementing that change.

But that expectation ignores the reality of human behavior.  Behavior is so much more than a simple set of choices.  Instead, behavior is a reflection of your experiences and patterns throughout a lifetime.  Behavior has triggers and rewards (some of which don’t make great sense).  Behavior has emotional components.  Shaping behavior is challenging.  Just ask anyone who has ever tried to get a two-year old to behave in a way that the child didn’t choose.

We all have an inner two-year old.  That part of ourselves that is unwilling to make a change.  That part of ourselves that might be willing to throw a tantrum to avoid having to engage with change–even healthy change.

What we know as psychologists is this.  Behavior change is hard AND behavior change is possible.  Honoring and respecting the challenge is part of how we navigate through it.

In fact, during tonight’s chat, we are going to invite our community to take part in some real-time behavior change.  We hope that you’ll join us.  We hope you’ll feel free to share your responses.  And we hope you’ll come along with us as we practice walking our own talk.

–Ann & Susan

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Can We Talk about Brain Health?

If you’ve read some of the earlier posts in this blog, you know that InnoPsy co-founder Susan Giurleo and I started this project to give psychologists and other mental health specialists a platform.  Our profession has been marginalized in the health care system.  I think that is partly because there is stigma about the conditions we treat.  I think it is partly because some folks trained in a medical model view psychology as a “soft science.”  I think it is partly because our profession hasn’t done a fantastic job of educating other health professionals and the general public about how much impact we can have on health and social function.

But around here, just acknowledging the problem isn’t going to be enough. The goal of InnoPsy is to change the status quo. To make a difference.

We had a really interesting discussion during chat a few weeks ago. We were talking about the link between physical and mental health.  And we started to ask, “If there is so much stigma attached to the words “mental health,” why not change the words?”

Because really, it makes more sense on some level to talk about brain health.  All of our emotions and cognitive processes originate in our brain.  The brain is the recipient and interpreter of our internal and external neural feedback.  And, in terms of helping other health professionals understand what we do, starting with a recognized organ and body system seems like a good idea.

Right now, if you do a web search on the phrase “brain health” you will find lots of advertising for sites like Lumosity, which provide “brain training,” or for organizations dedicated to Alzheimer’s support and research.  Go ahead, give it a try.

However, you won’t find anything (in the first few pages of search, anyhow) that references cognitive dysfunction, depression, anxiety, stress management or any of the other issues typically treated by psychologists.

And that makes me wonder–how did we get this disconnected?  How did we take so many of our brain’s functions and just push them off to the side?

And why aren’t we using the phrase brain health to describe these issues?

What do you think?

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Why #InnoPsy?

BootsI have mentioned a time or two (or ten) that it is very important for me to walk my talk. I can’t talk to my clients about healthy choices if I am not making healthy choices. I can’t encourage my clients to do the tough emotional work if I am not doing it myself. That authenticity is part of what makes me a good psychologist. It’s a quality that I try to protect and nurture.

Keep that whole walking my talk thing in mind. It’s important for the story.

Earlier this month, I found myself talking with a group of psychologists about how our voice feels absent in the larger healthcare leadership discussion. This has been a theme for me ever since the Stanford Medicine X conference. I wrote here that:

The mental health field has so much to bring to the table in this effort to change and improve health care. I heard many attendees talking about the value of patient stories–mental health is centered on the story. I heard speakers talk about the critical lesson of asking if they “got it right” when summarizing patient experience. This person-centered reflection has been part of introductory therapy training for decades. In addition, when we aren’t talking about the impact of mental health factors on patient education and health decision-making, we’re missing a huge part of the picture.

I’ve been talking with folks since September about how to get more psychologists to the table. We are doctoral level professionals–we’ve had extensive training not just in patient-centered care, but in brain-based understanding of human behavior.

And so, in this discussion, someone (Dr. Susan Giurleo, to be specific) said, “Why don’t we have a tweetchat where we are discussing these issues?” And that led to even more questions. Why aren’t psychologists being more assertive about our potential to add to the discussion? Where is the public education that says, “There are folks who could help with this!”? And finally, why are we waiting for someone else to invite us to the table? Why not create our own table?

And there’s where the whole walking your talk thing came in.

And the #InnoPsy chat was born. Because, at the end of the day, a significant part of the health crisis in the United States today is a mental health crisis. And psychologists are the folks best trained to lead the discussion about that crisis. Public leadership isn’t a familiar role for many of us. I know that I, at least, am most comfortable confronting the mental health crisis in my office–one client at a time. But if I am going to walk my talk, then it is time to show up. Psychologists have a great deal to contribute to the larger conversation. And I’m ready to do my part. I’m showing up.

And I hope that you will show up with me. The #InnoPsy tweetchat had an opening discussion today, about healthy coping in the face of the Newtown shooting anniversary. But we’ll be chatting weekly on Tuesday nights at 9 pm ET/6 pm PT on the #InnoPsy tag. I hope I see you there. We can walk our talk together.

Cross-posted on http://www.drannbeckerschutte.com

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