Evoking positive emotional states. Psychotherapy Networker Conference, DC, 2019

Similar to shoes, you wear your emotions and feelings wherever you go

One Friday March 22, 2019, an all-day workshop entitled, EvokingPositive Emotional States: Uplifting interventions to heal the heart was presented by Courtney Armstrong https://www.thetraumatherapistproject.com/podcast/courtney-armstrong/

Her lengthy experience working with children and families was evident through her session. She provided several videotape examples to support her methods. The main message was that clients need to have a clear sense that you validate their pain before they can move on towards desired positive feeling states.

Courtney reminded psychotherapists about the notion of mood congruency where people experience the world either through narrow or broad ways shaped in part by personal feelings and experiences. She explained that survival responses narrow a client’s range of feelings to negative, anxious, or sorrowful interpretations. Positive moods access happier memories, which result in broader awareness and optimistic interpretations. When difficult life experiences result in significant shifts in mood, the central tasks of the therapist is to evoke positive emotional states as a disruptive intervention to overwhelming negative moods. Research demonstrates that people are able to solve problems when they are calm or happy. Her work showed that clients were able to improve mood and health when they evoked positive stored memories.

Armstrong’s videotapes powerfully showed how people were able to retell a traumatic story using imagery and positive emotions that had been evoked after trust and safety were established over several sessions. She referred to this method as “reversing trauma with RECON”. Clients learn to retell the story with a new ending following an experience in session that evokes desired beliefs attached to historic events. New experiences that reinforce feelings of empowerment, self-compassion, and agency are the ones that are nurtured and reinforced. These self-compassionate, empowering experiences reinforce positive mood and healing.

The workshop was especially refreshing to psychotherapists with several years working in the field. It reminded those of us present about the importance of positive feelings and its interface with self-determination in healing. I have always ascribed to the view that people providing psychotherapy need to have a healthy regimen of self-care and personal interests or hobbies in order to establish, maintain, and grow resilience. What do you do in order to have the emotional strength and positivity to co-regulate your clients emotions? What more can you do to evoke your own positive moods? Do you a well store of happy memories from which to draw your positivity when your work with clients is particularly intense ? If not, what are your plans to make the change you wish to be?

#wellness #heal #emotions #trauma #positivity #healthiswhathealthdoes

Published by Lisa Romano-Dwyer PhD, RSW

I am a registered social worker in the province of Ontario. I am currently creating professional resources for clinical practitioners.

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