This week we covered off "reframing" and "normalizing" in counseling.

"Reframing" is about helping people to look at their experiences from fresh perspectives, something that I try to do quite frequently on this blog. Ahhh, so here's a skill I think I've got a reasonable amount of practice in, albeit in a thoroughly different context. The example given was the climactic plot twist in "The Sixth Sense," a favourite movie of mine. I was surprised the lecturers didn't pull out the time-worn "young lady, old women" optical illusion to be honest (click on the above image).

I was asked to do a simple exercise, to list of a number of things "I can't do" and, after some reflection, to insert "I choose not to" in front of each item, then reflect some more. A very powerful reframe I think. Of course, there's some things I do choose not to change, but the reframe does emphasize that's a choice I've made and that in itself is empowering. And of course there are other things I now have to think about – should I work towards some different choices? Yes, there are a couple I do want to change. This puts the pressure on.

It was pointed out that this was an aspect of counseling that requires more effort from the counselor but a good point was made in class, "the therapist steers the theory, the client steers their life."

"Normalizing" is another valuable technique I am already quite familiar with, though now I have a name for it. Basically it is about helping people to see their experiences as "normal" for someone in their position, though it can require a certain unshakeability on the part of the counselor in some circumstances.

The example given was the stages of grief, the understanding of which can help grieving people. I remember helping my family out with some of this when my grandmother died some years ago. Now I think of it, only this week I was sharing with a colleague how understanding personality types can help us. I sort of do this naturally I suppose. Two tools I have found helpful over the years is the Myers-Briggs "MBTI test" and the book, "The Five Love Languages," which I have found empowered many people to understand that different personalities and relational styles and the challenges they generate aren't "wrong," but very normal. Often generates "Ah ha" and "Mmmm" moments.

Another thing we touched on was "transference" and "counter-transference", which in layman's terms is about projection. I think this is an area to really be conscious of as I've seen how this can derail relationships.

PS. For those interested in comparing Myers-Briggs personality results I am INTP.

Note: This thread, College Reflections, is to be submitted for assessment as part of my coursework in The Foundations of Christian Counseling at Morling College at the end of Semester 1, 2007. If you would like to speak to me about issues I raise in this thread, but are concerned about privacy, please email me privately  instead of leaving a public comment.

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