Psychoeducation for the Therapist

Psychoeducation Q & A

What is Psychoeducation?

Psychoeducation is a therapeutic focus in which clients learn practical and positive emotional and behavioral skills to improve life adjustment, management of emotions and self-awareness. A psychoeducational approach appreciates the importance of education in changing unhealthy or negative emotional and behavioral patterns. In psychotherapy, tools such as therapy handouts, worksheets, individual and group therapy activities and visualizations serve to help clients develop skills to overcome common human problems encountered in daily life. In psychotherapy, psychotherapeutic techniques use educational skill building in developing the therapeutic relationship in individual and group therapy. It gives clients the tools needed to make changes in their lives, feel empowered, and learn tips to effectively manage an individualized personal development plan. Psycho-educational group therapy activities makes groups fun as well as educational. Using a psychoeducational approach, I offer many free Cognitive Behavior Therapy worksheets and handouts, as well as various suggestions for interactive group therapy activities. These mental health worksheets are ideal for individual therapy and self-help as well as group counseling activities.

Psychoeducational Sub-Topics

What are Some Examples of Psychoeducational Topics?

With the psychoeduational approach, clients learn valuable life skills of how to manage their behavior, emotions, relationships and generally improve their mental health through learning practical life skills strategies. Stress management activities, counseling group activities to promote team building and interpersonal skills, as well as conflict resolution exercises are just a few examples of the vast array of life skills topics that are used in individual counseling and in psycho-educational group therapy. These topics and many more are addressed in individual counseling, mental health clinics, in-patient and out-patient settings, as well as school and college counseling centers and workplace wellness programs. Therapy group activities  that are psycho-educational are much more effective than group processing groups without the skill building component.

Coping skills improve significantly in clients that learn skills based on effective and well established psychological theory and practice, such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.The learning is always augmented by carious Cognitive Behavior Therapy worksheets and DBT worksheets and handouts.

Sample Psychoeducational Topics

What are Examples of Some Major Influences in the Field of Psychology That Have Contributed to Psychoeducation?

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), as well as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) are two examples of well established effective modalities that offer a variety of cognitive, behavioral and emotional regulation skills to help clients manage anger. Positive Psychology also provides strategies for wellness and is action oriented in it’s approach.

Isn’t Psychoeducation Just Telling People What to Do?

This is a common notion in people who are not aware of the effectiveness and psychological foundation of life skills training. The psychoeducational approach can be incorporated traditional talking therapy, and can be used selectively when a particular skill needs some attention. some clients do not have the background and insight to figure all the answers tot heir life’s problems on their own, which is why they are seeking professional help. They are relying on the therapist to impart their knowledge based on their own psychological and mental health training to identify areas of need and provide the tools and foundation so that in essence the client can fill their own life skills toolbox.

Isn’t Life Skills Training Mostly for Developmentally Challenged Children and Adults?

Although the area of life skills training might have been more recognized and publicized in the areas of work with emotionally and developmentally disabled children and adults, including those with substance abuse, in reality life skills are important for every one of us. We all want a better quality of life and the ability to accomplish our goals and achieve life success both personally as well as professionally. Using the analogy of a well equipped household tool box, psychoeducational life skills training offers us tips and tools for effectively managing our lives mentally, emotionally, interpersonally and behaviorally in the world where we seek to actualize our potential.

What are Some Examples of Psychoeducational Books and How are They Used?

The three books in my Tips and Tools for the Therapeutic Toolbox Series offer Psychologists, Social Workers, Mental Health Aides, Psychotherapists, Substance Abuse Counselors, Guidance Counselors, College Counselors, Group Therapists and Workplace Wellness Trainers valuable psychoeducational material for interactive and experiential skill building on various life topics. Ideal for work for both inpatient and outpatient populations, these books published by Mental Health CE provider and publisher, PESI, offer a variety of psychoeducational handouts, worksheets, interactive group activities, visualizations, and mini-lessons designed to inform and practice skills.

The Therapeutic Companion is a self-published client, self help manual which was originally intended to accompany my Toolbox series. They offer many freeman reproducible therapy handouts and worksheets.  Most of them are Cognitive Behavioral Worksheets and Communication worksheets and handouts that can help the self-help lover build skills for lifetime.

What are Some Examples of Psychoeducational Handouts and Worksheets?

The following are samples of my own psychoeducational handouts and worksheets, some of which are taken from the Tips and Tools series. These are all free mental health handouts and counseling worksheets that you can use with your therapy clients. They are comprised of communication skills handouts, Cognitive Behavior Therapy worksheets and handouts, ideas for therapy group exercises, and stress management activities and worksheets.

The following is my adapted from a blog post on the American Counseling Association web site on the importance of psychoeducation.

Counselor’s Role as Teacher and Life Skills Educator

In my clinical psychology graduate program with its psychoanalytic orientation back in the 70‘s, I was taught that therapy largely was focused on uncovering how your past was still present in everyday life. The mindset at the time was that only by shedding light on deep seated issues can a person move past what had made them stuck, with increased insight and understanding. I only learned about Cognitive Behavior Therapy after graduate school, and was amazed at how just changing one’s self talk one can really change lives and happiness quotient. However, in my practice i found that even was not enough. Insight into thinking patterns alone does not change things, especially if habits are deeply ingrained. Sometimes, “knowing better” does not mean that we can actually “do better.” If so, we would all be exercising regularly and trim and fit! For many clients, some no matter how much they identify their irrational thoughts and know how they can replace them with more rational ones, they remain stuck. Why? They have no new skills to act differently!

That is where the idea of psychotherapist as psycho-educator comes in. The role of the therapist is not just to listen, support and offer feedback and suggestions – it is also to teach! Teaching does not mean telling! Rather, using learning tools such as handouts, worksheets, role playing, visualization, experiential activities and mini-lessons, counselors can be in a unique position to offer the “how tos” of making changes. For example, I have a life skills manual that I have made up of many of my best handouts and worksheets, and clients find that the between session “homework” offers them a chance to practice and reinforce the concepts learned in therapy.

Teaching life skills is not telling clients what to do – it is teaching them strategies that they have never learned in school or in life. This proactive approach empowers clients with tools for life, and helps them experience change constructively. Beyond talking is “doing” and you can offer clients vital opportunities to experience and try out new behaviors, thoughts and skills. Experiential exercises might be able to break through even the most strongly erected unhealthy habits and defenses.

As Confucius said so aptly, “Teach me and I will forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand.”

I use the term “self-help assignments” instead of homework, since homework might have negative connotations after years of schooling. Self-help assignments help clients be more proactive and responsible for their own growth and wellness. Self-Help assignment transform “what “ into “how.”

For example, one of my favorite counseling handouts is one that compares the three type of communication, Assertive, Non-Assertive and Aggressive, and the reasons, characteristics and payoffs of each. To reinforce the learning, I have worksheets that clients do between sessions to turn aggressive or non-assertive examples into assertive examples. Replacing aggressive “you” statements with assertive “I” statements will give your clients a chance to practice what they have learned. I suggest they keep the handouts in a prominent place so they can refer to them regularly to learn new skills. The therapy handouts and worksheets, and at times a “prop” that helps them stay “on target.” One “prop” is an elastic band that I ask some of my clients to keep on their wrists, and snap it gently each time that find themselves thinking or behaving in a negative manner.

Quick and easy group therapy activities can also be quite effective. The following is an example of an activity that you can do in your therapy sessions and is also great for groups, One simple exercise offers a convincing example of the importance of flexible thinking and being willing to see things from other points of view.

Clasp your fingers so that your fingers interlock. Which thumb is on top? In a group situation, about half have their left thumb on top and half the right, regardless of right or left-handedness. Note what is natural for some is not natural for another. This represents our perceptions— we think people see things the same way and by this “hands on” exercise we realize this is not true! Now shift your fingers in the opposite way (make sure all fingers are clasped differently, not just the thumbs). How does it feel? Common responses are “weird, strange, uncomfortable.” However, for some people it is effortless and natural! Thus, this “hands on” exercise serves as a metaphor of how we need to shift our thinking just so slightly in order to think in a different way. It can remind you also to be open minded when you listen to others, rather than expect for them to see things your way. Want an advanced version? Try the same exercise with folding your arms! Most people find this to make an even greater impact, as only about half of people fold their arms like you!

As you can see, counselors have a unique opportunity to help their clients not only with their support, empathetic listening and guidance, but actually serving as a life skills educator, empowering clients to help themselves! Help your clients learn tips and tools to develop stress management techniques, positive thinking and help them develop an individualized personal development plan. Whether it is for individual or group therapy activities, you can get ideas in the links on this web site to offer skills to your clients to last a lifetime.

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