Individual Counseling, Life Skills-Behavior Therapy, and Group Experiences
Lifelong therapists approach clients from a client-centered,
and strength-based orientation grounded in respect for client dignity.
challenges coupled with mental health issues such as depression and
anxiety negatively affect stability and interfere with
interactions at work, home, or in the community.
One purpose of counseling is to help minimize or remove
emotional barriers that occur with
disabilities and interfere with living a
productive life. Lifelong therapists see people with or
without disabilities. Dr.
Macdonald has a special interest in evaluating and treating people
who have nonverbal learning disabilities or Asperger's disorder in
addition to higher functioning adults with other types of learning
disorders. Other therapists at Lifelong have interests in treating
victims of domestic violence, people with developmental disorders, and
in teaching parenting skills to people with cognitive and developmental
Lifelong therapists see people with or without disabilities. Dr. Macdonald has a special interest in evaluating and treating people who have nonverbal learning disabilities or Asperger's disorder in addition to higher functioning adults with other types of learning disorders. Other therapists at Lifelong have interests in treating victims of domestic violence, people with developmental disorders, and in teaching parenting skills to people with cognitive and developmental delays.
Recognizing, understanding, accepting, and using strengths and limitations
Our therapists assist clients in gaining a keen awareness of the effects of their disability on daily functioning , vocational success, and their personal and social life. Developing compensatory skills based on the individual’s strengths are a primary goal for all our clients with disabilities. Therapists may use interventions that:
· Confront avoidance or denial patterns related to the disability that block the growth of positive compensatory and interpersonal skills by asking questions about the effectiveness of current behaviors.
· Help the clients find the words to express themselves more clearly and get their needs met at home, work, and the community.
· Help the client to identify strengths using a skills inventory and empower clients to own and use these strengths in their daily lives.
· Help clients set realistic goals that can be achieved between sessions and that can be built upon to increase the client’s confidence.
Developing effective self-advocacy skills:
Individuals with disabilities may nod their head in agreement when uncertain, or stay quiet in situations when their voice needs to be heard. This can lead to confusion and frustration for significant others, friends and employers. We assist clients in developing assertiveness and self-advocacy skills through:
· Modeling of effective interactions, facilitating behavioral and verbal rehearsal, and providing role-play opportunities so clients can improve communication skills and assertiveness.
· Providing direct and concrete education about the situations where advocacy or assertiveness may be needed.
· Assigning weekly behavioral homework exercises so clients can practice their skills in the real world and generalize their new skills to new situations.
Managing stress and changing unhealthy patterns of thinking and behaving:
Unmanaged stress can lead to emotional, cognitive, and physical disturbances that can interfere with productive living and impact mental health. Clients with mental health problems may engage in unhealthy behaviors that provide short-term relief, but that in the long run complicate their emotional stability and impede productivity. We help our clients learn skills to overcome or manage stress and mental health symptoms by:
· Assisting clients in identifying negative thought or behavior patterns that create barriers to success. Clients are taught ways to respond to these patterns that promote well being, rather than using the same old, comfortable and familiar patterns of thinking or behaving.
· Teaching the use of organizational strategies such as planners, calendars, timers, alarms, and sticky notes, and emphasizing how to apply these strategies in their daily lives.
· Teaching progressive relaxation and stress reduction techniques that can help clients to relax and reverse the stress-response that can contribute to unhealthy thinking and behavior patterns.
· Providing clients with opportunities to develop a better understanding about their emotions, behaviors, and thinking processes.
· Supporting clients in clarifying their values (“I want to be a good father”) and using them as a motivation strategy to take actions consistent with their identified values. People who live in congruence with their values often experience less stress and mental health symptoms.
· Using systematic desensitization to reduce fears in stressful situations by identifying hierarchies within the anxiety provoking situations and alleviating the anxiety step by step by using relaxation skills and visualization.
· Assisting clients in planning for and responding to setbacks they will inevitably experience as a part of their daily lives by examining outcomes and identifying alternative actions to take in the event that they recur. Predicting and normalizing setbacks as part of the growth process helps clients to avoid feelings of failure that can impede progress.
Life Skills/ Behavioral Therapy
For the past fifteen years, Lifelong AES has been offering life skills development (daily living skills) and behavioral therapy for clients with cognitive deficits or developmental delays. Because of their cognitive limitations, they often have a history of abuse or neglect, or find themselves and/or their families in unfavorable situations due to their poor problem solving and decision making.
Lifelong therapists believe that helping clients gain independence in their lives should be the primary goal of therapy. Through patience, strong rapport and by using here-and-now techniques of therapy, Lifelong therapists are able to provide therapy relevant to the needs of this population. Therapists use interventions consistent with a client's cognitive abilities.
Lifelong believes that meeting with clients in their community at home, or at work helps them to generalize what they are learning in therapy. Combined with meetings in the safe environs of Lifelong's offices, life skills and therapeutic interventions can happen through real-life demonstration, modeling, and supervised practice to help integrate the newly learned skills into real-life situations. Lifelong incorporates the learning experience with understanding of emotional processes so that clients can generalize their learning and feel good about the experience, leading to better decision-making/problem-solving in the future. Using behavioral and hands-on approaches that focus on the here-and-now tends to be the most effective treatment modality with these clients.
Experiential and hands-on skills training:
Experiential and hands-on training allows clients with cognitive limitations to practice skills by observation, rehearsal, role-play, activities and repetition. Through hands on training, clients can learn to advocate for themselves, increase their self-sufficiency and learn compensatory skills. Training occurs in a variety of settings, at the client’s home, in the community and in the office. Therapists start with the basics and work with their clients to foster independence in many areas of their life.
Parenting and relationship skills:
Parents with cognitive limitations, developmental disabilities, and learning disabilities face unique challenges. Parents with cognitive limitations have difficulties with communication skills, decision making, and understanding cause and effect. Parenting can be a daunting task for people with developmental delays. Some of the challenges that our clients face include difficulties implementing discipline techniques, keeping a schedule, and setting limits for their children. Parents with cognitive limitations have difficulty understanding child development. Because of their poor ability to understand and read facial cues, parents sometimes have difficulty reacting to and understanding their child’s emotional cues and acting in an appropriately nurturing manner. While helping whole families build new coping and disciplinary skills and techniques, Lifelong therapists
· Help clients build parenting and relationship skills by using repetition, role-play, and rehearsal. Lifelong therapists model appropriate discipline techniques and allow parents to observe techniques first hand.
· Slow down the therapeutic process and break techniques into manageable steps. Therapists help implement these steps, and redirect and physically intervene while parents are disciplining their children.
· Provide instruction to parents to help them understand developmental milestones.
· Set appropriate and realistic goals.
· Use positive reinforcement, which helps clients to build upon and acknowledge client successes.
Interpersonal skills at home and work:
In the effort to help clients increase interpersonal skills at home and at work, Lifelong therapists believe it is important to discuss disability openly and honestly. It is imperative to build a strong rapport and work to develop a trusting relationship when working with clients with cognitive limitations. In building a strong therapeutic alliance with the client, Lifelong therapists
· Acknowledge a client’s strengths and build upon those strengths to help the client learn ways to compensate for their limitations.
· Help clients understand and identify their limitations and how these limitations affect their relationships at home and in the workplace. This knowledge helps reduce guilt and personal responsibility tied to their limitations.
· Use role play, repetition, rehearsal and feedback, clients practice interpersonal situations under therapeutic supervision and build skills to better interact with others.
Group experiences may be tailored to meet the specific needs of clients or of agencies. Our popular, Building Blocks for Success and Getting Your Needs Met modular group experiences have been modified for and used extensively with agencies looking for productive (and countable) activities to enhance their existing programs. Anxiety reduction and stress management, social skills development, and coping with disabilities are examples of group therapy topic areas or targets. Benefits of group counseling include:
· Peer feedback and support from group members, facilitated by therapists. Clients may be more receptive to suggestions from their peers than from significant others and this can promote faster behavior change.
· Group cohesion promotes the feeling within clients that, “I’m not alone, others struggle too”, and aids in the growth and healing process.
· Improvement of skills related to stress management, advocacy/assertiveness, parenting and problem solving in a group setting where opportunities to rehearse and engage in role-play are available.