A “Secret Kindness” Intervention for Working with Depression

Depression can rob our clients of the full, thriving lives we all hope for.

And so often, a depressed client will avoid the very people, places, and activities that once gave them pleasure.

In the video below, Steven Hayes, PhD describes a woman who suffered from both depression and anxiety. She started avoiding the business that she owned . . .

. . . until he gave her a simple, unique, almost playful assignment.

Take a look – it’s about 5 minutes.

This video was taken from the Next Level Practitioner training program where members receive a daily video like this from one of the top 20 experts in our field. That program is not open for new members right now, but if you want to be on a waiting list in case it opens up, please click here.

What ideas are you going to use with your patients? Please leave a comment below.

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131 Comments

  1. Marianne, psychotherapist and trauma therapist says:

    I love turning away from the problem, the roots of the problem and the playful idea of doing everyday something new which brings me closer to my values. Watching nicabm videos is just the thing for me! A short time of studying without stress brings me forward in my practice and with my clients. :-)

  2. Anne Stone says:

    I’d love to find a way to frame this for aspiring millennials in the workplace, who have been so clocked and tracked and graded that they sometimes seem to find it hard to feel like they’re succeeding without ‘beating’ others to the levels and accolades they seek so actively.

    I’ve felt badly for some of my younger colleagues, who seem to lack this experience of secret kindness, or secret/internal anything. I’ve seen folks who are so hungry to be witnessed that they’ve done damage to those around them, but they still don’t seem fed or confirmed even when they ‘win’.

    Given rules like these, and a set goal to achieve, might be just the ticket.

  3. Julia Lynam says:

    And what about receiving kindness? How do we react when we receive kindness – or anything else – and don’t know whom to thank?

    • Anya says:

      Well, we coukd simply feel grateful and cared for and maybe even enjoy the mystery. One of the beauties of the anonymity is that it removes the ability to feel beholden or to feel pressure to return in a tit for tat manner. There’s no one to repay when you do not know who chose to bless you with kindness. Thus, it also removes any sense of control over outcomes, teaching us that good things can just come to us without earning or repaying being a part of the picture as well as that we do not have to control everything!

      It is often more comfortable to give than to receive because we retain some eense of being in control as the giver, but there is indeed much blessing in learning the art of receiving!

      • Anya says:

        Apologies for typos –my screen won’t go bigger for this site, and the type is teensy!

  4. Kelly Scott says:

    I like the idea of being kind and not getting caught so will be considering this as a strategy for some clients that I think it might resonate with.

    Great video. Thank you.

  5. Best kind of charity is the privacy of when and how it’s offered including charity for self
    So do one kind and new thing and don’t let yourself glory in it
    Do it and let go sounds like good idea

  6. Elise says:

    Working at a substance abuse center, I find that most client suffer , I have been already promoting Kindness toward each other with the residents, but SECRET kindness sounds like a new approach I will try also. Meeting today for group and will begin fostering new idea!!! Thanks

  7. Wholistic therapist says:

    I am very greatful for your work and commitment Ruth… One thing that jumps out to me these days is actually calling people patients …. to me that is keeping them on a level, of we have what they need, thinking about the Hooponopono where the practitioner saw the people he was working with as already whole, and the effects that had, and how amazing healings happened… With the advanced reserch of the vibration of the words we use, this could be a very good place to start, when I am called a patient right away it give me a sence of weaker than, and we all know we only fasillitate a person to come to balance, and seeing them already healed, and holding space with the tools we use can be very powerful for them and allows us to relax …..and feel the love that heals stuck pain and energy…l.

  8. Gail says:

    I really like the way Steven thinks and the way he cares for his clients – its is very obvious the respect and care he brings to a session. This process makes so much sense – it helps the client to make decisions for themselves and to regard their own opinions as having value.

  9. Judy Kropf says:

    It is disconcerting watching this video by Steven Hayes as he talks about this interesting approach because he keeps looking up as if his script is somewhere up there and isn’t making connection with his audience.

    • Pamela Blunt says:

      I thought he was just looking up when he paused as he was turning inward a little to a memory and finding words for the next things to say. Why do you think he was looking for a script? His face lit up at times, thinking about someone he was working with, obviously happy to see positive changes.

    • Separate the teacher from the teachingp

  10. Pam says:

    Encourage the secret kindness approach…

  11. Thank you. I love the connecting to the quality of being whilest doing a secret act of kindness.

  12. Anya says:

    For encouragement in kindness, check out Kindspring.org. While you can post kindnesses to urge others onward, you can also do acts of kindness secretly. People do both!

    It is a very affirming place, and research does show that witnessing kindness has a contagious effect. That helps those of us who struggle with doing kindnesses and saying anything, as if it were blowing our own horn, as they say.

    Knowing that we are just part of keeping the kindness ball rolling is also a great way to feel like part of something larger than your own world. Plus, it is FUN!

    • Pat says:

      I’m working with the lack of self esteem focussed on body image of one of my clients. She can’t imagine anyone finding her attractive which in her mind also equals ‘lovable’. I love Steven’s idea of secret here, between you and yourself. I would like her to develop an appreciation of her body. In all it does and how it functions so that she can really come to love her own body and the beauty that is there. That idea of giving in secret means that in her actions and behaviours she can first appreciate that in herself – and give of herself and feel good about that. When she is less anxious about pleasing others I would like her to notice what happens next! Yes!!

  13. Sounds like it could create a lovely pattern of being kind,” just because……”

  14. Elaine Jost says:

    I like the idea of having a decision made internally (therefore it was my choice, not someone’s order) and kept secret, therefore away from being judged. I wouldn’ put an “every day” request, which is external. Waking up the kindness to self,especially compassion for self, may be a surprisingly new concept to a lot of clients.

  15. FYI that this is a concept in Aikido called intoku. :)

  16. Beryl Cheal says:

    I am an Educational Consultant with a community center in Amman, Jordan working with refugee (Iraqi, Syrian, and now Somali and Sudanese) families. As I designed the program for 6 to 12 year old girls (specially funded for this project) I melded together a kindness curriculum, focused games, and an emphasis on culture. As refugees many suffer from depression and anxiety. Steven Hayes ‘Secret Kindness’ suggestions will be very helpful to infuse into the program as we work with the girls to help them through their experiences of multiple traumatic events. Beryl Cheal, Seattle, WA

  17. At MindfulPainTelief.org I help women that feel trapped and frustrated by chronic pain reclaim their body and their life and feel alive. Often, clients with chronic pain have some degree of depression and do fear judgement of others about their abilities and have a strong inner critic. I will integrate the concept of practicing kindness daily towards the self in a way that isn’t outwardly visible to others. One particular client comes to mind that has low self-permission and struggles to create time to take care of her own needs since she has a family of four young children. This can help contribute to increased self-efficacy which is essential.

  18. Emma Jane Booth says:

    Excellent tutorial!!!thanks so much, very inspiring!

  19. Kisha Kelly says:

    I loved this piece on secret kindness. I work with children and adolescents what often have this anxiety that comes from trying to please demanding parents and see this helps to reach these children at the heart. They want to be heard and often feel no one is listening. This will give them a way to make a game of kind acts and help them cope with fears.

  20. Well what I do with my clients, when I have them as a team at work, to lift the low levels of depression and anxiety that happen at work, is play a game of Anglels and Mortals for a week/month. Its a beautiful game that I imagine many of you know. Each person puts their name in a hat and then each person takes a name out of the hat. That person is now your mortal for the month and you are their angel. Of course an angel must not be seen or known. so as an angel you are to gently shower your mortal each day with tiny delights but without their knowing where it is coming from so you ask other mortals to deliver your kindnesses – be it a song, a poem, a flower, a smile, a cuppa, a helping hand, a cup of tea, help with a report, listening, a lovely photo, a cutting form a plant. I still have plant grown from a cutting that an angel gave me from a care home ten years ago. I t creates such a sense of fun and incognito kindness, creativity and surprise.

    • Anya says:

      Oh, I love this! I just need to figure out how to adapt it to my situation, which is not a group.

    • arthur says:

      lovely concept.

    • Julie says:

      Love this! Thank you for sharing!

  21. Ginger Ingalls says:

    Even to have a client come to us is “exposure “. It almost doesn’t matter what happens in the session.

  22. Adrian Brooks says:

    As a Christian I find the act of prayer away to give secretly. I suffer from depression as a symtom of my Bi polar and life curcumstances. I think a big reason why people avoid others and their opinions/judgements is because a sense of powerlessness, as if the perspective of the ‘other’ will take over.

  23. Dr Vasuprada Kartic Godavarthy says:

    love this! I believed in this all along and have worked with the belief that Human beings are by nature Kind and Accepting. The learnt beliefs and values may clash with the inherent goodness leading to internal conflict and more often external too. The inability to cope and balance manifestos depression and Anxiety.

    They need a nudge in the direction to meet their true selves.

    Thanks

  24. Jacquie says:

    I love this – it goes along the line of ‘as we show kindness to others we ourself will arise’ …. I can totally see how this will help to soften someone.

  25. This really aligns with my values and so I find it easy on the ears. Responding to anxiety and depression with an existential approach is very effective. Even as I write this my own inner critic is made voiceless as I exercise kindness and compassion to others, often quietly and unobserved.

    I like the way this encourages ‘action’ as a way of responding to fears. It is very empowering.

    I work with two main client groups, 1.sex offenders (as a therapist who is a priest) and 2.people excluded by society because of poverty, mental health challenges, cognitive deficits, social skills or ASD difficulties (as a priest who is a therapist).

    I feel equally empowered in both domains to encourage ‘existential action’ as a pathway to wholeness.

  26. Angeles says:

    To connect with the joy of giving without expectations! Loved it. I beleive is a very powerful tool. Can´t wait to try it with my clients. Thanks

  27. Tessa says:

    I appreciate how Dr. Hayes connected these two strategies and puts them into actions which are accomplishable. As long as the client is willing and can suspend doubt long enough to do the two elements, it seems like they will soon begin shifting. I especially like how he identified the differences in “good girl” and doing good in their eyes. Excellent video!

  28. Patrice Dwyer M.S.W.,R.S.W. says:

    I found this to be a very inspiring and useful strategy. I watched it three times before I decided that it would be useful to share it with my agency in the form of a post on our electronic newsletter for Health and Wellness.
    THank you for this.
    I expect that I have already tried to notice the “joy of connectedness” but now am working on “doing one new thing everyday” before I pass it on to my clients.
    Patrice Dwyer, M.S.W.,R.S.W.
    Ruth, I am reading all of your posts and mining them for inspiration! What a great way to learn!

  29. Marie says:

    Love this ! I am a big fun of Steven Hayes. Always such a pleasure to hear him, my mind feels more freedom. I am not a therapist, but still a patient searching to heal myself. I would like to share my experience with the harsh exposure vs the kind, gentle resource searching approach. I had been treated by the exposure therapy without having told me (I was a PTSD patient, I started to suffer more, my body jumped into a serious sickness that lasted for years). The approach and concept of cognitive therapies of Steven Hayes made me feel hope again and since that time I started to heal. I was in the time where I was “caught in the kind things” – I planned them. it was the first step in my healing, the rules. Then, I found the “effortless approach” -feel the kindness in a more natural way, do what feels good right now, not forcing my mind to “do it”. This approach has even better results. One day, I do a walk, another day I listen to the birds, another one I search some political news I like, another day I do nothing, then, I cuddle the cat,…before I planned it, before before I was told to be “a coward” not to be there where ” I should be” in my age. It scared me so much. I never had time to use my mind to help me with my internal states, to my internal worth, the divine value in me. I don´t want to be judged as an object….also, yes, I was sooo productive. I did so much as many people never did at my age. I was at my super-powers, and I was so judged by others. I did not allow myself to have a rest when my body was sick. I had to do, do, for others -being the good girl. (my narcissistic family heritage – I was an object, a slave to create their image). Being abused in childhood and judged for it in therapy, motivated by picking on me, did not make any healing for me. Also cognitive therapies can be those who bring the knowledge of very very sad things about the injuries that had been inflicted on oneself. I always feel listening to Dr. Hayes that my mind will help me in it, I don´t need to ruminate “how to solve the problem” all over and over (which my mind does), but actually it helps me to understand and bring me into the body, emotions to heal by being able to hold it in a safe way. Do it anyway, but in a more kind, safe way, no lying about “how parents did not know any better” etc. , how I did not make it as other people because ” I was too sensitive” etc. I am also of those abused people who had not been allowed to develop and explore my passions, my joy, who I am (the maternal incest). Most of people see me as a hopeless failure, some even think that I am stupid, an object one can push where they want to. They don´t get how much covert abuse there was in the family. I had been also told something the way that ” I don´t think right”….it discouraged me, as I believe into my mind (even though some parts had been abused). I believe that my mind will put me through (in a very respectful way, as in the IFS therapies). Find my passions and joy and who I am in a safe, slow way feels so good. This feels like being allowed to be the joyful child again and take conscious knowledge of it. It takes lots of time. I see that I don´t need to stop being the “giver”.
    Thank you so much, Dr. Hayes for bringing the hope.

  30. Elin Bierly says:

    Love this idea, especially the idea that it is a secret between you and the person in the mirror. I’m going to try a little myself first.

  31. I love when I can tie a playful sense of experimentation to a client’s values, I find they gain the insight they needed to create a path forward.

  32. Myriam Baker says:

    very interesting –
    I am going to start to applying right away with many depressive clients I have…
    very empowering to the client

  33. Joanne Nemecek, LMSW says:

    This is a refreshing concept – I really appreciate the focus on the positive and of doing something. It connects to opposite action in DBT.
    Thanks!

  34. Michael J. LaCoppola says:

    Great therapy I practice this as much as possible and it does lift my spirits……Thanks a bunch!!!Mickey

  35. Jane Cooper says:

    AWESOME …love it love it love it

  36. Dorothy says:

    I’m going to go use this strategy right now with a girl at recess who has withdrawn herself form her group. She frequently tells them how depressed she is.
    Off to Recess:)

  37. Lorelei Connors says:

    Brilliant! Love it! Motivation for doing anything good must come from within or it will become a burden in short order.

  38. Good and would have been even better if he’d taken 30 seconds more on a theory of depression that this intervention addresses. He spoke too briefly about this. Without grounding in a theory of depression or more generally a theory of the self, one is just proposing this & that.

  39. sam says:

    excellent suggestion- like others who mentioned this- I like the idea of the secret –

  40. Carol Martenson says:

    What a great approach. I have a patient in mind already.The notion that it is secret is the difference.
    Thanks for sharing this with everyone.

  41. Andrew Vass says:

    Yes this can help me unblend from my recalcitrant and egotistical parts. I am a stressful performer so a kind thing I can do for myself is ease up as I check-in to see how I’m doing. I like to have little mindful exercises to do at periodic intervals and this check-in on my kindness and kindliness is good.

  42. Pam Gottschalk says:

    This is a great idea. I love the idea of doing something kind “in secret.”
    Kindness is the oil that takes friction out of life.

  43. Jill says:

    Great way to look at depression and judgment. I like the idea of having the patient do something in ‘secret’ to remind them that internal joy / wellbeing of doing for others is the first place to start to then connect with others.

  44. Jennifer Dietrich says:

    I like this approach, particularly the secret.
    I often suggest that the person consider doing at least one activity a day that they enjoy, starting very small. The idea being to connect with lost pleasure, to be in the moment and having a sense of achievement at the end of the day.

    • Marleen W says:

      Hi Jenni. AcT appears to be very recent. Personally, I find it challenging to give myself into the arena of life and risk disappointment. This theorically could make a lot of sense as how it could bring a great sense of achieving, once successful…

  45. Love it! Steven Hayes is great as is ACT. Thank you for sharing this video.

  46. Marina says:

    As usual just a great recourse to approach self-critical patients!

    It makes us much healthier and happier when we just give and share to simply enjoy doing it.

  47. Laurie Anderson says:

    I have various clients with whom I plan to offer this concept. I am a playful person in session anyway, so this also fits my personal and professional values a well! Looking forward to seeing how each person responds to this opportunity to experiment with this concept.

  48. Bonny Michel says:

    Well, if a patient is suffering anxiety and depression, a creative experience like a short body awareness meditation to then lead into a drawing of a colored mandala might help the patient to let go a little of what it is that keeps the patient “stuck” sharing
    without blame.

  49. Cyd Malouf says:

    I am very grateful for the gentle Kind orientation of Stephen’s therapy! When there is already anxiety and depression this resonates very powerfully.

  50. Judy says:

    Love the value wheel and the finding of the positive in a gentle way
    so often dysfunction is the focus and i would like to suggest that this can destroy the soul
    Thank you for kindness to self

  51. June Traibman says:

    I have been a therapist for about 40 years and feel I can be a good judge of what is good in the field. I think what Steven just summed up was great and so true. Right now I am thinking of my own journey in the last year of going from health and energy to. Not. Having health and energy. Figuring out the ensuing anxiety and depression elements have so much to do with both the cause and the cures as described by Steven has been part of the journey. June Traibman

  52. debra Dunbar says:

    I am a preschool teacher and what is important for birth through age six is sensory motor play. Many young children are not being allowed to start and finish heir sensory motor exploration and what I’m finding is that anxiety is starting at age 2-3 because as they are digging or pouring or playing in a tactile sensory way, an adult is interrupting their process and removing them from what they are trying to figure out. This interruption creates anxiety. This anxiety seems to build up over time and is compounded to the point where they develop anxiety attacks as young as age 5. The therapist saying adults putting pressure on children to “be good” really resonates. Adult expectations of behavior is where all of this stems from. I think having adults play with sensory tools such as playdough and cornstarch/water, therapy putty…etc may help get them back to where their troubles began. Getting messy and gooey could help

    • Wendy says:

      As adults, we may have moved from unfinished business and become stucked in some new one, as in a wheel in the process. I love the play value and the time given. Thx.

    • Heather says:

      Gosh. Your insight here is spot on. I work in Further Education as an Inclusion and Support Specialist and have seen the rise and rise in anxiety related issues over the last few years and it has totally changed the way I work.

  53. Gabriel says:

    Thanks very much. Enlightening, inspiring — and very practical.

  54. Marie Claire says:

    What I like is the “make a new thing each day and kind thing according to your values” . It’s like paying attention to the small thing different and kind towards oneself or other, and the orientation towards ones’ own gratification or warmth/ relaxation. Thank you for sharing the video!

  55. Using a playful approach is the best way I have found to work with all kinds of clients. In fact being a trained play therapist has created the most meaningful change in the work I have done with adults (as well as children) and I find it is even MORE powerful for adults and couples than it is with kids because they immediately access their unconscious in a gentle way without the talking getting in the way. Thus, I get them out of their mind and into their body/unconscious wisdom. I love Steven’s idea! Thanks

    • debra Dunbar says:

      Play therapy!!!!! Yes!!!!! Play is being taken away from young children…kindergarteners are not being allowed to play. May I ask where you obtained your play therapy education?

  56. wow I really love this. Such a soft compassionate approach which is not hard work.

  57. Perri says:

    I agree about the focus on kindness to self. So important and paying attention to that daily really sharpens the skill and creates habit. I have an ongoing resolution to practice kindness to others.
    How odd that I didn’t think to add myself to that, but I will thanks to you.

  58. E.Katherine Eberhard, LCSW says:

    Thank you for this great reminder of how we have other stories about ourselves, other than the one that focuses on not being good enough. When I ask clients, “how did you do that” new thing and “what does that say about you”, the other story of who they are emerges as equally real.

  59. Carol says:

    I work with many people who are chronically disabled due to either just their mental illness or a combination including their mental illness, and the lack of purpose and identity and “giving back” that isn’t there through a job can feel quite empty and exacerbate depression and feeling alienated from others. I think this technique can be really helpful for those clients especially.

  60. Mary says:

    Thank you for this more gentle approach. Many anxious or depressed individuals need a kind way to begin to change their relationship with themselves

    • Wendy says:

      This is so true … sadly said.

  61. Audrey says:

    Beautifully thoughtful and sensitive approach.

  62. Linnea Haun says:

    I’m a counseling intern and am loving this video! Thank
    You for sharing this fabulous idea! I have a client
    I will use this with next week , thanks again!
    Linnea

  63. Anne Harkin says:

    Thank you it has reminded me of the value of kindness and giving. Better to give than receive and blessing will follow. It has motivated me to learn more about applying ACT in my work with people with a long term disability.

  64. Rosalyn P Syp says:

    This approach might help bring a sense of purpose to those who have lost a sense of meaning in their lives. I like that it does not focus on having to be approved or disapproved by others (judgment) but on what the patient finds meaningful and gives them joy. I have patients I will try this approach with.

  65. Georgia says:

    Love ACT and Dr. Hayes. It’s 90% of my work. This is a terrific assignment!! Thank you!!

  66. nazeer sultan says:

    So many of us who are labelled ‘well&healthy’ can benefit from this intervention.It can really promote a loving way to embrace this world with its many challenges.I am trying this for the next 30 days as a new ritual…N-j0y…nAz

  67. Collette Barr says:

    exquisite!

  68. Renata Hadis says:

    I have a client in her late 60′ she reviews her life constantly and feels that she fails to others and herself, she does not enjoy thinks that she used to, I use humor to show her that she is seeing the half glass empty. We talk about doing activities that give her pleasure, I am going to introduce to her the idea of doing things for others even if the others don’t know that she did it. I am not going to asker to do this everyday, I think that will be to much but I will introduce it gradually. Thank you for sharing this technique

  69. Awesome intervention! Thank you for this loving, joyous idea and video. Only watching dr.Hayes put smile on my face and in my heart.

  70. Ronda says:

    Appreciated the simplicity and inherent joy of this intervention. Thank you!

  71. Viola says:

    I have always told my clients Service is the magic dust! And if you want to elevate that magic, do it anonymously. It has been powerfully effective every time.

  72. Irene Marie Erckert says:

    great video. I do use the idea of do one thing a day that brings meaning to you with my anxious /depressed patients and it helps them to be more in present. I will also try the secret act of kindness this sounds like a good idea

  73. Laila Al-Attar says:

    This was a very interesting video to watch. Since I started studying psychotherapy, I have been amazed at how much the teachings of Islam focused on building a sound psychological state of mind providing us with daily, yearly and voluntary practices that tend to our emotional needs without us even realizing it. When I watched this video I finally understood a verse in chapter two that I had read so many times before, talking about doing good, where it specifies that giving openly is good, but giving in secret is good for the person doing so. The linguistic accuracy is what amazes me most . I am grateful for this video, here is a translation of the verse:

    If you disclose your charitable expenditures, they are good; but if you conceal them and give them to the poor, it is better for you, and He will remove from you some of your misdeeds [thereby]. And Allah, with what you do, is [fully] Acquainted.
    Surat Al-Baqara (2:271)

  74. Maryka Bhattacharyya says:

    Thank you so much for this video. I am struggling myself right now, and the soft approach is resonating with me. Taking the focus off of myself.

  75. Dahna Berkson says:

    I like this, circumvent the judgement by committing new and kind acts as a secret…
    I like the playful quality. Thank you Steven!

  76. Barbara Bolas PhD, LP. Psychoanalyst, NYC says:

    I love the idea of it being a secret kindness. I would start there.

  77. Linda says:

    I am thinking of 2 clients immediately in which this approach might work. Both stuck in their negative self judgment. One having difficulty returning to outside work and the other stuck in constant negative mind reading of the intentions of her loved ones. I think creatively using the idea of secret kindness might pull both of them out of the mind game they play in themselves that keep them so stuck. Thank you

  78. Karin Berman says:

    Thank you dr. Hayes for sharing this perpsective and point of entry into accessing inner resources during paralyzingly depression; it is so powerful in that it gave the client something kind and concrete to do on her terms according to what mattered most to her. I especially like the idea if doing it ‘secretly’ and I am adding these ideas to my toolbox for sure!

  79. Mary Logan says:

    Thank you Ruth and Dr. Hayes ~ I am so thankful for your videos and belonging to this amazing group of professionals. This video reminded me to take care of myself! Your teachings, Ruth, through your outstanding experts, helps me take better care of myself while learning techniques to pass on to my clients. Thank you for all you do!

  80. Dee says:

    Awesome strategy! Simple and direct. I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression myself and these are ideas I can use on myself as well as my clients. Thank you very much. I love all your short videos.

  81. Sukie says:

    I’m sharing this with my colleagues and people that I love. Simple can be so effective because it doable. Thank you!

  82. Angela Stewart says:

    I can do this.

  83. When I was a young depresses college student, a priest inspired me to do this back in the sixties! It has always been a way for me to live a joyful life!
    Through teaching the Medicine Wheel, I include values that include respect, caring, and sharing so I can provide the one element you discussed and that is to do a kind act that does not claim an owner or a doer but the reward is in the autonomous act…..as once said, “The quality of mercy is twice blessed, it blesses those that give and those that get.”… from the Merchant of Venice.

  84. Bonnie Nelson says:

    I love to make the patients I work on for only a few minutes feel better by staying positive and showing empathy. But I have been basically physically unable to work in this area of my career because of back issues, so I’ve been told if you can’t do this part of your job, we can’t accommodate you. I felt worthless and after serving this health care organization for 17 years, this is what I mean to them, so yes depression and anxiety over this is justified, but doctoring and medication is really helping. I loved what this Dr. suggested regarding doing something different everyday to parallel the values I have to strengthen them and this has been so helpful, many thanks and I have gratitude for you.

  85. Sarah Gregory says:

    A lovely, caring approach that i shall most desirable use in my work.

  86. Linda Doyle says:

    Wonderful ideas suggested.

  87. Marcy says:

    Wonderful ideas. I teach singing. Aspiring professionals trip themselves up with pleasing the public. And passing the auditions or getting the perfect recording. Re-examining the learning process , focusing on finding the joy of giving, thinking of singing as creating a gift, moment to moment for the joy of being in the moment of the tune and the lyric, connecting music making to personal values, really helps the students feel better about themselves… and ultimately produce better results without focusing on the result.
    Thank you

  88. Joanne Messier says:

    I am going to give my client as homework the assignment of doing one new thing everyday and one kind thing everyday (in secret). I believe that this will enable my client to redirect her energy off herself and on to other people. It has been my experience that when you serve others you often find yourself,

  89. Wonderful approach for someone who’s depressed and stuck in her head (as depressed people often are). Doing kind things for others–with or without acknowledgement–helps to get us out of our heads and into the world. Even the smallest acts of kindness, towards ourselves as well, fosters self-care and self-compassion. During my depression, I smiled at myself in the mirror each morning, feeling stupid doing so, but doing it anyway. Smiling, along with other acts of kindness, helps create a paradigm shift in our brains that activate feel-good hormones (I didn’t know this at the time I was doing the smiling routine, but learned of it much later). Great example, Steven. Thanks!

  90. Sandra says:

    Very timely for me as I reassess where a long term client and I are heading in the next few sessions as we move towards closure.. THANKS for this.

  91. CarolJean says:

    Very compassionate approach. Loved the idea of being kind, even to the person looking back in the mirror.

  92. Susan Pratten says:

    A value wheel sounds very helpful. I agree most people are unclear about values.

  93. June Esser says:

    Self care…..So key

  94. hannah-leigh bull says:

    Beautiful picture of how people find joy and meaning in being kind. Thank you!

    In my work I emphasize choosing in the moment to be loving and kind, whether to a client’s own self or to others. This is the priority work before specific modalities to address trauma, addictive and compulsive behavior, and specific presenting challenges. This shift has been gradual over my professional commitments. Before becoming a marriage and family therapist, I studied and taught Intercultural Communication at a small graduate institute for a number of years, lived abroad, devoted myself to other cultures, was a translator. Though cultural differences are fascinating, we share a commonality as homo sapiens sapiens where the simple acts of kindness and thoughtfulness are the most direct in terms of connection and communication. Loving kindness is my top “intervention”!

    Interestingly, I have seen an increase in the number of people who come into therapy specifically stating they want to learn to be more kind.

  95. William says:

    I do things for the applause of others and what’s important to them.
    It’s an easy advice to give, to do what you value.
    How do you figure our “your” (healthy?) values when you only value applause and avoiding the judgements of others? I don’t see a Values category on the site. :-(

    • Laurie says:

      I understand what you’re saying, as I’m someone who needs validation from others. Without validation from others, I feel a sense of worthlessness. I will still try this technique in the hope that I can learn to self-validate.

  96. Jesper says:

    Thanks for this exercise and even more valuable for me, thanks for this perspective. For me it really values the autonomy and kindness of each individual. I will look forward doing this exercise though knowing it will bring a lot of tears from the unseen goodness in me. Thanks again

  97. Elizabeth says:

    This is a great and doable idea that I will use with my clients who feel paralyzed by depression. It seems too and gender a secret but potent joy for the client.

  98. Wendy Tuck says:

    I have a client excessively focused on the needs of others, but she can’t recognize her needs- her feeling needy triggers a lot of fears that asking for help makes her at risk for rape. How can I get her to feel her needs and retrain her orientation outward- to others so exclusuvely

  99. Honey Hofmann says:

    I am going to use this for MYSELF !! I retired from a busy clinical practice three years ago, work I truly enjoyed and valued. I do not get the same sense of satisfaction and energy from my volunteer work , it seems. I have had now two episodes of mild/moderate depression, a new and very uncomfortable experience for me! This gentle intervention will be helpful, and bypass the judgment that so easily slips in. Thank you.

  100. Patricia says:

    Thank you. That indirect approach appeals to me and motivates me to learn more about ACT.

    • Lorelei says:

      This is something new to me too and it surely catches my attention.

  101. Joerg Albers says:

    The essential instruction might be ” One secret activity a day rewarding your inner child, free flowing and freed from judging and evaluating” ?

  102. Suzanne Lamarre says:

    That’s a good idea! It makes a lot of sense! Thanks for sharing!

  103. Cindy Bell says:

    I like what Steven has to say. Personal experience. I had the lead in a play which involved about 5 pages at the beginning of almost exclusive monologue. For the rest of the play, I had many scenes but I did not have to carry the scene alone. Every time I went to rehearsal and had to do the monologues, I felt a sense of total panic. It took me a while but I remembered the way my director talked about what this scene meant for the audience and was able to shift from a “will I do this right?” And “will they like me?” to “I am the conveyor of this lovely gift from the playwright.” And lo and behold, the panic went away. It was no longer about me. And I could feel joy in the process, pride in my work, and no longer be hung up in worry about being criticized or evaluated.

    • Lorelei says:

      This is wow! I understand how this may feel like to be the “conveyor”in this important role to you.

    • Chris says:

      Thanks for this! “I am the conveyor of this lovely gift,” what a wonderful way to shift our perspective on any of the work that we do!

  104. Judith Carlisle says:

    I do alot of work with values in terms of self actualization, vitality, and feeling connected and proud for depression, addiction, trauma exposure most therapeutic challenges. I have created a value wheel and I have clients list after looking a some various value charts, what they value. Then I have them describe an influential person in their lives growing up. Sometimes someone will say they had none so I encourage them to look at neighbors, other peoples parents, tv characters etc. Once they list the values of this person and combine it with their list they are able to see the values they embrace, sometimes coming from not wanted to resemble a negative person of influence. This gives such a true sense of self, away from the sometimes shaming labels of diagnosis, illness, learning disability, work challenges etc.. Throughout our journey we look at scales of -2 to 11 of where they are with each value, how they can get to where they want to be, and challenges to maintaining progress. The exposure created by this often leads to such fulfillment and vitality, and self assurance. I have found that talking about values is difficult unless a client really understands what they are and what they embrace without comparing to what they think they should and in a safe environment free of judgement of whatever they discover.

    • Judith Carlisle says:

      Hi Everyone. I will try to find a way to share the value wheel I use (technically challenged). It really is a pie chart with 8 to 15 slices and two inner circles. In the top narrow circle the client places the value they have discovered through the process outlined above. (always interesting that the first question about what values do you THINK you have, overlaps with some of those positive or opposite of those negative valiues of the influential person they chose. I use influential rather than role model for this reason.) In the first segment of the circle in that slice of the pie goes where they are at now 1-10 or some variation, and the second inner segment is where they would like to be (10’s not allowed!). Then the work is what they need to do to get there and what are the challenges to achieving and maintaining that goal. Do this again down the road and it is amazing to see the change in numbers! Then the questions around what worked best, what is still challenging, new interventions… It is endless how this is. I sometimes have them write the values on a wallet card or paint them on a rock: ‘Who I am” to hold or look at when they are telling themselves they are some certain outward label. One client came to me and when I said tell me about yourself she said “I am an unemployed, gay, opiate addict who didn’t finish college. To this I repeated ok but I asked you to tell me about yourself :). She came a long way through this process. Hope that help!

      • Marie says:

        Wow! Nice. I can relate.

    • Ann Hubbard says:

      Please would you send me a copy of your value wheel that sounds a brilliant method of working and I believe it might be very helpful in the future

      • Judith Carlisle says:

        I put a description above!

    • Martha says:

      I also would like to learn more about your value wheel! Identifying truly personal values are difficult as I learned that a value isn’t “real” unless one really “lived” it out, in others words showing how that value shows up on one’s life.

      Then doing the one new and one kind thing secretly can also build up the embodiment of chosen values, one step at a time.

      Thank you. And a big thank you to Steve and Ruth for this wonderfully simple and powerful teaching.

      • Judith Carlisle says:

        I put a description above!

    • Wendy says:

      This sounds wonderfully healing. Thank you for sharing it, Judith.

      • Judith Carlisle says:

        Thank you! I put a description above

    • Patricia says:

      Judith, I like your idea of a value wheel and would love to know about it.

      • Judith Carlisle says:

        Thanks ! I put a description above.

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