When a client is triggered, it can often set off a cycle of reactivity that makes them feel anxious, angry, or out of control.
But how do we help a client who might not even realize they’re being triggered in the first place?
In the video below, Zindel Segal, PhD, shares a two-step approach for helping clients identify their triggers so they can regain control of their response.
Check it out – it’s about 5 minutes.
In the provision of detail, it’s very similar to what you’re doing with the thought record as well. You’re getting people to write down the events, “Tell me what happened,” and then you’re getting people inside the event to talk about, “Well what were you aware of in your body? Did you notice that you were gripping the steering wheel more strongly, did you notice that you had a surge of blood flow and your temples were throbbing because there was a lot of blood rushing to your head? What emotions were present, what thoughts were going through your mind?” Interestingly, as a therapist, you’re not saying, “You’ve really got to change this, you got to stop this and cut this down.” So, the triggering initially becomes something that is investigated, and the mindfulness skills really allow people to do this because what they’re doing during their home practice is really very continuous with what you’re asking them to do here. Then, once you have that, then you can start to move inside and look at which particular ideas or thoughts people are able to recognize that precede the reaction that they’re having. But the point of looking at triggers isn’t to necessarily get rid of them, it’s to provide the person with the prospect that there can be more elements of choice available to them than is the case with this reactivity. The other thing that I would add is that the concept of automaticity is very important here because the whole constellation of triggers is something that is automatically packaged and automatically elicited. People may not recognize that automaticity plays a very large role here. Automatic can service in some places but automatic can also become a problem if it starts to drive too much of our emotional lives because then, we’re not really choosing, but we’re just being triggered or we’re just being led to a reaction that is already there waiting to happen. So, what that does is it cuts down our ability to choose.
Dr. Buczynski: As Zindel said, when we’re working with clients’ emotional triggers, it’s important to help them realize that they can take control of how they respond. But right now, I’d like to hear from you; how will you use what you’ve just heard with your clients today? Please leave a comment below, and I’ll see you tomorrow.
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