People often associate psychology and psychological treatment with mental health issues, someone feeling unwell, “crazy people” and in particular with problems like depression and anxiety. However, this is not all there is to psychology.
Yes, as psychologists we do want to help relief our clients suffering as best as we can, but most psychologists and specifically we at Zest Infusion, want so much more for our clients.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health like this:
Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
Minimizing or eliminating suffering is not mentioned in this quote at all. This definition is all about growth, connecting, coping with life stresses and still rising to the challenge of reaching one’s own potential.
Because this is what we at Zest Infusion believe in and want to achieve with our clients we are working from very specific psychological approaches that focus on more than ‘feeling a bit better’. The therapeutic approaches we mainly use to help clients realize their potential are Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Mindfulness Meditation and strategies from Positive Psychology.
Let me introduce you in a bit more detail to these therapeutic approaches:
ACCEPTANCE AND COMMITMENT THERAPY (ACT) AND MINDFULNESS
Psychologists using ACT and Mindfulness strategies work from the believe, that some form of stress and suffering in life is unavoidable. That’s just how life is. So there really is no need to practice strategies to get rid of stress or discomfort, or to try and feel better about the stress or discomfort you are feeling.
ACT and Mindfulness rather focus on strategies to help people manage stress and discomfort, so that they can focus on living their life in line with their values, rather than avoiding unpleasant experiences. Let me give you an example about this.
Imagine you are getting married. You have been waiting for this day for a very long time and now it is finally here, but guess what! Instead of a nice blue sky, as you might have imagined, you wake up to rain clouds. Now, there isn’t much you can do about the weather, but most likely your mind would start a conversation that would be all about, how awful this weather is, it would ponder what you could possibly do to change the weather, or the impact of the weather on your wedding etc. So in summary your mind would very likely also be clouded just like the sky, only that your clouds would be present in the form of a lot of negative thoughts. And while your mind is clouded by negativity, you would very likely be missing out on enjoying that special day you have been waiting for, for a very long time.
ACT and Mindfulness approaches would not try to convince you to start liking the clouds and finding the good in the rain or having happy thoughts. What ACT and Mindfulness approaches would challenge you to do is, to accept the weather as it is, not because you like it, but because there is nothing you can do about it anyway. ACT and Mindfulness would then also challenge you to remember why this day is so meaningful for you in the first place and refocus your attention on these values and away from the weather so that you can connect with the love you are feeling for the person you are about to marry, rather than the anger or disappointment the rain has brought along. These feelings might still be in the background but they are no longer running the show.
Positive Psychology is also a psychological approach, that focuses on growth and well-being rather than reduction of suffering. Research in positive psychology looks at what makes people thrive and accomplish despite the challenges they face in life.
Here are some strategies that positive psychology research has identified as beneficial to achieve psychological well-being:
- Shifting one’s focus and attention to enhance pleasure in life by e.g. sharing things with others.
- Actively engaging in meaningful activities and nurturing relationships
- Finding meaning in life and making space for values based activities.
So ACT and Mindfulness as well as Positive Psychology approaches challenge you to cope and manage the negative aspects of your experience in order to shift your focus to what is really important. This makes these therapeutic approaches line up well with the WHO definition of mental health and what we believe in at Zest Infusion.
Learning to shift one’s focus to what is important is also what we at Zest Infusion want for our clients to achieve so they can fill their life with what is meaningful to them and in this way increase their sense of vitality. We want for our clients to learn strategies they can use outside the psychology consulting room to become more resilient and flexible in order to deal with life stresses and live the life they want to live.
Hayes, S. C., Strohsal, K. and Wilson, K. G. (1999). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. An Experiential Approach to Behavior Change. Guilford Press.
The Black Dog Institute – Fact Sheet: Positive Psychology, http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/docs/Positivepsychology.pdf, retrived on 04/11/2015
World Health Organization – definition of mental health http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/mental_health/en/ , retrieved on 03/11/2015
Share this Post