Performance levels can increase with the use of a positive mindset as it facilitates direction and focus. The relationship between mental preparation and positive psychology becomes important and there is evidence of its use in business, education and sport.
It should, therefore, come as no surprise that the use of positive psychology should form part of teacher training and induction programmes. Given the contention that psychology plays an integral role within teaching, it would be purposeful to argue of its merit for teachers in classroom settings.
One key concept that resonates closely with teaching is emotion and its impact during the academic year. Teachers invariably elicit a range of emotions that have the potential to impact students and colleagues.
Therefore, teachers need to understand the complexity of emotions and regulate these accordingly. Effective emotional regulation could lead to more effective and facilitated performance levels. The regulation of emotion can be understood through the theory of emotional intelligence (Goleman, 2004; Mayer & Savoley, 1990).
In examining the nature of emotional intelligence and its importance within teaching, this chapter advocates its value for teachers. Through the use of grounded theory, teachers will be supported to facilitate strategies to enhance and increase emotional intelligence levels for themselves to be used within their professional practice. This chapter will be split into the following sections:
Outline the definition and conceptual space of emotional intelligence
Identify research avenues that promote the efficacy of emotional intelligence
Facilitate the purpose of emotional intelligence in teaching with the use of the Daniel Goleman (2004) model
Definition of emotional intelligence and conceptual space
Emotional intelligence has been defined as ‘the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotion, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions’ (Salovey & Mayer, 1990, p. 189). A closer inspection of this definition clearly aligns to the work of a teacher.
For example, teachers will be in constant dialogue with their emotions in both favourable and unfavourable situations. A favourable situation may surmount to success during a teaching observation. An unfavourable situation may surmount to an inability to cope with stress and pressures of time management. Based on these situations teachers should be in a position to understand their own feelings and emotions these have on students and colleagues.
The framework of emotional intelligence provides opportunities for teachers to engineer their own thinking and support students and colleagues that they work alongside. It has been outlined by Mayer & Salovey (1990) that people who exhibit higher levels of emotional intelligence are more likely to control their emotions and regulate these appropriately in order to support others.
It is postulated that teachers who are in control of their own emotions will demonstrate positive body language and display effective verbal expressions. Therefore, it is proposed that teachers should employ emotional intelligence to identify their own feelings and that of students and colleagues in accordance with the situation. In consideration of this suggestion, it would be purposeful to evidence previous research that has utilised emotional intelligence in different fields.
Identify research that promotes the efficacy of emotional intelligence in different fields
Extensive research has been carried out on emotional intelligence within the last 30 years (Goleman, 2004; Petrides, Furnham, & Frederickson, 2004; Salovey & Mayer, 1990).
The effectiveness of emotional intelligence has been largely evidenced through meta-analysis research carried out by (Van Rooy & Viswesvaran, 2004). Based on the meta-analysis results it would be prudent to examine how emotional intelligence can influence teachers with evidence from other sectors.
The business sector can demonstrate possible relationships that co-exist within teaching. One would expect teachers and business leaders to lead with a clear philosophy, demonstrate competency and control.
Further, both the business and education sectors share common goals that demand results and success. Arguably, one could resonate that business leaders and teachers who think ahead and act on impulse are likely to direct performers to change strategy and action plans.
Research by Freedman (2010) highlights that leaders with higher levels of emotional intelligence are more likely to achieve greater sales, productivity, profitability, and customer loyalty. In substantiating this evidence further, Freedman (2010) highlights a number of research explorations related to business that identify how awareness, self-management of emotions, motivation, empathy and social skills contribute to greater effectiveness in business.
Arguably, aspects highlighted in the research by Freedman (2010) give credence to their utility and purpose within teaching. Recently, Turner and Baker (2014) have also outlined how sports psychology can support the business sector to utilize transferable skills to increase performance levels.
The education sector is another area that resonates closely to emotional intelligence and teaching. For example, one key characteristic for educators and teaching relates to guidance and support to foster learner development and progress in delivering success.
To supplement this further, practitioners within education deliver excellence to their students to provide a pathway for future success with facilitated learning. A key determinant within education and teaching is motivation, which compromises both intrinsic and extrinsic values.
To supplement the facilitative nature of motivation it is suggestive that practitioners utilize a mixture of strategies. Arguably, teachers require an inner self-drive to enthuse those that they are providing opportunities to succeed. The demonstration of communication is also important to teaching.
Within teaching, it is suggested that coaches regulate their emotions by employing strategies to remain in control during intense situations. A closer examination of emotional intelligence, therefore, is suggestive that teaching demonstrates alignment with emotional regulation. In making this assumption it would be ideal to propose the impact of emotional intelligence and teaching efficacy.
One could argue that there is a close alignment between emotional intelligence and teaching characteristics including game strategy, technique and character development. Research evidence of Thelwell et al. (2006) has considered the relationship between emotional intelligence and coaching efficacy to determine coaching relationships.
Thewell et al. (2006) identified the characteristics of coaching efficacy aligned closely with emotional intelligence. The key emphasis of the research outlined that coaches whose levels of emotional intelligence were high were likely to support performers more effectively.
The evidence presented above demonstrates co-existence and effectiveness of emotional intelligence within the business, education and sports sectors. In consideration of this, it has become pertinent to assess the potential relationship between emotional intelligence and teaching to enable opportunities to apply transferable skills within the applied practice.
In consideration of this, the purpose of the next section is to apply emotional intelligence to teaching. It is proposed that emotional intelligence will allow teachers opportunities to increase the self-awareness of practices. Through self-awareness, a teacher could self-regulate their emotions and support students with motivation.
Further, it is proposed that building empathy and addressing relationship management skills would facilitate effective teaching practices.
Propose the Daniel Goleman (2004) model of emotional intelligence and associate its link to teaching
The Daniel Goleman (2004) model of emotional intelligence contains five aspects that align closely with teaching practices. Given the flexibility of this model, it provides opportunities for teachers to employ it through an interchangeable process.
Therefore, an explanation of each aspect of the model and its influence to improve performance levels will be provided. To utilize this influence an emphasis on promoting the use of activities that could help increase emotional intelligence will be offered.
One of the central tenants of the Goleman (2004) model is self-awareness, which is defined as ‘the ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions, and drives, as well as their effect on others,’ (Goleman, 2004, p. 88). Self-awareness is an integral process as it provides a platform from which a core basis of the emotional intelligence paradigm is built.
Arguably, to demonstrate and facilitate high-quality teaching one could postulate teachers acquire increased levels of self-awareness. Teachers who exhibit high levels of self-awareness better understand their own emotions and regulate these accordingly.
Further, teachers that exhibit increased levels of self-awareness are more likely to assess and evaluate their own sessions and employ self-reflection. Therefore, teachers who are self-aware of their ability to communicate during lessons are most likely to engineer appropriate responses from students. Indeed, teachers who increase their own self-awareness levels are most likely to help facilitate and guide students and colleagues to increase attainment levels.
The process of increasing self-awareness could be formed from facilitative techniques and strategies. In raising self-awareness levels we are educating young and upcoming teachers and those who have been in the profession for a long time the art of understanding their own behaviour and to regulate emotive patterns.
Given the important context of self-awareness and its relationship with effective performance, it is proposed that teachers utilise the process of identification. Through the process of identification, it is hoped that teachers build their own levels of self-awareness.
One example of raising self-awareness is through the process of identifying emotions and their impact during successful and unsuccessful situations within classroom practice, as demonstrated by the worksheet below.
Worksheet 1: Positive and Negative Cycle
It is recommended that teachers focus on thought processes, body language and expressions displayed to outline their emotions during positive and negative cycles. Teachers should compare and contrast various emotions to increase self-awareness levels.
To facilitate levels of self-awareness, it is recommended that teachers implement the use of reflective practice (Knowles, 2007). Reflective practice is pertinent for teaching as it enables an opportunity to identify own strengths and areas to improve.
In application, it is proposed that once emotions have been identified and a period of reflection takes place, opportunities emerge for teachers to implement strategies to facilitate applied practice. Through the use of positive and negative cycles, it is further recommended that teachers utilize the practice of assessing their emotions on a consistent basis.
2) Self-Management of Emotions
The second aspect of the Goleman (2004) model is the self-management of emotions, which is defined as ‘the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods; the tendency to suspend judgment to think before acting’ (Goleman, 2004, p. 88).
Managing own emotion(s) is important because it offers a sense of control and the ability to think logically. Further, managing own emotions enable teachers to facilitate directive actions. Given the varied role of teachers, it is unsurprising that they will exhibit a continuum of emotions from the students they teach.
Therefore, teachers should employ strategies to facilitate and self-manage emotion. Research by Thelwell et al. (2006) identified that effective coaches arguably are those that can regulate their own emotions. In other words, coaches who fail to regulate their own emotions will not be successful in controlling those of their players.
Good coaches are more likely to be in control of their emotions and regulate these during appropriate situations on a consistent basis. There is indeed an opportunity to assess how this research can apply to teaching practices. Good teachers that have control of the situation are more likely to deal with issues with effective self-awareness. This can apply to all teachers irrespective of experience.
To self-manage emotions, the worksheet below is designed to allow opportunities for teachers to facilitate their own emotions. It is proposed that teachers facilitate opportunities to identify both positive and negative emotions within their own professional practice.
The self-management process worksheet is designed for teachers to examine and assess reaction to both positive and negative emotion outcomes. It is hoped that teachers can through identified interpretation and raised self-awareness regulate and self-manage emotions within a reflective process.
Within the professional practice, teachers are sometimes asked about the distance their students have travelled. This worksheet should actually support teachers to realise the distance they have travelled when managing their emotions during negative and positive situations.
Worksheet 2: The Self-Management Process
The third aspect of the Goleman (2004) model relates to empathy, which is having the ability to understand students and work colleagues and their needs but also finding the balance with own requirements. Therefore, a teacher who demonstrates empathy with their students or colleagues would understand needs and emotions more effectively.
Empathy is an important aspect and teachers should look at facilitating as many opportunities to support students. Through the use of empathy, it would be useful for students to know that peers are responsive to their needs and requirements. Building empathy in teaching is important because teachers with higher empathy levels are able to better understand players.
Benefits of empathy
Opportunities to increase empathy levels
1) A better understanding of colleagues and students
1) Peer observation with fellow teachers
2) Demonstrates opportunities to support other colleagues
2) Video/visual recording of oneself and other teachers
3) Allows the implementation of strategies at an early intervention stage
3) Maintain a reflective log or journal to write down how you deal with situations
4) Associates with the ability to assess body language
4) Use mirror images – to see yourself in reflection so you can ask questions of your body language, expression or emotions
5) Associates with the ability to assess expressions
5) Have regular scenario building meetings to examine empathy levels
6) Associates with the ability to assess emotions
6) Associate with practitioners from different backgrounds and teaching specialisms to increase transferable skills
The worksheet on empathy is designed for teachers to better understand their working practices. In proposal, it is suggestive that teachers identify peers that they work with and assess how they relate to working under pressure.
To facilitate this activity, it is proposed that teachers identify two colleagues (present or from previous experience) and assesses their empathy levels and emotion when working under pressure.
Having considered this process, teachers should seek to understand their behaviour and how they would react to similar situations. This approach provides opportunities for teachers to examine their own levels of empathy in given situations.
Worksheet 3: Empathy
Individual 1 (Positive Teacher)
(Working under pressure)
Individual 2 (Negative Teacher)
(Working under pressure)
(Working under pressure)
The fourth aspect of the Goleman (2004) model is motivation, which is defined as the inner self-drive to achieve goals. Teachers should be in control of their motivation to engineer motivational responses from students. A popular strategy employed in education is the use of goal setting.
It has been demonstrated that when goal setting is employed effectively it increases motivational qualities (Locke & Latham, 1990). To make sure that goal setting is applied and effective it is highly recommended that teachers employ goal setting that includes process and performance goals.
Goal setting provides opportunities for teachers to direct focus to increase motivational properties of their own working practices and students. Given the value of goal setting, it is proposed that it should be employed by teachers to enhance emotional intelligence and motivation.
To provide opportunities to increase motivation levels the goal setting matrix has been designed to support teachers. The goal-setting matrix enables teachers to design purposeful interventions to enhance performance levels.
To elicit short-term gains, it is proposed that teachers utilize the matrix on a three-week period. This short period will allow teachers opportunities to provide individual feedback. It is recommended that teachers introduce mental, technical, physical and nutritional goals to facilitate performance levels.
Further, this matrix will enable teachers to focus on integral aspects relative to performance levels.
Worksheet 4: Goal Setting
5) Relationship Management
The final aspect of the Goleman (2004) model is relationship management, which is the consequence of developing skills and strategies in managing others. Good relationships allow an opportunity for effective team unity and group cohesion.
Arguably, effective group cohesion increases the likelihood of success. Developing effective relationships with peers and students is important as they can exhibit an array of different personality traits.
The management of relationships is important given the varied role of teachers that resonate from continuous professional development, teaching and learning, assessment and report writing.
The following strategies are recommended for teachers to implement within their professional practice to facilitate relationship management:
Setting ground rules that inform students of roles and responsibilities
Develop teaching practices that enable students to combine and build group dynamics through lessons and tutorials
Incorporate methods into tutorials to support students in developing task and social cohesion
Process avenues that foster intrinsic and extrinsic motivation
The Relationship Management Model
Teachers should consider the model above to demonstrate the importance of effective relationship management. Effective relationship management skills should enable teachers to coerce students to engineer associated group cohesion. Therefore, teachers should be implicit in developing practices that form effective group cohesion.
Building effective group cohesion enables teams to impact performance levels more effectively than those who have ineffective group practices. It is recommended that teachers should also implement the following strategies:
Foster effective relationships through engagement and reflective practice to enable teachers and students to develop self-awareness.
Implement varied training methods to encourage students to facilitate problem-solving skills.
Teachers are encouraged to implement transferable skills from other educational domains to elicit different behaviours but also allow engagement within own practices.
Allow opportunities for students to engage with performance and social related activities to develop effective group building exercises to increase cohesion levels.
The main emphasis of this chapter was to highlight the benefit of sports psychology and in particular emotional intelligence within teaching. Through enhancing, levels of self-awareness teachers should be in a position to make applied practice more effective.
In addition, teachers who increase their own self-awareness levels will facilitate effective self-regulation and emotional control. Enhanced levels of emotional intelligence would also enable the formation of increased motivation and regulated empathy.
The rubric of emotional intelligence also allows teachers to develop effective relationship management to increase group dynamics. In summary, the evidence clearly stipulates the benefits of increased emotional intelligence to enhance performance levels.
Goleman, D. (2004). What Makes a Leader? Harvard Business Review, 82(1), 82-91.
Knowles, Z., Gilbourne, D., & Tomlinson, V. (2007). Reflections on the application of reflective practice for supervision in applied sport psychology. SPORT PSYCHOL, 21(1), 109-122.
Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (1990). A theory of goal setting and task performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:Prentice-Hall.
Petrides, K. V., Furnham, A., & Frederickson, N. (2004). Emotional intelligence. The Psychologist, 17, 574-577.
Salovey, P. & Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 9, 185-211.
Thelwell, R., Lane, A. M., Weston, N. J. V., & Greenlees, I. A. (2008). Examining relationships between emotional intelligence and coaching efficacy. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 6, 224-235. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1612197X.2008.9671863
Turner, M., & Baker, J. (2014) What Business Can Learn from Sport Psychology: Ten Lessons for Peak Professional Performance. Amazon.
Van Rooy, D., & Viswesvaran, C. (2004). Emotional intelligence: A meta-analytic investigation of predictive validity and nomological net. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 65, 71-95.
I love reading, and there is nothing I love more than a good psychology book.
I developed this reading list based off of some of my favourite books over the past few years.
If you are a psychology student, graduate, qualified psychologist, therapist or simply just interested in the topic of psychology then there will be a book in here for you, or maybe two, or maybe all of them!
Check out my reviews of all 20 books and simply click on the name of the book to be taken straight to a link to purchase it!
Blackbox thinking really came at the right time for me.
I had just started my doctorate in counselling psychology and was struggling to come to terms with a failed assignment.
This book really opened my eyes to the power and true purpose of failure.
Blackbox Thinking looks at different professional industries in our society and tries to teach lessons of industries that refuse to learn from failure, those that do and the differences in those industries as a result.
If you want to gain a better understanding of what failure is all about, the purpose and power of what failure can do for us, then this book is a must read!
Carl Rogers is one of the greatest pioneers of psychotherapy and psychology!
His work created a new age of therapeutic work during times of psychodynamic and behaviourist principles.
With a focus on the client as an individual, in their subjective world, Rogers’ work was revolutionary.
This book really encapsulates his ideology and philosophy better than any other.
What’s more, is that you don’t need to be a therapist to really appreciate and gain benefit from his work and knowledge
A new appreciation of the individual, empathy, unconditional positive regard and congruence, an appreciation of the principles in this book and enhance the life of any reader, from any background and profession.
The book, unsurprisingly so, introduces the concept of ‘flow’.
Flow is a state that if reached, it is argued, can enrich the lives of people, and is the key to true happiness.
combination of a number of things such as minimising some of the challenges we catastrophise in life, as well as learning from our failures encapsulates what flow is about, however, it includes so much more.
This book is a bit of a classic in psychology and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.
Backed with real sound empirical principles this book is one for the people looking to introduce a new concept in their lives to experience some more happiness in 2019!
Thinking fast and slow can be a challenging read I will not deny it
However, this is in the GetPsyched Reading List 2019 because of how thought-provoking it is.
If you can get past the challenges you might experience in reading it, this book talks in great detail about the two different parts of our decision making brain, the logic behind them and how it rules everything we do.
How rational we think we are when we are reactive compared to when we are considered and think situations through thoroughly, is very different from reality.
Similar to his other work, Yalom in the Gift of Therapy talks about his personal experiences and process of becoming the establish therapist he is today.
He goes into brutal detail about his trials and successes, something I rarely come across form professional therapists talking about their work.
The lessons he has learned and is willing to relay to the reader are so so valuable.
I really believe this book is not only a must read for therapists and trainees, but for anyone wishing to develop empathic and interpersonal skills with a desire to communicate and relate to others better.
This is one of those books that I just love picking up every now and again.
It’s by no means a self-discovery or intellectual based book but it is so so fun to read and actually gives more detail than I thought it would at first.
If like me you are interested in the basic principles of psychology but have limited time or resources to remind your self of some of the experiments that established these principles…then this is the book for you.
It gives wonderful illustrations and descriptions of the most famous studies in psychologies history.
It’s so easy to read and a really nice break from some of the harder texts I read often.
This book also looks at some of the ethical and legal issues some of these studies raised as well as their findings and how they still influence our lives and understand of psychology today. A really brilliant book!
Very similar to Pavlov’s Dogs and Other Experiments, the Psychology Book is one of those books I love to big up and just have a scan through.
Its nothing heavy and in truth was actually given to me as a bit of a joke.
It’s honestly brilliant though.
It’s a book that makes some of the most challenging and difficult to absorb concepts and principles in psychology easy to digest.
With awesome illustrations and key facts about studies, research, psychologists and experiments, it is everything you need in order to learn the most valuable points of some of the key principles to psychology.
Due to the popularity of blogs, there are now many people who are increasingly aware of mental health issues. And those who are struggling with them are now more open to talking about it.
Indeed, mental health blogs promote important conversations on mental health, all because of the explosion of the blogging culture.
It is estimated that there are more than 1.8 billion websites. These websites are typically dedicated to a particular topic or purpose, ranging from entertainment and social networking to providing news and, more importantly, as an avenue for critical discussions.
Blogs are essentially another form of websites. At its core, blogs are dynamic websites which are regularly updated and allow reader engagement. Psychreg for instance, allows its readers to engage in a range of topics in psychology, mental health and well-being – with the ultimate aim of addressing intertwined issues within the realms of the discipline.
It is recognised that blogging started in 1994, with Links.net considered to be the first ever blog. Blogging has come a long way – from being interactive, online forms of the traditional personal diary to becoming a repository of critical discussions.
What makes blogging even more remarkable is that it is democratic: Anyone can start their own. Indeed, when I decided to launch my own psychology blog, Psychreg, I found the process to be pretty straightforward. Taking into account these features of blogging, it is arguably one of the most effective medium to raise awareness about mental health.
Blogs demonstrate that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. This is the core reason why I developed Psychreg to become a platform for people afflicted with mental health issues to share their narratives. Through the use of blogs, the powerful lived-experience narratives are reaching far more people.
With the increasing popularity of blogs, it is only sensible that they should be adapted in order to change the way people think and act about mental health.
It is comforting to know that across the world, people use blogs as an effective medium to share their narratives and experiences, to increase awareness and understanding, and to offer comfort and support. And not only that, blogs in similar genres are now being given recognition similar to those of mainstream blogs.
Needless to say, blogging is not just simply writing a blog post (and getting to grips with WordPress); there is a psychology behind it. An emerging subfield in psychology that focuses on the application of psychological principles and research in order to optimise the benefits that readers can derive from consuming blogs is known as blog psychology.
A recently published article in the Psychreg Journal of Psychology explored the theoretical underpinnings of blog psychology such as readers’ perception, cognition, and humanistic components in regards to their experience of reading blogs.
Although blog psychology is still in its infancy, there is definitely a huge potential to it towards contributing to the discipline of mental health.
With the continued popularity of blogs, it is crucial that a specialised discipline be developed to encompass all forms of internet-mediated communication, specifically in blogs, such as the use, design, and its impact on mental health and well-being of its readers.
It is also important that mental health bloggers network with each other to share best practices, which was the aim of 1st Mental Health Bloggers Conference held in London last December 2018.
Critical discussions about psychology, mental health, and well-being play a vital role in helping people feel better about themselves.
Blogging provides researchers and practitioners an excellent opportunity to create these conversations. It allows people to feel more connected to the world outside their home through the internet.
This is the very reason the world needs dedicated mental health bloggers, who will talk about relevant health psychology, mental health and well-being issues.
They can help us think progressively and critically, and in essence, help us build a world where everyone takes mental health and well-being more seriously.
We are all familiar with the moment our favourite lead character is shown to have a memory back to a horrifying moment from their past, or from earlier on in the series equating to their psychological state and unravelling storyline.
This is PTSD, known as post-traumatic stress disorder. There are increasing media representations of PTSD, but what exactly is it?
PTSD is an after effect of a traumatic event that has the potential to last months or years, often associated with soldiers, the rest of us are not exempt.
Traumatic events are overwhelming and frightening experiences, like being involved in an assault, witnessing an accident or attack. For some life carries on unaffected, whilst others are subject to psychological symptoms of grief, depression, guilt, shame and blame and specific to PTSD flashbacks and nightmares; avoidance and numbing; and hypervigilance, being constantly on alert.
Physical effects of irregular heartbeats, diarrhoea and pains are often occurrent with PTSD as a result of the continued activation of the fight, flight response.
A flashback of the traumatic memory will induce the same physiological responses as at the time of the traumatic experience itself.
Then the less commonly known complex-PTSD (cPTSD) is suffered when individuals suffer repeated severe neglect or abuse.
In addition to PTSD symptoms, cPTSD has symptoms of difficulties with regulating emotions; distrust towards the world; feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness as if they are damaged goods; feeling alienated; avoiding interpersonal relationships; suicidality and dissociative symptoms.
Dissociation is literally ‘ignorance is bliss’ in psychology terms with your brain disconnecting from the trauma and associated memories, feelings and identity, acting in self-preservation from the psychological turmoil.
This further creates difficulties with symptoms of amnesia, detachment to yourself and your emotions with a loss of self, a distorted perception of those and the world around you.
For some it’s a natural response to trauma, others decide to tune-out (this is often found with children) and for those with schizophrenia, bipolar and borderline personality disorder it’s a symptom of their disorder.
Trauma fundamental changes us, from the hardwiring of our brain to the bodies responses, operating from an instinctive drive in the face of trauma.
We are familiar with the four Fs- fighting, fleeing, feeding and f(love)-ing; fighting and fleeing are geared up in trauma and freezing can also occur. The reptilian brain, a drive in our survival, activates shutting down non-essential processes to conserve energy, the nervous system releases a flood of stress hormones to prepare the body in particular cortisol.
Cortisol prepares the body for its chosen method of survival, the vagus nerve sending signals to the heart, lungs and stomach, creating that feeling we get when we are in the grips of fear (for those who fear nothing, let me know how, for others with acrophobia or ophidiophobia (an evolutionary rationalised fear) will be all too familiar with this feeling.)
Generally, we sense danger, and no it’s not a sixth sense or the Illuminati (associated with the reptilian brain), its an innate instinct and further taught to us by our caregivers, aiding the development of part of our autonomic nervous system.
Mirror neurons aid this learning process with mimicry and in the development of empathy (if you are on the Autistic Disorder spectrum this may be more difficult), these handy neurons guide our perception and action.
Its mirror neurons that enable us to interpret individuals’ intentions or make us wince when someone gets hurt (unless it’s our sibling or best mate falling over, then we malfunction and laugh).
Consider walking home at night and a large, conspicuous hooded hulk of an individual approaches, alarm bells go off, you cross the road or your heart rate increases, and you hope to pass them unbothered, with wallet and limbs intact.
When someone approaches you in a bar we can sense their intentions and that niggle of your partners infidelity, this particular one is a paradox as we generally trust the person we love and therefore what they say, yet our instinct is flagging up something else putting us into conflict.
This conflict is particularly difficult in differentiating for individuals who have been abused by their care giver and by partners, the very people we look for love and security, are the very people who risk that safety and neglect us.
The potentiation of this can result in the dysregulated response occurrent with PTSD; overactivated amygdala, resulting in hypervigilance, underactive hippocampus, restricting consolidation of what has happened to put it as a past event resulting in the continued heightened preparation of flight or fight and finally the continued elevation of stress hormones.
There are a number of therapies that aid PTSD for some medication aids the turning down of heightened responses, likely the combination of medication and therapeutic techniques may be suitable.
Therapies include eye-movement desensitisation and reprocessing, cognitive processing therapy and other cognitive therapeutic frameworks providing individuals with an opportunity to rationalise what has happened and gain skills to thrive and move out of survival mode.
Other holistic techniques engaging writing therapy to come to terms with what has happened; art therapy as an alternative expression; and yoga to get back into your body, effective for individuals who have experienced sexual and physical abuse and have disconnected with their bodies.
Trauma is attributable to the development of mental health difficulties and physical ill-health, finding individuals who experienced traumas in childhood, known as adverse childhood effects (ACEs) have increased mortality from heart disease, chronic lung disease and other health management.
Individuals working in professions dealing with traumatic events (paramedics, police and emergency services) or those dealing with disturbing details of forensic cases all are susceptible.
The outing of trauma can often result in a post-truth wake and can incur in mental health, especially in light of the shame and blame associated, particularly in the #metoo movement and clergy sexual abuse causes.
This is the tip of an iceberg that may explain and be a precursor in the development of mental health difficulties and physical health.
For further reading check out Dr van de Kolk, who articulates trauma beautifully, advocating building trust with patients and the holistic alternatives from a one pill fix, find it here.
I love studying. Prior to my seven-year
psychology degree, I started three other degrees. I love learning, I love
researching, I love growing, but mostly, I love writing. The sense of
achievement that follows looking at a finished document that didn’t exist
before provides me with such satisfaction.
I grieved after completing my degree, over the end of that part of my life.
Such was the loss, I wandered aimlessly,
wondering how to fill my days. How to fill the gap in the joy, calm and sense
of achievement that writing had fulfilled.
Before, I had sat in my favourite chair in the sun and listened to the tap tap of the keys and I turned my thoughts into pages and pages of my thesis. I sipped tea and felt the warmth on my skin and worked at my all-consuming task. I hadn’t ever predicted the ritual would leave such a gaping hole in my life and my wellbeing.
Soon after finishing my degree, I returned to writing for other reasons.
Diagnosed with breast cancer, I began journaling in the form of letters to my grandmother, my nan, who had died four years earlier. I found I could connect with her throughout my time of need by putting pen to paper and in doing so, her answers to my questions and the love and support I knew she would have given revealed themselves, loudly and clearly. Comfort.
Cancer treatment, hair, breasts, ovaries all came and went and soon I felt well enough to search for meaning in all that had just happened in my life. What if, as a psychologist, one who had worked extensively with cancer patients, I had a message to share that might alleviate someone else’s burden of illness just a little? I knew I had something to share, something of value, and decided to write a book.
I joined a writing class and in three years my breast cancer memoir, A Hole in my Genes, was complete. Revisiting my old friend, the writing process, brought me stunning mindful calm and a sense of achievement like no other, in the form of meaning for my cancer experience.
However, with the words ‘The End’ came another grieving period, my all-consuming ritual ended once again. It had been a catharsis. It assisted with my processing of facing my mortality. It had allowed me to express a myriad of emotions safely, yet fully. Writing had saved my life.
Fast forward a matter of weeks and the urge to write, to create, to express myself tugged at my thoughts ever so strongly and I knew I need a new writing project.
A coffee, a dog walk, and some tossing around of ideas with a photographer friend one afternoon saw the birth of The Psychology of It.
As psychologists, psycho-education is one of our most valuable and most utilised tools.
When our clients can understand the what,
why, when and how of a disorder, or a reaction, an emotion, a behaviour, they
are more than half-way towards knowing how to choose the most effective coping
tools to manage their situation.
Therapy is an interesting beast and I know for myself at least, I go through phases of using particular interventions,particular stories and metaphors and I certainly have my go-to examples thattend to help most people understand a variety of topics.
I noticed that I would find myself repeating the same information, using the same analogies, drawing the same diagrams over, and over again, day in and day out, wishing a resource existed, using my language, to direct my clients to.
Of course, there are amazing resources online but mostly they specialised in certain areas, were too science-y, too self-help-y, or were generally too ‘something’ that my clients wouldn’t read.
Enter Stage Left, The Psychology of It.
The Psychology of It website is where it all began. I adore writing in many different formats and so created a website with five different categories. As a psychologist, the evidence-based research and science is key to efficacious work. We are scientist-practitioners and are always evaluating the work we do with our clients, as well as keeping up-to-date with the latest best practice principles. A lot of the time however, this information is only available in research journals and not easy tounderstand for the general community.
So, I began with a section called Analyse This, where we were able to interpret the more scientific information in a user-friendly way. There are descriptions of different disorders as well as information about different treatment modalities, and articles that describe why certain human experiences are so.
In the name of being user-friendly, I wanted a quick reference guide to a number of easy-to-learn coping tools that people could access and easily understand. These are the tools I’m teaching my clients every single day and so to have an article I can print out for them, or direct them too after a session to reinforce the skill they have learned that day, is invaluable. Those articles are found in The Coping Toolkit.
I also wanted a space to write about personal opinions and experiences. The main aim of The Psychology of It is to normalise human experiences, reduce the stigma and highlight the similarities we have as human beings, as opposed to always focussing on the differences. I didn’t always want to have to be scientific about things and noticed that a lot of people are more likely to read information if it’s presented in a more personal format. This is where Up Close & Personal came in.
Another main aim for The Psychology of It is to connect us all, human to human, again by highlighting the similarities we experience as humans. Conversations on the Couch does that beautifully by introducing people from all walks of life and ‘interviewing’ them, using the same set of questions that explore their personal life experiences and opinions, identifying their unique outlooks but also highlighting their commonalities with others. This section helps us feel as though we’re not the ‘only one’. In fact, Fraser has his own Conversation on the Couch up on the website. You can find it here.
Finally, I realised there might have to be a ‘miscellaneous’ category which I named New Things. Whether it be new resources, new experiences, new people, it’s a section where almost anything fits.
As well as the five sections filled with articles by some wonderful guest writers, we also keep a resource list called Stuff We Like. It’s always needing updating so if you have any recommendations, please don’t hesitate to let me know!
In the world of social media, The Psychology of It is linked to a Facebook page with over 3000 followers, and also on Instagram and Twitter. These all allow for further reach for the messages we’d like to spread, reducing the stigma of mental illness, and pushing the barrow for mental health, messages of wellbeing and the importance of self-care.
The Psychology of It is growing and in many ways has taken on a life of its own.
This year, it has also become a clinical practice in south-west Victoria, Australia. This practice allows me to work as the type of clinician I’ve also aspired to be. Many sessions with clients are starting to be conducted outside of the clinic walls where we take the practice of the skills learned in session, into real life. Clients are booking in for mindful walking, running, eating sessions. I’ve also purchased two stand-up paddleboards so that in the warmer months, mindful breathing and grounding sessions can be conducted on our beautiful rivers and ocean. Within the next few weeks, I’ll be undertaking a Trauma-based Yoga for Clinicians workshop and am excited for what doors that may open for me both personally and professionally.
To top it all off, I’m extending the messages of the importance of self-care, well-being and preventative mental health by hosting The Psychology of It’s first international Wellbeing Retreat in Bali, Indonesia. To find out more about that, you can go to http://thepsychologyofit.com.au/retreat.html.
I’m so excited to be combining the science of psychology, with the ancient wisdom of yoga led by my close friend and colleague Peta Jolley, in the stunning heart of Bali. We are looking forward toa week of companionship, learning, personal exploration and growth, not to mention stunning experiences and the most amazing wellness food on the planet. Mindful Tribes have designed such a wonderful boutique experience for us and we’d love for you to join us.
In the meantime, A Hole in my Genes iscurrently at the publisher’s and will be available before the end of the year. I’ll keep you up to date and would love to offer the Get Psyched community a nice big discount.
Health psychology, is an ambiguous field of psychology with many people asking, “so what is it you do exactly?”, whilst it says what it is on the tin- the psychology of health, the potentials of health psychology exceed current specialisms they work in.
I am admittedly a masters student in health psychology with clinical skills (and therefore arguably biased), I am also passionate about mental health. I like to zoom out from the micro investigations of health psychology to the macro level applications and interconnectivity of overall physical and psychological health, an either harmonious or discordant duo.
What Health Psychologists Do & Their Roles
Health psychologists utilise the Biopsychosocial model (Engel, 1980) a triad of factors; biological, physiology and genetics, thanks to the splicing combination of your mum and dad; psychological, our quirks and toolkit of skills in navigating life; and social, our tribe and environment, all of which contribute to our overall health and well-being.
Health psychologists’ roles vary from supporting individuals in the management of illnesses and understanding the incurring social and psychologically impact and how to help, particularly important in the knowledge of terminal diagnosis’s. We are interested in understanding individuals adherence or lack of, to medication and the reasons for the lack of engagement in health checks and health screening.
In case of more intimate and personal inquiries of sexual health and screening of breast, cervical and testicular cancer, we are interested in how we can break down barriers to encourage engagement and enable prevention, early detection and treatment.
Interested in General Health & Well-Being
Health psychologists further advise individuals on lifestyle behaviours with smoking cessation, weight management and healthy living programs to improve health and reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs, are non-infectious and non-transmissible diseases that are often preventable through lifestyle alterations, as promoted by the World Health Organisation campaign).
This inclusive approach to health means health psychologists are the ideal candidate for reviewing and advising towards public health reforms and health initiatives. Essentially anything related to health and an individuals’ mentality around it, you will find a curious health psychologist wondering why.
Generally, we know that eating a whole bag of doughnuts is not good for us and that the extra bottle of wine the night before was not necessary (although this may only be acknowledged the next morning).
We know exercise is good for us; both physically and neurochemically releasing a whole load of feel-good chemicals and stress is bad for us, chronic stress being a catalyst to a whole range of ill-health. Those cooped up in our study’s for days working on projects and dissertations, arguably teeter on the verge of cabin fever and are likely, stressed, intuitively crave human contact.
“Whosoever is delighted in solitude, is either a wild beast or a god.” Francis Bacon.
This intuitive need as humans is being recognised in the medical community with an increasing number of doctors breaking out of the biomedical bounds, prescribing not pills but nature, gardening, exercise and play (specific for children, however arguably great for big kids too).
Scotland is at the forefront of this engagement with Shetland island now prescribing rambling and birdwatching for individuals’ health, whilst the Scottish Government is rolling out social prescription, engaging individuals in holistic alternatives in the community.
Community engagement further addresses the epidemic of loneliness, found to attribute to worsened physical and psychological health; community engagement provides opportunities for developing interpersonal relationships, which as a social species we thrive from and are hard-wired for.
These holistic treatments have long been recognised in the mental health community in the utilisation of art, drama, dance and group therapy, it is a novelty in the treatment and management of physical health, despite its comorbidity with psychological well-being. The further adoption of Eastern approaches in the West with mindfulness, meditation and yoga, has been found to mitigate symptoms in both physical and psychological ill-health.
Health Psychology’s Place & Impact
So where do health psychologists stand in this new shift of health? Whilst holistic prescriptions are being sprinkled around like fairy dust (rare but can still happen in the case of Peter Pan’s gang in this case Scotland), general practice services remain inundated and mental health services waiting lists are ever growing.
In the United Kingdom, 1 in 3 of general practitioner consults relate to mental health and 1 in 5 to medically unclassified symptoms (MUS are physical complaints without any organic explanation, often a manifestation of psychological distress).
General practitioners are further pressured by GP shortages and a 9-minute consultation to speed talk about all your concerns and find a resolve (the U.K ranks highest on the scoreboard for the shortest appointment duration in the whole of Europe). This limited time means that the nature of MUS are not investigated and are subsequently treated as a physical complaint and reports of mental health symptoms are diagnosed with the self-administered Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9).
The PHQ-9 is a series of 9 questions in the diagnosis of common mental disorders, mainly depression and anxiety, a positive score concludes in a proposed diagnosis and a referral to mental health services, a prescription of anti-depressants or a combination.
A valid and reliable self-administered measure, with established use in primary care settings, what it doesn’t do and GPs don’t have the time to do is explore other life factors that are impacting on health.
Consider a few scenarios; you work nights and are a single parent, you have a few hours of sleep between chores and collecting the children before returning to work in the evening; you are carer for a family member and also study and work; you are in an abusive relationship and managing your own business; or you are young mum recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
All of these situations have the potential to make us feel exhausted and affect our psychological health, this does not necessarily equate to individuals’ having the underlying pathology of a mental health disorder instead it is understandable in the circumstance.
“Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, surrounded by arseholes.” Sigmund Freud.
All health symptoms, in non-emergency circumstances, will primarily present in general practice, the introduction of health psychologists could enable an encompassing biopsychosocial enquiry into individuals’ life circumstances and lifestyles.
Generally, individuals are resistant to disclose honestly about our bad lifestyle choices to GPs, yet the confidentiality bounds of psychologists may enable an open disclosure. This is particularly important in high-risk groups with men presenting physical ailments in cases of psychological distress and in the recognition of intimidating partner violence.
Maybe the next step for health psychologists could provide a service between mental health and general practice services, referring individuals to the likes of social prescriptions or programs to improve lifestyle and for individuals to be embraced and supported in their community. The awareness of what health psychologists do and what we can do to help you is critical in the assurance of the profession and individual engagement to becoming a less ambiguous speciality.
Many thanks to GetPsyched for letting me feature as a guest blogger and to those who have read this blog I hope you found it of interest.
For those who would like to share their view on the introduction of health psychologists in general practice, I would love your contribution to my research, please click here and complete the questionnaire, it takes about 20 minutes.
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