This week at my internship, I shadowed a group therapy session called Seeking Safety. Seeking Safety is a program designed to help people cope and seek safety from trauma and substance abuse issues. It focuses on building healthy relationships, thinking/coping strategies, and habits. I had been excited to observe this group—however, the experience I had was way beyond my expectations.
This week’s sessions focused on creating meaning by examining both harmful and healthy thinking strategies. We discussed seven common negative thinking mentalities or rationalizations. The ones that stuck with me the most were the escape, the good old days, and dangerous permissions. The escape is the idea that escaping is essential because feelings are too difficult to handle. This escape could be the use of substances, gambling, or even food. The good old days is remembering the high points/good stuff, and ignoring the low points/bad stuff. This could be an abusive relationship, or the use of a particular substance. Dangerous Permissions is rationalizing that you have permission to engage in self-destructive behavior, because of your situation or trauma.
Analyzing these thinking patterns in Seeking Safety made me conscious of how negative thinking impacts my own life. In particular, the dangerous permissions mentality. Although I don’t use substances as a way of coping with my frustrations, I do often use retail therapy or unhealthy eating patterns to cope with a difficult day. I rationalize that I deserve this: “This week has been so frustrating, I can buy myself new clothes” or “That test was really hard; a venti hot chocolate from Starbucks will make me feel better.” Both of these coping strategies only bring me down; they serve merely as an escape or distraction. They also have a negative impact on my physical health as well as my economic stand point. And, neither of them bring me any closer to actually feeling better or dealing with stress. The feeling of relief is only temporary.
I think the first step of changing these negative mentalities is becoming aware of them. It’s easy to become addicted to negative thinking; but, I do believe that by consciously choosing our attitude and thought patterns, we can break these addictions. Positivity has power within it; power to not only change your affect and mental health, but also to influence the lives of others.
Attending Seeking Safety was definitely a win-win-win situation. Not only did I get a better understanding of the day to day activities of the community corrections counseling side, but I also felt (cognitively) inspired for the rest of the week. Seeking Safety also sparked my interest in researching a future career in counseling or social work. My goal this weekend: explore graduate school options in rehabilitation psychology!
Posted by Anne