Tag Archives: Montana Happiness Project

Five Buck Friday Consults: Tips on Presenting to an Organization that Works with Parents

Albert Ellis used to offer “Five Buck Friday” night presentations in New York. What a cool idea. People would show up and he would teach them Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).

I do lots of presentations. I like to think I do lots of presentations because I’m good at doing presentations, but I also know I’m not a perfect presenter and need to be consistently open to feedback and new learning. Anyway, lately I’ve been doing more consultations with young professionals on how to do presentations. This humbling new “gig” is related to our work on the Montana Happiness Project (click here for to see the MHP website: https://montanahappinessproject.com/). Our MHP vision is: “To help create a world where people listen to and value one another while also living lives that are personally meaningful and saturated with eudaimonic happiness.” To help move toward our vision, Rita and I are doing more training of young professionals who want to help infuse more positivity and happiness into the challenges of life.

The young professionals are amazing. Sometimes I wonder when they sleep. Today, as part of supervising and consulting one of our amazing presenters, I responded to some specific questions he posed in an email.

This is my free blog-version of Ellis’s Five Buck Friday consultation.

Dear John

The staff of this organization works directly with parents. Some things they struggle with are listed below:

  1. The staff struggles with self-regulation
  2. The staff would like to be able to be curious (and not activated) when a parent is yelling at their kid, etc.

I’m glad you got this information. One key to a great presentation is to dovetail the process and content to meet the group’s specific goals.

Issues 1 and 2 are great topics to focus on in a staff training/presentation. Self-regulation is almost always adversely affected when there are surprise triggers. Although break-out groups would be good for discussing staff triggers, because the director said the staff doesn’t like break-out groups, you could do live polling on the staffs’ “buttons” or triggers. The goal would be for staff to become very familiar with personal triggers so they can develop a plan for their “best possible responses” to their triggers, and then practice their best possible responses with imagery and rehearsals or role plays. You can’t be curious (Item 2) unless you’re READY for the trigger and have a plan for what your curiosity will look like.

The other issue is that sometimes the staff will need to enforce behavioral limits. When presenting, you are the parent/role model; when working with parents, the staff members are the parent/role model figures. They need to be clear on inappropriate parental behaviors and have a plan for setting and enforcing limits will help them (and possibly the parents) with self-regulation. As I sometimes say about nightmares and tantrums, it helps when the adult “looks forward” to the dreaded incident/trigger. I know that sounds weird, but the incident is inevitable anyway and when it occurs, it provides an unparalleled opportunity to try out the new plan.

In the context of Family Based Services, the staff could use help with:

  1. How to engage when parents don’t want to be there.
  2. Going to be transitioning to going back into the homes of clients – this could be hard on clients and counselors.

Using a positive or meaningful frame for parents who are “involuntary” or un-enthused about therapy is essential. Below I’ve listed and described some positive framing ideas and a couple strategies that might help.

  • Thank the parent for being there.
  • If the parent appears negative or reluctant, thank them even more sincerely and with empathy by acknowledging the reality in the room (e.g., “I REALLY appreciate you being here especially because I can see you don’t feel like being here.” – Obviously tweak that wording and all other wordings to fit your own style.)
  • Identify at least one positive reason why the parent showed up (e.g., “You must really love your son/daughter to get yourself here to work with me even when you don’t feel like it.” Or, “Lots of parents don’t follow through on the commitment to show up for these sessions. I really appreciate you showing up. It tells me how committed you are to doing the right thing and being here to do the work.”)
  • Bring gifts. Find out the parents’ favorite non-alcoholic drinks and bring them along. Find out their favorite salty snack and bring it along. Hardly anything calms irritability better than sincere positive gestures that include food😊.
  • Listen, listen, and listen to the parent’s perspective and complaints and paraphrase the heck out of them before moving on to issues of substance.
  • Before, during, and after you share these ideas in your presentation, be sure to be prompting the group to add to the list, while acknowledging how much insight there is in the room.
  • Consider helping the staff to establish a positive family-based therapy dynamics checklist to think about before doing family sessions.

I hope this info is helpful!

JSF

Beginner’s Mind (Shoshin) and the End of Spring Break

One of my biggest delights this semester has been reading my happiness students’ homework assignments. They’ve embraced each assignment with what Zen masters might call “Shoshin.”

Shoshin is a Japanese word referring to beginner’s mind. Beginner’s mind involves approaching experiences with an attitude of “not knowing” and maximum openness to learning. If you already know about something (say meditation), your natural inclination will be to close your mind, because you already have knowledge and lived experience about meditation and so there’s less openness to learning. Shifting from an expert (closed) mind to a beginner’s (open) mind requires intent and effort.

For many of my happiness students, some of the assignments have been old hat. Like when I ask someone with a degree in divinity and an active meditation practice to meditate for six minutes a day . . . or when I ask someone who is a faculty in counseling or a psychiatrist to try a little cognitive therapy on themselves . . . or when I ask university athletes to exercise, breathe, and consider the concept of flow . . . or when I ask a bartender to focus in on listening to others.

Despite me offering up some “old hat” assignments, my students have responded as if they were encountering everything for the first time. So. Very. Cool.

Those of you who aren’t enrolled at the University of Montana may not realize that today is the very end of spring break. Although spring is often about new beginnings, the end of a university semester is often about time management and emotional survival. Tomorrow, after a week or so of a “break” my students and I return to our studies to finish the semester. My hope is that we all return refreshed and with a renewed passion for learning, so we can Shoshin through our next six weeks.

This hope isn’t just for my happiness class students. Far too many painful events and situations are out there happening in the world. On top of that, everyone on the planet is facing unique and personal challenges that I don’t and probably can’t fully comprehend. We have these global and personal challenges AND in the Northern hemisphere, we’re experiencing spring. Even though there will be distractions and we will be imperfect, let’s do our best Shoshin and approach all of spring like a sponge, soaking up all the learning we can.

In 1970, Shunryu Suzuki wrote: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s, there are few” (from, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind).

Let’s stay watchful and open with a beginner’s mind. This is a new spring, a never before spring, with new opportunities. As James Garbarino once wrote: “Stress accumulates; opportunity ameliorates.” Amelioration. What a great word for today . . . and tomorrow.

Unveiling the NEW Montana Happiness Project Website

ontana

The Montana Happiness Project (MHP) is rolling along.

After having our first “train-the-trainer” retreat at Boulder Hot Springs this summer, several of our retreat “graduates” are out doing amazing things. . . like offering a class through Blackfeet Community College, teaching happiness activities to youth in Frenchtown, filming a happiness-based television show through Missoula Community Access Television, and more. Although our focus is primarily Montana, we believe in building eudaimonic happiness skills and attitudes everywhere.

If you don’t know what eudaimonic happiness is or you want to learn more about the MHP, we have a brand-new website. The website includes a few videos, information about our mission, vision, and values, a calendar of upcoming events, and other resources.

If you have the time and inclination, we’d love to have you check it out the website and offer feedback. The website is in early phases—and so your feedback can be especially formative.  

Here’s the URL:  https://montanahappinessproject.com/