Caregiver Skills - Step 1
Hi, everyone. Welcome to Emotion-focused, Family Therapy. Emotion Coaching, Step 1. I'm Elizabeth Easton. I'm the national director of psychotherapy here at Eating Recovery Center and Pathlight Behavioral Health. These series of videos are here to help you learn some tools and skills to support your loved one while they're in our care and beyond.
First, let's talk about emotion coaching, and we'll talk about a two-step process. First step is validation. How to convey your understanding of your loved one's emotional experience and prove that you get it. Step 2 is emotional support and practical support.
Emotion coaching is here to help you support your loved one through their difficult emotions, through difficult struggles that may be occurring. It's to give you a tool in your toolbox to engage, to connect, in order to help them feel less alone, and maybe even help them move beyond the emotion to what they need to do.
Let's talk a little bit more about Step 1. The first step in emotion coaching is validation. This is really a deep validation. So, this is the sentence you could memorize and then vary as you go forward. "I can understand why you might feel..," "I can understand why you might think," or "I can understand why you might want, or want to avoid..."
The goal here is to first come forward and sit with them in what they're going through. "I can understand what you're experiencing in this moment." And then, you're going to help them beyond that. First, we have to do a little rewiring in our brains. Because most of us learn it this way. "I can understand why you feel so sad." And then we want to utter this three letter word afterwards. Any idea what that is? But. Many of us then pivot. "I can understand why you feel so sad, but there are so many reasons to feel happy in this moment." We pivot. We shift away from the emotion. This is natural. We've been conditioned to do this. Our brains are wired this way in our society.
Our goal here in supporting a loved one, particularly one with a mental illness that really gets stuck in emotion is to come towards the emotion and stick around for a little while, before pivoting. So it looks a little bit like this. "I can understand why you might feel sad," which shifts to, "I can understand why you might feel sad because, because, because..." So, you're really going to sit in the sadness. You're going to try to convey all of the reasons why you can imagine they are feeling overwhelmed in that moment. So, let's walk through an example. "I can understand why you don't want to go to your therapy session today because it can feel so uncomfortable to talk about the things that you struggle with, because you're not used to being so open about these things, and because you may not be convinced that it's worth it, that it will even make a difference and you're going to feel better on the other side."
As you can see in that example, we came towards what they're struggling with, what they don't want to do. And we tried to prove that we really get what might be underneath that struggle, that resistance, using three becauses. It's important to note that the hardest states to validate, the hardest emotions to validate, are anger, hopelessness, and shut down or silent. In future videos, you'll see a couple examples of how to work specifically with these most difficult emotions.
So then, you would come forward with Step 2. And we'll also talk about that in the next video, Emotion Coaching Step 2. But just remember a couple tips if you're going to come towards a loved one and use validation. First check in with yourself. Are you calm? Maybe take a couple deep breaths. Second, monitor your own voice tone and volume. You want to match them. You want to ensure that your voice tone and volume is about connecting, about coming towards them, about understanding. And then, you want to try to match your energy. For instance, if your emotion coaching sadness, you may slow your voice tone down a little bit. You may slow the volume down and the rate of speech down. If your emotion coaching anger, then you're going to want to come towards them with more energy, with more strength, maybe even roll your shoulders back. Anger has energy. And then, a micro skill is you would bring the energy down or bring the energy up with each because. So, you start here with anger and then maybe the next, because sounds more like this. And then maybe the last because is more slow and calm and more vulnerable.
I hope this was helpful for you in approaching your loved one's emotions. Watch the next few videos to continue to enhance the skill.