January 30, 2011

When Helping Helps

When Helping Helps: Autonomous Motivation for Prosocial Behavior and Its Influence on Well-Being for the Helper and Recipient

Netta Weinsteina and Richard M. Ryana

Self-determination theory posits that the degree to which a prosocial act is volitional or autonomous predicts its effect on well-being and that psychological need satisfaction mediates this relation. Four studies tested the impact of autonomous and controlled motivation for helping others on well-being and explored effects on other outcomes of helping for both helpers and recipients. Study 1 used a diary method to assess daily relations between prosocial behaviors and helper well-being and tested mediating effects of basic psychological need satisfaction. Study 2 examined the effect of choice on motivation and consequences of autonomous versus controlled helping using an experimental design. Study 3 examined the consequences of autonomous versus controlled helping for both helpers and recipients in a dyadic task. Finally, Study 4 manipulated motivation to predict helper and recipient outcomes. Findings support the idea that autonomous motivation for helping yields benefits for both helper and recipient through greater need satisfaction. Limitations and implications are discussed.

January 27, 2011

Can an empirically supported framework also be critical and liberating?

Self-determination theory in schools of education
Can an empirically supported framework also be critical and liberating?

Ryan, R. and Niemiec, C

Abstract: In many graduate schools of education there is strong resistance to formal theories, especially those that are supported through quantitative empirical methods. In this article we describe how self-determination theory (SDT), a formal and empirically focused framework, shares sensibilities with critical theorists concerning the importance of actors’ own embedded experiences of the world, and the importance of liberation and resistance to hegemony. Yet we argue that, unlike many post-modern views that are largely negative, SDT is truly critical precisely because it posits a common human nature, which can be more or less supported and allowed to flourish in different cultural and institutional contexts. Read full article here.

January 26, 2011

The Psychological Meaning of Words

The Psychological Meaning of Words: LIWC and Computerized Text Analysis Methods

Yla R. Tausczik and James W. Pennebaker

We are in the midst of a technological revolution whereby, for the first time, researchers can link daily word use to a broad array of real-world behaviors. This article reviews several computerized text analysis methods and describes how Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) was created and validated. LIWC is a transparent text analysis program that counts words in psychologically meaningful categories. Empirical results using LIWC demonstrate its ability to detect meaning in a wide variety of experimental settings, including to show attentional focus, emotionality, social relationships, thinking styles, and individual differences.

Focusing on identifying and amplifying what works, rather than on explanations in terms of personal characteristics and problem causes, is the quickest and most promising way to help clients make progress

Solution-focused practitioners focus not so much on internal states or constructs within the client but instead on the way clients effectively interact with their environment. Solution-focused change’s assumptions about helping effectively differ substantially from mainstream therapy’s and coaching’s assumptions. Instead of directly offering advice based on experience and scientific evidence, solution-focused change assumes that clients will benefit more from identifying solutions within their own experience. Focusing on identifying and amplifying what works, rather than on explanations in terms of personal characteristics and problem causes, is assumed to be the quickest and most promising way to help clients make progress.

Human Autonomy in Cross-Cultural Context

Here is a new book on human autonomy with contributions from many leaders in the field of self-determination theory which looks very interesting: Human Autonomy in Cross-Cultural Context: Perspectives on the Psychology of Agency, Freedom, and Well-Being.

Here is a product description: This volume presents the reader with a stimulating tapestry of essays exploring the nature of personal autonomy, self-determination, and agency, and their role in human optimal functioning at multiple levels of analysis from personal to societal and cross-cultural. The starting point for these explorations is self-determination theory, an integrated theory of human motivation and healthy development which has been under development for more than three decades (Deci & Ryan, 2000). As the contributions will make clear, psychological autonomy is a concept that forms the bridge between the dependence of human behavior on biological and socio-cultural determinants on the one side, and people’s ability to be free, reflective, and transforming agents who can challenge these dependencies, on the other. The authors within this volume share a vision that human autonomy is a fundamental pre-condition for both individuals and groups to thrive, and that without understanding the nature and mechanisms of autonomous agency vital social and human problems cannot be satisfactory addressed.

January 24, 2011

Working within the client's frame of reference

Solution-focused practitioners will not confront their client but will keep on working with whatever their clients bring forward. They are very optimistic about both the ability and the intention of clients to develop an ever more realistic perspective while conversations proceed. Solution-focused professionals work within the client's frame of reference. They don't confront of blame clients and do not impose their expert view on the client. They do this because they assume it will be the quickest and most promising approach to help clients develop an ever more constructive, realistic and useful perspective.

Non-confrontational influencing
What is the reason for taking so seriously what the client says? Roughly since the 1960's there has been a growing attention for client directedness in psychotherapy and several other helping professions. Solution-focused practice takes this principle of client-directedness probably further than any other approach (here is an example). Solution-focused professionals do not confront their clients and do not 'hold a mirror' in front of their clients. Instead, they ask questions about what clients want and what might help and they work only with what their clients say and believe. Several concepts illustrate how solution-focused coaches work with whatever their clients present, such as leading from one step behind, the not-knowing attitude and language matching. By non-confrontational influencing solution-focused professionals help clients develop a more realistic, constructive and useful perspective.

January 22, 2011

"Keep goals vague and don't keep track of progress too frequently"

An article in The Stanford Daily, Keep goals vague, says GSB prof, reports on the work of business professor Baba Shiv. The article contains some counterintuitive recommendations. Here are a brief summary of what the article says:

Numerical ranges and vague deadlines are more effective at sustaining motivation than precise numbers and deadlines because they give people more psychological leeway. The individual desires a biased outcome. The brain functions on that which is favorable out of a desired range. But if the individual is forced to look at all the precise measures and information, then the brain will tend to focus on the negative. If people see their targets as spectrums, their minds will focus on the more easily attainable portions of those spectrums and they will perceive their goals as within reach, and they will stay motivated. By contrast, if they are reminded of their precise previous performances and told to shoot for precise improvements, they will tend to focus on the negative. That attitude will lead them to interpret any minor setbacks as discouragement or failure, and they will lose motivation. Frequent updates can only discourage. There is evidence that the more people keep track of their exact progress, the more likely they are to give up.

January 21, 2011

Treating clients as cooperative, no matter how resistant they may appear, is the quickest and most promising way to encourage further cooperation

An assumption in solution-focused change is that clients are not resistant to change or to being helped but may resist against the approach taken by helpers because they feel the approach does not fit their situation. When such a sign of 'resistance' is observed, treating clients as cooperative, no matter how resistant they may appear, is assumed to be the quickest and most promising way to encourage further cooperation.

Death of resistance
Solution-focused pioneer Steve de Shazer’s sent his article The Death of Resistance (de Shazer, 1984) to a journal for the first time in 1979. It got rejected no less than 17 times before it finally got published in 1984 (Malinen, 2001). In the article, de Shazer claims that it is a bad idea to think the client has resistance against treatment in therapy. According to de Shazer, what works better is to view therapy as a process of co-operation between therapist and client. He proposed that everything the client says or does can best be seen as an attempt to help the therapy process move forward. According to de Shazer, when the client said or did something the therapist did not understand right away, the therapist should not confront the client. Instead, the therapist should assume that the client had a good reason for saying or doing this. The assumption is that approaching the client very constructively helps to build a good co-operation very quickly and will help best to move the therapy process forward.

January 20, 2011

Increasing Math Assignment Completion Using Solution-Focused Brief Counseling

Increasing Math Assignment Completion Using Solution-Focused Brief Counseling
By Jamie Y. Fearrington, R. Steve McCallum, Christopher H. Skinner

Solution-focused brief counseling (SFBC) is an efficient and direct approach to therapy that emphasizes problem identification and solutions. A multiple-baseline-across-participants design was used to evaluate the effects of a SFBC intervention on mathematics assignment completion and accuracy across six fifth-grade students who were failing math. The majority of the participants showed an immediate improvement in assignments completed and these improvements were generally maintained. Although intervention accuracy rates were higher than baseline accuracy rates, they continued to remain fairly low across phases. Discussion focuses on the utility of SFBC as an academic intervention in school settings. Strengths and limitations of the current study are addressed along with implications for practice and future research.

January 18, 2011

Positive behavior descriptions, both in the future and in the past, trigger positive behaviors

An assumption in the solution-focused approach is that the best way to generate ideas for steps forward is to elicit vivid pictures of positive behaviors. This can be done by asking people to describe desired future behaviors or by asking them about situations in which they have shown positive behaviors in the past. Once a vivid picture of positive behaviors has been created it will become very easy and attractive for people to start performing that behavior (Visser and Schlundt Bodien, 2009).

Supporting solution building process by eliciting positive behavior descriptions 
SF co-developer Steve de Shazer wrote, in his classic publications Keys to Solution in Brief Therapy (1985) and Clues: Investigating Solutions in Brief Therapy (1988), that SF practitioners should help their clients create an expectation of beneficial change by getting a description of what they would do differently once the problem was solved. At the time, de Shazer did not support this claim with empirical evidence. Visser and Schlundt Bodien, (2009) provides evidence for each of the assertions made by de Shazer. Only part of the evidence presented here was already available at the time of de Shazer’s writing. Evidence is discussed from diverse lines of research like Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory, research on Winograd’s prospective memory, Jeannerod’s research on the perception-action link, and Bargh’s research on priming.

January 17, 2011

People change best by taking actions, one step at a time, and reflecting on and responding to the consequences of those actions so that an intelligible pattern eventually starts to form

The conventional view on effective change: the plan and implement model
The conventional view on how people can achieve change best corresponds with what is call the 'plan-and-implement model'. This model says that you first have to analyze and reflect in order to be able to develop a clear picture of what you want to achieve and only then you can plan and take steps to realize this picture. This conventional change approach thus consists of the following four steps: 
  1. Analysis
  2. Goal setting
  3. Plans making 
  4. Implementing plan
The solution-focused approach follows a test-and-learn model

January 16, 2011

Fundamental human needs and forces

Three basic needs (SDT)
As I've written about quite a few times, self determination theory (SDT) has demonstrated three basic human needs which motivate people to initiate behavior:
  1. Need for autonomy, which is the perception of experiencing a sense of choice and psychological freedom in the initiation and continued engagement in one’s actions, 
  2. Need for competence, which is the perception of being effective in dealing with the environment, and 
  3. Need for relatedness, which is the sense of being cared for and connected to other people. 
Four human forces (behavioral economics)

There is always already a beginning of the desired situation on which further progress can be built

When people have problems they can feel incompetent and helpless. They may think they don't have what it takes to solve their problem. And they may look for answers outside themselves to solve their problems. They may think in dichotomous terms about problems: either you have problems or you don't. But this view is neither realistic nor helpful: as will be shown below, we do already have keys to solutions. But first let's look at why it is common and logical for us not to see that we already have keys to solutions.

27 Interesting quotes from the Edge Question 2011

This year, Edge asks the following question: "What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolit?" 151 Elite thinkers answered the question. Here are 27 interesting quotes from that material. Which of these quotes seems most valuable to you and why?

January 15, 2011

People want to have and build meaningful and caring relationships with other people and want to do things that make a positive difference to others

The importance of relatedness
Not only do people want to be autonomous, they also have a strong need to be related to other people. In other words, people want to have and build meaningful and caring relationships with other people and want to do things that make a positive difference to others. From an evolutionary perspective it can be explained that we not only have certain competitive and egocentric tendencies but also social, altruistic, cooperative tendencies which are at least as important, such as a striving for fairness and a striving for reciprocity and also a striving to belong to one or more groups. Research into self determination theory (Visser, 2010) has shown that the need for relatedness is an important a universal need of people. Satisfaction of this need for relatedness has been shown to be also crucial for internalization of external demands. Through relatedness we become socialized and find meaning in life.

January 14, 2011

People want to BE competent, VIEW themselves as competent and they ARE already competent to some extent

Competence motivation is strong and important
Webster's Dictioniary defines 'competence' as a condition or quality of effectiveness, ability, sufficiency or success. Psychology researchers have come to view competence as a fundamental and universal motivation that has the evolutionary fucntion of helping people adapt to their environment. People's need for competence makes them act in ways that are aimed at developing their competence. Psychologist call this motivation of people to develop competence 'competence motivation'. In Handbook of competence and motivation, authors Andrew Elliott and Carol Dweck explain that 1) competence motivation is ubiquitous in daily life, 2) competence motivation has a substantial impact on emotion and well-being, 3) competence motivation is operative across the lifespan, well into old age, and 4) competence motivation is evident in all individuals across cultural boundaries.

January 13, 2011

People prefer to choose for themselves what they initiate and they want to control as much as possible what they do

The need for autonomy
One of the things we share with each other is that we want to experience autonomy. As individuals we prefer to choose for ourselves as much as possible what we initiate and we want to control as much as possible what we do and don't. The satisfaction of our need for autonomy can contribute importantly to the degree to which we are engaged in what we do, how well we learn, how creative we are, how well we adjust and mentally healthy we are.

15-minute writing exercise about things that are important to you

Think about the things that are important to you. Perhaps you care about creativity, family relationships, your career, or having a sense of humour. Pick two or three of these values and write a few sentences about why they are important to you. You have fifteen minutes.

Then read this.

January 10, 2011

Do you remember Insoo Kim Berg?

Did you know Insoo Kim Berg (who died 4 years ago today)? How do you remember her?
  • "I worked briefly with Insoo a couple of times. She was a brightly shining and intense star in the heavens, hard as nails and supremely kindly all at once." (Alan Kay)
  • "She changed my life...I love her!" (Roya Klingner)
  • "The message she sent, was the way I wanted to look at the world, people and social work." (Mark)
  • "A hardworking lady. Never amaze me with her boundless energy. She really make a difference in my life when I knew her 11 years ago when she came to Singapore to train a group of us in the solution focused brief therapy." (Edwin Tan)

January 9, 2011

Contaminated mindware: how can we protect ourselves against it?

There is a set of beliefs, rules, strategies, convictions, etcetera that is called 'contaminated mindware'.

Definition of contaminated mindware:
  1. not true: it is not grounded in evidence 
  2. potentially harmful: it is on the whole not beneficial for the one who holds it
  3. it can be very sticky and
  4. it can spread easily throughout a population. 

January 6, 2011

Questions: 1) SF outcome research?, 2) SF and ethnic and cultural diversity?

I received an e-mail from a reader of my blog (and viewer of  my Youtube videos). I asked and received his permission to post his mail here because it contains some interesting points and questions.
"First of all, I want to tell you how much I enjoy the videos you have posted on YouTube. I am a graduate student in counseling psychology and I am currently on internship at an employee assistance program. I have learned a great deal from your videos about SFBT, especially since SFBT is not emphasized or taught at my college.

January 5, 2011

Dan Pink on motivation and engagement

Training Attention to Regulate Emotion

Several times before I have written about how solution-focused coaches and therapists subtly direct the attention of their clients (see for instance Solution-focused coaches manipulate clients in the direction of their own choice by subtly directing their attention, Redirecting attention from negative to positive in 3 small steps (PCO), and Focusing people's attention on the desired situation rather than asking them to admit they were wrong. In this article I have explained that solution-focused professionals through their interventions trigger positive emotions which in turn help clients to become more open minded and creative in finding solutions. Now there is an interesting new article on how attention and emotion regulation are related.

January 4, 2011

Knowing and truth

What is more valuable: knowing that something which is true is true OR knowing that something which is not true is not true? What is worse: not knowing that something which is true is true OR not knowing that something which is not true is not true?


Knowing
Not knowing
True
Knowing that something is true
Not knowing that something is true
Not true
Knowing that something is not true
Not knowing that something is not true


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