Training Techniques: A Closer Look
Attention bias modification training (ABMT) is a relatively new approach that helps people regulate their anxiety levels by training the brain to avoid focusing on anxiety- inducing objects or circumstances Everyone has his or
her own unique attention bias Upon entering a room, people’s attention automatically goes to di erent objects or situations based on their attention bias For example, if someone is particularly neat in his own habits, his attention may immediately go to scattered papers on a table For people facing high levels of stress or anxiety, their bias tends to direct their attention to perceived or real threats in the environment ABMT uses repetitive computer models and games to train people to divert their attention away from negative messages or stimuli and toward more positive ones The approach targets a specific attention bias and the specific part of the brain associated with it Results have been seen in as few as eight 15-minute sessions or less than two hours of therapy 138,139
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a practical, hands- on technique that helps people identify their problematic thoughts, images, and feelings and see how they are connected to self-destructive or negative behaviors Working with a therapist in weekly sessions over a relatively short period of time (e g , 4-7 months), people learn to use more constructive ways of thinking that result in healthier behaviors and attitudes First, the therapist and client decide together which stressful or problematic situations to focus on Then, the client learns to become aware of his or her thoughts, emotions, and beliefs about those situations and to identify which thoughts are negative, exaggerated, or even inaccurate Finally, through in-session and at-home practice, the client learns to challenge and question those negative or inaccurate thoughts and avoid the resulting negative behaviors CBT cannot eliminate unpleasant situations from people’s lives, of course, but the technique teaches them to take control of how they cope with those situations, empowering them to feel better about themselves and their lives 140-142
Reappraisal (also known as cognitive reappraisal or cognitive reframing) is a technique that helps people change the way they assess a situation and redirect their thoughts before they have an intense emotional response, which can become too focused (e g , feeling only anger or fear) and result in a destructive negative feedback loop Through therapy, people learn to use an active coping strategy and quickly make a positive yet realistic reassessment of what they initially see as a negative situation They can even learn to see the positive long-term results of a negative situation For example, a person could view being laid o from a job as an opportunity to nd a position with better hours or a location closer to home This strategy helps decrease stress and anxiety levels in the face of di cult situations and enables people to have more control of their emotional responses Reappraisal involves three important steps: (1) recognizing negative thoughts as soon as they come to mind without giving them time to fester, (2) reappraising the situation and imagining a positive outcome, and (3) redirecting thoughts and focus toward the positive results Ultimately, people learn that there is almost always more than one way to make sense of a situation and that it’s possible to take a di erent perspective and avoid intense emotions 143-151
Motivational interviewing is a method of changing people’s behavior by helping them see the discrepancies between their current behavior and their personal beliefs, values, or goals for the future Results can sometimes be seen in as little as one therapy session This technique can be efective when a person is ambivalent about or resistant to changing his or her behavior. In motivational interviewing, a therapist must be seen as a trusted, empathetic resource who doesn’t coerce, argue, or judge. Using reflective listening, therapists can show empathy for and acceptance of a client’s situation, without necessarily agreeing with the situation or behavior A therapist must first understand the client’s perspective, feelings, and values before he or she can begin to help the individual focus on discrepancies. Through gentle persuasion, the therapist helps the client see the discrepancies (and possible consequences) between his or her values and behaviors, which then motivates the individual to change In motivational interviewing, the client must be the one to voice the reasons and arguments for change
A therapist will help the client see how his or her life could be improved and help figure out ways to make that a reality, but the client must convince him- or herself that the change is necessary and that he or she is capable of making those changes 152
141. Martin, B. (2013). In-depth: cognitive behavioral therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved from http://psychcentral. com/lib/in-depth-cognitive-behavioral-therapy/
142. Mayo Clinic Sta . (2013). Tests and procedures: cognitive behavioral therapy. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/ cognitive-behavioral-therapy/basics/de nition/ prc-20013594
143. Sun, M. (2014). Psychological skills: changing
your emotions – An intro to cognitive reappraisal. Psychology in Action. Retrieved from http://www. psychologyinaction.org/2014/02/17/psychological- skills-changing-your-emotions-an-intro-to-cognitive- reappraisal/
144. Garland, E., Gaylord, S., & Park, J. (2009). e role of mindfulness in positive reappraisal. Explore (NY), 5(1), 37-44.
145. Barrista, S. (2013). Healthy emotion regulation can re- duce anxiety, study nds. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/About- NAMI/NAMI-News/Healthy-Emotion-Regulation- Can-Reduce-Anxiety,-Stu
146. Si erlin, A. (2013). How you deal with your emotions can in uence your anxiety. Time.com. Retrieved from http://healthland.time.com/2013/05/13/how-you-deal- with-your-emotions-can-in uence-whether-you-have- anxiety/
147. Improve your perspective using cognitive reappraisal. (2014). Retrieved from http://cogbtherapy.com/ cbt-blog/2014/5/4/hhy104os08dekc537dlw7nvopzyi44
148. Nhuyen, T. (n.d.). Flipping toxic thoughts: 5 cognitive reappraisal techniques. e Utopian Life. Retrieved from http://theutopianlife.com/2014/03/05/ ipping- toxic-thoughts-5-cognitive-reappraisal-techniques/
149. Troy, A.S., Wilhelm, F.H., Shallcross, A.J., & Mauss, I.B. (2010). Seeing the silver lining: Cognitive reap- praisal ability moderates the relationship between stress and depressive symptoms. Emotion, 10(6), 783–795.
150. Morris, M. (2010). e latest on handling job stress. Forbes.com. Retrieved from http://www.forbes. com/2010/03/17/stress-workplace-reappraisal-leader- ship-careers-psychology.html
151. John, O.P., & Gross, J.J. (2004). Healthy and unhealthy emotion regulation: Personality processes, individual di erences, and life span development. Journal of Personality, 72, 1301–1334.
152. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (1999).
Enhancing Motivation for Change in Substance Abuse Treatment. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih. gov/books/NBK64964/
Suggested citation: Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2016). Building Core Capabilities for Life: The Science Behind the Skills Adults Need to Succeed in Parenting and in the Workplace. http://www.developingchild.harvard.edu
© March 2016, Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University