Are you a visual learner?

Kristie Overstreet Ph.D., LPCC, LMHC, LPC, CST

Have you figured out your learning style? Have you aligned your study plan to coordinate with your learning style? If you grasp new information better through seeing it, then your learning preference may be visual. As you continue to understand the three learning styles, this article will focus on everything you need to know as a visual learner.

What is a visual learner?

A visual learner is someone who likes to see what they want to learn. The space that is created by visually seeing information aids in the learning process. The term for this is visual-spatial learning.

If you like to see concepts written out versus hear about them, you are a visual learner. Your ability to see how the information looks helps you absorb the material and memorize it. Just because you are a visual learner doesn’t mean that you don’t include other learning styles such as auditory or kinesthetic. The goal is for you to identify the best way you learn the material then align your study plan to match it.

 You may be a visual learner if you:

  • Make lists to help you learn or stay organized.
  • Find it useful to write out your thoughts and ideas.
  • Prefer reading material and study guides versus listening to audio recordings of the same information.
  • Find it helpful to highlight, underline, or make notes in your study guides.
  • Re-write information you have learned. For example, you re-write lecture notes.

Tips to help visual learners

  • Write things down. Whether it’s a term or process, be sure to write it out.
  • Utilize flashcards to help memorize and understand the material.
  • Watch videos that cover the concepts and theories you are learning.
  • Visualize critical concepts as symbols, acronyms, or picture. For example, in learning systems, draw a diagram or image to represent it.
  • Arrange your notes in an outline.

There are many more tips, techniques, and strategies available for visual learners. Don’t waste your valuable time on a study approach that isn’t tailored to your individual need. Now that you know the power of being a visual learner make studying easier by learning about the Taylor Study Method.

This is a research-based package that helps each of the different learning styles. The Taylor Study Method is especially helpful for visual learners because it offers video lessons for deeper dives into more difficult content. It also provides Flash Cards to aid in over 750 key terms. You want to do your best, pass your exam, and take the next step in your career so be sure to get the right support through the process.

Motivation vs. Expectation: How to reward yourself for going beyond the minimum?

Kristie Overstreet Ph.D., LPCC, LMHC, LPC, CST

How is your self-discipline with work? Do you put off your therapy notes until minutes before they are due? Are you a procrastinator that uses pressure as motivation? Do you get frustrated with yourself because you are doing the minimal to get by?

Regardless of what inspires you or how you stay focused be sure that you are always reaching beyond the minimum of what is expected. There are many benefits to being motivated to accomplish your goals or tasks. Whether it’s the sense of accomplishment, marking off your to-do list, or the potential that your employer will recognize how hard you have worked.

Rewarding yourself for staying motivated and exceeding expectations is a great way to keep the cycle going. Here are a few tips that will help you along the way.

What does it mean to you?

Taking time to ask yourself how you benefit from exceeding expectations is one way to stay motivated. For example, volunteering to take on a new task at work will allow you the opportunity to show others how dedicated you are to your job. You are willing to take on extra work to help the team. Whether it’s planning the next treatment team meeting or organizing a team building activity you can make a difference.

What reward would matter most to you?

Everyone’s idea of a reward is different. One person may buy themselves something small, and others may reward themselves with something that isn’t physical. For example, if you had a goal and exceeded it, you may want to plan to take a day off from work so you can enjoy yourself. Having this to look forward to can help keep you motivated to continue to exceed your expectations of yourself.

What have you been able to accomplish so far?

The quickest way to boost your confidence and motivation is to look back at what you have been able to accomplish up until now. You need extra inspiration to go further. Making a list of what you are proud of accomplishing is a great start. It doesn’t matter how small or trivial it may seem, give yourself credit for it. Use this list as a refresher when your motivation begins to decrease.

You want to exceed your expectation because it will benefit you. It may feel at times like you are doing it only for your job or another person, but you will be the one to reap the benefits. Find what motivates you, especially on tough days and keep at it. Your hard work will pay off.

Effective Communication

Happy June, loyal readers! Not only is June the month that it really starts to feel like summer, but June is also Effective Communication Month [1]. In order to start off the month right, I thought we could explore a little more as to why effective communication is so important in a field like ours.

First, let us talk about what communication really is. According to one publication out of Columbia University, communication is a task which requires at least two active participants [2] (unless we’re caught talking to ourselves, but that’s something different entirely). In the use of spoken language as our primary form of communication, we have been able to harness an incredible amount of information that can be transferred in an infinite number of unique ways [2].

Because we have just so many different combinations of words that can mean so many different things, communication can get tricky. Not only do we have an incredible vocabulary with which to play, we also have an ever-increasing list of ways to implement this communication—face to face, phone call, text messages, emails, social media, and the list goes on. Nevertheless, as psychological professionals, it is necessary that we have a handle on our own communication styles and any idiosyncrasies that may exist.

Where can communication go wrong?

Well, there are two major phases to communication: when the message is “encoded” and when it is “interpreted”. The first of these issues we’re going to hit on is when something isn’t “encoded” properly. Encoding is just a fancy way to say that you’re putting your abstract thoughts into a more concrete form—words. There are several different ways that things can be verbally (and nonverbally) encoded [4]. For example, let us say you were having a spectacular day. You could verbally encode this by telling your best friend “wow, I just had a great day today!” or “everything just went my way today!”. It could be nonverbally encoded through your body language, such as a big smile. Think about how you might encode messages in your daily life—you are hungry, so you suggest to your coworker that you all go out to grab a bite to eat; you don’t like someone that you went out on a first date with, so you tell them that it simply is not working out.

Since this is the first major phase, this is also the first major phase where communication can go wrong. The way that you put a message into words or nonverbal cues could be incorrect. For instance, simply selecting the wrong word by mistake can drastically change the meaning of your message. Even mispronouncing a word can muddle the message that you are trying to send.

The second major phase of communication is interpretation [4]. This comes when the receiver of your message takes the information that you encoded with words and works out their own meaning behind the message [4]. Continuing the first example that was provided above, when your best friend hears the words “wow, I just had a really great day today!”, they’re most likely going to understand that “Lizzy feels as though she had a good day today”. From there, the receiver or interpreter can attach other meanings that they are able to glean from your message, such as “Lizzy is in a good mood” or “something exciting must have happened at work today”. This process is the second half of all encoding processes, so you can understand how this might help us to draw other conclusions about the person with whom we are engaged.

Naturally, this phase of communication can create confusion as well. The interpreter is using the information that they already know about the speaker and the information being sent through body language and verbal language to reassemble the message that the speaker is trying to send. This message is then assigned meaning and the interpreter can draw conclusions from there. These meanings and conclusions that we assign to the partner in communication may or may not be correct. It is important to take each of these assumptions with a grain of salt, as the encoder of these messages might not be trying to communicate those deeper meanings that we are assigning.

Communication in a helping profession

According to one psychologist, helping professions are based almost entirely off our ability to communicate [4]. T. L. Thompson describes our ability to communicate with our clients and our patients as an “invisible helping hand” [5]. At this point in our careers, I’m sure you have already noticed your powers of persuasion and your ability to get your point across. Kottler suggested that some of these innate qualities may have subconsciously drove us into these professions [4]. On the contrary, it is possible that through our rigorous training we have developed these skills.

Whatever the case may be, it stands that we have these skills, and we need to be able to utilize them to the best of our ability in order to be successful with our patients. Kottler details why it is so important for us to have good communication skills—it is necessary not only to set a good model for our clients, but also to be able to employ our treatment strategies. Most (if not all) psychological approaches are based around communication and the use of words. One study found that most frequently in therapeutic dyads, the professional was the one at fault for the issues in communication [5]. With the blame for communication difficulties falling more frequently on the professional, it should only serve to further our desire to become better communicators for the sake of our clients.

What can we do?

As you can start to see, having a conversation or sending an email involves much more than just words.  Now that we know a little more about the actual message and how it can get misinterpreted, we can hopefully better address ways in which our communication can be improved.

Psychology Today published an article delineating three major, yet simple, methods that can be used to improve communication [6]. The first suggestion was to “be consistent” [6]. Being able to have messages that make sense together is extremely important for communicating not only with our clients but also with our peers and advisors. If we are talking in circles, or flipping back and forth between one thing and another, we are simply going to confuse our interpreter. Especially when working with clients, it is important to keep your message consistent. No one wants a therapist who can’t decide for themselves what should be done.

The second point to be an effective communicator was to keep the message clear [6]. In order to be taken seriously by our advisors, preceptors, professors, etc. we do not need to impress them with our word-of-the-day calendar. Rather, it is better that we should be straightforward and as understandable as possible when presenting an issue or any other message. With our clients as well keeping our message short and to the point is essential. They are not there to be impressed with our way with words. Instead, they are in our office to get the information they need and to gain insight on difficult life issues. They need our help, not our vocabulary.

Finally, Psychology Today suggested that being courteous in our words is the final step to improving our communication. Remember how easy it was for a message to be misinterpreted either through a simple issue in encoding or an issue with interpretation? It would be extremely easy for a client who is already depressed to interpret your lower affect one day as an insult or confirmation that you do not like them. Being sure that your demeanor is warm, and your message is positive and well-mannered is crucial [6].

With whom should I focus my communication skills?

So, to whom do we apply these fancy new communication techniques? Well, as a budding psychological professional, there are a few people who should be prioritized fairly high on that list.

Naturally, your clients should be the highest on this list. In the helping professions [5], such as our own, communication is often the key intervention strategy for our clients. Making sure that we are encoding our messages a bit more carefully, and that we are leaving little room for error in interpretation, as well as employing the “Three Cs” described above can help establish healthy communication[6] . Feeling as if the therapy room is an open place and is safe for sharing and communicating can help the client open up a bit more to you.

Communication between you as a student and your professors is vital [7]. In a teacher-learner dyad, being able to communicate is of utmost importance. Letting the professor know if what they are trying to teach is getting through can help the professor learn how to better convey the information. It can also help you as the student to btter gather the information that the professor is trying to pass along. Having open communication between professors also helps to build trusting relationships which can help you out later. Being able to rely on older professionals for guidance and for references can help you out as you progress through your career.

In the same vein, it is also important to have a solid communication with your internship directors, preceptors, or other training personnel [7]. In a workplace scenario, where you are still learning, perhaps courteousness is the most important of the “Three Cs” that were described above [6]. Being able to communicate your needs, while still remaining knowledgeable and conveying respect to those in authority is important [6].

Being able to keep in touch with your peers and cohort is also critical. Being able to build these connections that you will have for the rest of your professional career can only serve to benefit you. Opening up communication within your peers and cohort helps to create a solids support network of others going through similar situations and struggles as you. That can help you to find support or discuss coping methods that have worked for you and that have worked for others. Besides a support network, open communication within your peer group can help in your professional career when you are looking for referral sources, or when you need someone to whom you can refer out. Having these peers available as consults, referrals, and just good friends is all hinged on good communication.

Finally, keeping in touch with your friends and family (especially while you’re going through graduate school) is necessary. Even though it may feel as though you are drowning maintaining all these new professional relationships with clear and concise communication, it is important not to neglect your personal relationships. As one of my advisors frequently reminds me, just because you’re going through graduate school doesn’t mean that everyone else is. Make time to see your friends and family and make sure that they are receiving the message that you care about them and that they are a priority. You want to make sure that at the end of your time in graduate school, you have someone to celebrate with.

References

  1. Communications, V. (2014). June is Effective Communications Month. Retrieved from https://news.vanderbilt.edu/2014/06/05/june-effective-communications-month/
  2. Krauss, R. M. (2002). The psychology of verbal communication. International Encyclopaedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. London: Elsevier, 16161-16165.
  3. Davis, M. H., & Johnsrude, I. S. (2003). Hierarchical processing in spoken language comprehension. Journal of Neuroscience23(8), 3423-3431.
  4. Kottler, J. (2017). On being a therapist. Oxford University Press.
  5. Thompson, T. L. (1984). The invisible helping hand: The role of communication in the health and social service professions. Communication Quarterly32(2), 148-163.
  6. Bourg Carter, S. (2013). The 3 C’s of Effective Communication. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/high-octane-women/201304/the-3-cs-effective-communication
  7. Skillful Communication in the Workplace – Smart Psychology. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.smartpsychology.ie/skillful-communication-in-the-workplace/

Emerging Trends in Psychotherapy: Integration

If there is one constant in life, it’s change. The important field of psychotherapy is certainly no exception. As our world becomes ever more advanced, the problems we face both as a society and as individuals become correspondingly more complex and difficult to resolve. One way to adapt and thrive in such an environment is to realize the connections that often exist between different components of a subject. This integration process helps to reduce the total number of pieces involved in mentally processing the problem and thus makes it easier to understand and develop effective measures for.

How is the field of psychotherapy moving toward integration? Dr. Gelso, in his article entitled: “Emerging and Continuing Trends in Psychotherapy: Views From an Editor’s Eye” lays out various ways he has seen the industry evolve over the last several decades.  We will examine some of these below.

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It Really is All About Attitude

Last year I received an invitation to speak at a conference for professionals in the caring professions. The conference was attended by doctors, nurses, counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists, dentists, hospital and army chaplains, missionaries, marriage and family therapists, surgeons and students. The topic that the conference organizers had asked me to speak on was “Gratitude During Times of Suffering” and my marching orders were simple: explain how it’s possible to remain thankful in the midst of suffering.

Now I’ve never been particularly good at being thankful when things are going wrong. If I have trouble sleeping, I grumble the next day. If I don’t have enough money to buy something I want, I whine and complain to whoever will listen. If I have a physical injury, everyone in my circle of friends is sure to know about it. So expecting me to give a talk on how to be grateful during times of suffering is kind of like asking ask John Wayne to dance Swan Lake, or asking Justin Bieber to sing the part for Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro. 

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Speech and Elderly Self-Perception

In the mid-1990s Becca Levy began a series of experiments to show the importance of how we think about aging.

Levy, who was an associate professor of epidemiology and psychology at Yale University at the time, later published her findings in a 2002 edition of The Journal of Personal and Social Psychology.

Her research involved exposing elderly people to subliminal messages about aging and then asking them to perform a task. Those who had been exposed to negative words such as “decrepit” were found to walk slower, have poorer handwriting, and other behaviors associated with negative stereotypes of aging. On the other hand, those who were first primed with positive words about aging (like ‘wisdom’) performed better. Continue reading

Free Association

Our last two posts have been looking at Freud’s early neural theories, which he developed before going on to be a psychoanalyst. Through Freud’s observation of the brains of fish, he suggested a notion that is now universally accepted within neuroscience, namely that the brain is made of cells and that the nerve cells in the brain are physically separated from one another. It is this physical separation between neurons—the space between the cells—that allows for a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity. (We discussed neuroplasticity in our two earlier posts ‘From Localizationism to Neuroplasticity’ and ‘The Adaptive Brain’.)  Continue reading