Do you mean to imply that everyone needs to be in therapy?
Not exactly. The important message is that physical health is not separate from mental health. It’s becoming more and more evident that physical, behavioral, and environmental factors of health are inextricably linked. Psychologists work together with medical doctors to help patients optimize their health. Essentially, psychologists are behavioral health interventionists. We have the ability to listen to and understand information, discuss the treatment of problems with clients, and help them adopt health-promoting behaviors as well as disease prevention and management strategies.
What are some examples of health-promoting behaviors?
Regular aerobic exercise, eating a balanced diet, minimizing sugar intake, not smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, regular sleep, annual physical examinations, hand washing, and seat belt use are all considered healthpromoting behaviors.
Eat right. Exercise. The usual advice, huh?
Yes, but here’s the difference. Take adherence to a healthy diet and regular aerobic exercise. Doctors have been telling people for years to eat healthy and exercise. Unfortunately, most people haven’t been taught how to engage in these health-promoting behaviors. How to set goals, how to boost their confidence, how to motivate themselves to go to the gym even when they don’t want to, how to curb emotional eating, how to adopt a more positive attitude, how to problem solve, how to get back on track when they experience a setback, etc. The good news is that these skills can be learned.
I understand that you teach these skills to individuals of all ages and groups. What can one expect when they come to your office for the first time?
When you first come to my office, I will ask you to fill out several self-report forms that assess a range of problems and symptoms. In addition, I will ask you questions that are designed to evoke change (e.g. What makes you think that you need to do something about your ______?). The purpose of this evaluation is to collect as much information about you as possible, so I can learn quickly what you would like to address. Together, we will develop a plan of action. Treatment can be relatively short-term or as long as you find it helpful. It is focused on how you are thinking, behaving, and communicating today.
Your treatment focuses more on the present and less on early childhood experiences?
In short, yes. When it comes to accomplishing your current goals, it isn’t always necessary to engage in lengthy discussion of how your parents, siblings, and peers treated you. By way of learning and practicing new skills, exploring personal strengths that can help you to succeed, and identifying people in your life who can offer support, it is easier for you to create change. Rather than get bogged down in the “why” the focus is more on what is important to you in your life right now.
What’s the best way to go about developing goals?
For starters, goals need to be specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and timely. “I will walk around outside during lunch for 20 minutes while making phone calls” is a much more attainable goal than, “I will walk more.” It is also important to address any barriers that might get in the way of achieving a goal. This is something that I do with my clients–we troubleshoot. And they know that I will ask how things went in our next session, which fosters accountability. A key takeaway is that when we attain a goal we increase our selfefficacy.
What is self-efficacy?
It is the confidence we have in our own ability to perform a specified behavior. Success has the power to raise self-efficacy. Have you heard the phrase, success begets success?
What’s a practical example?
Consider replacing that orange juice with sparkling water. The significance of this behavioral change for an individual who wants to lose weight goes beyond the 90 calories he/ she spared for opting for water. This behavioral change promotes health self-efficacy, and in turn, increases the chance that he will continue to engage in health-promoting behaviors. Overtime, these small changes add up. Just like with kids, it is important for adults to reward or compliment themselves for positive behavior change. When we experience positive reinforcement we are more likely to feel confident in our ability to make additional positive changes. The more confidence you have to make a change, the more successful you will be.
Any suggestions about ways to strengthen our confidence?
Ask yourself, on a scale of 0 to 10, how confident you are that you will be able to change a behavior that you wish to change? If your answer is above 0, ask yourself, what makes this a ___, and not a zero? What would it take to make that number 2 or 3 points higher? Recall things you did successfully in the past. Remember how you did those things. What did you do to make them happen? Think about how you can use successful techniques from the past to accomplish what you want to do now!
Dr. Kolzet is a licensed psychologist and educational consultant specializing in wellness. Her office is located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. In her clinical practice, Dr. Kolzet works with adults and children individually and in a group setting.
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