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Telehealth Counselling and Behaviour Therapies – A Reflection on Change

2020 is turning out to be a stellar year for change, upheaval, and disruption on many levels. Covid-19, bush fires, economic downturns, massive unemployment, global unrest, even the emergence of a new cold war between superpowers making indirect, direct, and real impact on our lives.

Learning to cope with change is not easy for anyone. Change brings about many stressors, anxieties, and uncertainties. Change can feel chronic, and you know what? Change certainly tends to be chronic in today’s world.

The likes of great spirits like Buddha suggested that the only steady reality is change. Francis of Assisi was claimed to pray, ‘Make me a channel of your peace,’ and no wonder. He too faced many difficult changes.

When living with disabilities, change in the environment can often trigger underlying sensitivities in body and mind. Many people may not have come to acknowledge the large range of sensitivities simply because our western society has only recently evolved from an industrial to technological system, and our science is advancing so quickly that most of our education is obsolete before we even graduate from high school.

We’ve grown to appreciate that the make up of each person is an ecology, deeply integral to health and wellness, and highly complex and elegant in design. This makes the blunt, obtuse, and crude manner of living that society maintains very hard on the human system. Our bodies break down, and relationship with environment and other people become stressed.

Food is only one small example. When thinking about food sensitivities all we need do is consider the size of the grocery store. Measure the isles with packaged processed foods versus the isles with fresh and organic produce. You have a mix that actually does not make much sense at all. Yet this is the system we live with at the moment.

Consider one other example. Behaviour management as an ideology and field of practice would posit that behaviours are objective measures of what a person does and does not do in space and time. Most would consider this an empirical and factual approach. There may even be insurance, grant, and social schemes and services that work to this religion of behaviour.

Yet like human ecology, behaviour is also highly interwoven in nature and elegant in design. Prone to routines, status quo situations, cumulative learning patterns, and sometimes slow change processes. Those of us who are neuro-typical often miss the fact of the elegance of ecological design; and those among us with the gifted insights of Autism tend to see the intricate patterns and necessary diversity that makes a system sing or shine or dance and flow naturally and with least resistance.

This view of behavioural science is not about management, not really at all. More elegant or nuanced approaches to behaviour are about genuine support, collaboration, making coalitions of like-mind-and-heart, investing energy of loving kindness, and choosing very carefully where to make changes where they are least disruptive with maximum positive contribution. The key of behavioural support is not even change per se, but knowing what element to nurture and when.

Sad and interesting to note; many people simply do not see the above insights and when pointed out in this manner, they may not much care. The pace of change, demands on jobs, managerial expectations, and bottom lines may drive a family, community, system, society, and nation to the brink of despair and without chance of redemption. Australia is heading down these pathways in many respects, some would say.

And for those who see more clearly, and those among us who are neuro-nuanced in a different way, often the manner of social coping is to withdraw and reduce the complications and chronic anxieties that neuro-typical bodies tend to spin out like endless golden threads from the karmic wheel of Rumplestiltskin. Funding bodies may tend to label these self-care strategies as ‘increased social isolation’ without acknowledging that environments and ways of behaviour among others around the individual needs to change.

Yet here again, behaviour is not what a person does per se but is more so the complex and elegant design of interactions, relationships; and perhaps 95% of behaviour is relational and based in our interactions with our environment. The rest arises from internal physical and mental systems, predispositions, and again sensitivities – yet how much more are we meant to understand and support these differences. Instead, we expect everyone to act and be the same. One of the great misperceptions of psychology is how normative theory has become a new form of religious dogma and is used by countless regimes for social control.

Have you ever wondered why the relatively simple issue of coping with a viral outbreak has freaked everyone out so much? People cannot even deal with changing how they visit a venue let alone adjusting their behaviours to suit a wholly new situation; and ironically this is exactly what society asks no expects everyday of minorities, people with disabilities, and anyone who is different. And when this does not happen, individuals are labelled with dysfunctions that also serve the majority’s needs of self-affirmation to maintain a norm that resists change.

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