Class Exercises


Exercise #1:


Prepare flash cards with names of various skills on each card.  Open question, closed question, paraphrase, summary, empathy, genuineness, unconditional positive regard, indirect question, directive, silence, wild card (any skill), self-disclosure, contracting, conclude.


Shuffle the cards.  Have a student (in front of the class or on videotape or just on their own) start an interview and listen carefully to the client.  Then select the first card in the stack and follow the directions on that card.



Exercise #2:


Have students lie on floor or relax in their chair.  Then go through progressive relaxation.


Close your eyes now, just get comfortable.  Think about your  body and what you’re feeling  now…now  I want you to make fists and clench them as hard as you can and hold that….1…2…3…4…   etc.


Exercise #3:


Taken from Poorman’s Microskills text, page 137:


Advancing a Client’s Goals through Confrontation


In a dyad, practice taking turns as the helper or the client.  The client should role-play one of the client parts, while the helper practices confronting each type of discrepancy.  The following are examples for you to practice” 


*  a client who says things are fine while crying

*  friend who says she has quit drinking while carrying a beer

*  a student with a GPA of 2.0 who says she wants to go to medical school

*  a woman who takes care of everyone’s needs except her own

*  a man who works 80 hours a week who says he places a premium on “family values”

*  a client who disparages African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, gay, and

    lesbians, who says that his or her most important values come from being a Christian

*  an anorexic client who says she needs to lose weight

*  a red-faced client who smashes his fist on the coffee table while shouting that he’s not   






Exercise #4


A food diary is useful for detecting food allergies and assessing treatments.  The client writes down everything she/he eats and drinks: what, how much, when.  In addition, at set times during the day, including one-half hour after most consumptions, she/he also notes in the diary such things as mood, energy, or state of mind.


Subtract and add foods from the client’s diet and observe the results.  Do this for a week.



Exercise #5




“When reducing attachments, three common important components are attitude, awareness, and action.  Attitude is the mental set in which an individual approaches attachments and includes the components of meditation attitude.  In addition, it includes a person’s attitude toward discovering attachments….The second component in attachment work is awareness, mindfulness of the effects, dynamics, and eliciting stimuli of attachments…The third component of attachment work is action, what a person does when an attachment is observed…it is suggested that most attachments are related to security, sensation, and/or power…Thus when you are upset, you notice and reflect on what attachments are at work and how they relate to security, sensation, and/or power…An attachment log is often helpful.


“Security attachments, generating fear, worry, or paranoia, might center on such things as possessions, home, relationships, social roles, self-concept, other’s opinions of us, and being wrong.  Sensation attachments relate to craving for sensory pleasure and greater complexity, fleeing from boredom and sameness, and sex in the broadest sense.  Power attachments may be related to issues of will, domination and submission, social-political influence, prestige, pride, and energy.


“The three behaviors of the mind are all intertwined: changes in one result in or facilitate changes in the others”  (from Mikulas, pp. 103-4).


So develop an attachment log.  The next time you are upset, write it down in the log and try to figure out just what is setting you off.  Is it related to security, sensation, and/or power? 









Exercise #6




Get a piece of paper, a large one.  Get a variety of felt pens, crayons, pain, with lots of colors.  Get a couple of newspapers and magazines and a pair of scissors.  Start drawing, cutting, pasting.  You might want to do this exercise right after you have done exercise # 2.


Exercise #7




In addition to journaling about attachments, you should maintain a journal for your general life observations.  Into it you put reflections, drawings, maybe some poetry, all related to what you are observing and learning on your great journey of life and discovery.  You might have a section on priorities another on fantasies another on feelings, concerns, obstacles, unsent letters and conversations with others---parents, significant others, God.


Exercise #8


Cognitive Restructuring


“A cognition is the same thing as a thought.  The main goal of cognitive restructuring is to help clients recognize their faulty thinking and change it. When people feel anxious or depressed they are thinking about life in a negative and self-critical way…when people are taught to think about heir problems in a more positive and realistic way, they experience increased self-esteem” (Sperry, Carlson & Kjos, Becoming an Effective Therapist, p. 100).


You will help yourself and a client by becoming aware of your automatic thinking patterns and then change the way that you/they process information and create your behavior.  The following is a list of twisted or distorted thoughts from David Burns’ book Feeling Good. 


Look the list over and see if you recognize any of your thinking patterns among the list.


  1. All-or-nothing thinking: You look at things in absolute, black-and-white categories.
  2. Overgeneralization: You view a negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
  3. Mental filter: You dwell on the negatives and ignore the positives.
  4. Discounting the positives: You insist that your accomplishments or positive qualities “don’t count.”
  5. Jumping to conclusions: (A) Mind reading---you assume that people are reacting negatively to you when there is no definite evidence for this; (B) Fortune-telling---you arbitrarily predict that things will turn out badly.
  6. Magnification or minimization: You blow things way out of proportion or you shrink their importance inappropriately.
  7. Emotional reasoning: You reason from how you feel: “If feel like an idiot, so I really must be one.”  Or “I don’t feel like doing this, so I’ll put it off.”
  8. Should statements: You criticize yourself or other people with shoulds or shouldn’ts.  Musts, oughts, and have tos are similar offenders.
  9. Labeling: you identify with your shortcomings.  Instead of saying “I made a mistake,”  you tell yourself, “I’m a jerk,” or “a fool,” or “a loser.”
  10. Personalization and blame: You blame yourself for something you were not entirely responsible for, or you blame other people and overlook ways that your own attitudes and behavior might contribute to a problem.


Once these thoughts are identified, you need to clarify how and when they are being used by you.  The responses often occur automatically as in a habit.


Exercise #9




“Many American Indian societies believed in a third and fourth gender---neither male nor female.  In some of these, if a boy or girl showed signs of being ‘two spirit’ (the term presently being used among Native people), rituals often celebrated their ‘coming out.’  Two-spirit people combined elements of male and female apparel and often served as shamans.  Third-sex women often went to battle as warriors while third-sex men served as nurses and concubines.  The coming of Christianity severely altered these practices” (from Intervention with Children and Adolescents by Paula Allen-Meares and Mark W. Fraser, Allyn & Bacon: SF, 2004, p. 84).


So it is clear that some cultures not only accepted members who were gay or lesbian, they sometimes even took an extra step and gave them leadership roles as shamans.  This worked well for those cultures until bigots came along and imposed another way of thinking upon these Native cultures.  (In the movie Little Big Man we see some of this Native American acceptance of gay people on the screen.)


The study of identical twins is also very revealing.  Although if one twin is gay or lesbian, the other stands a 50% chance of being the same way clearly documents that genetics plays a powerful role, this also points to other factors being involved in whether a person becomes gay or lesbian.  (If it were only genetics, then 100% of identical twins would be the same sexually.)  For example, you could theorize that a person BEFORE they are born elects their sexual preference in terms of gay or lesbian.  You could make a variety of other hypotheses---BUT it is clear that, at least in most if not all situations, that a person does not chose to be gay or lesbian---they simply are a third-sex as the Native Americans once correctly believed.


So, now the exercise: discuss in small groups how you were taught to think about gay and lesbians as you were growing up---be specific.  How much of this way of thinking still is part of you---be honest.  What would you do if you were assigned a gay or lesbian client?  Could you provide empathy, unconditional positive regard, and genuineness toward them?