As helpers and caregivers of others with mental health problems, our reaction and interaction when we interact with the person is extremely important. It requires more thought and consideration than usual interpersonal interchanges as it is common for people who need help to be more sensitive to perceptions, assumptions, and stereotypes. Any sign or perception of aggression, frustration, ridicule, or dismissiveness will likely reinforce negative thoughts and beliefs that the person already have. This will push them in the wrong direction and strengthen their undesirable feelings and behavior.
Instead, a caregiver must always attempt to understand the underlying reason for any unwanted behavior and try to change it by challenging negative beliefs while validating and empowering the person’s experiences. There is a “grain of truth” behind every undesirable behavior. Look for the “truth” that drives it, however insignificant or elusive it may seem. Beliefs are borne from past—sometimes very distant—experiences that become fixed “rules” over time. “I am not good enough,” “I don’t matter,” “It’s my fault,” and “I am powerless,” are a few examples of negative core beliefs.
These thoughts disempower and invalidate the person. As a result, negative thoughts and feelings are generated that causes distress, which can often only be relieved by engaging in “bad” behavior (e.g. anger outbursts, abusive behavior, risk-taking, self-injurious behavior, and drinking and using drugs). A good caretaker defuses the situation by acknowledging and validating the other person’s thoughts and feelings, and, then, by questioning and challenging those in a calm and rational manner.
We look at the ABC model next, an important tool in understanding and improving cognitive processes.