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The authors describe an emotional control card useful in enhancing the application of rational-emotive imagery.
Mental imagery is recognized as an important component in counseling and therapy. According to Cordon (1972). imagery is incorporated into most psychotherapeutic procedures to some extent. Meichenbaum (2978) indicated that more than 20 effective imagery techniques are used in psychotherapy.
Cognitive therapist Albert Ellis relies heavily on imagery in rational-emotive therapy (RET) (Ellis & Harper, 1977). Actually, Maultsby (1975) developed the technique of rational-emotive imagery (RET), which Ellis adopted and incorporated into RET (Ellis & Harper, 1977; Ellis & Whiteley, 1979). Imagery work in RET has been recognized and accepted. The purpose of this article is to present a tool that enhances the rational-emotive imagery techniques used in RET.
Although the RET technique has been helpful to clients of rational-emotive therapists, it could be improved. For example, Counselees may forget to apply their newly acquired rational thinking skills in real life situations. Clients may have difficulty applying rational thinking to new dilemmas. Identifying more than one irrational thought within the context of the same activating event may hamper progress. Furthermore, after repeated practice of REI homework with a specific activating event and emotional consequence, some clients may have trouble summoning strong feelings generated from that situation. Thus, they tend to stop practicing imagery.
Emotional Control Card
TABLE 1: Emotion Control
After clients are taught the rational-emotive imagery concept, the ECC is introduced. Clients use the ECC to identify both the debilitating (or closely related) emotions and the preferred, mild feelings. Next, they re-experience the intense negative consequences, and the)’ are directed to change these feelings to their preselected mild feelings. The thought process used by clients to alter both their debilitating feelings and irrational beliefs to more tolerable ones are discussed and reinforced.
Clients are asked to think of other situations in which the ECC would be helpful and to practice these applications. Carried in one’s wallet, the ECC serves as a supportive reminder of rational thinking. Whenever an activating event occurs that yields a strong. negative emotion, the client uses the ECC is to eliminate enervating emotions and the corresponding irrational beliefs. Thus, the prop enables users to apply REI with an activating event that may not have been an issue in counseling.
The ECC can also reinforce REI homework. We have observed that, during REI homework, many counselees find it difficult to repeatedly generate debilitating feelings aroused by the same activating event. They tend to become bored and to discontinue the activity. Perhaps this is an indication that the problem is solved. The FCC then provides additional intense and mild affective states that clients can connect with other activating events to practice as homework. Such self-control produces growth in the client. Periodic checks with counselors can remedy an)’ problems they encounter in the process.
The Emotional Control Card in Practice
The ECC allowed the counselee to put into practice what she learned in counseling. She found imagery homework unnecessary because the ECC had become an immediate reminder whenever she had irrational thoughts. She also reported, with much enthusiasm, that she had taught some fellow inmates how to use the ECC. Some of them, however, became perturbed with her playing counselor. Possibly, warning the client to not evangelize the use of this technique may prevent such a problem. Six months after she was terminated from counseling, the client, in a follow-up discussion with the prison counselor, indicated that she had continued to control her anger and had maintained good relationships with other inmates.
A second client used the ECC to tone down his negative reactions to members of his board of directors. He would place the ECC in front of him with his papers at board meetings and would focus his thoughts on the card whenever he felt strong, negative emotions being evoked. lie now uses the ECC when he needs it and reports that it is effective in helping him resolve some difficult issues.
The ECC was also found to be effective in teaching the concepts of RET and REI in a stress management workshop. Group members experienced rational imagery using the methods presented here. Imagery homework with day-to-day. self-chosen issues was practiced. Real life encounters that led to intense feelings of irrational distress were confronted using the ECC.
The ECC has been used with counselor trainees as well. During the spring term of 1984, the senior author demonstrated it to an entire group of 22 counseling techniques students at the University of Louisville, Because of their personal involvement, students’ skepticism about the effectiveness of REI was substantially less than that of previous classes.
Because the FCC is a recent development, its use has been limited. Therefore, it is difficult to determine the extent to which it will he useful in the field of counseling. Our experiences have been positive, although two drawbacks in addition to the one cited earlier may occur. First, clients may use the ECC as a crutch. Second, because the FCC is grounded in RET and REI, it will not help clients who are unable to grasp those concepts.
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