October 19, 2011

Hey Buddy...can you spare some change?

Cheesy title, but one that lends itself to my topic of choice today.  As I may have mentioned before, I have (perhaps stupidly or without much thought) embarked on another masters program (this one in clinical counseling). In doing so, I must complete a series of pre-requisites; one being "Psychoanalytic Theories".  Of course, I'm all over this like a chocoholic on a Smartie. 

Last night I read all about Reality Therapy and Choice Theory (William Glasser..for those interested).  It really is all about helping the client come to terms with behaviour that may not be conducive to meeting their needs and achieving their goals. The counsellor acts like a guide, but also points out behaviours that may not be supportive....kinda like sitting across from someone complaining of feeling fat while they down a supersized Coke and chase it with a bag full of hot buttered popcorn (not that I would know anything about that.....but whatever). 

This model suggests there are more
influences than just putting the
fork down.....
I haven't really done this therapy justice, but in a nutshell...there you have it.  We see this approach (although bastardize beyond professional belief) in the media. Dr. Phil is a firm believer in ..."getting real with your life". I'm sure we see this attitude in shows like the Biggest Loser (tell me that show isn't still on? Haven't they been sued yet?). Unfortunately, what we fail to attend to, as does this theory/therapy is the fact that we don't live in a vacuum and the environment (both internal and external) has a huge influence on our behaviours.

An everyday example of this probably happens to you.  You sit down on Sunday to create a menu plan for the week, you grocery shop for all the healthy (albeit exciting) ingredients, and when it comes time to implement your carefully constructed eating plan......all hell breaks lose because you are working overtime or your kid gets sick (just to name a few obstacles). What do you do? Leave the fresh food in the fridge and drive thru the nearest convenience restaurant.  That is real life and those are the barriers to change.

This is a colorful take on the Stages of Change Theory (a.k.a. Transtheoretical Model of Change). It suggests that we go through a series of stages that can lead to change or relapse us back into old behaviours. It's a good one, but highly challenged and nothing you would want to consider on its' own.
 When it comes to organizational change towards health promotion, which, of course, will save a company tons of money vs. costing them in absenteeism and presenteeism (being there but not being there) the change must come from the top down.  At one point, I worked with the provincial government in implementing a few wellness workshops for their health promotion program.  It was a small, unfunded program created off the desk of someone already overworked, but usually passionate about health. Did it work? At that time...no. It was a good thought, but needed the support of the upper leadership. Perhaps it has changed since then...but I'm hearing stories that suggest the opposite.

This is one of the better models to show how "Choice Theory" might look. It doesn't take into account the relationship between client and therapist, but it does highlight the key element of awareness, responsibility, and perception. Without these...you can't have change.
While it is a noble cause to bring a plate of veggies to your meeting vs. a tray of donuts, we must see our leaders role model and sincerely support health promotion in the workplace or it won't change the big picture. For example, people continue to come in sick due to lack of sick days or too much work...does that promote office place health? Others will work till all hours of the morning to catch up on work that continues to flow in....does that promote health? While I understand the realism of private business, won't you get more out of your employees if you tend to their health? I believe the most successful businesses do value health and offer programs or even leadership strategies that enhance health vs. tearing it down. Even a simple veggie challenge (and that takes no money) can influence health behaviour at work.

At any rate, it is important to recognize the challenge of behaviour change isn't just up to the individual but the environment.  Be it workplace or home, although we are individually responsible for our own choices and we can create change by changing our thoughts and our habits, we would do better with an environment that supports it.

Yup...it's a very hard decision to make.
But the donut can only give you one
minute of goodness while the carrots
can last a lifetime!
So if you witness someone reaching for the carrots sticks at a party or declining on a glass of wine at a social event, be sure to support that person instead of poking fun. Perhaps they are doing what they can to make a difference to their health ....and they need all the support they can get.

Have a great day.

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