Life coaches can implement the dialectical approach to guide the emotionally-overwhelmed client’s understanding that both their rational mind and their emotional mind can co-exist, despite the fact that they oppose each other (Neziroglu & Donnelly, 2010). Linehan refers this co-existence as the “wise mind,” in which individuals are not controlled by either emotion or reason, but instead, acknowledge the presences of both and synthesize them into a single state of mind with a balance of both emotion and reason (Linehan, 1993). For example, during a coaching session, the coach can guide the client toward a wise mind by encouraging them to not let their emotions override their reasoning (e.g. “I feel so discouraged that I just don’t care about anything else!”), and to not let their reasoning override their emotions (e.g. “Other people don’t seem to get discouraged like I do, so there must be something wrong with me!”), but to balance and synthesize both (e.g. “I am really discouraged, but I need to find a way to cope with this so that the problem doesn’t get bigger!”).
The dialectical approach is also useful for the coach in supporting the client’s understanding that the concepts of acceptance and change can effectively co-exist. If the client’s willingness to accept circumstances at hand and their willingness to make healthy, positive changes are in disagreement, they will experience feelings of anxiety, turn to unhealthy coping strategies, or engage in complete avoidance. However, as described in Overcoming Depersonalization Disorder, if the client is encouraged to synthesize acceptance and change,
acceptance will allow them to experience an uncomfortable feeling and, at the same time, continue to live according to (their) values, while change will involve seeking ways to reduce the discomfort (Neziroglu & Donnelly, 2010).
Over the past several years, the fields of psychology, psychotherapy, counseling, and life coaching have moved closer toward use of mindfulness as an ingredient in their treatment methods (Germer, Siegel, & Fulton, 2005). Derived from the traditional Buddist Practice, mindfulness is the core concept and foundation of all DBT skills. Mindfulness encompasses the concept of attending to the present moment without judgment; to see things just as they are without being clouded by any assumptions or judgments; “to attend to what is rather than how things appear to be (Neziroglu & Donnelly, 2010). It helps the individual accept and tolerate their powerful emotions that surface when they challenge their behaviors, habits, and difficult situations in their life. Ideally, this will help the individual to stop dwelling on what happened before the negative event, as well as what “may” happen after; they must focus on the present moment and its truths.
In The Stress Response, author Christy Matta writes
scattered, distracted, and self-critical reactions can perpetuate and intensify the negative emotions that are part of the stress response . . .under stress you may find yourself in “automatic pilot” mode, reacting without thought, distracted by worry, and making hasty decisions. (p.115)
She further describes how individuals often engage in multitasking in order to reduce external pressures, which decreases one’s ability to filter out irrelevant information and ultimately increases stress levels. Yet, mindfulness activities have shown to
counteract automatic-pilot, scattered thinking, and unhealthy coping, improve well-being and reduce stress, and activate parts of the brain associated with positive mood (Matta, 2012).
Additional studies have shown that mindfulness techniques have effectively reduced the recurrence of depressive episodes, anxiety, chronic pain, and binge eating (McKay, Wood, & Brandtley, 2007, pg. 63).
Encouraging the client to utilize their “wise mind” with mindfulness activities will allow the client to see and experience events in their life, especially those that trigger strong emotions, with calmness and less feelings of being overwhelmed (Neziroglu & Donnelly, 2010). The wise mind is fostered by learning “what” and “how” skills, which supports the individual in becoming mindful of what to focus on, and understanding how to be both mindful and nonjudgmental. In regards to “what” skills, the coach can guide the client to be fully present on the moment, verbally label their thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations related to the moment, and learn to separate their thoughts from the emotions felt. Once this is achieved, the coach can then encourage the client to engage in “how” skills by using their wise mind to make healthy decisions based on their rational thoughts and their emotions. The coaching session will include discussions about exploring the client’s “gut feelings” or intuitions, identifying when use of radical acceptance is appropriate, recognizing when judgments are surfacing, and creating actions that are effective in the present moment (McKay, Wood, & Brandtley, 2007). Mindfulness exercises can support the client in practicing to let go of their negative or self-defeating ways of thinking and feeling that have become automatic or habitual. Their increased awareness of these habits will empower them to distance themselves from them and/or change them in the moment. This will be especially useful for clients who frequently experience judgmental and negative thoughts that are internalized (e.g. “I am so stupid!”), which also create distractions that pull them out of the moment (Matta, 2007).