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Walking on a catwalk- Modelling

Throughout our lives we are modelling behaviours that others are observing, whether we are aware of it or not. This modelling can plant seeds that can cultivate behavioural change for better or worse. In a recent clinical coaching session, we discussed how we as clinicians’ model behavioural change for the people we are helping. During this session I was being lazy with my explanation of case study, Laura (coaching faclitator) pulled me up with “Mat! enough of this psycho babble bullshit, what are the processes at play?” My initial reaction was to get defensive, I observed this in myself, defused and crated space from my automatic responses, gradually working through my explanation. Reflecting on this, I was being challenged, but in a good way, as this is how I learn & grow. Over this month I have taken more notice on how I model change to the people in my life.


Recently I have taken up singing lessons, no not to become an amazing singer, but to help my stutter and communication skills. I had no idea if I could sing or not, as I had done almost nothing in this space before, except for singing in car. I have practiced every day, gradually improving week to week. Without realizing it over the years I was talking in a very narrow deep range as this was my safe range and less likely to stutter, now my natural speech has a much larger range and freedom. My kids have watched this process unfold, I have modelled to them the importance of learning new skills, values, persistence (even when there was negative criticism) and constantly being able to grow at any age. It will be interesting watching the kids over the years and seeing what behaviours I have modelled for them, some that are helpful and probably some that are unhelpful.


In the clinic I have been taking more notice with my interactions with people. For a long time I have used open postures, curiosity and practice a lot of what I teach. Self-care has been a big part of what I do over the past 10 years, when people ask me what I do to look after myself I will openly talk about my journey through depression and pain, what coping strategies I use, including exercise, mindfulness, learning new skills, helping others and how I incorporate this into my life. The people that come to the clinic will see this with my interactions and may plant some seeds of change.


Last week in the clinic, I was asked how I was going? A part of ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) when appropriate is some self-disclosure (but not too much) to help facilitate change and build connection. I talked about the covid pandemic and my mental health struggles. This openness allowed the person to open up about her own experience with depression over the last few months. This person was not keen on seeing a psychologist as she was sick of going through her past and it wasn’t very helpful. I talked about my own experience with counselling, how I use it as a way of learning coping strategies that when shit comes up and it will, I have a set of skills that will help me to navigate through this. I was reframing how seeing mental health specialist can be beneficial. The session finished with me giving a card and referral to a counsellor, with next session hopefully the openness is there, and we can check in on how she went.


Another lady that I have been seeing on and off for 20 years, was a bit stuck and bored, she was showing signs of low mood. She really enjoys being creative and learning new skills, I chatted about myself started singing lessons even though I didn’t know if I was any good and reflected on the values of why I was learning to sing. The next session this lady had singed up to choir in her local area and was excited about singing with a group. This was bringing in elements yearning for human connection, learning a new skill and having fun. We can unpack the values of this over the weeks to come.


I have been modelling behaviours throughout my life, some I have been aware of, some I have not. I am now taking more notice about my interactions and the impact it has. Doing clinical coaching is an important part of clinical work, as it allows me to grow, challenge what I think I know and occasionally getting a kick up the arse when it’s needed, to push me to do my best. Now after consults now I am reflecting:

How did I model behaviour change?

How affective was it?

What other ways could I have modelled change?

Embody what you value, infuse it through your life, this will flow onto others.