Motivational Orientation

Discovering what motivates us to pursue change and maintain change in our lives is started by understanding where our motivators lay. The  second handout in my Relapse Prevention curiculum helps one discover and put in place their own motivators.

The 3 most common types of motivational styles are Goal-Oriented, Learning-Oriented, and Relationship-Oriented.

Goal-Oriented people are motivated by concrete goals and completion of tasks. Relationships and learning are a secondary gain and means to completing a specific quest. Those of us who are goal oriented respond better,and stay on task, when we are regularly reminded of what we have to gain and lose by our behaviors.

Learning-Oriented  people are more motivated by the process than the completion of a task. They lean towards work positions and tasks that allow for learning and not simply procedural following. When working through our recovery, overcoming trauma, or simply trying to find a more balanced life, a learning orientation that enjoys psycho-education can be a game changer.

Relationship-Oriented people, as suspected, are motivated by building and maintaining relationships. Engaging in therapy or support based groups, or change focused communities, can bring about further and quicker growth than just one on one therapy.

Thinking further: What is your motivation style? How can you utilize this knowledge to promote and sustain change in your life? What are your top motivators right now, and why? What can you put in place to keep your mind focused on these motivations?




Stages of Change

Do you ever have those moments when you notice that your life seems to be more difficult than those of your peers but you are not sure why? Or those moments when you know why, but you are not sure you want to change yet? We have ALL been there at some point, with some behavior or another.

Often times, knowing what stage of change we are on, can help us move forward in growth sooner than if we stayed unaware or in denial. When working to prevent relapse, evaluating a stage of change can help in reestablishing motivation and benefits of staying in recovery.

So what are the 5 stages of change?

  1. Precontemplation
    1. The costs of the problem behavior are not yet recognized. The individual is in denial and is not seriously considering changing their behavior. They may have made previous attempts to change, but have since given up.
  2. Contemplation
    1.  The individual is experiencing ambivalence about change. They can see reasons to change their behavior, but they are still hesitant. The problem behavior continues.
  3. Preparation
    1. The individual has decided to change their behavior, and they begin to think about how to do so. During this stage they will begin to make minor changes to support their goal, but they might not have completely ended the unwanted behavior.
  4. Action
    1. Significant steps are taken to end the problem behavior. The individual might be avoiding triggers, reaching out for help, or taking other steps to avoid temptation
  5. Maintenance
    1. The changes made during the action stage or maintained. The individual may continue to face challenges, but at this point they have successfully changed their behavior for a significant period of time. ­

Take some time to see where you are with your recovery story currently.

What stage do you think you are on right now? Why? Do you feel like you have been “stuck” on this stage for a while now, or have you seen growth recently? What has helped you get to this stage, and not be at a previous stage? What might it take for you to move forward to the next stage?

Find a downloadable version of this document on the “Worksheets”section of the site.

Growing Your Seeds: Self-Care

One thing that many of us excel at in life is self-care other-care. We give and give and give and care and care and care. Yet we forget to remember that we have to grow seeds in order to give seeds.

FlowersI am struck again and again of the lifespan of a sunflower. It starts as a seed and with much care (by others and nature: rain and food) it sprouts into a flower and grows. Then one day it blooms a sunflower head. The leaves stay folded into the center of the flower protecting the developing seeds. Then one day, as the seeds become fully grown, the petals unfold and reveal the sunflower seeds that the flower produced during its growing process.


Once the seeds are revealed, the flower drops them. Some of them set into the ground to grow new flowers, some are gathered by others to plant or eat.

So what does this mean for us as people?

Sometimes we need to

A. Let others nurture us, feed us, protect us, provide, and aid in our growth

B. Allow ourselves time to grow and bloom

C. Protecting our seeds (our gifts, skills, talents, energy)

and then- we are ready to release our time and seeds to others. Only after our own growth and self-care can we give back and care for others.

Impatient: (Re)Learning Emotion



1. not patient; not accepting delay, opposition, pain, etc., withcalm or patience.
2. indicating lack of patience: an impatient answer.
3. restless in desire or expectation; eagerly desirous.


4. impatient of, intolerant of: impatient of any interruptions.
       Today I am choosing to blog on relearning the feeling of impatience. So why today? Well, you guessed it, I am feeling IMPATIENT! I recently ordered myself my first apply IPad. It is sitting at FedEx, and I am stuck in my office. Waiting.
      There are many things in life that cause us to feel impatient: the excitement of something new, the wait before an upcoming vacation, or when an ending of something dreadful is nowhere near sight.
     This last example is the one that I frequently hear from individuals in recovery (and from myself when I am faced with a change). Impatience is often expressed in the midst of recovery towards people. For example:
I am impatient towards my therapist who just wont answer my question or refuses to push me further.
I am impatient with my dietitian who just doesn’t understand that I cannot and will not do (fill in the blank).
I am impatient that my team is not listening to me or considering my point of view on a situation.
and the real biggy
I am impatient with myself. Why is my recovery not happening, right, NOW?
I know it is frustrating to sit with this feeling but it shows incredible growth and progress! It shows that you are willing to push forward, that you are not content in your disorder or negative coping behaviors, you are MOVING FORWARD!
So, instead of allowing these feeling of impatience towards yourself or others aiding in your recovery, embrace the feeling (cliche I know) and yet it is true. Embrace the feeling that accompanies change, and growth, and new experiences. This to shall pass.

Rejected : (RE)Learning Emotions


verb (used with object)

1. to refuse to have, take, recognize, etc.: to reject the offer of a better job.
2. to refuse to grant (a request, demand, etc.).
3. to refuse to accept (someone or something); rebuff: The other children rejected him. The publisher rejectedthe author’s latest novel. discard as useless or unsatisfactory: The mind rejects painful memories. cast out or eject; vomit.
Feeling rejected is probably one of the most common emotions felt by those in recovery. Rejected by our friends, our families, our co-workers, our peers, even ourselves. We all have those memories of waiting to someone to come around, and they simply do not.
So let us break rejection down:
Who: friends, peers, co-workers, family, ourselves
How:  a) intentionally- although we like to believe that others would treat us fairly and not internally reject us, it does happen. Sometimes it is circumstances we are prepared for such as a rejection of a job position and other times it is just bullying or somewhere in between the two.
        b) unintentionally- sometimes (and most often) our rejection or feelings of rejection were not intentional. For instance, you waited for hours for you friend to call you back, you felt rejected when he/she did not call you, and yet in reality, your friend had a family crisis and simply could not get in touch with you. **This does not make you feeling of rejection any less real or valid**
We all feel rejected from time to time- the question is: how do we handle this emotion? how do we react? or respond? what self-talk do we use?
Feel free to comment on your own rejection stories, how you responded/reacted, and what helped you get through it.

Ideal Self

As many of you know, I am huge fan of Brene Brown’s research into shame and vulnerability. One of things she talks about frequently is identifying “shame triggers.”

For those of you not familiar with her work, a “shame trigger” is any verbal, or non-verbal, event that may lead to feelings of shame. For example: telling a pregnant mom that she is going to be a horrible parent based on her choice of day-care vs. staying at home would be a shame trigger for the pregnant mom. 

One of the first steps in learning how to manage shame in your life, is to begin to identify areas in your life that may lead to shame. IE: what are my shame triggers? 

This is a pretty broad, difficult, and overwhelming question for most people. But yet when it can be answered promotes extraordinary growth.

I can almost imagine you all screaming at me, HOW DO I KNOW WHAT THOSE TRIGGERS ARE? 

Here is how I have gone about identifying some of those areas in my life: I ask myself, when I first meet someone, I want them to walk away thinking XYZ about me. So for instance I want someone to think that I am funny, kind, intelligent, grounded, secure, helpful, wise, smart, stable, independent, reliable.. this list could go on and on. Lets just pick one and run with it.

I want people to instantly think that I am intelligent. Yet after my first coffee date with my new co-worker I over hear him saying that I mispronounced that name of the drink I wanted to order (completely overlooking the fact that I was tired and stumbled over my words all day, not just at that moment). I then instantly turn that into shame telling myself I am so stupid, I know how to say X, I am just not good enough for this person… and what you have is an area of SHAME TRIGGER in your life. 


Feel free to comment with shame triggers that you or someone you know has dealt with. We all have them and there are pretty common themes among most people. 

Living in the “Shoulds” and “have toos'”

Recently I heard a girl in recovery say to another girl that

“If you are telling yourself you have do something, you shouldn’t be doing it”

These are hard words to swallow. Be it in recovery or in day to day living: you shouldn’t do something if you think that you have too.

IE: you shouldn’t exercise because you think you have too, you should exercise because it promotes the healthy lifestyle you want to live.

What areas are you pushing yourself to do things you “have” to do? and how can you modify them to make them more healthy?