By Yvonne Dolan, M.A.

When a client is physically in our office, talking with us on the phone, or even communicating over the internet, it can be relatively easy to gently help them shift from negative, complaint-focused language to more hope-friendly, mood enhancing thinking patterns. But how can we help our clients acquire the skills necessary to independently replicate this mood-enhancing shift at the times when it is most needed?

With a little coaching, many people can learn to utilize Solution-Focused Self-Help Scales for Mood Enhancement. The scales can be individualized as needed to fit clients’ specific requirements. Here are 3 basic examples of Solution-Focused Self-Help Mood Enhancement Scales that can be offered to clients:

The “In a Great Mood” Scale

On a scale from 1-10 with 10 symbolizing “In a Great Mood” and 1 symbolizing “Just the Opposite,” ask yourself, “How am I feeling right now? Is this number “good enough?” If “Yes,” ask yourself, “What am I doing or saying to myself right now that is helpful?“ and
“What am I doing that will be helpful to continue?” Be kind to yourself when you answer.

If you find that your position on your In a Great Mood Scale is not good enough at the moment, continue to the Instead Scale.

The Instead Scale

First, gently ask yourself, “What do I want to be doing and feeling instead?”

  1. Imagine a new scale of 1-10 in which 10 = “the way you want to feel and what you want to be doing instead,” and 1 = “Just the opposite.” Where are you on that scale?
  2. What is one small thing that you could do or say to yourself to move even a little bit in the direction of the 10? What else? What else?
  3. Let’s suppose that you discover that you have spontaneously moved up a point on the Instead scale. What will you be doing or saying differently when you are 1 point higher? Is this something you might want to try?
  4. What are you doing that will be important to continue to do in order to maintain your current position on the scale? What helps you do this? What else?
  5. Before finishing, ask yourself the HALT questions from AA. Are you hungry, angry, lonely, tired? If yes, to any of these, take a few moments now (or longer!) to be extra kind to yourself. You may even want to scale your current position on the Optimum Self-Care Scale.

The Optimal Self-Care Scale

Imagine a 1-10 scale in which 10=Optimal Self-Care (e.g. you are well-rested, feeling centered, relaxed, well-hydrated and well-nourished with healthy food) and 1= completely the opposite. Is there a point on the scale somewhere between 1-10 that is, perhaps not ideal, but good enough? Where are you now on the scale?

If lower than good enough, or if you simply would like to feel better, think of one (or more) little thing(s) you might do to move in that direction. Also take a moment to appreciate any good self-care activities you are already doing that will be helpful to continue. And again, be kind to yourself!

The above scales can be adjusted as needed to fit individual preferences, personality and coping scales.