Psychological Self-Help

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judgment; too often feeling successful is wishful thinking (Sorrentino &
Higgins, 1986). 
Compare the results of your self-help efforts, if you have plotted
your progress on a graph, with the level you were at prior to starting
the project (called "baseline" data). If on 6 days out of 7 during a
typical week of self-helping, you are doing better than you did before,
you are probably (9 chances out of 10) making significant progress.
Pat yourself on the back. That's a crude method but it's ordinarily good
enough; see a statistics book for more sophisticated methods. Lastly,
some periodic review of each project may be necessary forever to be
sure you are maintaining your gains. For instance, over-eating tends
to recur, so dieting may be a lifetime endeavor. Check your weight
every week, and adjust your eating habits immediately if you gain a
pound or two. Waiting until the habit is out of control and you have
gained 5 pounds is a major problem. 
Encourage others to check on your progress
Research is showing that "phone therapy," i.e. calling and checking
on someone's self-help progress, is beneficial. Calls have proven
helpful to people stopping smoking, wanting to exercise more, needing
to take medication as prescribed, etc. It is a matter of emphasizing the
importance of your treatment plan and your changing; it is a prompt
or reminder to carry out a new behavior; it is a way of saying "I care
about you." 
Deciding what is causing the progress
A good self-helper learns what methods work for him or her. The
fact that you are successful the first time you try a particular method
does not prove the effectiveness of that method. The truth is that the
change may have occurred because you expected to get better,
because of some other event (e.g. talking to a friend), because the
problem was going away anyway, or because of many other reasons.
However, if a particular self-help method repeatedly and consistently
works for you, then it becomes increasingly convincing that the
method you are using, not some other event, is the cause of the
improvement. You might even want to stop your self-help efforts
(especially when changing behaviors and emotions) occasionally to see
if the improvement stops also. Even after "proving" a method works
for you, you still don't know if it is the most effective method available.
You must try out other ways. 
Becoming your-own-researcher requires an inquiring, questioning
attitude, and a logical, systematic approach to discovering what
methods produce what results. If you faithfully record your daily self-
help efforts as well as the results in terms of how well you are
feeling/doing, there are amazingly rich and complex insights to be
gained from your data. Some excellent examples of the "daily process
approach" can be seen in recent studies (Tennen et al, 2000). For
instance, these researchers confirmed that the drinking of problem
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