Skills for Change

Karen Klibanow, MSW

Skills for Authentic Living

Changing is an essential part of dealing with problems in life.  However, the kind of change necessary or even the need to make a change may not always be apparent.  The process of change involves recognizing the nature of the change needed, believing in the need for change, preparing oneself for actually making the change and then taking action. Techniques we may use in moving through these steps include:


Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment. We are often on “automatic pilot”, feeling “scattered” and preoccupied. Left unattended our minds naturally tend to travel to the past and to the future, often generating thoughts which create regret or anxiety. In these ways we are derailed from participating fully in our lives as they unfold moment by moment and instead become distracted by worrying and inhibitions unrelated to what is happening now. The skills of mindfulness teach us to be more fully present and to savor the joy contained in each moment. In being mindful we are cultivating our capacity for self-compassion and compassion for others, learning the discipline of returning to the present when we wander, and learning to recognize when our actions are effective and wise. Mindfulness is a lifelong practice and journey.

~Inner Relationship Focusing: 

In using this skill mindful awareness of the physical sensations of our bodies becomes channel to access our emotions and inner life. This practice teaches the profound wisdom contained the language of the physical self and teaches ways to access that inner knowledge to find life direction and purpose.

~Cognitive Restructuring: 

As we become more mindful of all aspects of experience we come to notice our thought patterns and the way in which our thinking can create barriers to positive change. In stepping back and becoming aware of our beliefs, we learn how not to be controlled by dysfunctional thinking. Instead we can make the choice to adjust our thinking to support progress toward our larger goals.

~Grief Recovery:

Significant losses are part of everyone's life. Difficulty moving through the grief process leads to continued pain and inhibits progression toward life goals. Learning skills involved in recovering from grief facilitates moving through the natural process of mourning and returning to the flow of life.

~Motivation for Change: 

Doubts, ambivalence and fears often inhibit taking action even when we are aware of the need to change. Evaluating the pros and cons of the situation and making realistic assessments of the fears and risks involved in the change are ways of overcoming reluctance. Developing a clear sense of the value of the change for oneself is essential.

~Taking Skillful Action: 

Following through on our goals by taking action is often the most difficult part of making a change. We expect ourselves to make large changes in a short period of time and then feel discouraged, overwhelmed and blocked when we don't succeed. Alternatively, we may attempt to overcome the block by acting impulsively. Breaking actions into small steps we are more likely to succeed. Taking skillful action involves aligning our behavior with our values and taking one small step at a time.