People are starting to hear about FLEX's use of the Muse brain sensing headband with patients to develop mindfulness and accelerate gains in treatment.
Muse is a portable and low-cost EEG device that uses neurofeedback when paired with your phone or tablet to teach you how to meditate and become more attuned to your moment to moment experience. That state of mindful awareness has been shown to lead to a variety of wellness gains, mental and physical health growth, and improved attention. Many of FLEX's clients have been using Muse for over a year and our director Michael Decaire has spoken to professional audiences on its use at conferences across the province and the world through online webinars.
Last month, Dr. Cody Rall from YouTube's TechForPsych did a lengthy interview with Michael about his use of Muse and where he sees the future of psychotherapy going over the next decade. It's an exciting hour for clinicians, but also has some additional tidbits for Muse users.
Members of the FLEX team are available now to introduce Muse as your primary course of treatment or as an add-on to traditional talk therapies.
Michael Decaire is available for in-person, online, or institutional trainings for implementing Muse in treatment. He is presenting on Muse at Leading Edge Seminars in Toronto this October and as part of his Future of Psychotherapy Series in November.
It was an exciting week at FLEX, as we had a full film crew in doing a shoot with our Clinical Director Michael Decaire. Michael has been working closely with health start-up InteraXon, creators of the mind-sensing headband Muse. Following a successful professional training webinar a few weeks ago, the Muse team asked to visit FLEX's Thornhill office to film a Q&A with Michael and to see a demonstration of the Muse headband in action during a mock therapy session.
Word has gotten out about FLEX's use of Muse to help our clients live life a little more FLEXibly. Michael will be presenting on Muse this fall for Leading Edge Seminars and has been approached for some exiting additional projects regarding this exciting tool. More news soon!
Learn more about Muse: http://www.choosemuse.com
Author: Michael Decaire
I have worked with many College and University students who have struggled to show their full abilities on final exams. They believe they simply need to study harder or earlier, but attempts to do so are met with limited success.
In my experience we see four common problems that are contributing to poor performance on final examinations:
(1) Not studying in an organized fashion. Our memory is like a filing cabinet. It relies on good categorization or "labels" in order to properly store and access information. File it incorrectly and it will not be accessible on an examination.
(2) Not doing enough rehearsal. There is a lot going on inside our brains. Neuro-pathways connect information and create a complex set of forks in the road that may not be easy to navigate. Rehearsal increases the likelihood the right pathway is taken and the speed at which one can traverse it goes up.
(3) Taking the test wrong. I have seen students use every strategy in the book while studying only to abandon their strategic approaches once in the exam. What part of the test do you do first? Most students start with multiple-choice. That's a mistake. This increases the amount of less-than-usefull information active in your short term storage and will only lead to confusion once you get to the more focused work (e.g. short answers or essay). Leave multiple-choice for the end.
(4) Poor sleep hygiene. If you are not getting enough sleep your memory becomes compromised, your attention span drops, and you are more sluggish. Too bad you are now about to go into a memory test where you need to be focused and work really really quickly. Go take a nap.
The FLEX team offers workshops to boost academic performance. Our College/University exam workshop runs November 9th at 6pm. Only $40! Click here to learn more.
There is a misperception that bright and gifted students should be met with academic success with very little effort and that exceptional results should be well within their grasp if they try hard enough. Parents often perceive that giftedness programming is a place for accelerated and enriched learning and that keeping their children in a “normal” stream will stunt their potential. In reality, giftedness programming often exists to prevent bright students from floundering or underachieving in a more traditional stream, where their logical talents may be both a blessing and a curse.
During the early elementary years, being “smart” can lead to a great deal of success. Bright students see the big picture or the end goal quicker than many of their peers and they may very well be able to get to a solution in one single brilliant step. Rightfully so, these successes are praised, but could this have a negative impact on one’s learning style?
When you reward a child for their successes the brain does not necessarily associate that reward with the fact that they produced a high quality result. Instead, you may unintentionally be encouraging a manner of responding that favours how quickly and seamlessly they can resolve the problems they are facing. Unfortunately, this may promote a manner of responding to test questions and projects that promotes rushing towards task completion and keeping track of all aspects of a task in one’s head.
"The most strategic students I have met are those who have faced the greatest challenges"
The most strategic students I have met are those who have faced the greatest challenges. They had to develop countless alternative strategies to simply keep up with the pace of their peers or to show all that they are capable of. I have observed some remarkable techniques and outcomes from students with the most severe physical or learning disabilities imaginable. Many of these strategies I now teach to each student I work with.
In contrast, the least strategic students I have worked with are the bright and gifted population. It’s not laziness. It’s not disinterest. Instead, it typically a consequence of having been met with great success for many years by rushing into problems and completing tasks in one step or at the very last minute.
This approach can work quite well in the early and middle grades. The first signs of difficulty may emerge in the senior elementary years or during the transition to high school. Teachers begin to expect students to coordinate each stage of their approach more and projects begin to require work that spans many nights or a weekend of homework. Even the most talented thinkers can’t keep track of all of these steps in their heads. They may, however, be able to envision the end result, which can reinforce old strategies that promote an attempt to get there in one fell swoop.
High school begins and the tendency to perceive work as being completable in a single step or with low efforts may continue. They may also begin to underestimate the amount of time necessary to complete work, which then leads to procrastination. Eventually marks start to take a hit and a student may: begin to believe they are less capable, lose interest in school, or begin to experience academic anxiety.
The anxious student may show a sudden increase in effort. Unfortunately, working hard and working smart are two different things. We have also learned that working smart and being smart are also not always related.
"... working hard and working smart are two different things"
A little over a half-decade ago I began looking for programming for these students. School based learning strategy courses did not always meet their needs, tutor centres focused on content more than the process, and I had yet to meet more than a handful of adolescents who were willing to work with their parents to develop these skills. So I created a learning therapy program targeting these exact needs.
I learned that bright students are more likely to connect with strategies if they make logical sense to them. My focus is to help them understand how the brain works and how they can “hack” their brains to meet its full potential. We then demonstrate practical ways to take advantage of this knowledge during note-taking, reading, project and time management, studying, and test-taking. Not every student will jump on board with every strategy, but everyone tends to find a few things that really work for them.
In the end, my goal is to teach bright and gifted students to think strategically. To pause and reflect on “what” they are being asked to do and “how” they should respond to that expectation. It can be quite remarkable how much can change by simply thinking about how to work smart rather than just being smart.
At FLEX Psychology we offer an ever expanding slate of services to support our students as they implement these strategies into their workflow. For more information or contact us to talk about how we can help your bright or gifted teen be met with increased success.
Author: Michael Decaire
In honour of Star Wars day (May the 4th be with you!), FLEX is featuring a look at mindfulness trainings in popular culture throughout the month of May. And the series continues ...
Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. - Yoda (The Phantom Menace, 1999).
Like a true teacher, Yoda provides us with a few different ways to interpret this statement. In essence, there is more than one lesson here.
The first is the idea of "autopilot" or as I like to refer to it the "chain of thoughts and emotions". As human beings we are surprisingly unattuned to how our behaviours, thoughts, or emotions arise. Most of the time we are swept up in a chain of events, where the previous moment dictates the next one and the current moment dictates the next. At very few points do we step out of this chain and simply observe what is truly going on in this moment and make an informed decision on how to proceed on the basis of that information alone. This is one of the anchors of mindfulness training and is also the primary component of many other successful psychotherapies (e.g. CBT & REBT are text book chain breaking exercises for you therapist folks).
An example: A student who has exhibited poor behaviour at school tells me that he "hates" his teacher. We explore why he feels this way and he relays that he is "angry" that his teacher has given him several lower than expected marks of late. That anger is further explored and is connected to a "fear" that he will not make the honour roll this year. This is in turn linked to another "fear" regarding overall performance and then eventual success. In the end, we have a lot of actions, interpretations, emotions, and behaviours that are connected to each other with very little conscious examination of this "chain" having occurred prior to therapy.
Mindfulness practice provides an opportunity to do a couple of things here:
(1) Observe the chain - Simply observing one's thoughts as they arise during either a formal mindfulness practice (e.g. sitting and meditating) or an informal one (e.g. mindful moments throughout the day) can provide valuable insight into what preceded the current moment and what resulted from that thought, behaviour, or emotion. This insight can be quite valuable as it may allow us to recognize when these "triggers" happen in the real world and then we can ...
(2) Break the chain - Being aware of the chain may allow us to step outside of this previously unconscious series of events. Simple awareness of the triggering events, thoughts, or behaviour can provide the opportunity to make a deliberate decision to act or respond in a different manner. It does not mean that we will always make that choice or that we will not experience a strong emotion, but the likelihood that we can act in a manner that reflects our own decisions (and not the chain's) is higher.
Recognizing the chain is the first step. It is my hope that you will choose to return here in a few days to pick up the next lesson from this great Yoda training. Who ever said there was nothing redeeming about The Phantom Menace!
The information provided on the Think FLEXibly Blog is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered as therapeutic advice.