Help that Relieves Stress NICEly

Help! You are probably looking for some, if you’re reading my blog. You have a choice, where you get help. If you’re in a city like Portland, Oregon where I am, it can be an overwhelming choice, with so many helpers available, advertising so many different kinds of help!

This is a long and exploratory blog post, so hang with me here, if you choose. I have some ideas I’m working on, and I’d like to share the initial concepts and reasons why I am thinking deeply on them.

We feel stress when our values conflict.

Our ‘Values,’ simply put, are any things that we care about strongly. Examples include abstract principles like “Kindness,” “Fairness,” “Justice,” and so forth, but also broad areas of interest and life experience, like “Art,” “Sports,” “Parenting,” “Adventure,” and even “Awareness.” Anything that really, really matters to you, is one of your values. Naturally, if we experience one of these things in conflict with another, we will feel stressed.

So, for example, you want to be the best parent or spouse that you can be, but you also want to do as much art as possible. Or sports. Or whatever, if it’s really, really important to you. That could be stressful, right? There are only 24 hours in one day, and we do need some sleep!

What if there were a 10-minute solution, which could reduce any form of mental stress?

Consultation methods abound. These include the “psychotherapies,” as well as “coaching,” “consulting,” and so forth. There are probably well over a thousand well-established consultation approaches — and hundreds and hundreds that are less well-established. Why add another one?

Well, if you have a conflict in your life, a source of stress, and you haven’t solved it on your own yet, you might look for someone to help you. You would have a wish-list for the help you get. You do NOT want help that seems appealing, but is actually a bunch of BS. You’d want the help to be…


I’ll bet you wouldn’t want to take months, or even weeks to reduce your stress. There are wonderful 8-week stress-reduction courses, which require several hours per week of your time. Psychotherapy (talk therapy) can be great, but usually takes at least weeks to be helpful, at one hour per week, not including your travel time to your therapist. But you are interested in something faster than that, something much more sparing of your time.


None of us wants to spend more money on a problem than is necessary. Psychotherapy, for example, can run $100 to $200 per session without insurance, and anywhere from $0 to $50 per session with insurance (in-network). So if you can find a good match with a therapist who’s in-network with your insurance company, AND is accepting new clients, AND is conveniently located enough for you, AND who has expertise on the problems you’re facing, THEN you probably should see that therapist.

But what if either you don’t have insurance, or you cannot find a therapist who meets those needs? Should you find a ‘life coach’? Coaching can be helpful, but not much less expensive than psychotherapy without insurance. Also, is it “fast” as above? Not much faster than therapy, it’s a rather similar model.


It should go without saying that whatever help you find, it should actually HELP, it should help you in the way that it advertises. How can you know whether this will be the case? You can’t, just as with any service. You rely on the reputation and credentials of the provider. In the case of psychotherapy, you might be aware of some forms of therapy having better scientific evidence supporting their effectiveness. You could check Wikipedia for how much support a kind of therapy has scientifically.

For other kinds of help which might be faster or more cost-effective than talk therapy though, you generally don’t even have this limited way of guessing whether it will actually help you. Nonetheless, you hope that it will. Perhaps the provider, in your initial discussion, can convince you that it is likely to be helpful for you. NEVER trust anyone who says it will DEFINITELY be helpful for you! What, do they have a crystal ball? Such guarantees are a hallmark of con artists, not true helpers.


Another way you could guess at the degree to which a form of consultation will be helpful, is whether it makes sense to you. You could judge based upon the kind tone of the provider, their reputation or the reputation of their method. But you’ll probably also judge for yourself whether their approach sounds logical to you. Probably if it doesn’t make sense to you, you’re not going to try it.


If you’re going to get help, you also want the helper to be trustworthy. That includes the helper having an ethical commitment, and some way of lodging a complaint against them. For better or for worse, the only helpers who BOTH have an ethical commitment to you, AND have some way that you can complain about them to a higher authority (short of their obviously violating the law), would be if they are a licensed therapist of some sort. Half of what you pay for in seeing a psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, professional counselor or doctor, is that they have a state board overseeing their activities. You don’t have to go through the legal system; you can lodge a complaint against us, and we know it. That helps keep us in line with our profession’s ethical standards.

So… What’s NICE?

NICE is a consultation model I am working on. It is intended to fulfill all of the above criteria, surpassing the shortcomings of most other methods.

If my approach is FAST, COST-CONSERVING, EFFECTIVE, LOGICAL and TRUSTWORTHY, wouldn’t you want to know more about it? Would you care if it had some weird words in its name? Of course not! You are looking for ways to reduce stress. As long as it works well, works fast, isn’t expensive, makes sense, and maintains ethical standards of helping professions…

…why, you would be okay with almost any name, I’d think!

If you’ve read this far, I owe you a brief explanation of what I’m working on. Much of the explanation, you have in fact already read. I have set up the problem. Now here’s what I propose, in a brief sketch, without the “meat” that is to follow. Let’s go through the acronym, the name “NICE” and what it stands for.


This is a fancy word for “science-based.” What it means is, our behavioral sciences generally use methods that look at groups and group differences. When we reliably observe group differences, we come up with “truths” that can be used in helping people. For example, we might find that people who are randomized to a therapy group, improve more than those assigned to a control group that gets no therapy, or gets a therapy “placebo” such as a pep-talk. Nomothetic means, all that we know from behavioral science gets applied in NICE. On the other hand…


This is a fancy word for “individualized.” It means that, whatever science we know, it’s vital that the helper adapt their approach to YOU, no matter who you are, and no matter whether you “fit” into the “rules” that helpers learn from science. Those “rules” are derived from group studies, not from you! So “Ideographic” means the approach does not impose any theoretical assumptions upon you. NICE help is help for YOU, not for the groups who participated in behavioral studies described in journals.


As those who’ve read my blog, viewed my videos, or seen me for some kind of consultation may know, I believe in context. Context not only matters, it is CRUCIAL to take into account in helping someone. Just as “lighting a match” has a different effect at a swimming pool compared to a gas station, so does any problem, any behavior, have a different impact in different situations. Any model that fails to take context seriously, is unlikely to be helpful for a wide range of people and situations. That’s just logic. And, speaking of logic…


What do we really want when we get help for a problem, when we hire some sort of consultant? Do we just want to be told what to do? Usually not. Usually we are looking to acquire new skills, so that if we encounter similar problems in the future, we need not necessarily look for help. We’d like to be able solve our own problems better than before.

To EDUCATE really means to “bring forth,” as in to bring forth the knowledge that you already have. It is not the same as teaching. I can teach you to count to 10 in Chinese, but that’s not education. Education involves logic. We all have an intuition for logic. We may not have reached conclusions that are logical, but we do try. So, sometimes we need someone to help BRING FORTH our understanding and knowledge, help us put it together to produce solutions. This is true education. Providing information helps, but it does not help as much as educating you, helping you practice solving problems.

Finally, how about if the person providing the NICE help is a LICENSED CARE PROVIDER… which means they are bound to an extensive ethical code, enforced by the state, and you can easily file a complaint at no cost? That would probably help assure you that the help will be ethical, and that you have fast and easy recourse, should you feel the help was unethical, regardless of whether it conformed to law–the law sets a rather low bar for helper behavior, and pursuing a legal claim is much more difficult than filing a board complaint.


Watch this space, and my YouTube channel, for more information on NICE as it emerges. For now, I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts in response to this post.

Do you agree with my points about helpers and consultation?

What are your experiences with past help, therapy, coaching, consultation or other kinds?

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A Guide to Being Mindful on the Road

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A Guide to Being Mindful on the Road

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Congested highways, booming horns, unruly drivers and pedestrians — they form a familiar picture when you think about your daily commute. It’s easy to give way to distraction, whether it’s road rage, gadgets, or something outside that piques your interest. But as Portland Mindfulness Therapy wrote a few years back, if there’s any place in the world where you need to pay full attention, it’s out driving on the road. Read More »

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4 Key Anger Myths You Should Know

Anger Management - Dr Stan HymanThe idea of anger management is tossed around these days in political conversations or discussions about celebrities who have crossed a social or relational line.

However, managing anger well is more than a good idea or a recommendation for the other guy. It is an important life skill that prevents frustrating interactions and unwise decision-making.

It’s vital that you see your anger in a productive way and trust yourself to be angry responsibly without doing permanent damage. The first step? Look at what you believe about anger and how those beliefs affect the way you express anger or suppress it.

Consider the following anger myths and how they may be getting in your way: Read More »

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Is Self-Compassion the New Mindfulness?

Self-CompassionSocieties constant desire for the new, for innovation, for an updated trend, means that as soon as something becomes popular for many people it also becomes passé. This is something that we often see in popular music, fashion and technology but this same attitude is also affecting how we approach our mental health and wellbeing. According to an article recently published in Mindful magazine, mindfulness is out and self-compassion is in. The piece states that “attending without judgment is out and compassion for you as an antidote to your perceived low self-worth, failure, or any other form of suffering is definitely in.” But actually, it’s not that simple because in reality the two concepts are inextricably linked. Read More »

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Mental Illness and Addiction: The Basics

Guest Post


Image via Pixabay by maialisa

Mental illness and addiction often go hand in hand, leaving many people at risk without even realizing it. The general lack of education on mental illness leaves people unknowingly putting themselves in harm’s way.

If you or a loved one is struggling with either a mental health disorder or an addiction, it is very important to understand the connection between the two, symptoms of each, and what you can do to prevent or treat each condition. Here is just a little basic information on addiction, mental illness, and how they connect.

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Improve Your “Self-Esteem” in 6 Steps

Self Esteem Tips Improve Thinking
Improve Your “Self-Esteem” in 6 Steps

“I have low self-esteem.”

“I want to work on my self-esteem”

“Can you help me with self-esteem?”

I hear these statements and requests all the time from my clients. But what is this “self-esteem,” and what can someone do if it appears to be “low”?

Read More »

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Top 7 Tips to Beating Stress

Beating Stress — Top 7 Tips

Stressed out? You’re not the only one–far from it! Sudden life changes, tough workplaces, troubled relationships, frightening medical concerns, and a long list of other sources of anxiety send enormous numbers of Americans to therapists and even emergency rooms every day. We are the only animal we know of that can think about the past and plan for the future, and while we enjoy the many benefits of technology as a result, we also pay the price: a lot of distraction from the present moment, and with it, a HUGE amount of stress from ruminating about the past and worrying about the future.

Beating Stress in Your Life

The good news is that this problem of stress has been around so long (thousands of years at least), that some of the best minds on the planet have been working on ways to mitigate it for equally long. Obviously, if stress becomes so severe as to cause serious psychiatric concerns such as depression, you need to see a mental health professional (my site has mental health links that may assist in finding help and support). Otherwise, there’s a lot you can do to handle your stress better.

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Mindfulness is Stupid!

Mindfulness is StupidMindfulness is stupid in many ways. It’s stupidly easy. It’s stupidly simple. And in some cases, it’s just plain stupid.

Our minds make mindfulness meditation complicated. Really, it’s just sitting still paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment. Stupid-simple. But our minds want things fancy. We try to achieve some special state, or having encountered a state we think is desirable, we try to maintain it. But mindfulness meditation is not about achieving or maintaining any particular state. Mindfulness meditation is about being fully present and joining in with our experience, just as it is–“nothing special,” as Zen master Charlotte Joko Beck used to say.

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Fame: So You Want to Be A Big Shot?

Fame: So You Want to Be A Big Shot?I recently have had the good fortune to be in contact with a moderately famous person whom I’ve admired for much of my life. What I notice is that my first impulse, having some access to him, is to pester him as much as possible. This is unfortunate, but telling. Fame makes us strange–both the person who becomes famous, and their fans. We don’t act normal. They become reclusive or worse. We become toadying and star-struck. It’s all rather embarrassing. And yet many of us crave fame, perhaps even more than wealth. Why?

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Change Your Perception About Change Itself

Change our Perception about Change
What do we mean by “change” in psychotherapy or personal growth?

What I mean by “change,” as in “changing oneself,” differs significantly from what most therapists mean, and probably differs from what most people mean. When I say “change” I basically mean, “stay exactly who you are, but learn some new skills.” Learning new skills changes the context in which you function. Old behaviors may not go away, but they do less harm and more good, as defined by your own values system. And of course, so much of what we long to change in ourselves, has to do with the inevitable changes that happen constantly in the world around us.

To illustrate what I do and don’t mean by internal “change,” my superb webmaster Sean Cook engaged me in an email dialogue. What follows in this special blog post is the text of that dialogue. It’s admittedly kind of heady. I welcome comments and questions, as always.

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