Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy techniques are a vital part of successful nutritional counseling. There are numerous techniques divided into three main categories: behavioral techniques, cognitive restructuring techniques, and psychoeducational techniques. Imagery and role-playing are forms of behavioral techniques. Both of these techniques are used to help clients imagine the possible outcomes of a difficult situation and their reactions to it while in the safe environment of the counselors office. Decatastrophizing is a cognitive restructuring technique counselors employ to reduce the anxiety a client experiences when confronted by their fears. Psychoeducational techniques include distraction, delay, and parroting which give the client the knowledge and skills to control their behavior.
A nutrition counselor may utilize imagery during a counseling session to help a client determine and understand their problematic eating habits at social gatherings. The counselor asks the client to close their eyes, relax, and picture themselves at a party. The counselor and client build the scene together and the client is allowed to explore their thoughts and feelings regarding this hypothetical situation. Role-playing takes imagery a step further by having the client act out the potential scenario with the counselor to explore their reactions and prepare for real-life performance based practice and situations.
Decatastrophizing can be used to help clients recognize their irrational thoughts and change the way they think about a specific situation. The counselor addresses the client’s misguided thought processes and gently questions the client in regards to these thoughts and emotions, helping the client become aware of their problem and make the necessary changes in behavior.
The psychoeducational techniques, distraction, delay, and parroting, work together to empower the client to be in control of their emotions and behaviors. These techniques are taught to clients in the counselor’s office and then used at home, making the client take control of their changes. Physical activities like going for a walk or bike ride as well as cognitive activities like reading or doing a crossword puzzle are all methods of distraction. These distraction techniques also help clients delay their response to a stimulus, allowing them to reassess their feelings before reacting. Parroting is often used in conjunction with distraction and delay techniques to help the client maintain control of their thoughts and behaviors. The nutrition counselor helps the client create statements that they can repeat to themselves when feeling overwhelmed by impulses and stimuli.
King, K., & Klawitter, B. (2007). Nutrition therapy: Advanced counseling skills. (3rd ed.). Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins