Working Brain

Behaviorism takes place in our interactions with others, understanding basic principles to learning can assist in building positive interactions with others. As is pointed out by Pryor (2015), “These principles are laws, like the laws of physics. They underlie all learning-teaching situations assuredly as the law of gravity underlies the falling of the apple. Whenever we attempt to change behavior…we are using these laws, whether we know it or not. Usually we are using them inappropriately. We threaten, we argue, we coerce, we deprive…We are just not attuned to the ways in which modern trainers take advantage of the laws of positive reinforcement” (p. xi). With that being said, it is possible to carry behaviorism into the unethical realm, it is important to use caution, especially if using a stimulus that could cause harm to the learner (Pryor, 2015). It is important to know the function of the behavior, especially of our own. “When you are tempted to punish: Do you want the dog, the child, the spouse, the employee to alter a given behavior? In that case, it’s a training problem, and you need to be aware of the weakness of punishment as a training device. Or do you really want revenge? In that case you should seek more wholesome reinforcers for yourself.” (Pryor, 2015, p. 108).

Two types of learning in Behaviorism

  • Operant conditioning: reinforcement is given after the desired behavior occurs. (McLeod, 2015)
    • Reinforcers: responses that increase the chance of a behavior occurring. (McLeod, 2015).
      • Positive reinforcer: increases behavior because it is something the individual finds rewarding. (McLeod, 2015).
      • Negative reinforcer: increases the behavior because it is something the individual wants to end. (McLeod, 2015).
    • Punishers: Something that weakens the behavior. (McLeod, 2015).
      • Positive punishers: a negative consequence is given to reduce the behavior. (North Shore Pediatric Therapy, 2012).
      • Negative punisher: a desired item is removed to reduce the behavior. (North Shore Pediatric Therapy, 2012).
    • Neutral operants: responses that do not increase or decrease behavior. (McLeod, 2015).
  • Classical conditioning: learning a new behavior through association. The main difference between operant conditioning and classical conditioning is whether the behavior is voluntary or not. Operant conditioning is voluntary in that it uses rewards/consequences to increase/decrease behavior.   (Cherry & Gans, 2017).
    • Unconditioned stimulus: naturally occurring trigger. (Cherry & Gans, 2017).
    • Unconditioned response: naturally occurring response. (Cherry & Gans, 2017).
    • Conditioned stimulus: trigger introduced to cause a response. (Cherry & Gans, 2017).
    • Conditioned response: the response caused by the conditioned stimulus. (Cherry & Gans, 2017).

There are typically 4 functions in aversive behaviors.

When working to change a behavior, it is important to first understand the function of the behavior. Unless you are able to understand the need being met, it is difficult to create a plan for change.

  • Attention seeking: provide an overabundance of attention for child engaging in appropriate behavior. (Meadows, 2017).
  • Positive reinforcement (gain access to item or activity): provide opportunities for individual to receive attention for appropriate behavior. Suggested approach: use positive language instead of negative: instead of saying: “Don’t hit me” say “ thank you for usi quiet hands”. (Meadows, 2017).
  • Negative reinforcement (avoidance or escape): Help the child learn to ask for a break. (Meadows, 2017).
  • Meeting sensory needs: Incorporate appropriate sensory opportunities (Meadows, 2017).

Random tips for learning new behaviors

  • If a reinforcer is not working, assess whether the reinforcer is being offered to late. (Pryor, 2015).
  • Once a behavior is established, do not offer rewards for every behavior, this will ensure that the subject continues to try instead of offering you the bare minimum. (Pryor, 2015).
  • Abusive relationships are reinforcers, once hooked, individuals will wait for the moment of sweet behavior from their abuser. In leaving an abusive relationship, the brain must be re-trained, otherwise it will continue to seek abusive stimuli. (Pryor, 2015).
  • We can use positive reinforcement to train ourselves. (Pryor, 2015).
  • When shaping behavior, any attempts should be reinforced. Any sign of improvement in a child’s grades should be rewarded. (Pryor, 2015).
  • When working with behavior – understand that if the punishment does not exist, the behavior is not likely to happen. Example – teenagers taught by punishment are not likely to remember the rules when the person who punishes them is not there. (Pryor, 2015).
  • Behaviors often get worse before they get better, this is called an extinction burst. If the behavior is getting worse, you are likely on to something (Pryor, 2015).
  • Behaviorism requires the “trainers” full attention. Even if they are removing attention from the subject to communicate that the behavior is not desired, they must remove attention while still being aware of learner’s behavior. Becoming distracted by others means positive reinforcement is not given when it is earned. The behavior contract and trust is broken. (Pryor, 2015).
  • Try to end on a good note, so that the “training” is seen as positive experience.   (Pryor, 2015).
  • In self-reinforcement the best device is record keeping. Better results are obtained by those who fill in a box, rather than check it. (Pryor, 2015).
  • When shaping someone’s behavior – don’t tell them you are doing it. “Besides, while you may have helped someone improve a skill or get rid of a bad habit by changing your behavior in order to reinforce appropriately, who actually did all the hard work?” (Pryor, 2015, p. 66).
  • If behavior is occurring before the cue, use a 1-minute time out for every missed cue. If silence is needed, allow time for subjects to be noisy first. (Pryor, 2015).
  • Behavior chains should always start at the end. When working on memorizing a song/poem/etc, start at the end, that way you are always working for hardest to easiest. (Pryor, 2015).
  • Punishments are typically not effective at getting rid of a behavior, because the punishment is not timed with the behavior. (Pryor, 2015).
  • Guilt is not an effective reinforcer. (Pryor, 2015).
  • Sometimes behavior problems are easy to eliminate by assessing the subject for; hunger, illness, loneliness, fear, etc. (Pryor, 2015).


This is a very basic overview of behaviorism, there are many resources available on this subject. It is important to remember that when working with behaviors, it is best to use the services of trained professionals.  



Cherry, K. (author). Gans, S. (reviewer). (2017). Classical vs. operant conditioning. Behavioral Theories. Retrieved from

Meadows, T. (2017). 101 ways to do ABA! Lexington, KY: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

McLeod, S. (2015). Skinner-Operant Conditioning. Simply Psychology. Retrieved from

North Shore Pediatric Therapy. (2012). What’s the difference between positive and negative punishment? Resources: North Shore Pediatric Therapy. Retrieved from

Pryor, K. (2015). Don’t shoot the dog! Ringpress: New York, NY.

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Winter Blues


2016 Koda Snow 2 IMG_3100-2

As the year winds down to an end, the opportunities for stress increase.  Some of those opportunities include; illness, family, finances, pressure to have the perfect holidays, lack of access to sunlight, poor driving conditions, unhealthy diet, cold weather, over scheduling, loneliness, chaos of holiday shopping, reminder of previous holidays, etc.  A study conducted in the United Kingdom found that employees are greatly impacted during the winter months; 44% of employees said the winter impacted their well-being, 30% felt it hindered productivity, and 51% reported the season having an adverse effect on their mood (Occupational Health, 2017).  

Self-care is essential all year round, but it should be emphasized in the winter months.  In Utah, suicide continues to be a concern, in September the Utah Department of Health confirmed 425 deaths by suicide for 2017, if this trend continues we will exceed the deaths by suicide in 2016 (Ramseth, 2017).  

Below are some tips for increasing success during the holiday season.

Changing routine:

    • Keeping an eye on weather – this prevents being surprised by changes to commute/schedule.
    • Adjust sleeping patterns to ensure that you are able to get enough sleep – during the winter months, more time is devoted to driving, shoveling, etc.
    • Allow for extra commuting time – nothing ruins a day like being late.
    • Clothing – wear light layers, to ensure you are warm, but able to be removed if becoming overheated.  Keep extra clothing around – in case there is a need.
    • Adjust your environment to make sure you are comfortable and improve mood- examples: heater, essential oils, art/symbols.
    • Try to access what sunlight is available – go outside, open blinds
    • Care for car – so as to make driving as safe as possible.
  • Supplements – such as; Vitamin D and Vitamin C (Check with doctor before taking).
  • Add variety – new scents, hairstyle change, new clothing.
  • Plan for your budget to change during those months.



Eating Healthy:

  • The holidays near the end of the year tend to be food central, with the additional consumption of alcohol and refined sugar, the immune system and adrenal glands can be placed under stress.  (Getz, 2009).  
  • The winter months also see a decrease in serotonin levels,  foods that can increase the serotonin are; squash, pumpkins, yams, sweet potatoes, etc.  Immune boosting foods include; citrus fruits, broccoli, pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach, fish, oysters, poultry, eggs, milk, unprocessed grains, green tea.  (Getz, 2009).  
  • When your favorite produce is not in season, try to use frozen instead of canned, as it tends to be more nutritious (Getz, 2009).  
  • Ask yourself: Am I really hungry, or am I; cold, thirsty, bored?  (Getz, 2009).
  • Drinking broth before a big meal will slow down consumption.  (Getz, 2009).  


  • For outdoor exercisers – warm yourself up with aerobic exercises (jogging in place or jumping jacks) before going outside.  (Grayson Mathis, 2004).
    • Exercising in the cold burns fat faster.  (Werber, 2016).  
  • Exercise equipment at home, makes it easier to exercise when going outdoors – even to the gym- is not fun. (Grayson Mathis, 2004).
  • To combat the winter-time drop off, recruit a friend, having social supports will keep you active.  (Grayson Mathis, 2004).
  • If you are needing to cutback, try to do aerobic exercise three times a week.  (Grayson Mathis, 2004).  
    • You can cut back your times, while stepping up intensity with little repercussions. (Grayson Mathis, 2004).  
  • Choose the right clothing – layer for warmth and fabric that dries faster than cotton, such as; fleece, running tights, windbreakers. (Werber, 2016).  
  • Safety – make sure you are able to be seen, your path is clear, and you are able to hear what is going on around you.  (Werber, 2016).  
  • Find something you will enjoy doing, sometimes the method of a reward creates the idea that exercise is a punishment, viewing exercise as a reward will make it less of a chore.  Winter is a great time for walking because the view is a reward.  (Werber, 2016).  

Light therapy: During the months of October-March individuals are less able to synthesize Vitamin D due to; less sunlight, individuals spending less time outside, and wearing more clothing, this has an impact on mental health (Serrano, Canada, Moreno, & Gurrea, 2017).

A study in Spain showed that it would take two hours of exposure to UV radiation in order to synthesize enough vitamin D, however in July exposure would only need to be seven minutes. (Serrano, Canada, Moreno, & Gurrea, 2017).

In a study conducted on Polish athletes, lower levels of vitamin D deficiency were found among athletes who trained in lower latitudes during the winter months, this was found to be more effective than oral supplements and sun exposure in Poland.   (Krzywanksi, Mikulski, Krysztofiak, Mlynczak, Gaczynska, and Ziemba, 2016).  

In reviews of the research, many issues with the process of conducting the research have inhibited the research from showing if light therapy is effective or ineffective.  Further research is needed for to reach a conclusion.  (Martensson, Pettersson, Berglund, & Ekselius, 2015) and (Al-Karawi & Jubair, 2016).  

Reducing Stress:

  • Acknowledge your feelings – do not force yourself to feel joy because of the holidays.  
  • Reach out – strive to attend social, community, or spiritual events.
  • Be realistic – holidays do not have to be perfect, be willing to adjust traditions.
  • Set aside differences – accept others as they are, understand that others are under stress as well, choose a different time to discuss differences.
  • Stick to a budget – you cannot buy happiness.  Ways to reduce spending; donate in the person’s name, make homemade gifts, or plan a gift exchange.
  • Plan ahead – plan meals, days for shopping, activities – this will help to prevent last minute scrambling.
  • Learn to say no – prioritize – you can’t say yes to everything.  
  • Don’t abandon healthy habits – it will only add to your stress.
  • Take a breather – establish daily practices of self care.
  • Seek professional help – it takes a lot more courage to ask for help than to just deal with things on your own.

(Mayo, 2017).

Social Connection:

  • Social connection can; reduce blood pressure, lower heart rate, and reduce stress hormones.  (Umberson & Karas Montez, 2010).  
  • Social interactions help to; reduce stress, foster a sense of well meaning, and provide a purpose in life.  (Umberson & Karas Montez, 2010).  
  • The interaction of helping others is beneficial for the giver and receiver; by increasing dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin in the brain.  (Ritvo, 2014).
  • Just as daily exercise is important, daily giving can work wonders for the body and mind.  (Ritvo, 2014).  
    • Helping others will give the empathy parts of your brain a much needed workout.  (Ritvo, 2014).
    • Mirror neurons – the connections of working closely with others helps to trigger a response in all individuals’ brains.  (Ritvo, 2014).  
    • Compliments and smiles are the easiest way to form a connection with others.  (Ritvo, 2014).  

Written by: Kaylee Taylor, CSW


Al-Karai, D., & Jubair, L.  (2016).  Bright light therapy for nonseasonal depression: Meta-analysis of clinical trials.  Journal of affective disorders, 198, 64-71.  

Getz, L.  (2009).  Winter nutrition- Healthy eating offers good protection during the chilly season.  Today’s dietician, 11 (1), 48.  

Grayson Mathis, C., E., (2004).  How to keep working out in winter.  WebMD.  Retrieved from exercise/features/how-to-keep-working-out-in- winter#1

Krzywanski, J., Mikulski, T., Krysztofiak, H., Mlynczak, M., Gaczynska, E., & Ziemba, A.  (2016).  Seasonal vitamin D status in Polish elite athletes in relation to sun exposure and oral supplementation.  PLoS One, 11(10).   

Martensson, B., Pettersson, A., Berglund, L., Ekselius, L.,  (20015).  Bright white light therapy in depression:  A critical review of the evidence.  Journal of affective disorders, 182, 1-7.  

Mayo Clinic.  (2017).  Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping.  Mayo Clinic: Healthy Lifestyles : Stress management.

Serrano, M-A., Canada, J., Moreno, J. C., & Gurrea, G.  (2017).  Solar ultraviolet doses and vitamin D in northern mid-latitude.  Science of the total environment, 574, 744-750.

Ramseth, L.  (2017).  Hoping to counter deadly trend, Utah officials confirm 425 suicides in 2017.  Salt Lake Tribune.  Retrieved from suicides-for-2017-utah-on-pace-to-beat-last-years-record/

Ritvo, E.  (2014).  The neuroscience of giving: Proof that helping others helps you.  Psychology today.  Retrieved from

Umberson, D., & Karas Montez, J.  (2010).  Social relationships and health: A flashpoint for health policy.  Journal of health and social behavior, 51, S54-S66.  

Werber, C.  (2016).  The complete guide to exercising in the winter.  Quartz.  Retrieved from

“Winter worsens the mental health of two in five workers.” Occupational Health 3 Mar. 2017. Business Insights: Global. Web. 22 Oct. 2017.  


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Shame vs. Guilt

“[Vulnerability] is our most accurate measurement of courage.”
-Brene Brown

As human beings, we are designed to connect. Shame is the fear of disconnection. If people hear about ____ they won’t want to connect with us. Shame tells us two main things—we are “never good enough” and/or  “who do you think you are” (Brown, 2012).

Shame vs. Guilt

Guilt is the focus of behavior.

Shame is the focus on self.


Guilt: “ I did something bad” vs. Shame: “ I am bad”.

Guilt: ” I’m sorry, I made a mistake” vs. Shame: ” I am sorry, I am a mistake

Everyone feels shame, aside from people who have no capacity for connection or empathy (Brown, 2012).

What Do We Do?

 Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear but it is also the birthplace of joy, creativity, and of belonging (Brown, 2012).  

Brene Brown recommends to “let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee” (2012).

Don’t let the voice of shame silence you. Embrace vulnerability, treat yourself with compassion, and have courage to be imperfect. Embrace who you are, opposed to who you think you should be. Watch Brene Brown’s TED Talks for additional information to see how shame is impacting your life (links are provided below).

Please call Utah Healing Center (801-266-4643) if you would like someone to talk to regarding feelings of shame or guilt.

Written by: Hannah Wilde, CSW


Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection: Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are. Center City, Minnesota: Hazelden.

TED Talk: The Power of Vulnerability

TED Talk: Listening to Shame


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Mind Body Bridging Basics

Mind Body Bridging is a technique that is recommended for individuals who have experienced trauma (Block and Block, 2010, p. 3). Our brains are incredible organs, the brain can activate the flight/fight/freeze mode in order to remove ourselves from danger (Block and Block, 2010, p. 3). Being exposed to trauma can cause the flight/fight/freeze mode to become stuck on, causing our bodies to continue to feel a threat, even when one is not present (Block and Block, 2010, p. 3). The brain has internal mechanisms for healing itself, Mind Body Bridging uses techniques to remind the brain how to heal itself (Block and Block, 2010, p. 3).

There are some important terms in mind body bridging that should be understood before practicing.

Identity System- When the flight/fight/freeze becomes stuck on, it is said that the identity system is active (Block and Block, 2010, p. 2). Signs that your Identity System is active are; spinning thoughts, body tension, inability to think (Block and Block, 2010, p. 2).

Executive network– facilitates thinking and actions (Block and Block, 2010, p. 3). The executive system works properly when the Identity System is at rest (Block, 2010, p. 3).

True self- Who you are when you feel settled with about yourself and the world (Block and Block, 2010, p. 232). When we are tuned into our true self we are able to make decisions that are true to who we are. An example of me as a true self; being willing to see that other drivers have their own lives going on, and that they are not just there to be in my way.

Requirements- Rules made by an active Identity System, that dictate how you and the world should be at any given moment (Block and Block, 2010, p. 21). After spending a few weeks on the East Coast – I came home expecting all Utahans to drive like those from the East Coast.

Depressor – the part of the Identity System that uses negative self-talk to continue the image of the damaged self (Block and Block, 2010, p. 47). An example of a depressor is “I am a loser”.

Storylines– self talk that becomes a story, negative storylines define who we are, positive storylines confine us (Block and Block, 2010, p 59). The issue with storylines is that they direct our attention to the past and/or future, and away from the present (Block and Block, 2010, p. 59). An example of a storyline is; “I have always been a failure, I will always be a failure”.

Fixer– the fixer comes up with overactive thoughts and storylines on what is required in order to fix you and/or the world (Block and Block, 2010, p. 66). “I will be 100% perfect all of the time”.

There are variety of books written to walk individuals through the process of Mind Body Bridging, for less than $20 a piece (Amazon, 2017). The process of working through the book can be triggering, it is recommended that clients seek assistance through a mental health provider.

Although each book contains several different types of maps, the basic outline is;

  1. Select the kind of map (there are many throughout the book, be mindful that some need to be worked up to).
  2. Draw a circle – the issue or the name of the map goes inside the circle
  3. Scatter your thoughts, outside of the circle
  4. Label your thoughts; depressors, fixers, storylines, requirements, and body tension
  5. Create another circle (on the back or below first map)
  6. Tune into senses – possibly invite source for guidance
  7. Complete the map again, pausing to tune back into senses as needed
  8. Review

(Block and Block, 2010, p. 139-140).

Written by: KayLee Taylor, CSW


Amazon (2017). Mind Body Bridging Book. Amazon. Retrieved from

Block, S. H. (2017). About MBBI Institute. Mind Body Bridging Institute. Retrieved from

Block, S. H., & Block, C. B. (2010). Mind-body workbook for PTSD: A 10 –week program for healing after trauma. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.


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Tips for Self-Care


We live in a society that has not taught us to be kind to ourselves. We are told to work very hard until we are at least 65 years old, and then we will be rewarded with a life of leisure, provided we have anything left in us to enjoy it. What I have experienced within myself, is this unrealistic thought that when I have worked hard enough, some person in authority will appear to notify me, that I can have a rest. But regardless of the project, or the lengths gone to, no one ever showed up to give me a blankie and some chocolates. What I have learned, and continue to re-learn, is that self-care is vitally important. Now your first thought is probably, that you are to busy. And I believe you. However, the truth is, that if you are busy, there are a lot of things/people depending on you. And as much as you try, you cannot water from a well that is dry.

What is self-care? Well, to me, self-care is specific to the person. I also believe that self-care is ever changing. Here are some suggestions on self-care you can try.


  • Tastes – wasabi peas, chocolate, peppermint, lemons, ginger, oranges, grapefruit
  • Sight – nature, art, pictures (pets, family, and/or friends)
  • Smell – lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint, citrus, rain
  • Touch – clay, ice, warm blanket, weight of body, massage
  • Sound – rain, Tibetan singing bowels, silly songs, laughter


  • Walk
  • Yoga
  • Run
  • Dance


  • Mindfully eat/drink: orange, chocolate, hot chocolate
  • Guided meditation (there are several free ones on youtube)
  • Body scan – begin at your toes and check in with every part of you
  • Deep cleansing breaths


  • Take a relaxing bubble bath
  • Treat yourself to a yummy treat or nice meal
  • Buy yourself something nice; piece of clothing, nail polish, art supply, book
  • Enjoy your guilty pleasure; book, tv show, movie, etc

Create something:

  • Sew, quilt, crochet
  • Cook
  • Paint, draw, color
  • Build
  • Write- poem, story, music

What exactly is not self-care? Things that detract from yourself. Say that you receive an invitation to join someone for lunch, and after going to lunch, you don’t feel improved. That is okay, however that is not self-care.

With such ambiguous definition, self-care can be a daunting task. Perhaps, it would be more appropriate to view the task of approaching self-care, as being on the crest of a rollercoaster, breathing in to the intense rush. Or sitting to a fancy buffet, all for your sampling. It’s important to remember that self-care is a lifelong journey, failure in one moment is a reminder to re-engage in the next.

Author: KayLee Taylor, CSW

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