They are designed to help you and your therapist pull therapy into focus.
A tool I created and often use to help patients record their problems (and successes) as they understand them is the personal perspective paper (PPP). [Your therapist may have a similar tool that he or she likes to use or a different one, that has the same purpose. At the risk of sounding cliched, it is important to remind oneself that, like snowflakes, no two therapists and no two clients are alike.].
The personal perspective paper is a useful therapeutic tool. It is a statement written or tape-recorded by the patient that describes his view of his problems and how they affect his life, his view of his progress, and how therapy is or isn’t helping him. The PPP can be used at the beginning of therapy, at the end of therapy, and along the way, in some cases in order to help the patient reflect on his progress (or lack thereof) and help the therapist gain an “inside peek” at the patient’s perspective.
When I ask patients to begin writing or tape-recording their own viewpoints on their problems, for many it is the first time they have faced their problems head-on, rather than sidling up and taking quick peeks at them. The most important perspective recorded in the initial PPP is how you think your problems are affecting your life.
For example, someone who abuses prescription drugs may not really pay attention to exactly what this situation is doing to his life. When he works on his PPP, he will become very aware that these drugs are causing him to “check out” and not deal with problems at home or work.
Or someone who has episodic anxiety may be unable to travel for fear of losing control on a plane or train. He may never have explored what this is doing to his personal and professional life. As he writes his PPP, he begins to see that he avoids many opportunities in life because of his fears. Exploring the impact of problems in all areas of life will help motivate you to change.
Also, the PPP is a valuable tool for measuring your clinical progress during the course of therapy. By writing down or otherwise recording your newly developing perspectives on your problems, you slow down and bring your life into focus. When you slow down and take time to articulate your feelings about the changes taking place, you get more in touch with yourself—you become more aware. At the end of therapy, too, another PPP can be written and compared to the initial PPP, affirming that, indeed, positive change has occurred.
The PPP will also help your therapist; it gives him another tool with which to understand you. If you have a severe problem, but in your initial PPP you minimize it (or vice versa), he will get insight into how you see yourself. If your perceptions of your progress (or lack of it) are radically different from his, he and you will be alerted to this by the PPP, and you will be able to process this. The initial PPP gives me an edge on understanding where my patients are coming from. I consider its use optional, but useful.
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Last reviewed: 17 Jan 2011