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Walking the Middle Path
Locus of Control and Attributions
Instructor: Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes PhD, LPC-MHSP, LMHC
Executive Director: AllCEUs Counseling CEUs and Specialty Certificates
Podcast Host: Counselor Toolbox, Happiness Isn’t Brain Surgery

Counseling CEUs can be earned for this presentation at

~ Define Locus of Control (Empowerment vs. Powerlessness)
~ Explore how both an extreme internal or external locus of control can increase stress, anxiety, anger and/or depression.
~ Learn how basic fears and past trauma may contribute to use of an extreme locus of control
~ Define/review attributions
~ Explore how extreme attributions can increase stress, anxiety, anger and/or depression.
~ Learn Individual and group activities that can help clients walk the middle path in terms of attributions and locus of control.

Locus of Control
~ Internal (empowerment) vs. External (powerlessness)
~ Internal Locus: I am fully in charge of my destiny and everything that happens.
~ External Locus: My destiny lies fully in the hands of fate.
~ Extreme locus of control can increase stress, anxiety, anger and depression
~ Middle Path
~ Although some things are out of my control, I have the ability to control many things in my life and my reactions to things.
Locus of Control– Activity
~ Depression
~ Depression is often the result of disempowerment, a sense of helplessness and hopelessness and/or exhaustion from trying to control the uncontrollable.
~ What caused you to be depressed this week?
~ What things were out of your control?
~ What things were within your control?
~ (Facilitator prompt) Situations including prevention
~ (Facilitator prompt) Reactions to/thoughts about situations

~ Past trauma can lead to an extreme locus of control
~ External—Nothing I do will change anything
~ Helplessness of trauma generalized
~ Internal – It was my fault and I must control everything to prevent bad things from happening.
~ Middle Path
~ I cannot change what happened, but I can take steps to protect myself in the future. (Fire, rape, hurricane/tornado)
Trauma Activity
~ How does your past trauma affect how you react to failure and setbacks today?
~ (Facilitator prompt) Rekindle a sense of helplessness? Create a burning determination?
~ How does your past trauma impact the way you live your life and your relationships today?
~ (Facilitator prompt) Overprotective and controlling or disengaged and overly permissive?
~ (Facilitator prompt) Are you constantly on the lookout for others to hurt you?

Basic Fears
~ Basic Fears
~ Rejection/Isolation
~ I get rejected because I am unlovable
~ I am rejected because others are jealous or stupid.
~ Failure
~ I fail because I am stupid
~ I failed because the team/equipment didn’t function properly
~ Loss of Control/Unknown
~ Life and happiness is a crap shoot
~ It is vital to my survival that I know what is going on at all times.
Fears Activity
~ For each category below, identify 3 examples of when you have experienced them.
~ Rejection
~ Failure
~ Unknown/Loss of Control
~ For each example, identify 3 reasons each happened.
~ Examine the reasons and look for examples of extreme locus of control
Fears Activity
~ Walk the middle path
~ How can you be both rejected and accepted
~ How can you both fail and succeed
~ How can you both be in control and out of control
~ Global or Specific
~ Global: It applies to everything all the time
~ Too general can cause failure to differentiate and explore intervening factors. May result in superstitious thinking
~ Potatoes
~ Birth Defects “Taking drugs during pregnancy always causes birth defects”
~ Relationships “Every relationship ends in heartache”
~ Failure “I fail at everything I do”
~ Hardship: “I will never get ahead.”
~ Panic attacks “Getting in a car will cause a panic attack”
~ Raina “If a dog acts oddly it means there is something terribly wrong”
~ Global or Specific
~ Specific: It applies to this circumstance only (lost in the weeds)
~ Too specific can prevent generalization. Generally leads to a repeating pattern of behavior.
~ Relationships: “My relationship with Tom/John/Sam/Todd failed because of his neediness, lying and anger outbursts.”
~ Job: “I quit my job because my boss was too demanding”
~ Failure:
~ Hardship:
~ Social Skills “It’s okay to touch the television in this circumstance”

Attributions Activity
~ Have client identify a current problem.
~ Identify whether the problem is stated in global or specific terms (i.e. I am depressed, I am useless)
~ For global statements, identify exceptions (look to the past if necessary)
~ For specific statements, identify if there are other instances and explore what can be learned/look for patterns
~ Internal vs. External (Locus of Control)
~ Internal: The situation is due to something about me, discounting the influences of other variables
~ Hardship “If I were _____ this wouldn’t have happened.”
~ Relationships “I am unable to maintain a relationship”
~ Failure “I am a failure”
~ Anxiety: “I am weak and incapable.”
~ External: This situation is due to external factors. Often causes blaming and lack of taking responsibility
~ Hardship: “The world is against me.”
~ Relationships: “Other people make me feel bad.”
~ Failure: “The equipment was faulty”
~ Anxiety: “Bad things are going to happen to me.”

Attributions Activity
~ Using the prior activity, have the client identify
~ What he/she contribute to the situation
~ What other factors contribute to the situation
~ Stable or Changeable
~ Stable: It will always be as it is now
~ Hardship: “It will never get better”
~ Failure: “I will always be a failure”
~ Relationships: “All of my relationships are doomed to fail”
~ Anxiety
~ Changeable: I can change the outcome
~ Hardship: “This can be turned around.”
~ Failure: “I can learn from my mistakes and succeed.”
~ Relationships: “I can turn this relationship around.”
~ Anxiety: “Anxiety can be treated.”

Attributions Activity
~ Building on the prior activity
~ Which aspects of the situation are stable
~ How can the client deal with that?
~ Which aspects of the situation are changeable?
~ How can the client address those?
~ Of the changeable ones, which ones are the client motivated to change?
~ (Facilitator prompt) Just because something can be changed doesn’t mean it is necessary to change it

~ Locus of control can be thought of as how powerful or powerless a person feels in life.
~ Accepting that there will always be things over which we are powerless is important to reducing distress
~ Learning how to deal with powerlessness often involves focusing on what we are able to control (including reactions)
~ Global attributions often result in overgeneralization of distress
~ Stable attributions prevent generalization and learning from experiences
~ Encouraging clients to recognize that all experiences have changeable and unchangeable parts and are a combination of both what we bring to the table as well as the environment and other factors can lead to a more realistic appraisal.