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Journey to Recovery Series
Defense Mechanisms and Coping Skills
Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes PhD, LPC-MHSP, LMHC
Executive Director, AllCEUs Counselor Education
Podcast Host: Counselor Toolbox
~ Differentiate between coping skills and defense mechanisms and identify the purpose for each
~ Explore common defense mechanisms and how they can assist as well as hinder treatment.
~ Identify cognitive, physical, environmental and interpersonal coping skills
~ Explore how to teach these concepts via individual and group activities.
Defense and Coping Mechanisms
~ Defense mechanisms are behaviors designed to protect you from a threat until it can be dealt with
~ Coping skills are behaviors that help you
~ Change the situation
~ Change the way you feel about or react to the situation
~ Activity: Draw a card
~ On index cards write a type of behavior.
~ Clients draw a card and have to identify if it is a coping strategy or defense strategy and explain their choice
~ Alternate, draw a card and have the group vote and each side explains their rationale

D-E-F-E-N-S-E Defense, Defense, Totally…
~ Denial/Repression
~ Avoidance*
~ Sublimation: Redirection of unacceptable impulses
~ Withdrawal from social supports
~ Regression
~ Acting Out
~ Reaction Formation: Acting the opposite
~ Dissociation: Fly on the wall
~ Projection: Placing unacceptable feelings of one's own on other people
~ Displacement: Directing unacceptable feelings at a safer target.
~ Splitting: Viewing events as all-good or all-bad maintains an “us-them”
Defense Mechanism Activities
~ Questions
~ How do they reduce stress and unhappiness?
~ How do defenses increase stress and unhappiness
~ Activities
~ Act it out
~ Give an example of a time…
Coping Skills
~ One thing at a time
~ Mindfulness
~ Encouragement
Coping Skills
~ ABC-Dispute-Evaluate
~ (Activating event) What happened?
~ What are my beliefs about the situation?
~ What are the consequences of my beliefs?
~ (Dispute) Are my beliefs based in fact, considering the whole situation, extreme, high or low probability?
~ (Evaluate) In order to be authentic and use my energy to move toward my goals, what is the best course of action?
Coping Skills
~ Radical acceptance and backward chaining
~ I am having the feeling that I am _____ because ____
~ I am angry because my car broke down
~ What contributed to me getting upset over this
~ What are my thoughts about it?
~ What else happened that made me more reactive?

Coping Skills
~ Psychological Flexibility

Coping Skills- Change My Reaction
~ Embrace the dialectics
~ Comparisons
~ Shifting (Have opposite thoughts)
~ Imagery (visualize the opposite)
~ Choose to not invest energy in it
~ Explore alternate explanations for why it might be occurring
~ Prayer
~ Seek social support
~ Journal for understanding

Coping Skills—Change the Situation
~ Remove yourself
~ Make a plan
~ Learn about the problem and alternatives
~ Identify what you can and cannot change
~ Seek consultation
~ Brainstorm

Coping and Defense Activity
~ Board Game
~ Roll the dice to advance.
~ Pick a card. There are 3 types of cards
~ Healthy use of a defense (move forward)
~ Sally was angry she got passed over for a promotion so she started looking for a new job. (Name it and identify why it is a healthy response)
~ Unhealthy use of a defense (move backward)
~ Jim was worried about a mole on his back, but forced himself to not think about it.
~ June had an awful week at work, so she decided to go get drunk at happy hour.
~ Healthy use of a coping skill (move forward)
~ Jane got upset about something someone said on social media. She completed an ABC worksheet to try to understand why it upset her so much and get a clearer idea on the best way to handle it.

Preventing Build Up
~ How to prevent things you have defended against from cluttering your closet
~ Journaling
~ Daily mindfulness
~ Talk it out
~ What else???
~ Defenses are essential to helping people get into their wise mind and avoid impulsively reacting
~ Coping skills help people review situations that have happened and identify how to change the situation or change their reaction so they are not holding onto anger, resentment, guilt, anxiety or depression
~ There are a variety of tools for coping and defenses
~ Emotion emergency cards often focus on identifying effective defenses that can be used in the moment (in the field first aid)
~ People need a plan for how they are going to address the issue (heal the wound)