Do the walk of life, or step onto Kingsley’s magic carpet

Yeah we do the walk, do the DNA walk of life……

AN exercise you just have to get walking to:
The walk of life is a used to introduce DNA-v to a young person, parent or class room. You don’t have to do it exactly like this, it’s just a guide to get you thinking.

This introduction is done with one person, either a volunteer from a group or class- room or an individual in therapy. You first write the letters D, N, and A on three sheets of paper and place them on the floor in a circle. Space them at least a few steps apart. Don’t explain what’s happening at this point. Let the curiosity build.
Ask the young person to walk to A with you and, once there, say something like this:

This A stands for advisor. It’s something we all have. I have it. You have it. It’s that inner voice in our heads, evaluating everything and trying to tell us how good or bad we are. Have you ever seen a movie where there’s a little creature sitting on someone’s shoulder, whispering in the person’s ear? It’s kind of like that.
Let’s illustrate what the advisor does. We’ll both do this together. Think of some critical ways you evaluate yourself, and I’ll do the same. I’ll write mine first. I’ll start with “I’m not good enough. I’m unlovable.”

Write your evaluations on the piece of paper with the A on it, then have the young person write her evaluations, encouraging her to really think about how the advisor evaluates.
Take a moment to just stand there together, looking at the words on the page. Then ask, “What’s it like to be standing here?” Seek some descriptions. Then just wait until the person says something like “How long do I have to wait here?” or “What else can we do?”
To this, you might reply with something like “What else can we do then?” You’re attempting to have the person say she could see what the sheets of paper with N and D are for. If need be, use your gaze to playfully prompt this. Once she voices that idea, say something like, “Okay, let’s walk to N and see what that is.” Once you’re at N, say some- thing along these lines:

What we just did is the most important skill in our work. If we feel stuck, we move to something else. Whenever you’re stuck, you can move—you can do something new with your hands and feet.
Okay, so here we are. N stands for noticing. This is a space we can move to when we feel stuck and want to increase our awareness of where we are and the choices available to us. Let’s do a noticing practice right now.

Have the person take a few slow, deep breaths, just noticing the breath for a moment or two. Then ask her what it’s like to be in this space. Also ask whether she can notice a difference between the advisor and the noticer. Explain that we all have the ability to be a noticer and we all have an advisor.
Next, elicit curiosity about D, again playfully using your gaze if need be. Then walk to D and praise the person for being curious and wanting to see what D is. Discuss how moving around is more flexible than standing and fixating on the advisor’s evaluations. Then describe D something like this:

D stands for discoverer. This is where we try new things and see what works. It’s where we discover what we care about. We can be discoverers even when our advisor says we can’t be. For example, has your mind, or advisor, ever told you that you can’t do something, but you did it anyway? When you did that, you discovered for yourself whether or not you could do it, instead of relying on the advisor.
Now let’s return to A. I don’t want to suggest A is always bad and that D and N are always good. They’re just different spaces we can move to or different skills we all have. Can you give me some examples of when the advisor might make some useful evaluations? (Elicit some examples, such as it’s a bad idea to drink and drive, or it’s a bad idea to put off studying until the last minute.)

Next, say something like “There’s something in the middle here, something that drives DNA.” Then write a V on a sheet of paper and place it in the middle of the circle. Return to D, then ask the person to walk to the new sheet of paper with you. Once there, begin to introduce values:

We use our DNA skills in the service of what you care about. I call this valuing, or values. Values might be having fun, playing sports, or connecting with others. It just depends on the person. For each of us, everything we do is in the service of this. So everything we do in our work together will be about helping you to have more things you care about and value in your life.

From: The Thriving Adolescent. (L. Hayes & J. Ciarrochi). Buy it here at cost price!! Our aim is to get this work out to as many young people as we can.

Or step onto Kingsley’s magic carpet …..

Lots of people are coming up with great ideas on how to use DNA-v with young people. We LOVE to hear about this, so we can share them with you.

Kingsley, an Australian in Queensland, shared the following with us. Now, I must first add that he did not call this his “magic carpet”. We did. We loved it so much we called it that.

Kingsley has kindly written about the following about using the DNA-v model with young people:

Dr Kingsley Mudd, 
Some Reflections on Using the DNA-V Model

In my experience thus far, having the model mapped out physically on the floor, and getting the client to walk around in their own ‘headspace’, appears to be really powerful.  I purchased a 1.5m circular beach towel and used fabric paint to imprint the basic DNA-V diagram on the towel.  The towel is now a fixture on my consulting room floor (see attached picture).  I use a bit of Velcro to keep it in place.

I’m gradually creating a collection of laminated images that can be placed in relevant places on the beach towel, to represent different aspects of the client’s experience (hopefully the attached pictures will give an idea of how this works).

Asking clients to first willingly step in to the space of their difficult thoughts and feelings and speak from that position, then choose to step back into the Noticer space and do a brief mindfulness exercise, seems to powerfully clarify for clients how “allowing” and “unhooking” can work for them in the midst of real-life stresses.  Clients can be invited to write down their difficult Advisor thoughts on paper, then place the paper in the relevant position on the floor (i.e. Advisor space), then physically step back into Noticer space, take a mindful breath, and say “I am noticing my Advisor having the thought that ….”
Alternatively, they can step into Values space, and reflect on what their difficult thoughts and feelings are telling them about what it is that they really care about …

The Discoverer space really adds something extra to the way I have previously practiced ACT, especially when working with adolescents, who I think by nature are meant to be experimenters/explorers/ discoverers.  I love the idea of encouraging adolescents to not only experiment with new behaviors, but then to pause and reflect on whether or not the new behavior enhanced their life/vitality in the long run.

There’s so much more I could write, but enough said for now … looking forward to hearing other peoples’ experiences …

Dr Kingsley Mudd
General Medical Practitioner and ACT Therapist
Headspace Youth Mental Health Service
Townsville, Australia 

We would love to hear about your adaptations on DNA-v…. do drop us a line

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