Booster Calls

Booster calls, texts or follow-up face-to-face sessions can help to strengthen the cycle of change whereby training in functional imagery leads to small successes which in turn strengthen the imagery, making it more vivid and emotive and leading to bigger successes.

We have been using booster phone calls to support the following:

Goal monitoring and goal setting

Where the client is making progress, a booster or follow-up call can affirm their progress and encourage them to set a new sub-goal. Guide the client through imagining the steps they will take towards that sub-goal and how they will feel when they achieve it.

Where there has been no progress, use your counselling skills to discover if the client is ambivalent about change or if they would like to try an easier sub-goal to start with.

Note that goals and sub-goals in FIT are necessarily ‘smart’ goals. The strong focus on imagery ensures that goals are Specific (detailed, concrete, imaginable) and Measurable (the client can measure their progress against their image of what it will be like when they achieve the goal).

The focus on using imagery to anticipate obstacles, in the relapse-prevention section of FIT, helps set goals that are Attainable. Both aspects keep goals Realistic: the main focus in FIT is on enjoying the journey towards the goal and achieving small, proximal subgoals along the way. For example, someone who wants to quit drinking to save their marriage might choose a sub-goal of pleasing their spouse tonight by going home sober.

Goals are Timely in the sense that they can be started right away; FIT includes imagery of the specific steps that one will take to get started with the goal and, because of the focus on pleasure, there is encouragement to get started right away rather than delaying until things are different. Even if the steps are hard, there may be pleasure in gaining control or feeling virtuous about trying, and it is the practitioner’s job to elicit that pleasure.

Imagery practice

Check that the client is practising imagery, using the app or a behavioural cue.

Check if they are finding the imagery helpful and, if they are not, guide them through generating a really vivid, emotive image of the steps they will take towards their goal and how they will feel during and after, when they succeed.

If a client finds mental imagery particularly difficult, suggest starting by collecting some photos that represent what they want to achieve, why they want that goal, how they will work towards it, and things that have worked successfully in the past or during the current behaviour change attempt. Thinking about what photos would best represent these ideas may naturally encourage some mental goal-related imagery that can be built on in subsequent sessions. Meanwhile the photos – and the exercise of taking them – will be motivating.

Build on successes

Elicit the client’s views on what has gone well. Ask them to recreate that moment of success, however small, in their imagination and really focus on how good it felt. Play through their ‘mini-movie’, incorporating that memory of recent success into the goal imagery. Doing this helps to make the goal more concrete, more achievable, and more motivating.

Identify obstacles to progress

Talk about things that have made it hard to work towards the goal this week. If cravings have been a problem, try the cravings buster exercise. Repeat the exercise on imagining past successes and identifying strategies that were helpful then, in imagery-based relapse prevention section, and think about how they could be useful again.Use imagery for the next steps to anticipate risky situations and to develop and rehearse coping strategies.

Strengthen the client’s ‘ideal self’

It is normal for progress to be slower at some times than others. For example, weight loss slows after the initial weeks as the body adjusts to a new diet. This slowing can be discouraging and it is important to reassure the client that it is normal. Focus on the rewards of the new patterns of behaviour that they are establishing – the client may not have lost any weight but perhaps they are feeling healthier or more energetic. If the client feels there is nothing more they can do towards their goal (perhaps they cannot reduce their calorie intake further or have no time to exercise more often) then it may be helpful to find other ways of strengthening their ‘ideal self’. For example, if a reason for reducing alcohol consumption is to be a better parent, then try identifying and imagining other activities that will support this goal – perhaps making time to play a game with children.