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Section 1
Assessing Levels of Vulnerability of Client Self-Criticism

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Regarding building self esteem in teens and adults, I find a key factor to evaluate is the self critical network of the client. 

In this section, we will discuss a guide to assessment of your client’s self critical network.  This guide will cover five areas of assessment.  These five areas are pathological practices, ownership of self-critical behaviors, the client’s purposes, problematic situations, and historical influences. 

As you listen to this section, you might consider using it as a checklist for the client you are treating and as a guide, or perhaps a supplement to your assessment of your client.  The following section will provide you with an intervention regarding cognitive restructuring to raise your teen or adult’s self esteem. 

5 Areas of Assessment

♦ #1  Assess Pathological Practices

The first area of assessment is to asses pathological practices. To do so, simply assess the precise nature of the destructive self-critical practices that the client is employing. Do so in such a way that, not only can you learn their nature, but the client becomes acutely aware of what he or she is doing.  In addition to standard interviewing techniques, having the client slef monitor, interviewing him or her in the role of the self critic, and logically reconstructing the nature of self critical acts from their effects all represent effective ways to obtain this information.

♦ #2  Assess Ownership of Self Critical Behaviors
The second area of assessment is to assess ownership of self critical behavior.  This can be done by assessing the degree to which clients fully recognize that they are the perpetrators of self critical actions.  Do they recognize this or do they experience the behavior as somehow inflicted on them by sources that seem beyond their control?

For example, a client may make the statement that his or critic won’t leave them alone.  To change, would you agree that clients must ultimately assume as position of recognized personal authorship and control over self critical actions. 

♦ #3  Assess the Client’s Purposes
In addition to assessing pathological practices and ownership of self critical behavior, the third area of assessment is to assess the client’s purposes.  I find it productive to assess what the client is attempting to accomplish with his or her self critical behavior. Is it self-improvement, atonement for past misdeeds, the achievement of safety from the dreaded reproaches of others, or other objectives? 

As you already know, pathological practices are usually only marginally successful at achieving their intended purposes, and they always achieve them at grave personal costs. Thus, I find that knowledge of these existing motivations may be used to interest the client in far more effective and less costly ways to secure their purposes.

♦ #4  Assess Problematic Situations
The fourth area of assessment is to assess problematic situations. You might consider determining those situations in which clients seem most prone to engage in self criticism. Do they experience particular difficulties on reception of criticism from others, the mere presence of impressive others, personal failures or setbacks, stressful situations in general, and or losses of control in personally sensitive areas? 

Again, I find it helpful to make sure that the client is as aware of these troublesome situations as I am.  Would you agree that by being sensitized to their customary self critical reactions, clients are thereby better able to recognize these danger situations when they occur and to avoid falling into their previous automatic response patterns?

♦ #5  Assess Historical Influences
In addition to assessing problematic situations, the final area of assessment we will discuss is assessing historical influences.  Were degrading labels attributed to them in their families, resulting in a lasting acceptance of such labels and a tendency to attribute them unquestioningly to self?  Were present modalities of self criticism such as perfectionism modeled in the family of origin, again leading to a reflexive acceptance of them as ‘the only way to think?’ 

Also, wouldn’t you be sure to assess especially historical factors that heuristically suggest useful therapeutic interventions in the present?  Think of your client.  How might you evaluate your client’s self criticism after such an assessment?  Is your client’s self criticism pathological?

In this section, we have discussed a guide to assessment.  This guide covered five areas of assessment.  These five areas are pathological practices, ownership of self-critical behaviors, the client’s purposes, problematic situations, and historical influences. 

- Brummelman, E., Crocker, J., & Bushman, B. J. (June 2016) The Praise Paradox: When and Why Praise Backfires in Children With Low Self-Esteem. Child Development Perspectives, 10(2), 111-115.

In the next section, we will discuss cognitive restructuring for self esteem.  Three methods for cognitive restructuring for self esteem are self reproach evaluations, personifying the critic, and introducing the healthy voice.
Reviewed 2023

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Barnett, M. D., Maciel, I. V., & King, M. A. (2019). Sandbagging and the self: Does narcissism explain the relationship between sandbagging and self-esteem? Journal of Individual Differences, 40(1), 20-25.

Dunkley, D. M., Starrs, C. J., Gouveia, L., & Moroz, M. (Feb 10 , 2020). Self-critical perfectionism and lower daily perceived control predict depressive and anxious symptoms over four years. Journal of Counseling Psychology, No Pagination Specified.

Dunkley, D. M., Richard, A., Tobin, R., Saucier, A.-M., Gossack, A., Zuroff, D. C., Moskowitz, D. S., Foley, J. E., & Russell, J. J. (2023). Empowering self-critical perfectionistic students: A waitlist controlled feasibility trial of an explanatory feedback intervention on daily coping processes. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 70(5), 584–594.

IJntema, R. C., Burger, Y. D., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2019) .Reviewing the labyrinth of psychological resilience: Establishing criteria for resilience-building programs. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, Vol 71(4), 288-30.

Kannan, D., & Levitt, H. M. (2013). A review of client self-criticism in psychotherapy. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 23(2), 166–178.

Orth, U., Robins, R. W., Meier, L. L., & Conger, R. D. (Jan 2016). Refining the vulnerability model of low self-esteem and depression: Disentangling the effects of genuine self-esteem and narcissism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 110(1), 133-149.

Rudolph, A., Schröder-Abé, M., & Schütz, A. (2020). I like myself, I really do (at least right now): Development and validation of a brief and revised (German-language) version of the State Self-Esteem Scale. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 36(1), 196-206.

Stapleton, P., Crighton, G. J., Carter, B., & Pidgeon, A. (Sep 2017). Self-esteem and body image in females: The mediating role of self-compassion and appearance contingent self-worth. The Humanistic Psychologist, 45(3), 238-257.

Weber, E., Hopwood, C. J., Nissen, A. T., & Bleidorn, W. (2023). Disentangling self-concept clarity and self-esteem in young adults. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication.

Workye, R., Shephard, A., Alexander, S. M., Cribbie, R. A., Flett, G. L., & Mackinnon, S. P. (2023). Perfectionism, anxiety sensitivity, and negative reactions following a failed statistics test: A vulnerability–stress model. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology. Advance online publication.

What are five areas of assessment when dealing with a client with low self esteem?
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Section 2
Table of Contents