Mental Health Professionals and Baby Steps


Here is a timely quotation, from creative strategist Royale Scuderi:

The lack of an effective strategy is often our greatest obstacle. In our impatience for results, we try to change too much at once, and expect too much of ourselves, and this impatience usually leads to frustration and failure. This is why most people fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions.

The writer goes on to discuss how this misunderstanding applies in specific instances, including weight loss, and contributes several generally useful suggestions. Not surprisingly, the website is called But why bring this up?

Two paths

A change in mental attitude or emotional state can cause behavioral change. A behavioral change can cause a shift in emotional state or mental attitude. Just like bodies, minds are self-healing to a certain extent. When a person makes a major breakthrough that results in a long-term lifestyle change, it triggers other mental and emotional processes, and can even start a chain reaction that goes in a positive direction.

Fortunately, many professionals are equipped to help enable behavioral change. Because people are all different, difficult, and needlessly contrary in many ways, there are very few universal recipes. If medicine has learned anything in the recent past, it is that a one-size-fits-all approach is rarely appropriate. If one technique works for one purpose, for one person, that is a major victory.

Improvement is a process, not an event. Everything does not need to be fixed at once. Given fertile ground, change can become self-perpetuating. That is how people maintain long-term, sustainable weight loss and all-round better health.

Teaching baby steps

Functional medicine is an emerging paradigm that sees the patient as a whole entity, rather than an assemblage of ankles, kidneys, fat cells, teeth, or whatever other part happens to be afflicted by symptoms. Chris Kresser — named one of the 100 most influential figures in the health and fitness field — reminds us that it does not take a psychiatrist or psychologist to effectively employ such techniques as motivational interviewing.

About the states or stages of change in substance abuse, Linda Ray wrote:

Motivational interviewing is a counseling style that involves getting clients to admit they have a problem, why they need to change and how they can best achieve their goals… Changes usually start with baby steps, but at least clients accept the fact that they need to change and are willing to try a few things.

Thanks to certain comedic films, the term “baby steps” receives less respect that it deserves. Kresser reminds readers that “shrinking the change” is a successful technique that can be conveyed to patients by professionals with many different letters after their names.

Licensed clinical social worker and experienced patient Gerri Luce says:

The slower I went, the more likely it was that I processed the meat of the issues that my therapist and I explored and that the substance of the sessions stuck in my head… Patience — and persistence — in tiny doses work best.

Under the subheading “Achieving goals requires taking small steps. Success reinforces success,” Harriet Cabelly breaks down the 10 baby steps involved in taking baby steps, and this is an interesting list.

If you start today, and try one suggestion per day for 10 days, it still won’t even be next month yet! But when 2019 rolls around, you could be very pleasantly surprised. It is possible to reach next New Year somewhere else other than back at Square One.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Number One Secret to Life Success: Baby Steps,”, undated
Source: “Stages of Change in Substance Abuse Motivational Interviewing,”, undated
Source: “RHR: A Three-Step Plan to Fix Conventional Healthcare,”, 11/07/17
Source: “Taking Baby Steps: The Advantage of Going Slowly in Therapy,”, 02/16/13
Source: “Baby Steps: A Simple Guide to Doing Something New,”, undated
Photo by Philippe Put on Visualhunt/CC BY

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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