Rehearse to perform effectively–even if you’re not an actor

In this article, I discuss how you can use rehearsal as a skill to help you with many issues including anger management, anxiety, eating disorders and addictions as well as sports and other performance areas.

Areas in which rehearsal has traditionally been used

It’s common knowledge that actors, dancers, musicians, athletes and other performers use rehearsal as a fundamental tool to help deliver their best performances. Practice makes perfect, as the saying goes, so that if you’ve done what you need to do many times while rehearsing you are more likely to do it during the actual performance. People are less aware that rehearsal can help them address a wide range of counselling issues. In this article, I will provide several examples to illustrate how you can use rehearsal to your benefit if you are dealing with issues in counselling.

Counselling issues for which you can use rehearsal

Consider the following counselling issues to which rehearsal can be applied: (1) Anger management.  The person’s goal in anger management counselling is to perform effectively by expressing one’s views in an assertive rather than an aggressive manner. Rehearsal gives the person practice in doing this; (2) Anxiety. The person uses rehearsal in anxiety counselling to manage their anxiety so that they can perform effectively in situations in which anxiety may interfere with their performance; (3) Addictions.  In addiction counseling, the person rehearses to prepare themselves for ‘high-risk’ situations in which they are prone to use the addictive substance or behaviour; (4) Eating disorders. In eating disorders counseling, the person rehearses to prepare themselves for situations in which they are at risk for engaging in eating disorder behaviours such as binging and purging.

Basic rehearsal skills you can use

The key skills you can use to your benefit as part of rehearsal include: (1) Practicing performing the way you would like to perform in a given situation; (2) Preparing for challenges and adversity you may face in the situation; (3) Getting used to the stress you will experience in the situation and practicing managing it. There are two primary ways you can practice these skills in rehearsal. The first is to act out the situations using the rehearsal skills in a role-play format. If the situation for which you are preparing involves you interacting with another person, a psychologist or other type of counsellor can play the role of that person and then give you feedback to improve your skills from what they observe. If you would like to practice role-play rehearsing outside of counselling sessions, you could ask a friend, relationship partner or family member for their help with the process. You can also rehearse when you’re alone by visualizing the situation. If you close your eyes and relax, you may be able to imagine the situation vividly enough so that you can practice mentally applying the above skills. In the next session, I will discuss how you apply these skills to the counselling issues which I’ve mentioned.

How you can use rehearsal to manage your anger

The key to managing anger is in expressing your concerns assertively rather than aggressively. Rehearsal can help you prepare assertive ways to express your anger and avoid aggressive ways of doing so. In rehearsal, you can also practice responding to provocations from others with assertive responses rather than aggressive responses. Practicing keeping your composure by calming your body with diaphragmatic breathing and calming your mind with positive thinking and self-talk during rehearsal will make it more likely that you will behave assertively rather than aggressively during the situation for which you are preparing.

Dr. Patrick Keelan Anger Management Counselling

How you can use rehearsal to manage your anxiety

Anxiety is characterized by the belief that you will not be able to cope with situations you encounter. In rehearsal, you can prepare and practice behaviours to help you cope with these situations which will lower your anxiety to a manageable level. This can involve anticipating adversity you may encounter and preparing responses which will allow you to cope with it. For example, if you will be facing a situation in which you are anxious because you may be criticized, you can prepare and practice behaving and thinking in a manner which allows you to remain calm in the face of this criticism. As with anger management, rehearsal helps you manage anxiety by getting you used to this emotion ahead of time and practicing dealing with it effectively so that you can perform effectively when you experience this emotion in specific situations.

Dr. Patrick Keelan Anxiety Counselling

How you can use rehearsal with addictions and eating disorders

Being successful in addressing addictions and eating disorders involves your being prepared to deal with situations which put you at risk for engaging in addiction and eating disorder behaviours. You can prepare to deal with these high-risk situations by rehearsing behaviours and thoughts to cope with them. This will make it more likely that you can avoid engaging in addiction and eating disorder behaviours when you’re in those situations.

Dr. Patrick Keelan Addictions Counselling

Dr. Patrick Keelan Addressing Eating Disorders

How you can use rehearsal as a sports psychology technique

I would be remiss if I neglected to discuss how you can use rehearsal as a performance-enhancement technique in sports and other performance areas. You can apply the rehearsal skills I’ve mentioned to improve your performance. For example, if you are an athlete or other performer you can benefit by rehearsing the way you would like to perform in your upcoming game or performance, preparing for challenges and adversity you may encounter during the game or performance, and getting used to the stress you will experience in the game and practicing managing it with the techniques I’ve discussed. For example, a runner can rehearse the pace at which they need to run during the different elements of race to give them the best chance to win. A hockey player can rehearse ways to keep their composure when faced with adversity such as a bad call from a referee.

Dr. Patrick Keelan Sport and Performance Psychology

The final word on rehearsal

Whether you’re dealing with one of the counseling issues I’ve mentioned or are preparing for a performance of any kind, rehearsal is a psychological skill that you can use to significantly improve your effectiveness. As a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, I can help you to learn and become proficient at this skill. The sense of calm you will experience when you encounter a situation you’ve visualized or role-played during rehearsals will lead you to confidently assert: “Been there, done that.”

May your rehearsals lead to performances which receive rave reviews,

-Dr. Pat

About the Author:

Feeling Challendged? Work with a psychologist who knows how to overcome challenges… Depression, anxiety, stress & other psychological issues may seem as daunting as completing a marathon. My approach to “Plan, Take Action & Track Progress”, has helped 100s of clients and is the same approach I used to succeed in the Boston Marathon & Ironman Canada.

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