Psychological Interventions

Focused Psychological Strategies

List of approved Focused Psychological Strategies (FPS)

What are Focussed Psychological Strategies?


Focussed psychological strategies are specific mental health management strategies. They stem from evidence based psychological therapies shown to combine evidence of clinical effectiveness from research with clinical experience.

In deciding which strategies to use the client's individual circumstances are carefully considered. At iflow psychology we consider your issues in the context of important areas of your life. These areas include your: 

  • Family situation including family conflict and breakdown, abuse or violence,

  • Social support and social isolation,

  • Developmental and family history

  • Medical history and current health status

Under the Better Outcomes in Mental Health Care Initiative, iflow psychology provides the following focussed psychological strategies.


​Psychoeducation usually involves giving the patient information about the disorder. The information provided would include: symptoms and signs, related problems, aetiology, prognosis, and recommended treatments.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive Behaviour therapy includes:

  • Activity scheduling

  • Anger management

  • Attention regulation

  • Behaviour interventions

  • Cognitive therapy

  • Communication training

  • Controlled breathing

  • Exposure techniques

  • Motivational interviewing

  • Parent management training

  • Problem solving skills training

  • Progressive muscle relaxation

  • Relaxation strategies

  • Self-instructional training

  • Skills training

  • Social skills training

  • Stress management

Activity Scheduling

Activity scheduling is used to assist with depression. It involves time management and scheduling daily pleasant activities and events. Flow is also introduced in which you are encouraged to engage in activities that are intrinsically rewarding and involve a sense of mastery and satisfaction.


Activities are introduced to encouraged moments of pleasure. They act as a distraction and help change the person’s self-perception and improve self-esteem. Doing planned activities distracts you from your problems and negative thoughts.


Positive activity scheduling helps you feel better. As your mood improves you will feel more motivated and less tired. It also helps improve concentration and attention.

Anger Management

Anger management involves a range of techniques. This includes learning to identify when anger is arising and ways of dealing with it.


Additional steps include learning to identify:

  • Likely anger arousing situations,

  • Body sensations (physiological reactions), and

  • Thoughts that lead to feelings of anger and aggressive behaviour.


You are then assisted to develop alternative strategies to manage the angry feelings or sensations, minimise risk, distract you, allow time out and time to calm down, and to think and behave rationally.


Strategies can include: relaxation, distraction-techniques, verbal self-instruction and coping statements.

Once self-control is established, you can engage in problem-solving.

Attention Regulation

Individuals with distorted cognitive processing tend to focus on the negative aspects of themselves, others, and their environment. They perceive the world and events as threatening. They might also see themselves as unable to cope and hopeless. They believe others treat them negatively and as a result feel worthless.


Attention regulation encourages individuals to attend to the positive aspects of themselves, others and situations. They are taught how to perceive the world in a realistic and positive way. As a result they can feel better able to cope and more positive about themselves.

Behavioural Interventions

Behaviour Interventions and behavioural modification are techniques used to decrease problematic or dysfunctional behaviour. Problems behaviours are targeted and desirable or functional behaviour is encouraged and positively reinforced. 

Behavioural techniques are particularly effective for children and the treatment of externalising disorders and for developing prosocial and basic living skills.

Behaviour modification begins with a behavioural analysis. A behavioural analysis involves identifying and measuring the behaviours to be altered. Factors and variables associated with these behaviours, that are potentially triggering or reinforcing the behaviours, are also identified and addressed.


The behavioural analysis is followed by a systematic program which may include altering the stimuli triggering the unwanted behaviour, shaping up new adaptive (competing) behaviour, and contingency management (using reinforcers for increasing desirable behaviour and costs to decrease the unwanted/dysfunctional behaviour).

Once positive behavioural changes occur, techniques are explored for generalising and maintaining the improved behaviour. Relapse prevention is also discussed.


Cognitive Therapy

The aim of cognitive therapy is to assist you to become aware of irrational thoughts an learn to develop more functional ways of thinking and behaving.

Cognitive interventions include:

  • Cognitive analysis,

  • Challenging, and

  • Restructuring:


Cognitive analysis involves identifying faulty thinking that leads to unwanted emotions and problematic behaviour. You are firstly assisted to become aware of the thoughts which produce distressing feelings and behaviour.


Evidence is gathered through reflecting on problematic situations, behavioural experiments and therapist feedback on observations in sessions. This reflection assists you to develop greater self-awareness.


You will also be assisted to uncover the beliefs and cognitive schemas and constructs underlying these thoughts.

Often people with these disorders have faulty cognitive schema. They engage in distorted cognitive processing and have unrealistic, negative, overgeneralised and sometimes catastrophic beliefs about themselves, others and the world.


Challenging: Dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs are then challenged and replaced with more rational cognitions and supportive self-statements. Dysfunctional thought patterns include unrealistic expectations, faulty perceptions, false attributions, and incorrect appraisals. The thought patterns are gently challenged.


Restructuring: You are then assisted to develop more functional cognitive structures and processes. Developing more functional thinking enables you to learn to stop worrying, experience positive emotions, cope with life and feel successful. The ultimate aim is to assist you restructure dysfunctional cognitive schema underlying maladaptive thinking and develop appropriate beliefs.


Cognitive therapy is most useful in treating internalising disorders (e.g., anxiety, panic disorder, phobias, OCD, and depression).


​In externalising disorders, there may be deficient cognitive processing (e.g., absence of processing as in ADHD), or both deficient and distorted processing, (e.g., in conduct disorder).

Communication Training

Communication involves both verbal and non-verbal skills.


Effective communication requires attention, active listening, accurately understanding, then summarizing and reflecting, empathy, and responding with clear messages to the original speaker.


Appropriate posture, facial expression, gestures, distance from speaker, eye contact, voice modulation and tone may also need to be addressed.

Controlled Breathing

Most people do not breathe properly. When we are anxious we often tend to hyperventilate. This makes the experience of anxiety worse and in the worst case situation can lead to panic attacks or panic disorder. 

Learning to breathe properly can help improve your response to stress and improve coping. 

Exposure Techniques

Exposure techniques are used to deal with anxiety and phobias. Both in vivo and imaginal exposure may be used combined with relaxation and cognitive techniques.

Exposure techniques include graded exposure and systematic desensitisation.


  • Graded exposure involves identifying your fears, and constructing a hierarchy based on increasing fear. With consent you are then exposed in graded steps to the objects of fear.  Anxiety is heightened but not overwhelming. As you remain in this situation, the anxiety subsides. This experience allows you to learn the anxiety is baseless.

  • Systematic desensitisation is similar. The difference is that instead of actual exposure to the feared stimulus you use your imagination. 

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing is used if you are ambivalent or reluctant to engage in change. This techniques tends to be used when a particular behaviour needs to change such as when individuals want to reduce or stop using substances.


Motivational interviewing begins with discussions about the costs and benefits of both not changing, and changing. 


Barriers and fears of changes are also explored. Healthy coping strategies are also implemented. 

Motivational interviewing also involves learning about stages of change. Understanding stages of change is important to achieve change and understand relapse prevention and management.


Problem-Solving Skills Training

Problem-solving skills training involves a structured series of steps.


  1. A specific problem is identified and analysed in detail. This might require exploring various perspectives on the situation.

  2. Goals to be achieved by solving the problem are set.

  3. A long list of possible solutions is generated through brainstorming. This requires you to be creative and non-judgmental.

  4. Potential solutions are evaluated in terms of their consequences and how possible they are for the person to implement.

  5. Each course of action is assessed to establish how well it meets the goals.

  6. The action most likely to solve the problem, which is practical for the per son to carry out, is selected, planned in detail and then carried out.

  7. The outcome of this course of action is evaluated.

  8. If it was not successful, another course of action is selected, implemented, and the outcome again evaluated.

Parent Management Training

Parent management training teaches parents’ appropriate parenting skills to help you raise your children. Parent management training is especially useful to help overcome challenging child behaviours or to assist tailor parenting for children with special needs.

Parents are encouraged:

  • Spend quality time with their children,

  • To reward prosocial behaviour, and

  • To work together and support each other in parenting children, even when the parents are separated.


Parents are given information about children’s development and needs at different ages and stages. This helps establish realistic expectations of your children.


Parenting training is based on behaviour management. Parents learn to monitor their children’s behaviour and identify underlying causes and outcomes that reinforce the behaviour. They are then helped to modify these variables to develop adaptive prosocial behaviour.

Parents learn to set appropriate, clear and consistent rules and limits. They also establish logical consequences for breaking rules, which must also be consistently implemented. 


The rules and consequences must be clearly communicated to your children. In some cases, the conditions can be written in a behavioural contract between the children and parents.




Progressive Muscle Relaxation

One of the body’s reactions to fear and anxiety is muscle tension. This can result in feeling “tense”. Tension can lead to muscle aches, pains and tension headaches. It can also make you feel tired.


Learning progressive muscle relaxation can be very helpful for anxiety and to promote good sleep.

Relaxation Strategies

There are a number of relaxation techniques which include; deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, isometric relaxation, guided imagery.

Arousal may produce hyperventilation. Learning to breathe more deeply and slowly, in a controlled manner, helps counteract and ultimate prevent this hyperventilation.

Progressive muscle relaxation involves learning to recognise and voluntarily release muscle tension in the body.


This helps reduce arousal of the central nervous system.

When we are anxious muscles tense. Learning to develop an awareness of excessive muscle tension is important. Learning and practicing exercises to progressively tense then relax muscles throughout the body can help management your anxious arousal. This procedure needs to be taught by a skilled practitioner. It also must be practised for a period before it can be effectively implemented in anxiety-provoking situations.


Isometric relaxation is an abbreviated form of muscle relaxation used in anxiety-provoking situations.


Guided imagery involves learning to relax by imagining, or listening to a audio recording describing, of a peaceful, tranquil scene.


Self-Instructional Training

Self-instructional training uses positive self-talk to replace dysfunctional thoughts. You are taught to think aloud and replace negative thoughts with coping statements. This helps to guide behaviour and increase feelings of you are able to cope and manage. Self-instructional training improves self-efficacy and self-esteem.

Skills Training

Skills training involves the development of a program that includes various cognitive and behavioural strategies designed to address a problem you experience. 


Training involves the development of skills needed to deal with situations that are identified as problematic.

Social Skills Training

Social skills training involves learning social skills beyond communication training.


Social skills training might include:

  • How to approach people,

  • How to enter a group,

  • Developing conversation skills (how to start, maintain and close a conversation),

  • Learning cooperative behaviour (sharing and turn-taking),

  • Learning assertiveness and dealing with unpleasant reactions, or rejection.

Social skills are discussed, modeled and observed during sessions. These skills are then also applied and practiced in social settings outside of therapy. The experience of the individual is also reviewed and discussed in each session.

Stress Management

Stress management involves firstly identifying stressful situations or events. 


Then those situations and events are reviewed and analysed. Strategies to adapt or adjust to the situations are explored.


Relaxation and problem solving techniques are introduced. This helps the person manage the stressful situations and their reactions.


Cognitions might also be challenged. Coping self-statements will also be learned. Engaging in pleasant or flow activities to cope with stressful reactions are also encouraged. 

Developing a supportive social network is encouraged. 


Training in social skills, assertiveness, anger management and conflict resolution might also necessary.

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

Interpersonal therapy is based on the theory that interpersonal relationships play a significant role in causing and maintaining depression.


Interpersonal therapy aims to identify and resolve interpersonal difficulties thought to be related to the depression.


Difficulties may include conflict with others, role disputes or role transitions, social isolation, and prolonged grief following loss.


Interpersonal therapy builds skill mainly in the communication and interpersonal domains.

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