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  • Writer's pictureTena Davies, Clinical Psychologist, Certified Schema Therapist

What's the healthy adult really?

A lens to better understand the healthy adult 

The concept of doing vs being captures the two stances a strong healthy adult needs to adopt in order to care for the VC (and manage coping and critic modes). 

Doing involves fixing, addressing problems, planning etc. These skills, as long as they’re not in excess (I’m looking at you overcontroller) are important to lead a constructive life and to do things like work, study, pay bills, overcome adversity etc. 

Being however is a very different stance. It involves compassion, acceptance and sitting with discomfort rather than trying to fix it. This is in my view a much harder skill. It’s one that the healthy adult needs to draw upon to help comfort the VC. 

It can be easy to assume that clients who are high functioning automatically have a strong healthy adult. After all they have their stuff together! However, when you look at the healthy adult through the lens of doing vs being some doers may fall short when it comes to the being stance. They may struggle with tolerating emotions, allowing space for uncertainty or being kind to themselves/others who are not doing enough.



Understanding whether a client needs more doing or being can help build the healthy adult. Clients who are great at doing don’t need practical strategies- they have those in spades. They may instead benefit from being helped to be with their vulnerable child more. The limited reparenting stance is to model this attunement and compassion so that in time they can internalise this stance themselves. 

On the other hand, some clients may naturally be great at being and compassion but are less comfortable with doing. They can benefit from more guidance and being encouraged to be more active in moving towards important life goals. The limited reparenting stance may be one of more active coaching. 

Many problems involve both doing and being. Grief, while largely about sitting and honouring feelings may also involve actively finding new ways to meet our needs. Finding a job involves a lot of doing but also being when it comes to sitting with the discomfort of striving for something with an uncertain outcome. 

Personally, I find the concept of being vs doing useful as a therapist. I remind myself to just be, that is to sit in the uncertainty and discomfort of not always knowing. This comes in handy when I manage a tricky presentation because it can take time to find a way forward. 

In conclusion, looking at the healthy adult through this frame can help to understand and support its development. 

Do you find you have clients who are better at either being or doing?

Tena Davies is Clinical Psychologist and Advanced Certified Schema Therapist, Supervisor and Trainer. Tena works with adults in Melbourne, Australia. She enjoys teaching schema therapy and supervising those who are interested in further developing their schema therapy skills.



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