Change… It’s Not Just About Willpower

Safe Harbor Counseling - Change… It’s Not Just About Willpower

The beginning of a new year tends to spark thoughts of change. We consider physical, mental, emotional, and relational changes that we hope will lead to a happier, more satisfying and settled life. We aspire to have more energy, fulfilling work, and healthier relationships.

“In early January, we set goals, develop strategies, monitor progress, hit the gym, and keep our fingers crossed that this time it will work!” said Dr. Beth Plachetka, LCSW, EdD and owner of Safe Harbor Counseling. “Change, however, requires attention and practice. It requires us to learn and practice new behaviors. Yet we often find ourselves confused and frustrated as we continue to do things we really don’t want to do.”

The secret, according to Dr. Beth, is understanding that our autonomic nervous system (ANS) is interfering. “Because it’s designed to keep us alive, once a pattern has been developed that provides safety, the pattern serves an unspoken, “life-saving” service, making habits more difficult to break,” she said. “If we experience trauma, or a real or perceived threat to safety, the ANS works overtime. We develop ideas and habits that don’t work over time.”

Real change must include support from the ANS. “Therapists and other health providers who utilize techniques based on the polyvagal theory find greater changes in their clients,” said Dr. Beth. “As the ANS develops the ability to identify the difference between real and false danger, it calms down and accepts healthy change.”


Stephen Terrell, founder of the Austin Attachment and Counseling Center for individuals and families experiencing the effects of Developmental Trauma, teaches Transforming the Experience-Based Brain, which provides theory-based foundational instruction supported by practical application, along with techniques that therapists can use to facilitate change in their clients. The training series begins in March 2023 in Naperville, IL. Information can be found at Change is really more than just willpower!

For consultation on this and other topics, please contact:

Beth Plachetka, LCSW, EdD

Safe Harbor Counseling / Dr. Beth Speaks

76 S. Main Street, Suite A

Sugar Grove, IL 60554


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