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Decision Making Skills: Weighing Risks & Benefits-The (B-R-A-I-N) Method


Choices in Life:

No one is immune to feeling nervous or unsure when it comes to making a really important, difficult decision in life. These decisions can range from whether or not to undergo a medical procedure-to whether or not to say yes to a new experience. Oftentimes, these decisions not only
affect us but our loved ones as well-which places added pressure on our ability to make the ‘right’ choice.

Knowing Where You Stand:

You may be encouraged to seek advice before making up your mind-yet sometimes it can be overwhelming to hear other opinions before evaluating your own; that is why it can be really beneficial to explore inner beliefs & hesitations first. This way, you can also be equipped with
inner self knowledge before choosing a path when the stakes are high.

The acronym BRAIN, is a question based tool used by many health professionals, counselors, therapists. and doulas to help people explore options in a constructive, value focused manner:

Benefits: What are the good things that can happen if I chose to do this?
Risks: What negative things could happen if I chose to do this?
Alternatives: What are my other options?
Intuition: What is my gut feeling telling me?
Nothing: What would happen if I chose to do nothing?

Let’s look at an example of a situation that may warrant the BRAIN decision making method (the name and details have been modified to protect patient privacy):

Susan knew that she has a strong family history of breast cancer, so she had genetic testing done to better understand her risk. The test results found that she is at high risk, so her doctor recommended that she consider having a Double Mastectomy operation, to reduce her chances of developing cancer in the future. Susan is unsure about the surgical option, so she thought through B-R-A-I-N to figure out how she feels:

● In looking at the Benefits of having the operation, she learned from her doctor that she could greatly reduce her chances of developing a deadly cancer in the future-possibly saving her life, and saving her loved ones from losing her.
● In observing the Risks, she considered the medical risks of major operations that her doctor explained. She also thought about how she may risk not being able to breastfeed in the future if she were to have children. She also feared that losing her breasts may make her feel like ‘less feminine’ or ‘less attractive.’
● In finding Alternatives, she knows that if she doesn’t have the operation she can still attend regular doctors appointments and mammograms to monitor her breast health & look for cancer. She can also seek a second opinion from another physician. She then reminded herself that if she were to have children, they would still benefit from formula feeding; and she could adjust cosmetically, with reconstructive options.
● In searching for Intuition or Gut Feeling, she realized that she is very scared of developing cancer, and knows that even in monitoring her health, she will still be nervous.
● If she chose to do Nothing, then she knows that she would be risking her health.

How Therapy Can Help:
A therapist is trained to provide you with further tools that can support unbiased, authentic, fact-driven & personalized decision making. You deserve to have empathy and time to carefully consider what you need and how honoring that need will impact your relationships & goals.
Knowing that you have participated in cautious decision making, can ease any worry towards experiencing future regret. Click the chat box on the bottom right of your screen to schedule an appointment with one of our trained therapists.

Siena Vaccara, LMHC Siena Vaccara received her master’s in Mental Health & Psychological Counseling from Columbia University. Siena believes in encouraging personal growth through education, cultural awareness, and building trusting relationships. She utilizes Feminist and Narrative treatment plans, as well as Cognitive Behavioral and Person-Centered techniques in session to incorporate an integrative psychotherapy approach that honors the unique needs of individuals. She understands the importance of the collaborative therapeutic space being non-judgemental, unbiased, open-minded, and strength-driven. Siena treats individuals with concerns ranging from personal transitions to family planning, identity, mood fluctuations, and stressful life events.

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