This book presents a framework for psychotherapists on how to direct their therapy sessions toward a focus on client strengths and resources instead of an excessive focus on problem investigation and client pathology. Practical examples and guidelines are supplied which give the therapeutic practitioner simple methods for accessing and implementing resource directed ways of working.
The role of intuition in therapeutic work has been something that has not been examined as much as it should be in our clinical training. Intuition can be thought of as the unplanned forming of impressions and the drawing of inferences. The noted neuroscientist Antonio Damasio describes intuition as “a non-cognitive way of knowing things.” Most every effective therapist I have met has talked about the importance of following clinical hunches and gut feelings in his or her work.
In the early days of psychotherapy, leading figures such as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung noted the importance of using intuition in therapy. In the fast paced, emotionally charged work that therapists deal with, there may be great benefit from utilizing the quick nature of intuition. In an article entitled “Intuitive Listening” from the journal Modern Psychoanalysis, Lynne Laub discusses many different ways that intuition can appear in clinical work. She found evidence for using intuition in such areas as metaphors, dreams, symbolism, and non-verbal communication. Other researchers have found that the use of intuition can be very effective, but only if there is ample trust between client and therapist, as well as the clinician’s trust in his or her own gut feelings. Arthur Bohart, in the article “Intuition and Creativity in Psychotherapy” from the Journal of Constructivist Psychology, writes that intuition is really inspiration that just spontaneously occurs to the therapist while he or she is in the flow of the therapeutic interaction. It appears that the topic of intuition might need more exploration as it may aid the needs of our clients within the therapeutic relationship.
If intuition is so important in clinical work, why is there so little time spent discussing this phenomenon in psychotherapy training? It may be that many professionals in the fields of psychology and psychotherapy have a desire to have their work strictly rooted in empiricism in order to be seen more as a science than an art. Intuition may be seen as too connected to spirituality and mystical leanings than aligned with “hard science.” Not having a set operational definition and application can make it problematic for researchers who are interested in investigating intuition in order to quantify its operation.
Since the prevalent approach to working in the clinical arena continues to be directed by empiricism and standardization of treatments, there is little space for teaching therapists to begin trusting themselves (and their intuition) more often. The employment of regimented therapeutic techniques often limits a practitioner’s access to his or her own internal wisdom. The “cookie cutter” approach to performing therapy leaves few openings to investigating our clinical hunches. Is there not a middle ground that not only gives therapists a structure in which to work, but also honor the mystery of our unconscious intelligence? I think there is, and most therapists who routinely follow their gut in the therapy room would probably concur.
Using our intuition may involve introducing odd statements and/or actions into the therapy discourse. What may not seem to make sense initially, might connect in ways our conscious minds might not at first comprehend. I have previously written about the importance of introducing the random into a therapy session and it may be that the random is preceded by an intuitive action.
One time I was working with a young woman who was in recovery from Methamphetamine addiction. She was trying to get her life back together and heal the hurts that her addiction had caused. She was not feeling good about herself and was constantly worried about falling back into her dysfunctional patterns. Our topic of the day was her learning to soothe herself when she became distraught instead of automatically turning to unhealthy men or drug use.
As we chatted, a strong image popped into my mind. I saw an image of a large number of birds flying. For some reason I felt compelled to trust this intuitive flash and ask her directly what “birds” meant to her. She stopped talking for a minute and sat with a puzzled look. She then told me that when she was a young girl, she and her grandmother would feed the birds that gathered in her grandmother’s backyard. As she talked about this time period, her eyes began to show tears. She explained that being with her grandmother were the few times in her life when she felt that she was “safe and good”. Upon hearing this information, I decided to see if she would be open to feeding the ducks who gathered at a pond across the street from my office. With a big smile, she quickly agreed to do this task.
In time, she found that she was able to reconnect with the feeling she had with her grandmother when she feed the ducks. She also decided that she would feed the ducks anytime she felt overwhelmed by life and needed to soothe herself. By following my intuition, with what initially seemed to be an unrelated mental image, my client was able to find a positive resource to use for her healing with which she had previously lost touch.
My advice: Trust yourself. If you get a hunch, no matter how odd, follow it. See what opens up
Lately I have noticed an increasing trend in the psychotherapy field in which the marketplace of ideas has become more crowded. Every day it appears that someone has invented a new theory, therapy, or technique that is then marketed as the latest and greatest breakthrough. A flocking of therapists to training programs on these new inventions has created thriving businesses for many. The good news is that the more these offerings are marketed, the more these new ideas can be heard and explored. The bad news (at least to me), is that it may create an idea that by learning just the “right” theory, therapy, or technique, we as therapists can increase successful outcomes. Some psychotherapy marketers have gone so far as to draw a line in the sand and declare that what they are offering is the cure to most of the emotional problems for which people come to therapy. Others have been more respectful and inclusive in their offerings.
I think it is important for us all to remember that, in spite of the best marketing efforts, research still shows that any one specific therapy application is not superior to any other when it comes to measuring outcomes. In an article in the journal “Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice”, Stanley Messer and Bruce Wampold found in the results of their research that there is no evidence that that any one therapy application provides the magic bullet for successful clinical work. They write:
“Such results cast doubt on the power of the medical model of psychotherapy, which posits specific treatment effects for patients with specific diagnoses. Furthermore, studies of other features of this model—such as component (dismantling) approaches, adherence to a manual, or theoretically relevant interaction effects—have shown little support for it.”
In fact, the most recent research on what really works in practice involves each individual client’s perceptions of the overall progress of treatment and the key determinant for success still comes down to the client-therapist relationship. Michael J. Lambert and Dean E. Barley, in an article titled, “Research summary on the therapeutic relationship and psychotherapy outcome” from the journal “Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, and Training”, found that factors such as warmth, empathy and the therapeutic relationship had a higher correlation with client outcomes than specialized treatment interventions. (For more on the factors which create success in therapy work, I highly recommend the work of Dr. Scott Miller: www.scottdmiller.com )
If it is true that specific theories, therapies, and techniques are not, as Bateson would say, “the difference that makes the difference”, then maybe this can free practitioners from any rigid allegiances in the constant changing psychotherapy marketplace. I still encourage people to create new models and techniques and expand our field; however, I think we all need to be aware that even the greatest technique may go nowhere if a client does not have trust and a solid connection with the therapist. Unconditional positive regard for clients and having a human connection should never go out of style.
In this episode, psychotherapist and author Rick Miller is interviewed. Rick is a clinical social worker in private practice in Boston, Massachusetts. He has served as faculty for The International Society of Hypnosis, The Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, and Harvard Medical School, and was a guest lecturer at The University of Johannesburg Department of Psychology in South Africa. The focus of his recent work is his creation and development of a practical, holistic approach for therapists to help gay clients experience fulfillment and happiness. He is the author of the well-received “Unwrapped: Integrative Therapy with Gay Men and the Gift of Presence”.
In our discussion we explore such topics as the importance of trusting our self in therapy sessions, the use of intuition in creating, maintaining, and deepening therapeutic relationships, Rick’s specialized work with gay men and its related issues of identity, authenticity, and masculinity. Rick also discusses “Gay Sons and Mothers”, his new project which examines the special bond that exists between gay men and their mothers.
For more information about Rick and his work, check out his website: http://rickmiller.biz/
I was recently interviewed by the lovely and talented Nicole Lemaster for the “Coleyology” podcast, a program which focuses on consciousness, mental health, and holistic living.
In this lively, personal, and candid interview, Nicole and I discuss such things as focusing on therapy client strengths, framing problems, co-creating novel experiences, hoodoo, the paradox of trust, writing books, and humor in the therapy room. She was a delight to interact with and I really enjoyed our chat.
To listen to the interview, go HERE
My latest book, Unlimited Resources: Simple and Easy Ways to Find, Access, and Utilize Client Strengths and Resources to Facilitate Change, is now available.
I wrote this book for psychotherapists who are interested in directing their therapy sessions toward a focus on client strengths and resources instead of an excessive focus on problem investigation and client pathology. I offer case studies, transcripts, and practical examples to give therapists and coaches simple methods for implementing resource directed ways of working.
To get your copy, go here.
In this episode, Dr. Robert McNeilly is interviewed. Rob is a medical doctor and a psychotherapist in Tasmania who had the privilege of learning directly from Dr. Milton Erickson. Rob was so inspired by Erickson’s human approach to therapy that he created his own interpretation to assist clients in a respectful, dignified way to deal with the human dilemmas that affect individuals, couples and families. Rob founded the Center for Effective Therapy in l988 to introduce Ericksonian Hypnosis and Solution Oriented Counseling to Australia. He has written several well received books on Solution Oriented Therapy and Hypnosis and offers online training in these approaches.
In this interview Rob discusses the importance of having a sense of expectancy on the part of both client and therapist, the importance of creating therapeutic relationships, the power of listening for resources, and therapist genuineness.
For more information about Rob McNeilly go to his website: robmcneilly.simplero.com/
Psychotherapist, yoga instructor, corporate consultant and entrepreneur, Dana Rideout, is interviewed in this episode. Dana discusses her path from working in special education to finding her work as a therapist. She also discusses working with trauma and “First Responders.” the use of mindfulness to help others find the missing neurological pieces to facilitate effective interaction, getting past comfort levels in therapy, using yoga for treating anxiety, and balancing “knowing” and “not knowing”.
For more information on Dana and her work, check out her website: danarideoutlpc.com
In this episode, Steve Hoskinson is interviewed. Steve is the founder and Chief Compassion Officer of Organic Intelligence, a theory and systemic clinical application of human empowerment, resiliency, and compassion to resolve the devastating effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Steve has trained thousands of individuals in the helping professions in North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East in the art of the compassionate treatment of trauma. As a leader in the Somatic Psychology field, Steve was Professional Training Faculty for the Somatic Experiencing® Trauma Institute for 17 years and is currently Adjunct Faculty for JFK University’s Somatic Psychology program. He has graduate degrees in Theology and Psychology and is a founding member of the Northern California Society for Integrative Mental Health and the International Transformational Resilience Coalition.
In this interview we discuss therapy from a systems perspective and the idea that what is wrong with therapy is the focus on what is wrong. He also discusses the crucial aspects of therapeutic context and framing, second order change, the importance of curiosity in therapy, and be able to “act in order to know”.
For more information on Steve Hoskinson and his work, check out his website: https://organicintelligence.org/
In this episode psychotherapist, trainer and author, Helen Adrienne is interviewed. Helen is a graduate of Rutgers University and Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service, Helen has trained in family therapy, mind/body therapy, cognitive therapy, guided meditation stress reduction techniques, and Ericksonian clinical hypnotherapy. She is an approved consultant for the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in New York and New Jersey, and a Board Certified Diplomat in Clinical Social Work.
Helen is the best selling author of “On Fertile Ground: Healing Infertility” and a founding member of the New York City chapter of RESOLVE™, a national infertility organization. For many years she has run mind/body support groups and other programs through RESOLVE™ for the infertile patient.
In the interview Helen discusses her work with mind/body stress reduction, fertility issues and teaching clients how to escape from stress and move into themselves, the importance of following therapeutic hunches, and the art of letting things spontaneously unfold in a session.
For more information on Helen Adrienne’s work, check out her website: www.helenadrienne.com