In this episode we interview author, psychotherapist, and speaker Bette Freedson. Bette is a clinical social worker, practicing in Southern Maine. Bette is the author of the acclaimed book, “Soul Mothers’ Wisdom: Seven Insights For The Single Mother”. Her work has appeared in The York County Coast Star,“Calgary’s Child Magazine,” “Working Mother Magazine,” and “Women’s Day Magazine,” among others.
In this interview we discuss the role of utilizing intuition in psychotherapy, the overlooked importance of relationship in therapeutic research, circularity in interaction, working with single parents, and Bette’s “S.O.L.V.E.” schema for therapeutic interventions.
For more information on Bette Freedson’s books, articles, training, and therapy services, check out her website: bettefreedson.com
In this episode Dr. Bob Bertolino discusses the importance of working with a “strengths based approach” in psychotherapy, the importance of client expectancy and hope, feedback informed therapy, and working with children and adolescents.
Bob is a professor of Rehabilitation Counseling at Maryville University in St. Louis, Missouri, Senior Clinical Advisor at Youth In Need (YIN), Inc., a community-based non-profit organization in eastern Missouri that serves children, youth, and families, an a Senior Associate for the International Center for Clinical Excellence (ICCE). Bob has taught over 500 workshops throughout the United States and 11 countries, and worked with numerous national, state, and local organizations, and both the United States Army and United States Navy. He has authored or co-authored many articles and over 14 books on counseling, psychotherapy, and youth care work, with his books being published in 6 languages.
In this episode Rachel Hott, co-director and co-founder of the NLP Center of New York, is interviewed. Rachel holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and is a certified Master Practitioner and Trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). She is a licensed clinical psychologist and holds a Masters degree in Dance/Movement Therapy. Rachel has also been a course leader for American Management Association, a private consultant for executives, and has been trained by Jack Canfield to facilitate self-esteem trainings. Her specialization areas include: Performance anxiety, Sexuality, Life Transitions, Addictions and Healthy Lifestyles including weight control, sleep and exercise. In addition to NLP, she includes Thought Field Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and Self-Relations in her therapeutic repertoire. Rachel is sought after as an international presenter on NLP and Communication.
In our interaction Rachel discusses what specifically NLP is and how it can be applied, how to work with a variety of clients, and how to operate within client’s subjective realities.
In this episode, I discuss the importance of using clients’ values to aid in obtaining successful therapeutic outcomes. Too often therapists forget that each client has a unique set of values that, when explored, can give him or her enormous resources to pull from to aid in healing. By being open to investigating and using these resources, we can assist our clients in finding surprising ways to navigate and move beyond the inevitable struggles in life.
I received a question the other day about the use of directives in psychotherapy due to my having written other posts about applying absurdity and paradox as effective therapeutic directives. The question I received is “How do you do directives in an ethical manner”? This question caused me to pause as I usually do not think about how I do directives as being unethical at all. Upon further reflection I think the question came about because of the power distribution within the session in which directives arise. In order to give directives, the therapist has to become the “director” of the session and cannot be merely a passive onlooker. This can create concern for those who are uncomfortable with having a larger amount of power and control in their therapy sessions. I completely understand this concern.
To address this concern, first, I must state that if you are a therapist it is crucial that you adhere to the ethical guidelines set forth by the organizations who are involved in your licensing (APA, ACA, NASW, etc.). Thoroughly knowing what is appropriate and what is not in the ethical codes is an important part of being a professional therapist. If there is uncertainty on one’s part about a course of action, I recommend consulting with a colleague or supervisor to bounce ideas off of so that one can have a better perspective on a directive. The allure of power can be seductive so it is imperative that we in the healing profession proceed with caution. At the same time, we need to not be so uptight and worried about what we are doing that we lose our spontaneity and creativity.
Secondly, I think the best way to use directives is to simply ask yourself, “Would I be willing to do what I am asking my clients to do?” If the answer is “yes”, then implement the directives. If the answer is “no”, then do not implement the directive. If we are unwilling to do what we are asking of our clients, then not only are we not congruent with the therapeutic offering, but we are also putting unnecessary burdens and expectations on the people we are trying to help. By approaching directives with this mindset, it creates an opportunity for us to expand our own comfort zones. If we ask our client to do an odd action to change his or her patterns of interaction, then why not implement that same pattern in our own lives? It may help us become less regimented and more creative in how we approach our own problems. I have a rule that I never ask any of my clients to do anything that I would not be willing to do. This helps keep me mindful of the issue of power in the therapeutic relationship and also reminds me that there are areas that I need to work on and expand in myself.
A recent example of this occurred when I had a client who was very anxious about having things in order. She specifically was bothered by the idea of germs in her home. I was able to get her to agree to not wash one of the pans she used in cooking for two days (it was no small feat to get that agreement!). This allowed her mind to observe that not having everything perfectly clean would not automatically lead to excessive germs and sickness. As I gave this directive, I noted that I can be a bit of a neat freak in my own home. I make my bed and wash my dishes daily and do not like things out of order. As a result of giving her the directive to not wash a pan for two days, I decided to implement a similar directive for myself. I did not wash a pan for two days nor make my bed. This may seem like it is not a big deal to some of my readers, but for me it was an annoyance to alter my usual routine. It did pay off as I reminded myself that routines are sometimes made to be broken and it also gave me a level of congruence with my client.
If you direct your client to stand up more for himself in situations where he would previously back down, then make sure you are willing to stand up for yourself in a situation where you usually back down. If you want your client to expand her comfort zone by try something new, then make sure you are willing to try something new outside your comfort zone. By being willing to do what we ask of people we can defend against potential ethical issues.
In this information packed episode, Dr. Clifton Mitchell is interviewed about how to effectively and creatively deal with difficult and resistant clients. Clift is a licensed psychologist and an international clinical trainer and keynote speaker. He is currently a professor of counseling at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee, where he received the Teacher of the Year award in 2002. He has taught hundreds of mental health organizations, businesses, leadership and civic organizations effective techniques for improving communications and for creating change through the precise use of language. He is the author of the book, Effective Techniques for Dealing with Highly Resistant Clients, in which he presents cutting-edge approaches for managing psychological resistance in creative ways. He has published in numerous professional journals and his ideas and writings have also been published in “Men’s Health Today” and “Barron’s Financial Weekly.” His website is http://www.cliftonmitchell.com/
In this episode, the dynamic and engaging Lisa Dion is interviewed. Lisa is an therapist, international teacher, clinical supervisor, author, and entrepreneur. She is at the cutting edge of her field creating new and innovative models of therapy with children and adults. She is the creator of Synergetic Play Therapy, the first research-informed play therapy model to blend together neuroscience, attachment/attunement, physics, emotional congruence, nervous system regulation, and mindfulness. Lisa is also the founder and Executive Director of the Play Therapy Institute of Colorado.
In this interview Lisa discusses important concepts that apply to any area of therapy, including the need for therapist authenticity, the therapist being the most important “toy” in the playroom, the amazing story of what lead to her to create her form of play therapy, the importance of the therapist accepting aspects of him/herself in order to create change, and being open to possibilities that can occur in surprising ways.
In addition to her clinical work, Lisa has also launched multiple for-profit and non-profit businesses and is a business consultant to various organizations worldwide. For more information about Lisa Dion, check out her websites: www.synergeticplaytherapy.com and lisa-dion.com
In this interview I speak with renowned British psychotherapist and hypnotherapist, Stephen Brooks. Stephen was one of the first people to teach indirect and strategic methods of hypnosis in Europe in the 1970s. He founded the prestigious British Hypnosis Research Association at Cambridge University and ran training courses in hospitals and universities throughout the United Kingdom and abroad. In the 1990s Stephen decided to step back from his lucrative training business and private practice. He gave away everything he owned and moved to the mountainous jungles of northern Thailand to spend several years of deep personal exploration. During this period, he became interested in the nature and causes of suffering and began developing a workable practical psychotherapeutic process that he refers to as “Non Attachment Therapy”. Non Attachment Therapy allows therapists to disconnect the trigger-response mechanism that occurs when clients’ thoughts trigger negative emotions. The therapist will then help clients learn that their symptoms were not caused by something outside of their control, but by an automatic thought process learned by the brain. Today, Stephen teaches what he calls “Future Focused Therapy” which combines the very best of Ericksonian Indirect Hypnosis, Buddhist Psychotherapy (Non Attachment Therapy) and his own insights into the process of human transformation. In this interview we discuss his background, the role of attachment in human suffering, focusing on love and compassion as client resources, and his experiences running an international training organization. Stephen is a very inspiring guy and you can find out what he is up to now by going to his website: http://futurefocusedtherapy.com/
Performing odd, unexpected and absurd actions in psychotherapy is not something one usually learns in graduate school. In fact, in my many years in training, giving absurd directives was never covered. There were examples of various leaders in the field doing strange things to create change but this was never followed up with explanations or encouragement on how to perform such actions. In really examining the use of absurdity and paradox in therapy we find that it is the unexpected that creates a sense of confusion in clients which opens the space for new possibilities to emerge.
Even though great therapists such as Whitaker, Haley, Erickson, Palazzoli, etc. have used absurdity and paradox in their work, as of late there does not appear to be much information in the literature about how or why to perform such maneuvers. I personally believe that being open to absurdity not only makes you a better therapist, but also allows you to have a happier life. The nature of life itself is absurd, so why not embrace this fact? Absurdity can be utilized for shaking up interactions in a way that forces clients to find a different way of relating to the situation which originally brought them to therapy.
In order to create absurdity in the therapy room, clinicians must be one hundred percent willing to abandon any rigid ways of interacting with clients. They should be prepared to act in a spontaneous and creative manner. To be absurd we need to not make any sense. This statement will clash with the prevailing paradigm of logical, left brained therapy which appears to engulf much of the evidence based research. We are often taught that we need to teach our clients to think and act rationally in order for them to change. Certainly these are good objectives, but I will raise the point that it is in learning to deal with the absurdity of life where we really learn to be happy. When we become confused by things we naturally search for understanding. While we are trying to make sense of certain absurd actions, we automatically are being stretched out of our habitual ways of relating to our world. With this stretching process we become open to new resources in how to respond to the absurdity of the moment and of life in general.
Some examples of using absurdity to create change:
1. I once saw a couple who were having issues due to the wife’s unwillingness to let her husband have any power in the relationship. She was very controlling but at the same time wanted her husband to “step up” and take some control in the household. The husband wanted to do this but every time he attempted to “step up” she would create a fight because it triggered her control issues and he would back down. He was stuck in a “double bind” situation (which was absurd to begin with). Even though both the husband and the wife logically knew what the situation was, nothing was changing. When they came to their first session, I got their approval for them to do anything I asked them to do as long as it did not violate any safety, security or ethical boundaries. I then told them to go home and on the next day that they were home alone with nowhere to go (which was the upcoming Saturday), they were to wear each others’ clothing for the whole day. The husband was to wear one of his wife’s dresses and she was to wear one of his suits. They were instructed to do whatever they wanted to do that day but they were not allowed to talk about how they felt about the change of clothing. They reluctantly agreed. On the next session, three weeks later, it was revealed that the wife had begun to allow the husband to take on more responsibility in the home.
2. A man in his late 50s came to therapy stating that he was emotionally wounded from the constant “destructive” criticism he received growing up. He stated that he was in a wonderful marriage and his wife rarely ever criticized him. He said the problem was anytime she would offer anything that was “constructive” criticism; he would emotionally withdraw because it would activate his old fears and emotional pain from his past history of “destructive” criticism. He was open to trying anything to get past this problem. His wife was called during the session and put on speaker phone. I directed her to constantly criticize her husband for the next three days about everything. I told her to let him know that he was breathing incorrectly eating incorrectly, sleeping incorrectly or anything else he naturally did. Clearly confused, both parties agreed to do it. When the husband returned in a week he told me not only had he not been upset at any criticism, but both his wife and daughter began to open up more to him to let him know how they felt about certain private things. The dialogue in the home was more emotional in a positive way and he felt closer to his family. He was clearly confused how getting criticism from loved ones for three days created the ability for a family to become closer and more loving toward each other.
In order to be effective at performing absurd actions in therapy we need to be sure that we have our clients’ best interests at heart and that we are asking them to do things which we would be willing to do ourselves. We are creating an alive” Zen Koan” in our therapy room when we allow absurdity in. By being open to absurdity and paradox we also free ourselves to become more creative in our interventions. There is not fixed pattern when we utilize absurdity. To do this we are jumping off into the unknown. This may be frightening to some practitioners who cling to standardized regimentation. To me, that is absurd!
For a case study of the absurd I offer the following clip from the Marx Brothers. Get out your notebooks and watch how literally everything within this clip is absurd, yet it creates a wider perspective of what could happen.