New Book Now Available!

My latest book, Unlimited Resources: Simple and Easy Ways to Find, Access, and Utilize Client Strengths and Resources to Facilitate Change, is now available.

Unlimited Resources COVER

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.

BOOK REVIEW: The Therapeutic Aha!

Lately it is rare that I get to read a good book on counseling that makes me sit up and say, “YES!” But this is exactly what happened when I read the latest book by Courtney Armstrong entitled, “The Therapeutic Aha!: 10 Strategies for Getting Your Clients Unstuck” . Courtney has written a wonderful book which is easy to read and easy to implement in your practice.

 

Therapeutic Aha

The focus of the book is how our clients often need novel experiences within the therapy session to create a shift in their lives. While praising the effective treatments of Cognitive based therapies, Courtney also points out that many times clients may be already challenging their thinking but still need something else to create a change in how they interact with their world. The needed “something else” is a new experience. This book gives an easy to understand explanation of how the emotional/reactive brain works and fun, creative strategies on how to help it change. The case stories in the book are really interesting and the lessons they contain are worth re-reading.

 

In essence, this is a book which will teach you how to help others heal from trauma while igniting (or re-igniting) your passion for being a therapist. I highly recommend it and I have personally told Courtney that I wish I had written it. I look forward to much more fantastic work from Courtney Armstrong.

Three things I learned about therapy from studying Hoodoo Doctors

I recently wrote a book about the magical and healing practices of the Coastal Southeastern United States called, “Low Country Shamanism”. My goal in writing the book was to give readers an overview of the practices of the art of hoodoo/conjure as practiced in the low country areas of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. I researched the shamanic practices of the traditional “root doctors” and offered personal narratives from modern day authentic hoodoo/conjure practitioners and those influenced by the art. I enjoyed learning about these indigenous practices and got to meet some really interesting people.

 

low country

From this work I also gained insight into how to structure a good therapy session for my psychotherapy clients. Now before you think that I am going to bring out voodoo dolls and magical potions, let me assure you that these aspects of a hoodoo healing are quite practical. By adopting these ideas into your session I think you will find that you are more effective and creative.

 

1. The Hoodoo Doctor already assumes from the beginning that you will be healed.
The ability to project absolute confidence to your client is so important. If your client does not feel you have confidence in your ability to help them then they may feel they are unable to change. No matter what the client brings to us we need to project confidence in our abilities as therapists. Even if we do not know if we can assist them, a big part of healing is the “acting as if” we can assist the client. We are not making wild claims or offering 100 percent guarantees that clients will be healed but we are giving them hope by not giving up before we get started. People go to therapists and hoodoo doctors for hope as they have usually done everything they know how to change.

 

2. The Hoodoo Doctor will often insist on odd rituals to aid in the healing process.
Rituals can be a very powerful way to create change in therapy. If nothing else, it causes a shift in the patterns in which the client has been consistently using. Once this shift happens the client can see that he or she has more resources in how to respond to situations the previously thought. For example, a hoodoo doctor may ask someone who feeling depressed to carry as special amulet designed by the hoodoo doctor and walk around his or her house 15 times a night at a specific time chanting, “Spirits help move me to healing”. This simple act may be enough to alter the person’s pattern of staying inside and ruminating on all the problems in his or her life. This small change could bring about larger changes. We as therapists also can create new rituals and patterns for our clients to use for surprising results.

 

3. The Hoodoo Doctor is involved in the healing as much as the person seeking help.
Once the person approaches the hoodoo doctor for help, then the hoodoo doctor is an integral part of the whole healing process. They don’t do healing, they ARE healing. The hoodoo doctor is as much a part of the process as the person seeking help in that anything the hoodoo doctor does will have an effect on the person suffering. This is second order cybernetics in which the observation of the healer influences what he or she sees as the process of healing is influenced by the realities of all parties involved. If we, as therapists, recognize that we are not observers of our clients’ therapy process but are active participants in the process, what remarkable changes can we create when we begin to change ourselves? Instead of expecting therapy to move as a set model of interaction we can create marvelous new interactions that are not limited to academic theories. If the hoodoo doctor begins a spontaneous ritual to heal his or her client, this ritual will be new and unique to the client. The act of someone doing something can create change in surprising ways. Don’t wait for a set time to do a set technique. Become alive and create!

 

Now go do that hoodoo that you do so well…..

The Real Reason Why I Wrote My Book

I have been asked by a few associates why I decided to write my book “Potential Not Pathology: Helping Your Clients Transform Using Ericksonian Psychotherapy“. There are really two main reasons:

1) I have been (and continue to be) immensely influenced by the therapeutic mastery of the late Milton H. Erickson, M.D. His work has so much depth to it that it was only by writing about it that I began to understand some of it (emphasis on the word ‘some’).

2) A personal journey that changed the way I look at psychotherapy.

Potential-Not-Pathology

The personal journey was one which included great pain and fear but it was what moved me to totally throw off the shackles of a strict medical model pathology based view of therapy. A couple of years ago I had a very close relative of mine who suffered a brief psychotic break. At the time we did not know if was brief or not. Either way I just I knew we had to get him help quickly. The sad thing was I was stumped when it came to where to seek help for him.

The real reason I was so apprehensive was down deep I knew that if my relative were to walk into most shrinks’ office, he quickly would have been diagnosed with a disorder that would remain in his medical file for years. He also would have been pushed toward a psychiatrist who would prescribe medication that could possibly be worse than the episode he was having. I didn’t feel that what my relative was experiencing was something that required such harsh reactions but I had seen how this particular scenario happens far too often. I had terrible images in my mind of him being unnecessarily hospitalized where inappropriate medications would be forced on him which would make his behavior even worse which would only reaffirm his diagnosis as an “unstable patient”. I visualized the anguish our family would feel if we were told that he might never get better. I thought about the possibility of his personal health records labeled with negative terms that would follow him long after his illness had departed. I was feeling incredibly trapped in a classic double-bind as I was afraid for him to see a professional and I was afraid for him not to see a professional.

We finally found a wonderful non-traditional professional in a town three hours away who did not diagnose and clearly understood that my relative’s behavior was a temporary reaction to a major psychological event. Within a short period of time he returned to his old self and had worked through a good bit of his issue without excessive medication or hospital stays. Words cannot express how relieved I was to know he was better. My relief changed to a different kind of frustration when I realized that I had been afraid of sending my relative to my own profession. The truth is I got mad. Really mad.

I had come to see the truth that much of what passes for counseling these days is based on problem focused models of pathology. I was angry at my profession which I had previously believed was a source of healing and change but now appeared to be more about insurance forms and diagnosing illness. This experience really motivated me to change my perspective on how to help clients and moved me to share that perspective with as many other practitioners as I could.

The result was my book. Sometimes it is the difficult times which show a person his or her true purpose. I think this was the case for me. I do hope my book (and this blog) helps even just a few mental health professionals in viewing their work in a different way. A way that is based not on the pathology clients bring with them, but rather on the potential that each one has inside them to transcend their issues and grow as human beings.

To quote John Lennon, I may be a dreamer but I’m not the only one.

 

New Book

I am very excited about my new book, “Potential Not Pathology: Helping Your Clients Transform Using Ericksonian Psychotherapy“,  coming out in a couple of weeks. I wrote this book for therapists looking for some interesting ideas to play with in their practices. The work of Dr. Milton Erickson has always been fascinating to me since I first heard about him almost 20 years ago. After writing this book I can honestly tell you that even though I feel I know a little more than I did, Erickson is still a mystery to me in so many ways.   Apparently even people who studied directly with him feel the same way.

Erickson was able to create change in a masterfully indirect way. He saw each patient as an individual who only needed  certain resources and experiences to be able to live a happier life. He did not view a patient’s condition as a state of pathology. He did not think people were “sick”. He was a master therapist who was committed to doing whatever he needed in order to  guide his patients toward a healthier way of being in the world. I agree with  Gregory Bateson who called him “the Mozart of psychotherapy”.

It is my greatest wish that this book inspires therapists to move away from limiting disease based models of therapy and instead embrace a resource directed approach to finding the potential in every human being.

 

Potential-Not-Pathology