Episode 10: Bill O’Hanlon Interview

 

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This episode features an interview with world renown psychotherapist, author, and speaker: Bill O’Hanlon. A former direct student of Dr. Milton Erickson, he has gone on to develop his own therapeutic applications for client change: Solution-Oriented Therapy and Possibility Therapy. Bill has written over 35 books and presents inspiring workshops all over the world. In this interview he details his unique approach to working with clients, how he came to be a therapist, the necessity of focusing on client strengths and resources, the challenges of the early days of advocating for potential instead of pathology, and his appearance on OPRAH. He even blesses us with a quick song at the end of the interview! Bill is a wealth of information about the field of brief therapy and any time listening to him is time well spent.

Bill has many excellent workshops and online training opportunities which you can find at his website: www.billohanlon.com

How to Become an Irreverent Therapist

I recently came across an old article while doing some research that really got me thinking in a different direction. The article was written by Cecchin, Lane and Ray and published in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy in 1993. It is entitled “From Strategizing to Nonintervention: Toward Irreverence in Systemic Practice”. The article discusses the shifting of focus in systemic therapy away from cybernetics and directive interventions and towards nonintervention and a focus on narrative (this shift was a huge mistake in my opinion). In the article, the authors suggest that in order to avoid the trap of being constricted in any way, therapists may want to embrace irreverence in their clinical work. This will enable them to avoid any potential limitations. It is a fantastic article that still has applications today. I was so inspired by the authors’ ideas that I wanted to share them, along with my own thoughts about how to become an “irreverent therapist.”

How to become an Irreverent Therapist

To be able to act without any restrictions on effectiveness, irreverent therapists need to take 100 percent responsibility for the actions they take and the directives they give. They must be willing to do anything within ethical guidelines to create the conditions for change to occur. If a therapist needs to be silent for the whole session in order to create change, she will. If a therapist needs to be confrontational in order to create change, she will. If a therapist needs to jump up and down on the couch singing songs from the 1960s to create change, she will. An irreverent therapist has an incredible amount of flexibility because her client is the focus of the session, not her theory.

 

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This will mean that the therapist will have to abandon any concepts, ideas, theories, or beliefs which could hamper the successful outcome of treatment. To quote Cecchin, Lane, and Ray, “therapists should maintain a healthy disrespect for any idea which restricts therapeutic maneuverability and creativity.” If you want to be an irreverent therapist, it is crucial that you successfully overcome any desire to stick to predetermined theory or technique that is regarded as the gospel truth. Any allegiance to a dogma is to quickly be rejected in order to flow with the moment as you and your client interact.  Practice laughing maniacally when you hear that a specific theory or technique is labeled “the best”.

An irreverent therapist will go out of his way to undermine and create havoc in the rigid beliefs and patterns of his clients. The order of the day is to embrace playfulness and see what happens when an inspired, uninhibited shrink gets to have fun. The irreverent therapist is also expected to poke holes in his own beliefs and patterns as he weaves a web of possibilities in his interactions with his clients. Uncertainty is not only embraced but encouraged in the therapy room. Any viewpoint the therapist or client takes as an absolute certainty in the session must be disregarded and discarded in favor of pure spontaneity and aliveness. Any certainty that the problem the client brings is unsolvable needs to be immediately dismantled in the therapy session. Spend time observing mastery of the absurd by watching a Marx Brothers movie or a Samuel Beckett play (these are much more enjoyable and teachable than most therapy textbooks).

An irreverent therapist pays little attention to how problems got started. He or she will be mostly focused on how things can shift and change. Investigation into past history and narrative explanations are kept to a minimum as the therapist redirects focus away from problem investigation and towards an exploration of client strengths and resources. Diagnostic labels are regarded with much suspicion and even disdain (maniacal laughter can be used here as well).

Try on the mantle of “Irreverent Therapist” for a week. Put it on your business cards. For this title there are no expensive, long term trainings to attend in order to obtain some silly certification. All that is needed is an openness to absurdity, an embracing of compassion, and a sense of humor.

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Interviewed by Rob McNeilly

I was recently honored to have been interviewed by Dr. Rob McNeilly. Rob is a medical doctor, a direct student of the late therapy wizard Dr. Milton H. Erickson and the founder of the Center for Effective Therapy in Tasmania. Our quick interview covers such topics as the role of expectancy in therapy, research into the therapeutic use of hoodoo, and how clients can be therapists’ best teachers.

 

Rob is a masterful trainer in Solution Oriented Therapies and Ericksonian Hypnosis. As a matter of fact, he is now offering a new comprehensive and hands-on online program “Easy Hypnosis – A Common Everyday Approach after Erickson”. This great program has text, audios and videos so the principles can be readily learned and easily incorporated into one’s clinical practice (whatever your previous experience of hypnosis may be). It includes 6 one hour video coaching calls. I highly recommend this experience and urge you to explore the possibilities. Rob tells me that registration will only be open until April 25th, so if you’re interested, don’t wait.

If you are interested in learning the Ericksonian approach to hypnosis from a true expert and direct student of Dr. Erickson, there are details here.

Episode 6: Future Orientation and Inspiration in Therapy

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This episode offers a view of therapy that focuses less on the past and is oriented more toward clients’ future goals and dreams. By having clients get in touch with what most truly inspires them, it is much easier to shift away from problem focus and move into a focus on client resources. The differences between motivation and inspiration are discussed, as well as creating an inspiring future for the therapist.

 

Theoretically speaking…

A theory is a generalized explanation and body of knowledge about how something operates. These explanations are used to predict and assume outcomes for specific actions. A theory stands if the results can be consistently replicated by researchers under similar conditions.

In the field of psychotherapy, research seems to come out daily promoting one theory of therapy over another. Each theory proponents pushes their theory to be the most effective and often have substantial research as evidence to its effectiveness. The rigor shown by these researchers can be impressive and their work has created shifts in, not only the content of educational training, but also funding for programs which are designed to assist the public with mental health issues.

I remember talking with one therapist who told me that the only real reason he started using his theory of therapy was that it was “evidence based”. He had not tried any other forms of therapeutic interventions because he felt there was not as much research to back up other theories. He said close to seventy five percent of his clients got better using his approach. My question to him was, “What about the other twenty five percent who don’t change?” He politely changed the subject at that point.

 

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Even though there are some great aspects to having a solid theory of how to do therapy, these theories can sometimes become cumbersome and limiting if we think each individual will automatically fit into our theory. Our clients may not have received the memo that they are to respond a certain way at a certain time due to a certain intervention. When the client does not fit the theory presented by the therapist sometimes the client is then labeled “resistant”. When a client is seen as resistant due to his or her inability to conform to the will of the therapist, the therapist may then become frustrated, angry, feel ineffective or become burned out due to his or her strict adherence to their theory.

The best way to handle the “resistant” client is to throw away your theory. This may be blasphemy to many who cling to their theories in a dogmatic, evangelical way. Many times our theories are good for some clients but not good for others (the twenty five percent). If all we have is one way to assist others we may find ourselves surrounded by “resistant” clients who make us work too hard, feel defeated and uninspired in our vocation. When we allow ourselves to create new interactions in the moment with each new client without a set scripted theory, we may find that every therapeutic encounter can feel much more exciting and creative. What if every client needed his or her very own theory of therapy?

The great scientist Karl Popper believed that theories by nature are abstract, and can only be tested in reference to their implications. Popper asserted that a theory is irreducibly conjectural and brought about by our imagination to solve problems that have come about in a distinct cultural and historical context. He felt that the truth of any theory cannot be verified by scientific testing. It can only be falsified.

To quote the brilliant family therapist Carl Whitaker: “I have a theory that theories are destructive.” Whitaker argued that too much reliance on a theory can cause a loss of objectivity for each unique person and situation. He felt this could result in a loss of compassion and care for the client. He argued that clinicians should consider give up strict adherence to theory and become alive as a real person in their sessions. As he eloquently put it, “Part of the problem is the theoretical delusion that science is curative; that enough knowledge, enough information, the right kind of facts will bring about the resolution of life’s doubts, the resolution of all distress.” I think Carl got this one right.

Episode 5: Interview with Robert Musikantow

In this episode I get to interview my good buddy, clinical psychologist, researcher and author Dr. Robert Musikantow. Located in Evanston, Illinois, Bob received his PhD from the California School of Professional Psychology and has been a professor at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. He is presently in private practice at the Evanston Center for the Transformative Arts and offers training and workshops for mental health professionals.

Robert Musikantow

In our interview Bob discusses such topics as the role of circularity in therapy, first and second order cybernetics, his work with Bradford Keeney, hypnosis, moving away from pathology investigation and learning to trust one’s ability to improvise in the therapy room. Bob has a great ability at making complex ideas very simple. For more info on Bob Musikantow check out his website: www.robertmusikantow.com

Episode 4: Interview with Richard Hill

This episode provides a wonderful interview with Richard Hill. Richard has emerged from a diverse and fascinating journey to become an innovative therapist, speaker and trainer on the mind, brain and the human condition. Richard is a psychotherapist, the President of the Global Association of Interpersonal Neurobiology Studies, an Esteemed Member of the International Council of Professional Therapists. a member of the International Psychosocial Genomics Research Team and is director of the Mindscience Institute in Sydney, Australia. In these capacities, and as a sought after speaker and educator, he is received around the world at conferences and other professional programs.

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In this interview Richard discusses his work with the problem of stress and anxiety, which has resulted in his “The Winner-Loser World Theory”, as well as therapeutic ideas involving the “Curiosity Approach: Curiosity for Possibility”, which can aid treatment outcomes for psychotherapists from multiple theoretical orientations. His website is http://richardhill.com.au/home

Are You Ready to be Creative?

If you have spent any time reading my blog or listening to my podcasts you know that I am a big proponent of using creativity in psychotherapy. I see too many good therapists who could be amazing therapists if they would just allow themselves to be more creative in their work. The straight jacket many therapists put on themselves by strictly sticking to the textbook can inadvertently dampen their effectiveness.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s time to fall back in love with your work, have more fun, and gain the confidence to embrace more playfulness in your practice. This is why I am excited about this upcoming  event.

I’m speaking at a virtual event ­­ Create Fest 2016 ­­ that you can attend from the comfort of your home.

Create Fest is all about empowering therapists like you to awaken your creative spirit and reignite your passion for your work. What we do as mental health professionals is vital to healing in the world, so my fellow speakers and I are passionately committed to helping you revitalize and enhance your practice.

 

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Join me and a dozen of my “outside­ the­ box” colleagues. Each of my fellow speakers brings a wealth of experience, insight, and one­ of­ a­ kind creative thinking to the mental health field. Come discover some new approaches.

Each day, you’ll get to watch 6 fun and inspiring interviews PLUS 6 live experiential activities, designed to help you integrate and prepare to apply what you learn. This is not your average professional development conference! Create Fest 2016 will be 2 days of powerfully playful and practical ways to invite more creativity into your practice.

To sign up for this unique event, go HERE

If you are ready to have fun, be inspired and learn to expand your effectiveness as a therapist, then I know that I will see you there.

 

Episode 3: Being vs. Doing

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When therapists view client behaviors as something that can be altered rather than as a part of the client’s “being”, changes in the client can happen in surprising ways.

Episode 2: Gaining a Potential Not Pathology Mindset

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In this episode we cover four elements which contribute to gaining a resourceful, creative mindset for performing psychotherapy. Having a “potential not pathology” mindset in therapy aids the practitioner in such ways as seeing every client as unique, having flexibility in therapeutic applications, and training oneself to constantly look for client strengths and resources.