Healing Trauma with Hypnosis in Nashville – January 27-29, 2017

Join me and Courtney Armstrong for a dynamic 3-day workshop that will teach you how to effectively heal trauma using a respectful, strengths-based hypnosis approach. This high-powered workshop worth 25 CE’s that is filled with experiential activities and practice sessions that help you discover: 1) why hypnosis is one of the most gentle and effective evidence-based tools you can use for reconsolidating traumatic memories, 2) how to use hypnosis to quickly rewire the brain and activate inner healing states, and 3) how to easily adapt interventions to fit your client’s spiritual, cultural, and personal needs.

This training will qualify you for LEVEL 1 Certification in Courtney’s cutting edge “Trauma-Informed Hypnotherapy“.

You’ll learn that hypnosis is not scary or complicated, but merely a way of communicating with the emotional brain where our emotional memories, attachment schemas, and automatic patterns are stored. You’ll see that when you speak to the emotional brain in a language it understands, it updates rather quickly and painlessly. Clients typically enjoy the hypnosis approach we’ll be teaching you, and often finish sessions feeling relieved and uplifted, rather than tired, retraumatized, or drained.

Don’t miss the fun, fascinating, and educating event!

For more information go HERE!

Three Act Therapy

What if you could view your therapy sessions as three act performances?

What if you could guide your therapy sessions as if they were screenplays which unfold in a creative, spontaneous manner?

I have found the use of a three act arrangement to guide the therapy process to be a useful concept when working. I first learned of this when reading the book “Improvisational Therapy” by Bradford Keeney. This can be a very helpful map if your goal is to move a client out of a problem context into a resource context.

Keeney views a therapy session not unlike a script for a movie, in which the session is composed of stories with a beginning, middle and end. The role of therapy is to be a live performance in which therapist and client together move through these three acts. With the frames of the acts set in place, it is up to the performer (therapist) to engage in an improvisational performance to assist the client in maneuvering into new contexts and possibilities. This aids the therapist in scoring and keeping track of where he or she is in the session and if a session has progressed at all.

 

Act I of the story involves the introduction of the problem the client brings to therapy. Act I is rooted in a problem context. Unfortunately most therapists stay stuck in this part of the performance. In this context the problem is investigated in great detail. It is carefully examined and interpreted by the therapist. The problem and its etiology are ruminated upon in the hopes of changing the problem. Changing the problem is futile if the performance of therapy never moves beyond Act I. No matter what the therapist does or says, until the context of the session has changed, both therapist and client are stuck in the problem. Interpretation and diagnostic explanations for behavior are located in Act I. The goal of the therapist is to get out of this part of the performance as soon as possible.

Act II is the part of the performance linking the beginning to the end. This act is seen as the fulcrum where things can move forward or plunge backwards. This is where topics or ideas occur which are unexpected and surprising. The therapist often is working with a new theme which may have little to do with the problem the client brought into the session.

Act III is the part of the performance where the client has moved beyond the previous limitations of the problem context. The client is now in a resource context in which the problem may have been reframed or new resources have been introduced which enable the client to change his or her situation.

 

With this blueprint, there are no set techniques for the therapist to move his or her client out of the problem context as this way of performing therapy favors spontaneous interaction between therapist and client. The only goal is to move both the client and the therapist into a resource context in the shortest amount of time possible. To accomplish this change in context, the therapist must do whatever he or she must do to push past Act I.

 

Act I

problem context

Act II

moving forward

Act III

resource context

 

This structure of performing therapy avoids interpretation and pathology, Focus on these can freeze the context of therapy in the problem-context. If therapy is focused on either the problems brought in by the client or his or her attempted solutions, therapy is still stuck in a problem context. This means that the therapy session may be cut off from any access to resources that the client can use to aid in his or her own healing. By moving out of the problem context and into a resource context, the problem itself can even appear to be a resource in itself.

 

Here is an example using three act therapy:

 

A young woman came to see me for therapy due to long bouts of depression. She also had started cutting herself in a very specific place so that no one would see she was cutting. Cutting this way allowed her to continue her self-injury behavior without those close to her being aware of it. Upon hearing her describe the structured cutting procedure she used I was struck by how much consideration and time she put into cutting herself in this manner. I asked her how she knew how to cut herself in just the right way to stay within the same specific, small area of her body. She told me she really didn’t know.

I told her it was interesting that a part of her unconsciously knew just how to geometrically cut herself to avoid serious harm and avoid detection from others. I let her know that this let me know that she was talented in the area of visual and spatial activities. We then began a discussion about her interest in art and design, which then led to a directive from me that she was to begin doing more drawing and painting to satisfy the visual and spatial part of her. I informed her that she had been denying the creative artist inside her for far too long. She told me she had always wanted to explore graphic arts but was unsure if it was a good career path. The next time I saw her, she had rapidly increased her art work and quickly decreased her cutting while feeling less episodes of depression.

 

Act I

Depression

Act II

interest in art

Act III

unleashing the creative artist

 

By moving this woman out of the problem context she was able to access the resources she needed to channel her focus into a more creative, positive outlet rather than a focus on the presenting problem. In this way of performing therapy, each session is viewed as a single session therapy. Additional sessions are treated as new cases.

 

Try this way of performing therapy out and let me know how it works for you. I would love to hear what results you got by using this concept.

New Book

I have not posted anything recently as I am hard at work on several projects. One of these projects is an upcoming book I am writing on the techniques of Ericksonian Therapy for counselors who are interested in learning how to move toward a focus on client potential rather than a focus on pathology. I agreed to submit the work to the publisher within the next 7 months. I am hoping to be done early. I am excited to get this information out.

Stay tuned and wish me luck! 🙂

 

The Simple Secret to Gaining Trust

trust

I was recently talking with a new counselor who was in the process of completing her internship. We were talking about the things she was finding challenging as she began her new life as a therapist. One of the things she expressed concern about was on her ability to establish trust with her clients. So far she had not had too many issues but she told me she still worried what to do to ensure she was seen as open and honest as a therapist. She related to me that she had read about the importance of explaining to the client every detail about what she was doing to gain trust. She had also read about how important it is to match how clients sit and the pace they speak in order to create unconscious rapport.

After listening to her for a minute I asked if she really wanted the one big secret that I have found in gaining trust from most of my clients. I told her that this one simple secret would not only help her obtain trust in most cases but also improve her overall ability to generate successful therapy sessions. She immediately was intrigued. I told her that it was only two words: “Be yourself”.

When we are authentically ourselves we generally don’t have to explain in detail everything we do to our clients or sit in certain ways to gain unconscious rapport. When we are comfortable being who we are, most people are comfortable with us. The truth is there will always be some clients who are not going to be comfortable with anyone. However, I do believe that if you are completely yourself most people will recognize that if you are up front about who you are then you must be up front about everything else. If a client is not comfortable working with you due to you being authentic then it wasn’t a good fit for therapy anyway. 

Being yourself is something that is not a canned performance that you have to act out. I recently watched a video of a therapy “expert” whose method of gaining rapport with his client was by constantly prefacing any comment he had by asking the client, “May I have your permission to make a comment on what I just heard?” He did this over 8 times! Tell me who in the world interacts in such a canned, inauthentic manner and expects to gain real connection with a client?   

Be yourself. Your authenticity will win you more trust in the therapy room (and in life) than you can ever imagine.

Rebel against the Label

DSM5

I was reading this article about the American Psychiatric Association (APA) planning a third comment period for practitioners who are concerned about the “medicalizing” of the new DSM-5. For those who don’t know the DSM stands for the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and is put out by the APA as a manual of classification for mental disorders. Since it was first introduced in the 1950s it has grown substantially every edition due to the increasing numbers of disorders it offers.

More and more mental health practitioners are growing concerned about the rampant diagnosing that is required in the mental health field. Many disorders make normal human reactions to situational distress something labeled pathological. The need to label clients with a diagnosis in order to be paid by insurance companies has been around for many years. I have witnessed many therapists move away from taking insurance so as not to have to label their clients with a diagnosis of them being “sick”.

I can appreciate the intention of the original DSM as it was designed to give a standardized criteria with which every practitioner could be in agreement. If a client goes to a therapist and their records say he or she has been diagnosed Bipolar II, then the therapist will know what symptoms the client has been experiencing and can work accordingly. However, what has been happening is a explosion of diagnostic labeling that has led to a massive increase in the push for pharmaceutical interventions with little true healing for the clients who are being labeled. Also, the stigma of having a diagnosis can often be counterproductive to the therapeutic process.

A couple of months ago I worked with a client who had been referred to me. This client was very open about her anxiety and the sexual violence that she had been through over the past few years. She told me she felt hopeless because she had been given the diagnosis of Bipolar I, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. I was shocked. First of all according to the DSM she did not fit the criteria for any of these disorders (NOTE: If you are a mental health professional and are going to give a diagnosis please make damn sure you are giving the correct diagnosis, particularly if your client is now labeled in the eyes of her insurance company as someone ‘unstable‘). Secondly, her problem was simply that she was recovering from years of experiencing trauma. Her jumpiness around loud noise, her desire to make sure everything around her was in order and her emotional outbursts when she was stressed were all just symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Once I explained to her how the brain works when people go through trauma and she saw that it was a common response to long term stress, she began to relax. She sat quietly with tears in her eyes. Up until this moment she didn’t know why she acted and felt the way she did but had been led to believe she was mentally ill. She asked me, “Does this mean that I’m not crazy?” “Hold on a second!” I said, “I never said you weren’t crazy!” We both laughed and then began our work on giving her the tools she needed to begin healing. She has made wonderful progress and now has a sense of hope for the future. The label she had been given gave her no comfort or hope that she could ever be more than a diagnosis. Where is the healing in this process of labeling humans?  I have a friend who refers to the DSM as the “Blade Runner Manual”. He may be right.

My questions to my fellow therapists are this: What would it be like for you if you did not have to answer to insurance companies and could move past DSM labels? What if all you had to do was just treat the person in front of you instead of categorizing them as a diagnostic code? Would moving past rampant diagnosing allow us to see more potential than pathology in our clients?

Challenging the need for insight

therapy-main

  I have sensed a shift backwards in the practice of psychotherapy over the past few years. In many cases the field has become a lifeless, empty process where therapists spend much of their time attempting to guide clients into insight and understanding of where their problems began. This noble endeavor is a hold over from the days of Freud who believed that insight was crucial to therapeutic change. While insight is not necessarily a bad thing, I assert that it often has little to no bearing on whether a client changes his or her life.    

In spite of exciting new discoveries in the field over the past several decades, in many cases therapy has gone backwards and become a process where therapists have clients go on a psychological archaeology expedition of their lives. These therapists hope that by having clients see where their patterns of behavior originated they will obtain a new insight that will cease their pain. This occasionally may work but I think more often than not it doesn’t.

If we want our clients to become transformed we as therapists need to be transforming! We need to get our clients DOING something different rather than just searching for causes. In the 1960s and 1970s amazing therapies (and therapists) began to show up that shook the foundation of established past oriented approaches to change.  The work of people such as Milton Erickson, Jay Haley, Virginia Satir, Salvador Minuchin, and many others gave the field a shot in the arm. There was aliveness and creativity in their sessions with very little exploration of where client behaviors originated. These therapy masters got results by changing what their clients were DOING not spending excessive time exploring and interpreting the history of why their clients behaved as they did.

How many times have we had  a session with a client who seemed to have a wonderful, life changing moment of insight into why he or she exhibits certain negative patterns only to see them two weeks later complaining of the same emotions, behaviors, or situations? It is far too common. I think more therapists need to move away from solely encouraging insight and instead begin to find creative ways clients can begin DOING something new and different.  If the process of therapy is not much different from what clients are already doing what is the point of coming into session?