Psychology as a career

I have spent all this time explaining what I do as a psychologist. I have said nothing about psychology as a career and my therapy world is located in a small and very particular corner.

Fortunately, I had the good fortune to be invited to my former school in Devon to talk to sixth formers about career prospects so I am posting some of the highlights here for others to examine.


There are different ways in which you can develop a career in Psychology. For example, after A Level and under-graduate study in Psychology, I went into the Probation Service, a Child Protection Service and Higher Education before re-training as a Counselling Psychologist at Roehampton (University of Surrey).

Quite a scenic route, but each of those careers have played a large part in enabling me do what I do today.

More alternatives open to you are summarised at:

Registered Psychology practitioners – accredited by the Health Care Professionals Council (HCPC) have to be educated to Doctorate level – with all the time and cost implications this involves. This is likely to involve three years under-graduate work and some three years Post-graduate training.

In my view, trainees also benefit from time spent gaining some work experience. Assistant Psychology posts are available prior to Doctorate training. For further information, go to:

Other career opportunities are available without a Doctorate, e.g. in the Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) schemes of the NHS. See more information at:

Every success with the paths of study and directions you choose.

Curious people can study and research for its own sake. Interested? Ask me a question if that helps.

Routes to Nudging: some reading

The obvious text to mention here is:

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness.

by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

Publisher: Yale University Press
ISBN: 9780300122237: Number of pages: 304

The notion of how to ‘nudge’ was brought to the fore by this 2008 book.

The primary concern I have with their text – written from the perspective of economists – arises from the assumption that you can help people to nudge some-one else. Shades of manipulation. This web site seeks to address only what you might do for yourself.

This book highlights how we make decisions about our lives but – too often – we choose poorly. I find this approach to ‘nudging’  values the ‘small defeat’ less than it might. To me, the ways in which we get things wrong can be an important step towards getting it right. The road to success is not a straight-as-a-die Motorway, but rather a scenic route with few clear indications of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ steps en route.

Thaler and Sunstein are helpful in showing how humans are susceptible to various biases that can lead us to blunder. They say we can do things differently if we take humanness as a given and work with it – rather than against it. They invite us to enter an alternative world, They show that by knowing how people think, we can design and make choices that make get better results. Ther are easier ways we can choose what is best for ourselves and our families. 

However, this view appears to neglect the fundamental issue: who designs the experiment, for what intention and how can we learn from the results.

Mistakes do not always make us poorer; the scenic route, with both small defeats and small victories littering the road, may teach us important lessons.

There is a web site addressing the larger political issues relating to nudging:

This web site highlights how ‘nudging’ arose from a wish to change others – it’s what politicians do – and it may well be an important motivator for people to go into politics! I want my own web site to provide an antidote to the paternalism emanating from the hidden persuaders. Let me know if I succeed or fail on the way, please!

I am asking you how you will design experiments based on the victories and defeats you choose to experience.

Return to:


What is a nudge

How to design a nudge

Obstacles to ‘nudging


Crisis, Anxiety or both?

Crises generate anxiety. That anxiety, however, is likely to be ‘right’ for that moment. Humans experience anxiety in strange situations. There was a child psychologist, Margaret Ainsworth, who demonstrated how this works for infants.

Truth be told, I have not changed that much even though I am at the other end of the life span!! Anxiety in the face of strangeness is ‘situationally appropriate’, as people like me say.

Anxiety arising for no apparent reason is another thing. This is termed ‘generalised anxiety’ and, as it persists, it can become a disorder. The experience you have in your body may be much the same for both anxious experiences, but the safe experiments that are required to work with crises and generalised anxiety are very different.

Let’s examine some of the similarities and differences:


• Although anxiety will tend to make us feel bewildered, unreal, or unsteady, these feelings are normal bodily reactions to threat.

• Having these sensations does not mean you are ill. They may be unpleasant and even frightening but they are not a problem in the short-term. Usually, nothing lasts for ever.


• In this situation, we experience our anxiety as, indeed, lasting for ever. This arises when we magnify our feelings – unintentionally or not. Often this happens out of context – there is no obvious reason for the feelings and sensations. This rather normal reaction is often labelled ‘catastrophising‘. In common language, we talk about getting things out of proportion. However, to an anxious person those words can be an irritant; their feelings are real. Reassurances and apparent criticisms do not ease the discomfort.

Catastrophising here and there need not be a problem; newspapers do it all the time. However, when the sensations you experience in your body persist, it has the potential to do emotional and even physical harm over the longer term.

Why is this?

The anxiety created when our ‘internal alarm’ goes off is intended to last only a short time; the time it takes us to kill off a threat, or escape from it or, sadly, to be killed by it. When those reactions persist and do not decay, then physical and emotional harm is feasible, e.g. making us withdraw from company, argumentative and difficult to live with. Unfortunately, the thoughts racing around our smarter and younger sibling can keep things going long after the threat has diminished. We are able to generate a virtual world of woolly mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers.


The big difference about crises is that they are a real threat to our safety and security. It will create an immediate need for action. Anxiety exists to give us the energy to act; to move instantly with a laser-like reaction. However, it can tempt us into actions that, in the cool light of day, may be regretted. In the section on Flight, Fight and Freeze, I have made a virtue out of action. That said, some actions will be impulsive – not always under conscious control – and this can create unwanted and unintended consequences. I use the example of domestic abuse – in which some-one hits out – as just one such unwanted outcome.

Therefore, in developing your safe experiments, be aware of different forms of action:

  1. those that are immediate, impulsive and seemingly outside your control; they may or may not get you to a safe place.
  2. the temptation to act impulsively after the event because you are remembering the receding threat.
  3. a considered action based on evidence that the action is likely to have a preferred and valued result.

An obvious example is the temptation to leave a job or home because it seems the ‘only’ solution. Keep in mind that you can still leave home and job if, indeed, it proves the considered thing to do. Even so, in the immediate aftermath of any incident, take time to think this through and, preferably, talk it through with some-one who is trustworthy and discreet.

PLEASE NOTE: this is not a recommendation for NOT running away in certain situations. If you feel unsafe, running away to a safer place is likely to be the right course of action.

The key point here is: can stopping, listening, watching and refelcting lead you to explore other safe choices, rather than up a cul de sac from which it may be difficult to escape.


• Faced with a current crisis – do not run away from the experience. Can you ‘look it in the eye’ with a body scan? Notice what is really happening to your body at the moment, and what it is telling you now. Just notice your thoughts and experiences. Say ‘hello’ to any of the self-critical messages without dwelling on them.

  • In particular, notice the sensations, however uncomfortable they may be. If necessary, talk to them as ‘part’ of you (they are part of you – like it or not, even if not your best friend!)

• When you feel anxiety: use breathing exercises to relax, and let go. Make yourself as comfortable as possible. Sit for a while. Do not drive or be prompted into hasty actions. Take your time.

• If necessary, describe the outside world. What you can hear and see, or what is going on it. Do it in the first person, that is, “I see … I hear ….”

• As you wait and watch just notice that things can change. How do they change and in what way? Use the Subjective Units of Discomfort (SUDS) on a scale of 1 (for little) to 10 (the very most) to monitor how the strength of feelings go up or down. Less often they may stay the same.

• Be curious and do lots of safe experiments. What do you learn from the things that seem to go wrong as well as the successes in your life.

• Be aware of ways in which you can be in control of your body and your situation. You may surprise yourself and find some controls you did not know you had.

• When falling into catastrophising (it may not help, but we all do it!), use the diversions and distractions you have designed for yourself. In the heat of the moment, such strategies may be less likely to work. Indeed, the strategies can become a disappointment to you because they appear not to work. This may deter you from using these strategies at all.

Please do not throw babies out with the bath water. Timing is crucial. Diversion and distraction seem best suited to changing your habits. Some need to be practised several times a day in a random fashion, rather than in the heat of the moment. In particular, I would want you to very aware of the outcomes you obtain from your experiments. Clarity of thinking is one things that tends to vanish in a crisis!

With a following wind, we can learn from small defeats and further experiments can increase our confidence in our ability to respect our fears and anxieties.

Linguistic Ethnography

I was introduced to this research method by Jamie Murdoch, Research Fellow, at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

The term sounds rather intimidating so let me say more about it as it will help some readers interested in research and ‘safe experimenting’

The term ‘linguistic ethnography’ is an umbrella term for specific approaches to research. Scholars combine linguistic and ethnographic research traditions to our understanding of the impact of our social world on us. It does not take for granted our ways of communicating on our everyday world (our ‘social context’, as it is labelled). Take a look at:

……. for more details.

There is a connection here with the information I have provided about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). I’m no great philosopher, but ACT authors have described their approach as based on the philosophy of science called functional contextualism. Put simply, this means focusing on things that work and the context in which they are working. You are likely to be less effective – and invite more small defeats – unless you design your safe experiments paying close attention to the context in which you are living your life.

As I see it, the research into therapy undertaken by Charles Truax and Robert Carkhuff, as well as later work on Neuro-linguistic programming, undertaken by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, emerged to some degree from this way of examining what goes on in our world.

The relevance of linguistic ethnography to ‘safe experiments’ is that this research method serves to help us notice the social context within which we operate – just enough to see what changes might be made and how we might go about designing a suitable experiment.

You cannot do a safe experiment unless you want to do something different and, to notice what might be done differently, we need to notice the everyday impact on us of the world in which we are existing.

So, in practice, pay attention to the language you and others use and notice what impact language has on your understanding. Just as important, return to the Road Map safe experiment in How to Give Yourself a Nudge and notice how change is made difficult by our wider world.

Notice how others around us make it more or less easy to create change or even ‘allow’ us to become aware that change is feasible. Schools and colleges are intended to educate us; have you noticed how, sometimes, those institutions contain and reduce or ability to be different. It is precisely those ‘social contexts’ that may need disrupting before you can initiate a safe experiment effectively.

Do you remember the experiment about messages from our parents and grandparents? Most messages sent to us were meant to be well-meaning (sadly, not all). Go back to your records and notice the unintended consequences arising from some of the messages we received.

Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT)

I am not going to attempt to do justice to the ‘big’ models and how they inform the work I do. Part of your ‘safe experimenting’, may be to research these areas for yourself, and in your own way.

I am making mention of some key models simply to stimulate you in creating your own experimental designs, and to foster your curiosity.

CBT has had a long and chequered history, emerging in the 21st century as something of a ‘flavour of the year’, particularly in those institutions needing to administer mass programmes to help people under stress, e.g. The National Health Service (NHS) here in the UK.

Initially a harsh and rather impoverished model having no truck with our ‘inner world’,. modern CBT is more willing to address the ‘black box’ that is our inner experience. It still tends to be ‘manualised’ as training programmes have felt the need to create an identifiable minimum standard of service.  That might be important when those administering CBT programmes are drawn from many walks of life – some heavily influenced by psychology and other therapists with limited psychological education.

It is not difficult to criticise the ‘manualised’ approach (mini-experiment: take a moment to consider how you would create your own criticism).  Plenty of practitioners have moved away from it and I’d like to think this process will continue. Where CBT does help is in:

  • identifying how and what to record about our own actions, thoughts and feelings.
  • structuring therapy and ‘homework’ exercises to generate evidence to encourage us to change.
  • creating a positive attitude to collecting and recording evidence so that change appears to be manageable, and not as some daunting and discouraging obstacle.
  • seeking out the resources we need to sustain the change process.
  • understand the change process at a knowledge level and helping us see beyond ‘knowledge’ into ‘action’.

… and, above all else, CBT challenging the ways we think about things.

In my view, the key notion is that modern CBT recognises that we are often unaware of our feelings –  at a time when we are beginning to realise that decisions all have an emotion component. Emotions impact on our beliefs and it is easy to be unaware of the way in which our beliefs shape our actions.

There are many other ways in which CBT might help you in the design and implementation of safe experiments.  The orginator of aspects of CBT, Aaron Beck, set up his own Institute and on its web page you will find a CBT approach to recording and acting on small victories and small defeats:

Why not tell me about your experiences of what worked for you at:

and help me to tell others!

Return to:

Models informing therapy

Welcome to Find Your Nudge

How to give yourself a nudge

Blind Spots

There is a problem with the method I recommend. It places a lot of responsibility on you to decide the direction of change and how to go about it bit-by-bit.

Therapy has thrived as a profession because individuals possess blind spots that make it difficult to direct our own therapy. The Johari Window demonstrates how Blind Spots can get in the way – as well as providing a route to lift the veil so we can see just a little more.

Many people have reported the benefits of having some-one around to help them complete the therapeutic journey. You may well doubt your own judgment as you examined the results of some of your experiments and wondered what to do next. All along I’ve encouraged you to seek a consultation when this happened.

However, there is still more you can do to develop your own self-awareness and to extend the benefits of the ‘safe experiment’. There are ‘doors’ that will help you along and there are others that need to be pushed opened.

You will need to experiment differently as you approach the different ‘doors’. What do I mean by this? Try this:

Consider an issue in your life: a new one or one you already have worked on. Jot it down somewhere in the briefest detail.

  • it is likely to be concerned with the way you are thinking,  behaving or feeling. I’m including ‘financial’ matters under ‘behaving’, for present purposes.
  • would you say you are some-one more dogged by your thoughts, or behaviour or feelings?  If so, then the one you chose is, for the time, likely to dominate your decision-making. This dominant one becomes your ‘target door’: your response to it requires some attention now.
  • according to your personality, you will have an ‘open door’ more available to you –  one of the remaining ‘doors’ you can approach with more confidence, but …….
  • the remaining ‘door’ –  the remaining channel – will be your trap door;  the door most likely to trip you up. Starting your experiment here may be less helpful.  You may, in due time, walk towards it – but not at the beginning.

Now, how will this category of ‘doors’ help with safe experiments?

It provides an opportunity to focus our attention on a ‘target’ using the skills already available to you. The ‘open door’ provides an initial way in.

The aim is to reduce the traps right in front of us or to offer us a warning about the things we might miss.

That all sounds rather vague so let’s make up some examples.

An individual becomes more and more aware that his checking behaviour, say, door locking, gets in the way of a quality life; it wastes time. That person is trapped by his behaviour. He is good at thinking; his thoughts are full of “did I check or not“. On this analysis, the man will focus safe experiments on the ‘middle’, ‘feeling door’.  He reacts to the anxiety he experiences when regularly checking.

Only by acknowledging ‘worry’ can we make a plan to address it. It is very easy to return to ‘did I check or not‘, again and again. But it is a thought that may well stimulate further worry. This disrupts the alternative, less-used action/behaviour pathway – the one that promotes planning and the impulse to see the plan in action.

The initial experiments are likely to focus on affect regulation and his observations of the changing levels of anxiety feelings using the SUD scales. This may lead, through practice,  to actions and behaviours that prove more useful; making us more aware and sensitive to other aspects of our existence.

What about another individual – a woman – who finds it difficult to say ‘boo to a goose’? she demonstrates withdrawal in company; her behaviour, the open door, is passive avoidance of company.  Her thoughts provide the trap door that reinforce her actions – ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you’  ideas, so the target door is ‘thinking’. By devising experiments that attend to her alternative, feelings-door, and the changing levels of her SUDS, this person may learn to improve her self-confidence and manage her feelings differently. In time, her behaviour may change after that.

Often, these changed responses will encourage different thoughts such as self-affirmation: “even though I am feeling anxious, I can deeply and completely accept myself ” and she may be more able to act differently when meeting people.

Power, Threat and Meaning

A group of clinical psychologists have recently (2017/18) started a debate about the increasingly frail system of mental health assessment – processes used to label emotional and psychological ‘problems’. This  rather lengthy commentary can be found via:

I mention this work as I am suggesting they question, rather helpfully, the tendency to label behaviour and to see our responses as ‘problems’ at all.  I think this is similar to the challenge I am offering you here, in my blog, where I offer you an opportunity to review your life within the boundaries of your own SPACE-TIME, BODY and SPIRIT.

I would go as far as saying that the Framework improves on my own perspective by making the POWER issue explicit. The Framework highlights the social setting in which we are all obliged to operate. My own approach focuses on YOU and the safe experiments that you can design.

The Framework reminds us that we have to fit in to the world of other people, even if we only fight the pressure to do so.

Sometimes we are oppressed by those other people and sometimes we do the oppressing. It helps to be clear about this less comfortable aspect of the world in which we live. Whenever you review your Road Map and Genogram experiments, please keep in mind where you fit in to your community and how you are treated in that wider world.

However, any Framework  presents its own problems. It is still an attempt to explain what we do and where we fit in.  This blog has tried to reverse that process by asking:  do you want to change and, if so, in what direction and, if so, how?

Rather than assume ‘a one size fits all’, my own approach assumes that you may fit in with the majority, or you may be in the minority or indeed, be a minority of one. Other Frameworks and models seek to paint a picture of ‘Everyman’  That is an ambition that is destined to fail (and not simply because ‘Everyman’ is now a sexist word!).

That said, some people I know rather like a label as it can provides a starting point and become a focus for initiating change. Others have been known to use the label as an excuse for doing nothing and feel more secure because an ‘expert’ makes a pronouncement!

So, does this newish Framework link to my web site and foster safe experiments and story-telling? Try this, for instance:

EXPERIMENT:  take a bit of paper and identify something current in your life – preferably a minor obstacle – and consider:

‘What happened to you [as you faced the obstacle]?’ (This may show how has Power operated in or on your life, e.g by a parent, teacher, manager or friend.
‘How did it affect you?’ (Assuming the obstacle was a kind of Threat, what uncertainty did the outcome create in your life?).
What sense did you make of it?’  Elsewhere, I have said that humans may well be defined as ‘meaning-making creatures’. So what Meaning did you make out of the outcome you faced?

NB As a seemingly brief experiment, this may be more difficult to complete than is first obvious. Give yourself time, if needs be; put things down and come back to your results, if needs be.

When you review your notes and results, consider:
What did you do, or are you doing to survive [meeting that obstacle]?’ This identifies the responses you are making to the Threat?

It’s an experiment  that fits in to other elements in my main page. For instance, this framework picks up part of the SWOT analysis mentioned in the web site:

‘What are your strengths?’ (What access to Power resources do you have?)

…and asks if these questions help you know:

How do you deal with Threats? Can you turn them into Opportunities?

These questions, and your answers, may help you construct some aspect of the story of your life (often called your ‘narrative’). In this web site, this ‘story’ is connected to the Script you will have written for yourself on an unconscious level. So, continue the experiment by considering:

‘What is your broader life story?’ and what changes, if any, do you want to make to that story and the way it is unfolding?.

It may help to return to your Road Map described early on in How to Give Yourself a Nudge. This may help you develop your story from the various cross-roads emerging from the road map.

Note how the Framework fits rather well into the cognitive behavioural models of change and the Transactional Analytic (TA) model, in particular.

If you want to continue the experiment, return to the TA questions mentioned in my web site. Remind yourself about a current issue in your life, and ask:

What do you want (that is different)?

How will you get what you want (make it different)?

What stops you getting what you want?

Who or what do you need, in addition, now, to get what you want?

Such questions, in my view,  help us to move things forward, rather than simply label a condition. Too often health professionals spend time on what is known as ‘assessment’ in order to search out an appropriate label. It can do more than that: assessment collects ‘facts’ relevant to your life story so you can be  initiate change – get treatment, if you like.

Assessment, in my view,  is best regarded as helping YOU to tell your story. Change may not be possible until that story starts to be told.

The Framework – as adapted and summarised here – and well worth a more detailed examination – questions assessment in the traditional form, and seek to cast light on what you understand about your current circumstances. Most importantly, it is an approach that invites you to start formulating a way forward, rather than waiting to be ‘told’!

Ways to return to the main web site:

How to give yourself a nudge

Doing safe experiments

Welcome to Find Your Nudge

The Defence Mechanisms

I have been prompted to think about the psychological ‘defence mechanisms’.  In general, these come out of Freudian tradition of psychological therapies. A detailed account of some of these mechanisms can be found in several places but have a look on:

The full list is long so I will only sample some of them here.

Acting Out: when our energies are diverted into some other action to alleviate a strong impulse.

EXPERIMENT: recall a memory of a time when he felt you were acting out of character.  In retrospect, how would you have preferred it to be? How might you have ‘acted in’; that is, used a Body Scan to notice your internal thoughts, feelings and sensations so you could ‘label’ then more authentically?

Avoidance: walking around an obstacle rather than looking it in the eye.

EXPERIMENT: recall a time when when you were angry with some-one important in your life.  With the benefit of hindsight, was there something you might have said and done differently that would have addressed that feeling more directly?

Conversion and somatisation: when a high emotion stores itself in the body. For example, finger-picking or repeated hair pulling might be a preferred action when fear and anxiety are too intimidating. Babette Rothschild wrote an interesting text about this called The Body Remembers. Her website is well worth a visit if you are keen on researching.

EXPERIMENT: the Body Scan exists to help you be in touch with internal sensations, among other thingsWhen you do the Body Scan over a period of time, it is likely that you will notice a pattern; a discomforting sensation that persistently appears in one particular part of your body. Can you use meditation and relaxation to relate to that experience differently?

Denial: what better way to put something to one side than to pretend it does not exist.  If legend is to be believed, then Lord Nelson did this with his “I see no ships” at the Battle of Trafalgar. He got away with that by covering his good eye (he was blind in the other)! This phenomenon is important in safe experimenting and it links very closely to the notion of Discounting, I touch on elsewhere.

EXPERIMENT: call to mind a recent time when you avoided a ‘problem’ in your life. Think about how much you denied that problem using the ‘scale’ I identify below. You might have said of this problem that:

  1. I have no problem at all.
  2. I have a problem but its not really important in my life.
  3. I have an important problem in my life but it is beyond repair.
  4.  I have a problem and I could fix it if I knew how – but I lack the ability to get it sorted.

Which one applies to you? It may help if I say that finding a do-able thing becomes easier and easier once I move toward stage four, above. At that ‘level’ I understand that it might be difficult for me to sort it, but I have the ability and I will apply myself to it.

At this point, consider what the ‘missing’ skill is and how you might improve it just a little bit.

Displacement: involves diverting spare energy into an action with some, or little, relevance to the stress we are experiencing.

EXPERIMENT: consider whether you have been frustrated about a persistent obstacle in your life. How have you responded to that frustration?  Challenge yourself to consider whether you may have benefited from the displaced energy, e.g. by working harder. compensating for an apparent loss or short-coming. Equally, you may resolved in your mind to say  ‘dammit’ and rebelled against the issue by becoming the ‘bad boy’ or bad girl’.

Dissociation: this is an important behaviour touched on in the website but too complex to address in passing, here.

Humour: why not laugh it off? I’ll leave you to find the time when you did this as I think you’ll find an example without too much prompting. Emergency service personnel are notorious for ‘black humour’, an understandable protection against the horrors of their daily round.

Idealisation: placing some-one on a pedestal may be easier than looking at a ‘truer’ picture. By the way, have you noticed we can idealise ourselves or, in compensation,  damn ourselves. Anything rather than looking at who we are?!  You may notice how Hollywood makes a virtue of this tendency in some films!

EXPERIMENT: use the image below to write down one or two words  of description for some-one important in your life.  Take a break and return to the descriptions later. Notice ways in which see that other in a rather partial way.  In what way do you miss the ‘true person’, whatever that is?

Identification: a specific case of this is the so-called Stockholm Syndrome – when individuals taken hostage in a bank raid came to side with their kidnappers. Baloo the Bear had this right when, in the Disney film The Jungle Book, he sang the song: I want to be like you. When did you sing the same song, and about whom?!

Intellectualisation: I’m good at this. Let’s explain it all away, rather than feel it! A special case of this is called “mustabation”, when we explain something away with a few rules and commands to ourselves to others.

EXPERIMENT: take some time to listen to a conversation in a group of people – preferably one involving in you. Attend to the language and notice the use of words like ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘ought’ and ‘absolutely’. Later, as you reflect on this conversation, consider how helpful those words are. Are they a ‘cover’ for telling self and others what to believe, rather than helping the other person really think something through.

Projection: or, dump it all one some-one else, especially our nearest and dearest. That is a good way to get rid of bad parts of ourselves! bad

EXPERIMENT: how often have you felt bad about something in your life and dumped any bad feeling inside yourself on some-one else nearby, e.g. accused them of being angry or perverse? What might you have done differently to express yourself more directly or, as they say, authentically?

Rationalisation: or explain it all away. How many experiments are there for that.

Reaction Formation: or go in the opposite direction just to be perverse. That is, when love turns into hate. In the transactional analytic (TA) model there is a useful diagram called the Karpman Triangle that demonstrates just how quickly we can move from one extreme to another when passions run high. Well worth some exploration, if you are interested. Does the triangle help you formulate an experiment in your world?

Repression: a bit like denial, but potentially more accessible. Denial is a high level of discounting whereas repression is maintained by our personal ability to detach from reality – whatever that is.

Regression: flight into the security of yesterday when today feels a bit harsh.

EXPERIMENT: Use the ‘inverted tree’ model  or your road-map. described early on in my blog.

This may help you recall times when -on later life – you floated back to your early years in an attempt to find comfort. The blog EXPERIMENT: finding a Safe Place is, for me, an OK version of this process.
Splitting: or “nothing to do with me, Gov; it was him (or her)”.
Suppression: conscious repression often of a temporary nature; something we can put out of our mind for a while.

Transference: when we take qualities of one person and project – see above – those qualities on to another person and act towards the other as if. The end result is an unreal relationship. There are several forms of transference, including the intensities involved when we fall in love. It is a potential complication in therapy as therapists can be cast into the role of expert, when they are unable to be an expert in you. Tranferential experiences can emerge from real or imagined childhood relationships, such as parent, teacher, or charismatic school friend.  It is knowledge of this phenomenon that led me, in my blog, to caution against the tendency to relate to the idea of some-one rather than their present self.

Bear in mind that the original psycho-analytical model – formulated it is worth remembering well over 100 years ago – was both implicitly and explicitly judgmental. Originally, some of the defence mechanisms were labelled “mature”, that is OK in some ways. Others were vaguely disapproved of and needed ‘treatment’ or, at least, worked through (especially the transferences).

To be an effective experimenter, you will need to approach all of the defence mechanisms with more respect and to appreciate that they are there to do an important job.  Your task is to harness your energy to find ways in which those reactions will help you to do something different.

In what way may these ‘mechanisms’ help you with designing your safe experiments?


How to do safe experiments for yourself

Welcome to Find Your Nudge

How to give yourself a nudge

The Evolving Ape.

Recently I was asked: why provide this information for free? Doesn’t your living depend on it?

As an evolving ape, I am beginning to realise that there is an alternative to short-term profiteering from other people’s hardship and distress.

To explain what I am getting at prompts me to comment on my motivation for writing this blog.

For a start, I am writing it for me; I am gathering my thoughts at the tail-end of my career.

That said, I am confident that my story will help me talk to a different kind of ‘client’ or, indeed, a non-client (as well as old clients).  There are people out there who are able to change themselves with minimal professional guidance. I will be happy enough if just one person makes a safe change in the direction of their life without consultation with me or anyone else!

Furthermore, in practical terms, my approach may increase the flow of business to professional therapists. Some people reading this material will do some experimenting and come to the conclusion that some professional advice may help. That is a ‘good thing’ as the first step along the path of change is the recognition that something needs to change. The individual becomes more confident about how, and where, to find the help that will move things on. In the jargon of my professional world, this is termed resource-building!

By becoming more aware of what we need to do, and the obstacles to getting things done, we can identify our own conclusion and act on it. The most successful clients I have ever worked with are those who come to meet me after they have already started to make changes.

One obstacle to change arises when we are told what conclusions to draw, and how to behave, based on those conclusions. For example, our families and life partners do this to us with the very best of intentions, but that behaviour can have the unintended consequence of stopping us in our tracks – prompting, some, to rebel against what we are told!

There is a lot of difference between information that directs us toward something, and similar comments that simply point out, or guide us. Once we had spiritual teachers directing our behaviour from the pulpit, or its equivalent. Today we are much more able to assess information and make judgments for ourselves. Humankind has not been around so very long, but we are still evolving froma  reactive being into a thinking self and, thereafter, to an increasingly self-directing human being. Sadly, I am aware that this comes at a cost as some people initiate large and unsafe ‘experiments’ that endanger themselves and others around them. For the present, we still need laws to contain those disorganised individuals.

When you find that my material is interfering with your move toward self-direction – drop it!  I am sure you will find something that does not work, just as there will be things that DO work. Please let me know so I can review content. When I help, I want it to be to ensure that you devise changes that you want to make.


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Welcome to Find Your Nudge

How to give yourself a nudge

How to do safe experiments for yourself

Models informing therapy

There are literally hundreds of approaches to therapy. How can some-one find out what works for them? It is a precarious business as you will need to find out what works for you!

One way of trying to explore this minefield is to explore the processes of change underpinning any one model. In 1977, James Prochaska embarked on a journey through the various systems of therapy. He concluded that theories of psychotherapy can be summarized by ten processes of change and I am reducing this to seven. Apologies to any-one offended by my summary!

It’s a lot to cram in and some folk may well not wish to associated with some of the labels I am using!! Remember, I am not writing an accurate research review; only creating a device to help you find ways to explore your truths. When you can see where I am misdirecting your thoughts, may be the day when your view is becoming clearer by the day!

The seven categories I offer are:

  1. Consciousness raising: helping you bring the unconscious in to the conscious. This is found in the ‘traditional’ approaches of psycho-analysis, Freud and Jung and many others. Also, the psycho-social model of Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget, and others, once dominated therapy by covering a range of ideas about how humans grown and develop. It is difficult to offer an helpful link into this vast area of research and study.
  2. Self-liberation: breaking out of your prison created by your past. This can be seen in the radical therapies from the Lesbian, Gay and Bi-sexual and Transgender movement (LGBT), or in the more mainstream material of Dorothy Rowe, and others. I believe the Person-Centred School, emerging from the work of Carl Rogers, would want to see itself operating in this area.
  3. Social liberation: working with others to change the existing social order. Rather a favourite of radical and revolutionary thinking, this approach is well represented by the radical South American RC priest, Paulo Friere. More can be found on:
  4. Counter-conditioning: involves ‘inoculating’ yourself against past habits by the deliberate alteration of behaviour, attitudes and beliefs. Transactional Analysis is a good example here as it helps us to identify our life Script and amend it. It has informed a lot of what I have included in my material.
  5. Stimulus control: models using affect regulation help you to discriminate what you can control, from experiences and events beyond your own control.  One example, and there are many, include;
  6. Contingency management: summarised as changing behaviour to hope for the best, and prepare for the worst, an approach well represented by Albert Ellis’s Rational Emotive Therapy (RET), and its cousins . See
  7. Dramatic relief: acting decisively to see things differently can be represented by Psychodrama and the work of Jacob Moreno and his followers. For further information, see: Also the work of  recently-deceased Arthur Janov and his ‘Primal Scream’ fits in here. For more information, see:

The term ‘trans-theoretical’ is often used to cover a number of models that want to integrate different approaches – meaning the approach wishes to be above any one theory.

In some ways, this has been my intention. I share the approach that recommends that we act, as well as think. Too often, however, you may find the action is prescribed by the model. I am asking you to move from the recommendations of others, toward confidently designed safe experiments of your own.

This is often overlooked; the ACT Approach does explicitly ask you to find your own direction, but too often, in other models,  the advice is implicit and often sacrificed in the name of self-publicity.

Two other approaches I will address elsewhere, include:

Transactional Analysis (TA): based on the mid-20th Century work of Eric Berne.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): based on the work of so many people, although the name

Eriksonian Therapy: based on the work of Milton Erikson (not Erik Erikson, a Scandinavian Development psychologist – still a very interesting guy!).

Each influence the work I do  but  I am aware there are other approaches that have helped me to understand how therapy can work for different people. For instance:

Clinical Hypnosis:

Emotional Freedom Therapy (EFT):

Eye movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR):


For those interested in trauma therapies, it is increasingly impossible to overlook:

Parts Therapy:

Internal Family Systems:

Psychodrama (see item 7, above):

Body Psychotherapy:

Neural Feedback:

….. as well as Action programmes such as Yoga, Pilates and Eastern Meditations such as Qigong and Tai Chi.

As and when I am able to offer some integration of these very different approaches, you will see hyperlinks appear in the above list.

Tap the link here to return to other pages:

Welcome to Find Your Nudge

How to give yourself a nudge

When ‘doing’ isn’t enough.