That said, there is one important issue to mention about the processes of change involved in our journey through life. In the world of therapy, much is made of walking alongside some-one as they skirt the obstacles. This stance helps therapists’ avoid taking the lead in that journey.
This is a sound principle, but one that is easier to say than to do. Saying it – or wanting it – does not make it so. Consider what I say to you in my ‘letter’.
Therapists like me, and our trainings, still influence our own world view. Observers alter what is there to be seen. This is not obvious in daily events but I contend that we are at our most dangerous when we only talk the talk – and omit to walk the walk. Models of change warn us about that.
One lack of action to counter bias in our language and behaviour results in a persistent, if implicit, tendency to focus on what happens to ‘clients’ based on an interpretation of what is ‘happening’. Who makes that interpretation? Too often it is the professional, not the person experiencing the change.
Interpreting, or finding meaning, is an active process and a therapist has an important role in providing the data to inform our interpretations. If I am to accept responsiblity for the interpretations I make, then I need a commitment to the ways of adult learning.
Let’s look at the some of the change models and how they can help the design of safe experiments. Below, I am including two ways of explaining Virginia Satir’s view of the change process. Notice how old and new normal is labelled old and new ‘status quo’.
…. and another way to see it is via Prochaska and Diclemente’s model of change as a helpful addition.
Their view of the move from ‘contemplation’ to ‘preparation’ and into ‘action’ tells us more about Satir’s passing reference to ‘resistance’. Prochaska and DiClemente focus more on the processes of change involved and they remove the implicitly judgmental language. In effect, they notice the faltering and cautious ‘try and try again’ nature of human activity (labelled ‘relapse’ in the diagram).
This cautiousness is sometimes referred to as the “conservative impulse“. It is a central feature of change – one in which small defeats are gradually replaced by small victories. In due time, possibly in a flash, those victories can lead to insight – a sudden revelation – the “transforming idea” recognised in most models of change. Such insights be seen as ‘big victories’, but they are not the big prize. Small moves, back and forth. can still get there.
If you want a challenge, then Thomas Kuhn’s book on The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, is essential, if difficult reading. It has been describes as the most influential treatise ever written on how science does (or does not) proceed.
Put this all together, and the outcomes demonstrate the power of systems thinking. Simply put, systems thinking operates on the maxim that the ‘whole is more than the sum of its parts‘ but those parts are needed to create a whole.
Transformation arises when I am able to fly in my helicopter and see the big picture, but I cannot do that until I have obtained my pilot’s licence. That takes a lot of effort – unromantic and painstaking – yet essential to any successful outcome.