I am writing this blog near the end of my professional career as a psychologist, teacher and therapist. I wanted a space to put together the ideas created over many decades as I worked with thousands of people. This material is presented in an increasingly systematic order for the first time to help me to understand what I have achieved. I think I deliver therapy well but I have rarely thought to understand how I do it. I just do it. Therefore, I will learn from completing this task and I trust that others can benefit at the same time.
Where my ideas accord with a specific approach to psychological therapy then I want to respect it. For example, some of this material is influenced by Transactional Analysis (and its US founder, Eric Berne, and UK-based practitioners such as Iain Stewart and Adrienne Lee, from Nottingham). Other large influences have come from American practitioners like Milton Erikson, Michael Yapko, Don Meichenbaum and Bill O’Hanlon (well-known for his contribution to Solution-focused and Strategic therapies) and, more recently, Dan Siegel and Bessel van der Kolk. Stephen Porges’s work has become increasing influential in more recent years. Once I was rather scared of the complexities of neuro-science, and I was never ‘at home’ with physiological psychology in my undergraduate years. He has helped me put some of those doubts to bed!
My training in clinical hypnosis in London means I have a debt going back many years – to Dr Robert Dupe and the no-longer-functioning BST Foundation (London).
My training in Eye Movement De-sensitation and Reprocessing (EMDR) provided an insight into important practical strategies for supporting people experiencing trauma. It was invaluable in helping individuals explore those experiences safely. It is a model that is good at widening that Window of Tolerance.
I can tell you my own approach to promoting change best fits four particular psychological approaches: the transactional, cognitive, systemic and strategic models of therapy. Strategic therapies, for me, include clinical hypnosis. All of them are over-lain over some traditional views on therapy. A few key names here include Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Melanie Klein, Jean Piaget, John Bowlby, Carl Rogers, Mary Ainsworth, Heinz Kohut and the Beck family.
Their work has been described by better writers than I, so please do your own research to bolster your knowledge. I have made mention of their ideas where it seems essential. My summary here gives you an insight into the models that have shaped my thinking.
My acknowledgements would be incomplete with a word of appreciation to the several professional supervisors who have supported me over the years. This list includes people in Scotland, the North-east of England, London and the East of England. Sadly, some are no longer with us and I miss the wisdom of Wendy Rose-Neil, Alice Stephenson (Transactional Analysis) and George Fenton (Psychiatrist from Ninewells Hospital in Dundee). I am fortunate in having current support from Keith Piper, formerly Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Kings Lynn. Recently returned to my attention is the work of David Brazier, now resident in France, and very immersed in Buddhist practice.
I would be troubled if I left out some-one, so I want to say a simple ‘global’ thank you and trust you all remember who I was in your life! This word of appreciation includes many individuals who shared group supervision and group learning with me over many decades, particularly in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, York, Norfolk and Perthshire. That number of people is considerable and I’ll simply have to say: you’ll know who you are.
In addition, there are family and friends around the UK, and beyond, who have put up with my ways over the years. My son, Alan, and my daughter, Jane, get a ‘mention’ in the opening page, but ‘thanks’ again for being there.
So, to conclude, designing and implementing safe experiments is not, of itself, a model. Why? Because it is a method of enquiry. It involves a process that assumes I do not want you to accept my ideas. I want you to use the method of safe experimentation to help it work for yourself.
Reading alone will not work until the words can be interpreted into your own world; trying things out is needed. Noticing what you’ve tried out and finding out what is important in the results you have generated.
Also, I do insist that other authors are important; they can inform your methods and give you confidence in your plans – especially when you translate their ideas into your own world through your own experiments.
That said, gaining knowledge from known authorities is only a first step in the design of sound, safe experiments relevant to your life.