My Way, if there is one

“Each person is a unique individual. Hence, psychotherapy should be formulated to meet the uniqueness of the individual’s needs, rather than tailoring the person to fit the Procrustean bed of a hypothetical theory of human behavior.”

Milton H. Erickson

It’s rather pointless to pretend that I do not have my own views on how therapy might best work. Here is a page related to my thinking. I write it as ‘information’ but with a request that you do not try to follow in my foot-steps.

In my view, replicating what anyone else does in world of therapy is counter productive. Please use my journey as just one way to shape and determine your own ‘scenic route’. After all, I am now offering information on so many other ways that might have something to say to you.

To help further, and at the request of some individuals, I am including illustrated pages to describe my own thinking, step-by-step.  As I see it, this will be a useful step only if my illustrations match your experience of this web-site.

You can help develop this website by offering feedback and opinion on the safe experiments and scenic route you are following.

There are thousands of models of therapy. Each one offers you a unique insight into the thoughts and practices of the authors. Do they offer some insight into how you might design and sustain change in your life?

Can you translate what you read and experience into a MY-NUAL therapy?

Now back to my original point: What I think I do as a therapist today is shaped by the ideas of Dan Siegel, Stephen Porges, Allan Schore and Bessel van der Kolk, as well as the practices of transactional analysts inspired by:

Eric Berne: a US psychiatrist working in the middle of the 20th century.

Milton Erickson, quoted at the top of this page, and

Systemic therapists such as Virginia Satir and Paul Watzlawick, amongst others.

I summarised some of my thinking at a BPS Regional Conference a good  while ago.

I am not a neuro-scientist. I am a translator. I need to know enough science to help others interpret their experiences in order to adapt and make changes in their lives. My shortage of detailed knowledge of biology and neurology is moderated, I trust,  by my use of metaphor and illustration. 

Anyway, it pays me to avoid complexity and technicality, in favour of the digestible. I want you to have enough information to act differently, and with a growing confidence. I want to be accurate – but if I have to choose –  I’d prefer to know I helped some-one make a change.  

To minimise mistakes, I advocate SMALL safe experiments and assert that making mistakes is a valuable part of  the scenic routine to change.

What are the ideas that have influenced me?

Dan Siegel asks us to consider several facets of Mind and to follow several neuro-biological principles. He says that Mind comprises:

  • an ’embodied and relational phenomenon‘, to use the jargon. That is, I have a body and its parts relate one to another. This is my inner world. At the same time, I exist in relationships beyond my physical body as well.  Many of those relationships shape my ‘mind’ and become part of it. The impact of caretakers on a child’s development demonstrate this only too well. I absorbed their words as I grew up and those words became my beliefs. Beliefs determine much of my behaviour.
  • Siegel emphasises that my mind is also shaped by the community in which I was brought up and, indeed, which I live to this very day.
  • a subjective experience. I’m told we cannot know an ’objective reality’ because observing ourselves changes what is seen. However, we can sense things and this means we develop a ‘subjective’ or very personal experience of ourselves and others. That’s intuition, for you!
  • consciousness: all internal and external experiences bundle together to create a complex awareness of ourselves. It leads us to being able to wonder who we are. This curiosity makes human beings into meaning-making machines.
  • information processing capacities: that make me into a self-organising manager persistently looking for that  meaning. This is a key point: we may seek meaning but we may not find any. Indeed, there may not be any!! What about that, then?
  • an ability to self-organise: we do this by regulating and directing our energy within our bodies and toward, or away from, other people, living things and other concrete things.

When all these elements work together, my mind can monitor and modify itself. It is regulated and it can regulate in a relaxed way (or go off the rails!). It’s a ‘relational’ thing; at its very best, the mind has ‘parts’ that work in harmony.

Generally speaking, Siegel says the person who is thriving will demonstrate an ‘integrated mind’. This process of ‘integration’ involves linkage of each of those bullet-pointed elements, listed above. They relate, one to another.

The result is to a growing degree of flexibility in my behaviour, an expanding self-confidence and a set of strong, resilient relationships.

When the processes are not integrated, the tendency is toward reactivity – an unthinking and spontaneous reaction – to people and events.

Without the smooth flow of energy between our thoughts, actions, feelings and sensations, we can become chaotic or rigid. I will add another set of extreme responses: our tendency to catastrophise or cope by ritualising our behaviour to give the appearance of coping or being safe.

All this is demonstrated in my illustration adapted from Dan Siegel’s idea of the Window of Tolerance (WOT).

Therapy can improve our ability to notice the route we are taking toward a ‘new normal’; tomorrow’s destination. This movement can be seen in my ‘inverted tree’ on the opening page of this web-site.

How might therapy inoculate therapist and client against chaos, rigidity, catastrophising and ritualising as we follow this route?  A primary intention of therapy (and teaching etc) is to widen our own Window of Tolerance (WOT). My own, a client’s, people in my client’s life etc.

How can that be done?  In my own life, I assert this can be done by:

  1. small safe experiments that increase my awareness of the ‘unknown unknowns’ (see the Johari Window).
  2. improving the communications within the brain and body – from our left  to right, from back to front and up and down. Body Scanning plays an helpful role in fostering this improvement.
  3. improving our confidence and self-confidence through linking memories, experience, including sensation, and cognitions (thoughts in our head). Visualisation and practice do this.
  4. recording the results of ‘safe experiments’ can lead me to re-write my life story. This is necessary when the key ‘plot’ in that story comes into question after, say, a death, separation or divorce. The same applies when we explore new close, if not intimate, relationships. Trauma of different shapes and sizes can disrupt our ability to write a continuing and coherent story as some material is ‘lost’. I do not know that is in my memory. Only sensing it, feeling it and tasting it will help our ‘inner narrator’ and that requires that memories just out of reach – are brought into my reach. This means making the implicit memory, explicit.
  5. what is Implicit Memory? This aspect of my memory includes: body memories, our emotional reactions, to events, my ‘world-view’ (what does the outer world look like to me) and self-view (what does my inner world look like to me). Such ‘unknowns’ will mean I am unawareness of some past events. These past experiences – our emotional reactions, preferences, and dispositions— become key elements of my ‘personality’. Consequently, my personality shapes my response to trauma and any event in my life. 
  6. acting on outcomes discussed in my head,  or in my consulting room can be essential to change – talking is not enough.  This assumes a high degree of trust between therapist and client as they both practice doing their ‘own thing’, together.

NOW, if you have ever been in the consulting room with me – what do YOU think.

Did I honour Milton Erikson’s point at the head of this page?

Did we create a you-and-me school of therapy?!

Have you felt growing confidence in your ability to develop your own school, and

Have you started to re-write your Script to help along some useful change?

Want to tell me?