This is my personal view.
You could be forgiven for saying this website is simply offers a list of ‘small, safe experiments’ as I focus on ‘do-able’ things to make a difference.
Is that all there is to it? Not really. It’s easy to say and often tricky to do.
Why is that? Like humans in general, I am a meaning-seeking person so I decided to construct this page to describe my own ‘model’ or view of therapy. If it helps, I offer several other pages that explains my thinking and illustrate my point of view.
My approach seeks to be ‘trans-theoretical’, to use the jargon, but it is still just another theory. It is my theory. I emphasise this point as many writers seem reluctant to own their theory. They appear to offer you ‘the truth’, even The Answer.
I do not.
I have been asked about the way small, safe experiments are different from those used by conventional scientists. There are large differences – not least because my notion of a ‘safe experiment’ allows for different results – at different times.
It’s OK for that to happen!
Please keep these features in mind and do not look for consistency when designing and implementing small, safe experiments. Remain open to the variations and be curious about them. What do you learn from them?
There is another important consideration: I cannot do the work for you.
So to “My Way”.
I am much influenced by practitioners from the mid-20th century; people like Milton Erikson and the school of Transactional Analysis (TA). What do my own views on how therapy look like in the 21st century?
I write this page as ‘information only’; with a request that you use it for yourself – as much or as little as seems to work for you.
Professional Influences on Robin Trewartha
Now back to my original point: What I do – as a psychologist in the 21st century – is to sit on the shoulders of many giants in the world of therapy.
I have a lot of time for Dan Siegel but my view on his Window of Tolerance (WOT) is rather different. I have adapted his image as I have not followed Siegel’s idea of a Window of Tolerance (as I understand it). He appears to say nudging can make the WOT a little bit wider, but only if you stay close by.
Also, I use the ideas of Pat Ogden, Stephen Porges, Allan Schore and Bessel van der Kolk, amongst others, as well as the practice of transactional analysis inspired by Eric Berne.
My additional training shaped my view of how therapy works:
- in clinical hypnosis (including the work of John Omaha and Michael Yapko),
- brief and strategic therapies discussed on my history page, as well as
- the thinking of Virginia Satir, Paul Watzlawick and “The Milan School” including Gregory Bateson; an approach developed by Salvador Minuchin into the Structural School of Family Therapy. These days, this approach have evolved further into the ‘umbrella’ term, Systemic Therapy.
- the brief and solution-focused perspective articulated by Steve de Shazer and Kim Insoo Berg, including “Single Session Therapy” popularised by Moshe Talman and – in the UK – by Windy Dryden in recent years.
- By the way, I am now a little more respectful toward Freud and his colleagues – who were simply born before their time!
These are some other researchers and practitioners who made a large impact on me. There names will appear dotted around the website. My apologies for not mentioning then here.
Therapy is not there to ‘tell’ you what to do
At its best, it can help you train yourself to change and to ‘interpret’ information you gather. Sometimes that can be done without great ‘expertise’.
For instance, 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.
What are the ideas that have influenced me?
Dan Siegel’s Theory of Mind
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, in which I live every 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. It’s a ‘relational’ thing; at its very best, the mind has ‘parts’ that work in harmony.
Integrating our often conflicting ‘inner parts‘ can be a primary aim of therapy
Generally speaking, Siegel says I will thrive when I 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 a growing degree of flexibility in my behaviour, an expanding self-confidence and a set of resilient relationships.
When the processes are not integrated, the tendency is toward reactivity – an unthinking and spontaneous reaction – to people and events.
Therapy can improve our ability to notice the route we are taking toward a ‘new normal’; that is, tomorrow’s destination. We need to walk away from the Window of Tolerance to help it expand and take on a new form.
So how can all this be fitted into small, safe experimentation?
My my own answer can be seen in my ‘inverted tree’ on my Nudge page. We move from the past, through the present and into the future on our own scenic route. Parts of us will be more or less willing to set out on this scenic route. There are a good few pages to help identify other safe experiments that can shape your own scenic route. Some parts will be active and throw obstacles in our way.
Integrating ourselves through linked small, safe experiments
This will include:
- experiments that increase my awareness of the ‘unknown unknowns’ (see the Johari Window).
- ways to improve 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.
- strategies to improve our confidence and self-confidence through linking memories, experience, including sensation, and cognitions (thoughts in our head). Visualisation and practice do this.
- recording the results of ‘safe experiments’, These can lead me to re-write my life story; my Script. This is necessary when the key ‘plot’ in that story comes into question after, say, a death, separation or divorce.
- exploring new close, if not intimate, relationships. Trauma of different shapes and sizes can disrupt my ability to write a continuing and coherent story Some material is ‘lost’. a specific memory may not be ‘available’ to me. Only sensing it, feeling it and tasting it may puzzle my ‘inner narrator’. Some ‘re-writes’ require that memories – just out of my reach – be brought into my reach. This means making the implicit memory, explicit.
- through changes to ‘Implicit Memory’? What does this mean? Implicit memory includes: body memories, our emotional reactions to events, my ‘world-view’ (what does the outer world look like to me) and my ‘self-view’ (what does my inner world look like to me). Such ‘unknowns‘ will mean I am unaware 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.
- by acting on outcomes discussed in my head, or in the consulting room. Action can be essential to change – talking is not enough. Action is needed (not all the time, but a lot of the time). Anyway, there are different kinds of ‘actions’. 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 help you integrate and experiment?
The scenic route you may choose to follow