ONLY For Therapists

Up to now, 2019, I have written a lot about the things I have learned working with others, including colleagues. Now I want to say something to therapists who see clients.

I am going to mention one quality YOU need.

It is the quality that safe experiments foster in people who choose to work with us.

It is ……………………….. CURIOSITY

You may not have been trained in how to generate it, but its there …………. somewhere. Some have it, others don’t. ALL can search for it and then PLAY with it. See Stephen Porges to explore more. No hyperlink here – too easy!!!

P.S If any Visitors ignored my instruction at the Page Heading …….. I like you …… you have demonstrated that you are a curious person. Please read on …….

Sometimes, colleagues tell me I am saying little that is new.

THAT IS TRUE. I am saying little that is new and I have little interest in saying anything new. The thing I am interested in is other people finding something different  for themselves. Something to think, to say or to do that is right for them and their lives, right now.

I am no passive observer in the therapy experience, and want things that are different for me, as well.

I have a hierarchy of things that give me job satisfaction, and tell me when I think some-one is ready to leave therapy. Number One is what I most want from the other person …. and so on, down. All valued outcomes, but not equal.

These are listed from 1 to 10. I suspect there are others and I may be adding to the list as time goes by. You could help me here, if you are minded to do so:

Number One: A client who tells me they are ready to finish therapy. They know what they want to do next and how they might go about it. They are confident about the ‘back door’ available to them when the unintended and unknown consequences arise (not if, but when).

Number Two: A client who tells me that they have learned how to design and apply a small safe experiment of their own. They find there own way to describe the results and what they want to do with those results.

Number Three: A client who takes an idea for a safe experiment, jiggles it about a bit and can connect the result to a range of possibilities available to them.

Number Four: A client who takes an idea for a safe experiment from our conversations and does something else with it. They notice the outcome.

Number Five: A client doing something different, brings back the results of their safe experiment, and identifies what they can do differently next time.

Number Six: A client doing something, bringing back the results and saying how they will build on the outcome.

Number Seven: A client telling me something I mentioned some time ago and it now sounds like their own idea.

Number eight: A client comes into a next session and remembers something that was said and comments on the way it had made them think or act differently.

Number Nine: A client telling me they had not thought of something I had just mentioned.

Number Ten: clients look at me and tells me things that I suggest are helpful; I am a good role model.

…. oh, and then there are others who rightly tell me that they need to change therapist. Now I think about it; maybe these insightful individuals should be seen as Number One’s!! It’s a circle, really.

If you want to explore this as a model of change, take a look at these researchers. Better still,  take a few minutes to listen to Harry Chapin and his song, Circle, Sadly, he did find his ‘dead end’, but who does not?

What’s behind this hierarchy?  Number ten shows a sensitivity to our conversations and our relationship. At Nine, Eight and Seven, it seems to me that the person wants to learn from our work explicitly.

As the Numbers rise, the learning becomes more implicit – it is not obviously stated. The learning is OWNED. It is personal. The results suggest the learning is emerging less from what I say – or their reaction to what I say. It is more related to their understanding of the world in which they live.

From Six, onwards, a client is actively observing their evidence and the implications for their daily lives arising from it.

Towards the top, individuals begin notice what they can do without guidance, and they have the confidence to do it.

Anyone want to say: there, Robin, you do have a model you are following after all.

If this is so, then it is an Adult Learning model and I owe a great deal to the students and trainees who educated me over several decades in social work education, Higher Education and Continuing Professional Education.

A particular word of thanks is due, I think, to an old colleague, David Leadbetter as we worked together on the delivery of Handling Agression and Violence in the Work-place for several years.

As I am at it, can I include a word of thanks to the medical students and Consultation Skills Team at University of East Anglia. In recent years I was able to work in the medical School for several years and developed an understanding of the Adult Learning process.  This work experience followed a seven year stretch teaching on the post-graduate Social Work programme at Dundee University.

Some of this website information emerged from these stints!

All these experiences brought home the futility of searching for some ‘new’ external model in therapy. Any approach that implies there is AN Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything is on a loser.  Therefore, one ‘litmus test’ to assess the integrity of any training and therapy programme would be to just notice how teaching staff respect the roots that inform their own thinking and professional practices. 

Please be wary of ‘innovators’; too often you will find that they are re-inventing the wheel for profit, or simply to massage their egos.

Good therapy is built on the shoulders of giants and rarely nipped out of thin air one afternoon walking the road to Damascus.


Return to:


How to give yourself a nudge

How to design a safe experiment

Reviewing safe experiments

Responsibility in implementing safe experiments

Looking ahead