Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Emotion-Focused Therapy Masterclass: Emotion Focused Therapy for Anxiety

Friday, 2 May 2014 9:30-17.30
University of Strathclyde, Glasgow

Openings remain for the next EFT masterclass.

In general, the results of using humanistic experiential psychotherapies with anxiety difficulties have been generally disappointing.  However, this is beginning to change, with the emergence of Emotion-Focused Therapy for social anxiety and generalized anxiety. In this session I provide an overview of experiential processes in anxiety and key EFT tasks in anxiety, including a recently developed integrated task model that incorporates problematic reaction points, anxiety splits, self-criticism splits, unfinished business and self-soothing. 

In this session I provide an overview of anxiety difficulties, a review of different person-centred-experiential theories of anxiety difficulties, and the EFT approach to working with anxiety, emphasizing anxiety split work and self-soothing.

Individual sessions of the new Emotion-Focused Therapy Masterclass Series are open to counsellors and psychotherapists (Diploma level or above) who have completed Level Two or Level Three training in EFT.  If it’s been a while since you did EFT training, the masterclasses can serve as a refresher course and enable you to catch up on more recent developments in EFT theory, practice and training.

This session will include videos or live demonstration, supervision of client work, and small group skill practice.  Participants are encouraged to bring in material from their anxious clients.

·      Enrolment is set for a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 15.  The balance between supervision and skill practice will depend of number of participants.
·      Course fee: £120.
·      The course could be taken for continuing professional education credit.

Contact: or 0141-444 8415 for further information on this training, the facilitator, ways of applying for this course or other APT events.

Al Mahrer, Eccentric Humanistic Psychologist, RIP

--> Entry for 16 April 2014:

Word reached me today that Al Mahrer has died.  I can’t find any record of a birthdate, so I don’t even know how old he was, probably in his late 80’s, given that he got is PhD  1954.  Al was a wild & crazy guy.  Also quite annoying at times.  I suppose lots of people have Al Mahrer stories.  In one of his books, he claimed his therapy could cure cancer.  Some of my Al Mahrer stories I don’t feel are appropriate to record here, so I will just say that I was pretty outraged at the time.   

At the same time, tonight, as I reflect on his passing, I find myself wondering how it was in 1980 that he thought to invite Clara Hill, Bill Stiles and me to be part of an APA symposium on the future of psychotherapy research.  For some reason, he saw us as promising young psychotherapy researchers who might have something useful to say to the rest of the field. I don't think too many other people were paying attention to us then.  I didn't even know that about myself, until he slapped a grandiose title ("Fitting Process Research to Practicing Therapist"!) onto my untitled APA submission, a title that I then felt I had to live up to.

So, in spite of the nonsense, I also think he was brilliant -- and not just for "discovering" Bill, Clara and me.  He certainly changed the way I think about and do therapy and therapy research.  And I'm sure that his method of bodily resonation is one of the main sources of how I think about empathy as an embodied process in which it is possible at certain times to deeply enter the client's experiential process.  That means that every time one of my clients and I are able to do this, there is a wee bit of Al Mahrer there with us, in the room.  He was certainly one of a kind.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Craigmillar Castle: Edinburgh's other castle

Entry for 12 April 2014:

Diane’s back from the US, so yesterday we went off for another Saturday Adventure, this time to Craigmillar Castle, on the east side of Edinburgh.  With the oldest bits built in the 14th century, it’s almost as venerable as Edinburgh Castle to the west.  In fact, from the upper ramparts of Craigmillar Castle, you can see Edinburgh Castle in the distance.  As abandoned Scottish castles go, Craignmillar is a remarkably well-preserved.  It sits at the top of a ridge, with wonderful views in all directions:  Panning clockwise from Edinburgh Castle, you see the old town of Edinburgh, St Giles etc, then just before you get to Holyrood Palace, what you get instead is the back side of Arthur’s Seat, which is highest point in the area.  After that, the Firth of Forth, East Lothian, and finally the Pentland Hills.

The castle is nicely symmetrical, yet complicated and disorienting in its internal structure, where you go back and forth between the large central tower and the two adjacent, flanking ranges of more recent origin without realising you are doing so.  There are stairs everywhere, large and small circular ones, even straight ones.  The most unusual feature of the castle is the remains of a ornamental pool in the shape of a large letter “P” (for “Preston”, one of the families to own the place at one time) in what used to be the garden below the castle.

Although very windy when we visited, it would be a great place to go back to with visitors looking for a satisfying castle experience without the crowds and over the topness of Edinburgh’s other castle.

(Amusingly, we were startled in church this morning when a Craig Miller got up to read the lessons.  We’re reasonably confident that there is no relationship between the person and the castle.)

Thursday, April 03, 2014

“I’d Like to See you Try!”: Primary Adaptive Anger in Glasgow Taxi Drivers

Entry for 3 April 2014:

At 9:30 this morning, the taxi driver arrived to take me to Glasgow Airport for my latest EFT training gig in the Netherlands.  The streets in Hyndland aren’t very wide and the taxi driver didn’t pull very far over to the left (he said later that parking is so bad in Hyndland that he always double parks in order to leave the parking spaces for the residents).  Suddenly, a red sports car appeared out of nowhere behind him and couldn’t easily get around him.  There were two young guys in it, and the driver honked loudly and repeatedly as the taxi man got out of the car to help me with my suitcase.  The taxi driver, 60, spectacled, bald and bulky, told the young guy to calm down.  Red sports car driver then rolled down his window and exploded with a torrent of foul language.  The taxi driver told him to wait, whereupon the young man threatened to get out of his car and punch the older man.  The taxi driver looked the young man over, and said firmly: “I’d like to see you try!”  This produced a further stream of invective, but no action from red sports car driver other than to back up and begin trying to manoeuvring his fancy car around the taxi driver’s vintage red Skoda. “I’m going to take your mirror off,” said the young hothead.  “Go ahead!”, said the taxi driver, knowing that new red sports car had more to lose by the old Skoda.  The young sports car driver managed to squeeze between the taxi and the row of parked cars without mishap, and drove somewhat uncertainly off down the street. (I half expected him to pull over and get out of his care, but that didn't happen.)  The taxi driver helped me put my suitcase in the boot, we got in his car and headed for the airport. 

I was left both bemused and a bit shocked by this surreal event, especially given that it was only 9:30am, too early for serious drinking, even in Glasgow.  For his part, the driver didn’t seem fazed; he told me that in his youth he used to work security for a night club in the Glasgow City Centre, and that he’d also been called every name in the book in his former career managing truck drivers.

It did, however, leave me thinking about different kinds of anger.  Let’s start with the sports car driver:  The primary adaptive response to coming upon someone who’s blocked your way with sloppy double parking is probably annoyance or irritation; afterall, it is Hyndland, with its many one way or narrow streets.  You don’t drive in Hyndland without expecting to get stuck briefly behind someone loading or unloading.  (Some people, like Diane’s former driving instructor, refuse to drive in Hyndland for just this reason.) So irritation is perfectly understandable and appropriate. 

In contrast, the young man’s response was not irritation but road rage, the kind of reaction that leads to escalation and physical violence if answered in kind.  It’s impossible to know exactly what was going on with the young man, but the taxi driver and I both thought that the his reaction was partly due to his having an audience in the car with him, that is, another young guy.  So was this secondary reactive anger, motivated by some other prior emotion? For example, it could have been fear at having almost hit the taxi after trying to race up Novar Drive, or else by shame at loss of face in front of his friend, or even physical distress from being hung over.  We have no way of knowing which if any of this might have been going on. 

But there was also an element of bullying to the young man’s behavior, that is, instrumental anger, which is displayed in order to gain power or control over another person by frightening or shaming them.  Finally, the young man’s over-reaction could have also had an element of primary maladaptive anger to it, so that the taxi driver’s annoying but minor imposition on the young guy’s “driving space” might have felt something like:  “This is the story of my life; this kind of thing always happens to me; older people are always getting in my way and keeping me from living my life, then ignoring me when I complain. I’ve had it; I’m not putting up with this crap anymore!”

If I had to guess, I’d say it was a mixture of all these things.

As for the taxi driver, I have to say that I am quite impressed by his response: He didn’t take it personally, he didn’t over-react, which might well have led to further escalation and possibly to physical violence.  But at the same time, he didn’t give ground either: that is, he met the young man’s attacking language with firm, assertive, protective anger.  Beyond this, his response was mixed with a bit of classically Glaswegian humour.  And a strategic therapist would have been impressed by the taxi driver’s use of paradoxical injunction, a technique that is particularly effective with people high in psychological reactance (a fancy word for hating being told what to do).

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sanders & Hill’s Counselling for Depression (2014)

Entry for 28 March 2014:

Today I received my copy of Counselling for Depression: A Person-Centred and Experiential Approach to Practice (Sage, 2014).  As far as I know, this is the first book-length person-centred-experiential therapy treatment manual for a specific client population.  It is an outgrowth of the humanistic therapy competences that I worked on in 2008-2009, integrating person-centred and EFT, and provides important reading material to go along with the CfD training now being carried out in England and Wales. 

I co-wrote chapter 2, with Andy Hill; I also put together one of the Appendices from my meta-analysis data and helped construct the competence rating scale (PCEPS) reproduced in the last chapter.  For background for doing the book, Pete Sanders came up to Glasgow to do EFT Level 1 18 months ago. 

The book is a handy reference for PCE therapists and counselors working with depressed clients, and I think also helps legitimize the use of a humanistic therapy for depression.  There is a lot of EFT in it, but without, as Pete Sanders says, “furniture”. 

This book, and the big PRACTICED trial currently running in Sheffield, have inspired me to return the EFT’s roots in the work we carried out from 1985 to 1992 on developing it as an approach for working with depressed clients.  In the process I’ve developed my own take on CfD and EFT for depression.  Some of my thinking on this can be found under the CfD and EFT Masterclass sections on the following page:

This material includes ideas about depression as “stuckness”, how to help therapists and clients get unstuck, and alternative ways of working with Self-Criticism and Unresolved Relationships that don’t involve chairwork.  There are also useful formulations, such as “Depression is a message that I send myself that something is broken in my life”.

Regardless, Sanders & Hill’s new book is an excellent to start looking at how PCE therapy can be carried out with depressed clients in a more focused and responsive manner.  Hopefully, it will also generate additional interest in EFT as well.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Bowling to Dalmuir

Entry for 15 March 2014:

We were supposed to be working on our US taxes today, but Diane’s about to leave for 3 weeks in California and Ohio, so we decided to squeeze in one more adventure before she leaves. 

We took the train to Bowling, at the end of the Forth-Clyde Canal.  We were the only people getting off the train at the little station. It was windy and damp this close to the Firth of Clyde; the station overlooks an abandoned harbor with containing a few picturesquely decayed hulks of old fishing boats.  We followed the signs for the Canal, and after about a third of a mile arrived at a set of harbors, locks, and British Waterways buildings. 

It was about 3 miles to Dalmuir.  Along the way we saw another part of Glasgow:  Wide canal (wider than in the West End), reeds and cattails growing along the edge.  Swans, bicycles, the occasional runner.  Wetlands on our right, between us and the Clyde, including the Saltings, a nature reserve.  We missed it, but in Kilpatrick, by the towering Erskine Bridge, about halfway between Bowling and Dalmuir, there is a section of the canal whose north side (the towpath is on the south side) follows the course of the Antonine Wall, as we have seen elsewhere, as Wall, Canal, and ancient and modern roads (or railroads) parallel each other across the Central Belt. 

In Dalmuir, the Canal makes a sharp left turn and goes under the modern Dumbarton Road, which required the installation of an unusual 3-meter Drop Lock, which enables canal boats to go under the road.  From there it’s just 2 blocks up to Dalmuir Station, major railroad node where the Yoker and Singer branches rejoin.

 It was a lovely afternoon, full of surprises, like the various pieces of public sculpture we saw along the way, and a reminder that even after 7.5 years in Glasgow, there is still much more to see.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Three and a Half Years

Entry for 13 March 2014:

It’s been a bit more than 3½ years since my prostate cancer surgery (a radical prostatectomy).  You’re supposed to have your PSA (prostate serum antigen) checked once a year for at least 5 years post-surgery.  However, the NHS doesn’t remind you; you have to take responsibility for yourself, so it took me a while to organize myself to get it done.  I kept putting it off: there was my passport to get renewed, then I needed to organize myself with a dentist, EFT training in Belgium and the Netherlands, that sort of thing. 

Last week, I finally got around to getting a blood sample drawn for this.  I think it was the hip pain I’d been having.  There is a hypochondriac part of me that worries about worst case medical scenarios:  What if the cancer has come back and gotten in my bones, as it can do?  Ironically, I was busy ignoring the most likely explanation of the hip pain: an incipient running injury from over-exercise (possibly exacerbated by old/flat shoes, hard interval training, and hard running surfaces).  This week the running injury came to a head in the form of a painful episode of what is most likely bursitis, and as a result I’m taking an enforced holiday from running.

Finally, yesterday, I was able to finally get the results from my GP. The first time I phoned, the receptionist told me the results were “satisfactory”.  I phoned back, and eventually the GP told me the PSA level was “less than 0.01” ie, undetectable.  This was the “satisfactory” result I was hoping for:  Any evidence of PSA after a radical prostatectomy means that the cancer has come back.

After getting this news, as I walked back to the train station from my office, I reflected on the 3½ years since my surgery:  Almost half the time we’ve been in Scotland.  Since then, my mom has died at the end of the 2 months I spent in California helping care for her; my old dear friend Margaret has died of cancer; my youngest son Kenneth has moved from Ohio to Iowa; my grandson Yuki has been born; and Diane and I have celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary.  The Counselling Unit has moved from Jordanhill to the Glasgow city centre; I’ve published two dozen articles or book chapters; and regular EFT training has started in Belgium and the Netherlands.  In the meantime, I’ve tried to lead a less stressful life, continued regular adventures with Diane, and watched my granddaughter Muziki grow.  I feel profoundly grateful for these and many more experiences and gifts.  I feel more deeply connected to others and more genuinely happy than ever in my work as a trainer and therapist.