Thursday, November 30, 2006

Modes of Engagement 2: An Interpersonal Contact Work Exercise

Entry for November 29, 2006 (Back in Glasgow):

Part 1. Introduction

We continued training in different client modes of engagement today. Last time, we did exercises on Attending and Experiential Search, using elaborations of the old Gestalt Zones of Awareness exercise.

Tonight we did an exercise on Interpersonal Contact, defined as: Working in the therapeutic relationship by revealing to the therapist hidden or private aspects of experiencing (memories of previously untold events, here & now bodily sensations or emotions, private or secret thoughts, feelings or wishes, including about therapist); trusting, opening up to therapist; being present/transparent/ real/vulnerable to the therapist; (“Here’s what is difficult for me to say to you…”).

Part 2. Exercise: Interpersonal Contact/Secret Sharing. [The following write-up is a revision of the original instructions based on what actually happened:] The point of this exercise is to reveal hidden, private, embarrassing or tender aspects of yourself by trusting or opening up to therapist or the group. As far as feels safe to you, try to be present/transparent/real/ vulnerable to the therapist or group. Here are the instructions:

a. Take out a piece of paper, and write at the top of it, “Here’s what is difficult for me to say to you…”. Then take about 5 minutes to write down any or all of the following that come to you and that you feel safe enough to possibly share.

-Previously untold events: Things that have happened to you or that you’ve done, that you’ve few people, or maybe even nobody. (Perceptual/Situational)
-Here and now body sensations: Sensations you’re aware of in your body right now that you wouldn’t necessarily tell most people. (Bodily/Expressive)
-Here & now feelings about therapist/other group members: Hard-to-share emotions you are feeling right now about the therapist/ other group members, or yourself in relationship to them. (Experienced Emotion)
-Private thoughts: Things you’re thinking to yourself (words, ideas, images) about the therapist/group members, or yourself in relationship to them, especially things that are hard to share. (Conceptual)
-Secret wishes: Secret desires, aspiration, dreams, ambitions that you generally protect by keeping them to yourself. (Motivational/Behavioral)

After you have written down your secret topics, review each one, asking yourself, “Do I feel safe enough to share this with this person/group of people tonight?” Put a star by the topics that feel safe enough to share, then pick one to share with the group/other person (you can share more than one if you want and the group decided to do that).

b. Select a format to use:
-One-to-one: Take turns sharing one or more of your secrets.
-Small groups of 5-6 people: Take turns sharing in a group.
-Group secret pooling exercise for 5-6 people: Fold your secret list twice, in quarters. Put it into a hat or other container. Mix the secret lists up. Take turns drawing one secret list. When it’s your turn, share one of the secrets with the group as if it was your own.
-Alternative one-to-one exercise: For those who do not feel comfortable with one of the above exercises, form small groups of 2 –3 and take turns exploring your sense of boundaries in therapy and other relationships: what kinds of things you feel safe sharing, what you don’t, etc.

c. In the client role: When it’s your turn, experiment with sharing one of your secrets. Pay attention to what it feels like to reveal the secret you’ve chosen to share; also, pay attention to your experience of not sharing the other secrets.

d. In the therapist/other group member role: Respond to the client in two ways: (a) By reflecting their secret back to the client in an accepting way, or (b) if you wish, by giving a self-disclosure of your own (that is, of a similar experience, of a personal reaction to what the client has said, or a personal reaction to the interaction). Note: If you choose to share a different perspective that is at variance with your client’s experience, make sure that you finish your response by adding a solid empathic response of their experience. This reduces the possibility that the client will feel judged or invalidated.

e. Take turns sharing secrets for 30 – 60 minutes, depending on the size of the group.

f. Afterwards, process the experience by discussing what it felt like to share or not share secrets. What issues came up in doing so? What did you learn from the process? How did the process unfold over time?

Part 3: Issues that may be raised by doing the Interpersonal Contact Work Exercise:

Spoiler Alert: In this part of the entry, I describe a few of the issues that may come up in doing the Interpersonal Contact exercise described in the previous blog entry. If you are planning to do this exercise in the near future, it might be best to wait until after you do so before reading this entry, in order to experience the exercise in a fresh way.

* * *

In fact, this exercise allows participants to experience what we ask clients to do in every session. Therefore, it can enhance empathy for the client’s immediate in-session experience.

The exercise also promotes experimentation with different kinds of appropriate therapist self-disclosure, including (a) Therapist Life Disclosure (also known as “me-too self-disclosure, cf. Goodman), (b) Client Content Reaction Disclosure (to the client’s story or content), or (c) Interaction Reaction Disclosure. (I am indebted to Jutta Schnellbacher at KU Leuven for formulating these kinds of therapist disclosure, including one other: Personal Clarity Disclosure about therapist intentions, limitations and therapeutic processes.)

Participants are also likely to learn more about their personal boundaries from doing the exercise, what is OK to share in each role, and what is not. Both things said and things not said are important.

Participants described a spiral process of deepening disclosure within groups. This process requires adequate time to unfold.

It is important for participants to have choices in how to participate in this exercise. In fact, participants who find that their boundaries don’t allow them to participate can get just as much from the exercise by exploring their process and experiencing the empowerment of being able to say no. For this reason, it is important to honor and support such hesitation.

The exercise does a good job of helping participants access different forms of shame. Shame is a basic, biologically significant, emotion, and can occur in a variety of forms: primary adaptive (related to maintaining connections to one’s community), primary maladaptive (overgeneralization of past humiliation to present nonevaluative situations), secondary reactive (reacting to other emotions such as anger with shame), and instrumental (deliberately displaying embarrassment in order to impress others of one’s moral character).

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Italian Person-Centered Conference Dinner/ Thanksgiving in Rome/ Further Reflections on My Presentation

Entry for 25 - 26 November 2006:

In spite of the theft, we decided that we would consider the conference dinner for the Italian Person-Centered Approach Conference as our Thanksgiving feast this year. Billed as a 6-course mail, we lost track somewhere in the middle, partly because most of the courses had multiple parts to them, to whit:

1. Appetizers: 6 or 7 different appetizers deposited on our plates a random times over the space of half an hour.
2. Pasta: 3 different kinds of pasta, served onto our plates at intervals, the last a rigatoni served with a fiery red sauce called in Italian “angry sauce”. Note: The pasta is generally amazing here, the noodles have more body making the pasta we get in Scotland or America seems like pallid imitations. People offer various theories about this, ranging from not being over-cooked, to “freshness,” to the use of hard vs. soft wheat (my favorite theory).
3a. Meat: large cubes of beef, leg of lamb in chunks, both very tender and nicely seasoned.
3b. A salad of missed greens was deposited onto our meat plates. We were definitely flagging by this point. Two courses back, we had taken to trying to predict the next course. The money was on a fish course…
4. Tiramisou came as a pleasant surprise, and was lighter and more refreshing than the usual heavy version we get in the USA. More importantly, we were given the etymology of the word: it means “Pull yourself up”, or more colloquially, “Pick me up”.
5. Most people left about this point, but a few of us stayed for the dessert liquor, and we ordered something that was described as lemon peal in ethanol. Quite aromatic, and strong!
6. Either we missed something, or the salad and coffee/liquor were separate courses… or Alberto was exaggerating.

I sat next to Andre’ de Peretti, a French person-centered educator. It was so noisy, especially with the Naples group shouting from one table to the next, that we had trouble understanding each other. However, he did manage to compliment me on my presentation. He said, over the din and in his charmingly accented English, something approximating the following: “Rogers told me he never wanted to start an orthodoxy, but some people don’t understand that. There are different kinds of people, so we need different kinds of therapy. I enjoyed your presentation because it brings a different approach.”

After the most of the other had left, we stayed for a bit and talked with some of the postgraduate students from the Alberto’s Rome training centre (he has 2 others in Italy). One of them told us, that she had heard me talk when I came to Italy before 2 years ago but found my presentation too technical, so she had planned to skip my talk. However, as she passed by the room, she discovered that I was presenting one of my own cases, so she stayed, and found it very interesting. I said, “Great, I like to surprise people!”

We walked back to the hotel. The Naples group was standing around outside the hotel, smoking. (Italy has recently banned smoking in public buildings, with the result that, like Scotland, one has to brave a gauntlet of second-hand smoke in order to enter most public buildings and restaurants.) They greeted us enthusiastically. When we arrived two days ago, only a couple people at the conference knew or recognized us, now we were “almost famous” (to quote a movie title). We used the computer in the hotel lobby to check our bank accounts, which appeared to be unmolested, and that was the end of our belated, odd and oddly satisfying, Roman Thanksgiving.

Presenting to the Italian Person-Centered Association

Entry for 25 November 2006:

This was the 7th Congress of IACP, the Associazione Europea della Psicoterapia Centrata sul Cliente e dell’Approccio Centrato sulla Persona “Carl Rogers”. I had presented the Person-Centred/Experiential therapy meta-analysis and a general call for research two years ago at another conference in Rome organized by Alberto Zucconi, so this time, I wanted to do something different. I was also concerned about the slow progress on the Italian end of the International Project on the Effectiveness of Psychotherapy and Psychotherapy Training (IPEPPT) that Alberto and I have been trying to organize for the past 2 1/2 years. Therefore, I decided that I should lead by example and present the HSCED study of client PE-111 (“George”). I had presented a version of this to the Strathclyde Monday Part-time diploma course a couple of weeks ago, and it had worked fairly well, so I was hopeful. I knew the presentation was too complicated for this audience, so I dropped big sections of it.

However, what I had not counted on was the scheduling of a memorial session for Antonio Ferrari, a well-loved member of the Rome Institute training staff who died of stomach cancer a couple of months ago. This session was directly before my 10 am Saturday morning session. When we arrived 15 min before my talk to meet with Gianni to sort out the equipment, we found the room overflowing with crying people in the midst of a collective act of grief.

There was nothing for it but to wait for the process to unfold, which took another hour, including break. It turned out that it was going to be very difficult get sound to go with the two video segments, which were really the heart of my presentation. Fortunately, I had just finished transcribing the segments, so I was prepared to work from the transcripts. However, Gianni refused to accept the technical limitations and vowed to continue to try to solve the problem.

After Alberto had stalled as long as he could, I began the presentation, with Alberto doing sequential translation. (My original translator had resigned when they saw my unedited Powerpoint slides, complaining that the talk was too technical.) Alberto and I were about halfway through the first segment, working off the transcript, when Gianni rushed in; he had slipped out and gone to a local shop to buy the needed cable for hooking up my laptop to the sound system. We finished the transcript, and the following material up the second video segment, then plugged the laptop into sound system.

In the midst of this chaotic process, it began to emerge that Alberto’s translation was taking 2 to 3 times longer than the original English-language version (I had planned for a 1 to 1 ratio of English to Italian). That meant that the presentation was taking much longer than I had anticipated and that I would have to jettison large parts of it. With all the build-up, the audience clearly wanted to hear and see the segment, so that was going to be pretty much the rest of my talk. At this point, many members of the audience said they wanted to hear the whole segment first, before hearing Alberto’s translation. This turned out to be a very good idea, because it allowed even the non-English-speakers in the audience to pay attention to the nonverbals and vocal quality. Then we turned the sound down and played the segment through again, with the transcript displayed next to it. (I had spent quite a bit of time setting this up beforehand, as a contingency plan. Sometimes planning does help!) This had the effect of forcing Alberto to translate quite a bit faster, achieving about a 2:1 ratio as he enacted the segment, grunting and hyperventilating convincingly as the client experienced first a panic episode in the session trauma memories, then accessed trauma memories related to his experience of his panic episodes. At the end, we all applauded Alberto for his performance. Then I took a few minutes to round out the presentation by presenting the outcome data.

In the end, I had presented less than half of the slides in my drastically cut-down presentation; Alberto had stolen the show with his Method Acting; the conference was now running an hour behind schedule… and I had a sense that the presentation had, in spite of all the tribulations, actually been a great success! At the same time, I felt exhausted and drained, even though Alberto had done most of the work. But this was what I had come to do, and it had not crashed and burned, so I felt relieved and thankful and it was over.

The Experience of Being Robbed on the Rome Subway

Entry for 24-26 November 2006:

We had walked around the center of Rome for several hours, seeing the usual tourist things: Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon (our favorite!), Piazza Venetia, Colloseum, the Circus Maximus. We were tired but looking forward to dinner with Alberto and the Italian Person-Centered Association Board. Changing trains at Termini station, we were packed like sardines onto the train for Flaminio. I was using both arms to hang onto to overhead handhold, in order to brace myself in the crowd. As we came into Repubblica Station, I felt a strange sensation of lightness in my right front pocket, where I had put my wallet for safety; however I was so crowded into place that I was unable to move until the doors had opened and the pressure of people released. I immediately felt my pocket in order to reassure myself, but was startled to discover that my wallet was not in my pocket. I checked again, then checked my other pockets. I felt stunned, startled, confused, with a growing sense that I had been pick-pocketed. I looked at the people around me; everyone looked normal. I looked around on the floor next to me, in case my wallet had somehow fallen out of my pocket; there was nothing but shoes and floor. An older man had been standing in front of me, but wasn’t there anymore; could it have been him?, I wondered. At some point in this process, the doors had closed and the train had moved on to the next station. I wondered if I should yell out something, but I now felt embarrassed and humiliated for having let myself be to vulnerable, and I didn’t know what I should say. “Stop thief,” seemed like it would be too dramatic, and I felt I didn’t want to make a disturbance. I looked at the people on the train around me, realizing that although the thief might very well have left already, they could still be right there, hidden in the normality of those around me… or not. I felt paralyzed.

It’s hard to tell how much time had passed by this time, or, now 2 days later as I write about it, even what the exact order of events was. But it was only after all this had gone through my mind and I had looked around twice that I said in a low voice to Diane, who was watching me with concern, “I think my wallet is missing. I think I’ve been robbed.” She looked at me, as if to say, “What are you going to do?” I shrugged my shoulders. A woman was looking at me with concern. I told her “My wallet has been stolen.” I heard the word “Rubato,” Italian for “robbed,” rippling away from me through the subway car. She looked concerned, but moved away from me, as if -- I felt -- I was some how infected. “What should we do?,” Diane asked. “There is nothing to do for now,” I said shrugging my shoulders again.

I felt shaken, embarrassed, and guilty that I had messed up our experience here, but also strangely light and vulnerable. However, I was already thinking about what we were going to do about it, once we got somewhere where we could do something. Although still upset, I was already beginning to be resigned to what had happened, and I was also beginning to reflect on the meaning of this experience: I realized that I/we would survive this, it wasn’t absolute catastrophe; I still had my passport. In fact, my wallet had contained only 30 euros and 15 gbp. And Diane was here, so I didn’t have to face dealing with it alone. We were a “we,” and we had resources available to us, including Diane’s purse and our friends at the conference.

We arrived at Flaminio. Diane thought I should find a policeman to report the theft to. We walked to the short distance to the Roma Nord rail station, where we tried to talk to a policeman, who told us he couldn’t speak English. We got on a train we thought was going to the Euclide station, where the hotel was. While we sat there for what seemed like an hour waiting for the train to leave (but was probably only about 20 min), we tried to figure out where we stood and what to do next, what our priorities were.

When we got back to the hotel, we set about canceling our credit cards, and figuring out what else had been in my missing wallet. We made a list, phoned the credit card companies, and by dinnertime had arranged for an emergency card to be couriered to the hotel the next day. We had a lovely meal at a traditional Italian restaurant near the hotel (about which see my next entry, because we went back there again the following night for the conference dinner). Then we took Alberto up on his very generous offer to accompany us to the local police station to fill out a crime report.

The police station was not far from the hotel; it was a slow night in this quiet northern suburb of Rome, so the policeman on duty was able to help us fill out the report, which Alberto handwrote at my dictation. The process took about 20 minutes; the policeman made 4 copies of the report, had me sign them, and handed me a copy to take with me for dealing with the various agencies who were not going to be happy that I had lost their cards and now wanted new ones.

By now the next day, our no-frills emergency credit card has arrived. As we left this morning, Alberto presented me with a tie and a new wallet. Straightening out the rest of the mess will have to wait for several later days.

* * *

Although I have had articles of clothing stolen in the past, I had never had my pocket picked. The strangeness of the experience fascinates me: The initial feeling of lightness in my pocket, my shock and paralysis, the feeling of lightness, vulnerability but also a kind of freedom. The paralysis makes perfect sense as the natural result of surprise and embarrassment, two emotions that motivate stilling oneself or even shrinking back. Why didn’t I feel anger, which would have motivated assertive or even aggressive action? There was no immediate threat to my person, no one menacing, instead only confusion and a community of strangers. The lightness feels something like: “It’s only a wallet; it’s only stuff; it isn’t the essence of who I am that was stolen.” Now it had happened, and there was nothing but the freedom to live into it.

In retrospect, this was an experience that I had feared and prepared for since I first came to Rome with my Grandmother in 1963. In my black hat, tall, I clearly had attracted the thief’s attention as a foreigner and possible target, but there had clearly been a strong element of chance to the event. Still, when we took the same train the next day, I guarded my pocket more carefully, aware that my previous strategy of avoiding theft had not worked and that I needed to be more careful.

Escaping Scottish Weather on Ryanair, with Russian Bits

Entry for 23 November 23, 2006:

Ryanair, one of the new European budget airlines, flies relatively inexpensive direct flights from Glasgow Prestwick airport to Rome, so we thought it would be interesting to try out Glasgow’s other airport. The first thing we discovered is that this airline is not quite so inexpensive as it appears, because they tack on various additional fees for ticketing and mandatory insurance. Also, I knew from prior experience with them tat they have fairly draconian weight limits and overcharges. (The last time I flew on them my overweight charges greatly exceeded the ticket price.) Still, the attraction of the direct flight and low cost convinced us.

Prestwick is about 40 miles southwest of Glasgow, requiring us to walk to the Anniesland train station in the rain dragging our suitcases behind us, then catch the local train to Glasgow Central Station, where we got on the local train to Ayr, which stops at the airport after a 40-min journey. This trip turned out to be real deal – 2.80 gbp – because of special deal for air travelers. Of course we had to walk about a quarter of a mile down platform 11 to get to platform 11a, where the train was waiting in the rain. The train went through Paisley and then down the west coast. We noticed that the weather was even worse here than in Glasgow, wind whipping the waves into whitecaps, drenching the golf courses that line this part of the west coast.

Conveniently, the Prestwick airport station is right next to the airport. As we walked over the motorway on the enclosed bridge, the wind was howling. We began to feel a bit nervous about flying under these conditions.

We checked in, cleared security, bought a UK-to-Europe adaptor, and commenced to wait in the departure lounge, listening to the howling wind, while various flights were cancelled or delayed. Finally, they announced that we would try to let us board the flight. A Russian family with two small children were in front of us in line. I discovered that it is a lot easier to understand Russian being spoken sternly and clearly to small children than normal Russian. We were warned to hang on firmly to our carry out luggage, as there was no jetway. I had a vision of small children being blown away.

The gate felt increasingly like a windtunnel as we came through the tunnel. We looked out into the blinding rain sheeting down, and ran for it, only to have to wait at the foot of the portable stairs leading up to the plane. The family, whom we had passed in the windtunnel, came up behind us. Finally, I got to use another one of my 38-year-old Russian catchphrases, as I yelled, to the children, gesturing with my arm, “zuchadeetsya!, zuchadeetsya!” (“Come in!, Come in”). “Spasyibah!” the parents yelled back.

Inside the airplane, we could see out through the open door, where the rain continued to pour down, while the airplane shook from the buffeting wind.

In spite of the nasty weather and high wind, we did take off, safely, although there were many nervous looking people around us, including one person across the aisle who appeared to be having a mild panic attack. Then, a steep climb, and we quickly reached calm air. Apparently this had been a relatively low-lying nasty Scottish weather, as if the place were coated in a thin layer of wind, rain, and gloom, just to make the inhabitants feel at home.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Book of Many Colors and Versions: Dream and Process-Experiential Analysis

Entry for 22 November, 2006:

Dream: We are visiting our other house, but it’s not the one in Toledo. There is a view; it’s high up and we can see the edge of another high cliff across the way. I feel fear as I watch people walk along the edge, afraid that they will fall off and be killed. We are trying to decide about whether this house needs some work – decorating. Someone knocks at the door; they have a package for us. No, there are two packages, it turns out. We open them. It is a book, or rather multiple versions of the same book, each illustrated, with a lot of words or text and also plenty of illustrations. The illustrations and cover art are in primary colors, like my mom’s Infinite Mandala Maker. Strangely, there are multiple editions of the same book, in different formats: one a mass market paperback, one a trade paperback, one that looks like a graphic novel in large, thin trade format. We find this puzzling but interesting. Why would someone want to send us all these different versions of the same story? But it does look interesting, and it’s entertaining to see the different versions laid out differently. But the most interesting, puzzling version kind of unrolls, accordioning out to cover part of the floor, bright Mandala Maker colors… Oh, yes! it also comes with a lamp, apparently to light the colors up, but we haven’t read the instructions yet, so we’re not sure.

I wake up, and immediately remember that I had promised to bring art supplies to the next Process-Experiential/Emotion-Focused Therapy workshop, for an active expression exercise. I had totally forgotten about this and must do it before we leave for Rome tomorrow.

Emotion Scheme analysis: (See Blog entries for 7 and 14 September for previous dreams analyzed using the Emotion Scheme framework.)

1. Experienced Emotions: The two parts of the dream are organized around very different feelings. In the first part, the feeling is primarily nervousness or fear of heights/falling. In the second part, the main feeling is engaged curiosity. Emotional arousal is high in both but very different in felt quality.

2. Action tendency elements: I recognize this dream as a reminder dream similar to the money worry dream my mom reported to me last night when she complained about not being able to remember her dreams lately. This makes the action tendency component key to understanding the dream, and it is clear to me that I must act on what the dream is reminding me to do (which I in fact carry through on later in the day).

3. Perceptual/Episodic memory elements: In addition to the phone call with my mom about reminder dreams, I also remembered the weird coincidence (synchronistic, my mom would say) last night in which (a) a student in class who asked me about Arnold and Amy Mindell’s Process Therapy (presumably because I had been talking about Process-Experiential therapy); followed by my getting a email message from my Mom asking if I had heard of the Mindells (because she had found one of their books that she thought might help her remember her dreams). I looked up their website and was struck by the bright colors of their illustrations. And of course they do dreamwork...

4. Bodily elements: First part: fluttery, nervous stomach. Second part: a sense of my body oriented toward the books, intense focus, looking with my eyes, almost being pulled forward toward them.

5. Conceptual elements: Minor as an element within this dream: Seeing the words, analyzing/naming the type of book format. Now, taking it further, into the metaphoric realm, it seems clear to me that the bright, primary colors are both the colored pens and pencils I needed to order for my workshop, but also symbolize the mom (via her Mandala Maker), and beyond that they, like the multiple versions of the books, represent multiple ways of doing the same thing, i.e., therapeutic and methodological pluralism, a key value of mine and also of my colleague and friend Mick Cooper. (Mick will probably think this dream is about him! – paraphrasing Carly Simon.)

I'm pretty sure there's more to this dream, it has that feel, but that's all I can manage for now...

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Modes of Engagement and Emotion Schemes, Part 1

Entry for 19 November

In Learning Emotion-Focused Therapy, we gave the following definition of Modes of Engagement:
“It is important for experiential therapists to be able to recognize when to heighten clients’ awareness of their feelings and when to facilitate arousal and reflection. Attending to the content of what clients’ say, as well as the manner in which they say it, provides an indication of their stance towards their experience. This has been referred to variously as expressive stance (e.g., Rice, Watson & Greenberg, 1993) or mode of engagement (Greenberg et al., 1993), and can be defined as the focus of the client's attention and the activity in which they are engaged during the session; for example, whether they are actively engaged and exploring their experience, or being more distant and analytical.”
This definition is in fact a bit of a waffle on our part, because we are sliding over an important distinction between two aspects: on the one hand, the focus or topic of awareness/experience, that is, what the person is aware of; and, on the other hand, the person’s manner of engaging with their experience, that is, how they are aware of things.

On closer examination, these two bases for defining and describing clients’ work in therapy are not really the same and may at times be inconsistent with one another. We just never got around to really clarifying the logical basis of the distinctions we were making, largely because we have been focused on practice and training, and you sometimes have to simplify things when you do that, because getting too complicated can distract or confuse or overwhelm in such situations (as I have often found)

What came clear to me two weeks ago was that the two aspects could be separated in interesting and clarifying ways and that doing so would help reframe and organize the client modes of experiential engagement. The content aspect ties to the Emotion Scheme model that is the key theoretical element in Process-Experiential therapy. In order to understand this, I’ll have to lay out the Emotion Scheme mode, which states that people’s experiences are made up five different main aspects:
1. Perceptual-situational experience, including immediate perceptions and episodic memories of past situations, often felt to be the source of experience, that is, what it is about.
2. Bodily-expressive experience, including both internal body sensations and nonverbal expressions in which experience is grounded.
3. Cognitive-symbolic representations of experience, either verbal-auditory or iconic-visual, including things like self-talk, metaphor, and identity.
4. Motivational-behavioral carrying forward of experience, in the form of wishes, needs, desires, and actions.
5. Experienced emotion, including feelings, felt meanings, and what Gendlin calls the unclear felt sense (also: the still small voice).

According to Process-Experiential emotion theory, experienced emotions are the core of emotion schemes, integrating and coordinating them, although the person may not be self-reflectively aware of them. The emotion scheme is the whole pattern of interconnected experience, but the experience emotion element generally provides the most useful handle for seeing a set of related experiences fit together.

There is a diagram of this at, which I have added to the end of this entry. My entries for 7 September and 14 September of this year apply this concept to dreamwork.

In a later entry, I will continue laying out the new formulation, which tries to define Modes of Engagement as manner of processing experience that is derived from ways we naturally and characteristically take with different emotion scheme elements.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Scenes from a Friday

Entry for 17 November 2006:

Halfway through an 8-mile run, I see a group 12 swans in the canal near Clydebank this morning, ducking under the water to feed, as rain falls, dotting the water’s surface. Never in my life have I seen so many swans together in one place.

Wendy, my doctoral student is pleased at getting re-energized about her research on Person-Centred therapy with schizophrenia, talking about publishing the qualitative study of therapists’ views that is the first part of doctoral work, and planning the next phase, a treatment development study/open clinical trial. Tonight I get an email thanking me for my support and time.

Having tea and coffee after lunch with Mick and Lorna. It’s been another long week, so it’s really nice to hang out for a while with them and talk before going back to work (not that we’re not working, the three of us are incurable!). Once again, I take real pleasure (and tell them so) in having colleagues like them. As we walk into the staff base, Beth is jumping up and down with excitement over her the conference submission she wants me to look at.

I have a meeting with John, the Department administrator and Jo, from Human Relations, so they can get my views about how the Counselling Unit is functioning and how to deal with some difficulties we are having that we have asked their help with. I haven’t been looking forward to this, but it turns out to be a good opportunity for me to reflect on what I’m doing and to take stock.

I get home a bit early today, so that I can get at least at hour or two in on my writing. This seems unlikely to begin with, but turns out to be more productive than I had expected.

At the end of another long day, we are smiling as we mentally review the delightful evening we’ve just had with our new friends from St. Mary’s, John and Nena, and another couple, Kevin and Sharon. John, a retired theology professor from Glasgow University and Nena, a retired physician, live in an eccentric old house north of Glasgow, in Balmore. Delicious dinner (parsnips, leeks, a kind of fish piece, roulade and apple crumble for desert; great conversation wide ranging from the Catholic-Protestant divide in Glasgow to poetry, shamanism, dealing with mindless bureaucracy, our kids. We stay until after midnight, and have trouble pulling ourselves away from the warm kitchen and the good company. But the glow lingers as we get ready for bed.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Level 2 Training in Process-Experiential/Emotion-Focused Therapy

Entry for 16 November 2006

I have been developing an approach to doing Level 2 training in PE-EFT since the end of the Level 1 workshop that Les Greenberg, Jeanne Watson and I did last June. There was a lot of demand for this continued training at that point, but I wasn’t sure exactly what it would look like. After some obsessing, we hit upon a format of 3 hours each two weeks, to include a combination of workshop and supervision. I sent out an email to the participants form last summer, and got 15 people, just in the middle between the minimum of 10 and the maximum of 20 that I had been hoping for. This is a comfortable size for me, one that I am used to from the best period of the PE therapy workshop in Toledo.

This training started two weeks ago, and had its second meeting last night. Last time, two weeks ago, felt fairly disorganized to me: I was anxious, my video didn’t work, people didn’t like some of my ideas for the content (they wanted less Person-Centred training and more exotic tasks), and the initial orientation seemed to take forever. After that, I was determined to do more for this time, and to be better organized. However, I didn’t have a clear exercise in mind for the next topic, Case Formulation and Client Modes of Engagement, which I previously presented in class as a lecture rather than in workshop.

Last week, I woke up one morning with the sudden realization that the emotion scheme model could be generally applied to clarifying and elaborating the Modes of Engagement. I roughed out this reformulation that morning, then revised it last Sunday as part of a handout that I emailed to the training workshop members. This still left me with the exercises, which I wrote up the evening before and the morning of the second workshop meeting. (I plan to include some of this new material in my next blog entry.)

Although I often find that spending this much time preparing for a class results in bored students because I’ve gone too far into my head, that was not the case last night. The workshop participants asked penetrating questions, which helped me clarify the presentation further, but they seemed to find the approach interesting and useful. (I had also been afraid that they were poke holes in the formulation.)

After a break, with a wonderful assortment of snacks provided by Mae, we were finally ready for the exercises. It was clear that the four exercises I had prepared to help participants explore the four main productive modes of client engagement were going to be too much for the remainder of the evening, so I only gave out the first two, on Internal Attending and Experiential Search.

After having the participants pair up, I circulated among them as usual. I had been nervous that the exercise would strike people as too structured and artificial, but they gave it the benefit of the doubt, and really got into it. Many reported that although they found it foreign to guide the client to this degree, they found it quite useful for exploring their experiences. Finally, I suggested that we start the next session with the two remaining exercises (secret pooling and expressive work), followed by case supervision. I thanked them for their input on the new modes of engagement formulation, and was startled when they broke out into applause! This is the first time, an ongoing PE training workshop group has applauded at the end of a session. The new material and exercises were a success, and exactly the kind of thing that I had hoped to be able to do here, benefiting both from the more supportive environment and also access to more experienced learners.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The True Meaning of Dreich?

Entry for 13 November 2006

So much happens here that it is impossible to write about as much as I would like to, making the blog just another thing that I am hopelessly behind on…

Last Saturday, after the graduation ceremony was finished, I drove home, changed into my running clothes and went out for a long run. For most of the week, I had been feeling like I was on the edge of coming down with a cold or sore throat, so I had not run for several days. By the time Saturday came around, I still had not gotten sick and was in fact feeling much better, so out I went.

It had been raining, but it had stopped and the sun was shining when I left, so I was wearing my running shorts and a sweatshirt over a cotton t-shirt. I decided to push myself by running to Spiers Wharf again, about 9 miles altogether. I took off the seatshirt after a mile of two. It was a lovely day, but the sun was already low in the southwest as I ran along the canal. The wind came up, at my back, and pushed me along. I noticed the wind-generated waves on the canal. I made good time and was able to run a bit past Speirs Wharf before turning back.

Immediately, it was clear that getting back was going to be much harder than the run out had been. Now I was running into a strong headwind of 15-20 mph. The sun was getting lower, and had already, at 3pm, set behind the lockside buildings in places. I passed Partick Thistle stadium. I could see an ominous wall of grey to the west, in front of me. As I ran past an old guy with a lot of missing teeth, feeding the pigeons, he warned me, “There’s rain where you’re going!”

Finally, about two miles from home, it started to rain, big drops, not smirr. This wasn’t too bad at first, because the sun was still out and so a beautiful, full rainbow appeared to my right, reminding me of the rainbow I seen out the window, over Sandy’s head, during the diploma course large group meeting last Wednesday. There was even a trace of a double rainbow at the far end.

Next, my right knee, which had been bothering me for at least a mile, started to hurt enough that I had to walk for a bit. The sun was blocked by the clouds, the wind became stronger with quite strong gusts, and the rain got harder. I started to get really cold. For the first time in nearly twenty years of running I had to put my sweatshirt back on, but I had left my gloves at home and my hood kept blowing off. I started running again, in spite of my sore knee. I got colder and colder. By the time I had passed under Bearsden Road, it was so miserable that even the ducks were taking shelter under the overpasses.

When I got home I was soaked, and my hands were almost completely numb. It took about half an hour to get them properly thawed. Physically I was totally wet, cold and miserable; in other words, I felt that I had attained a state of true dreichness. But paradoxically, at the same time, I felt happy, pleased at having made it, and glad because Diane had phoned on her way back from Spain. Ah, I thought, it possible to be dreich and happy at the same time, that’s interesting."

The next morning, after church, I told Caroline, one of the priests at St. Mary’s, about my adventure; she said, “Yes, but it’s worse on the East Coast” [of Scotland]; that’s really dreich!” I suppose you could call this, “Dreicher than youse”. It appears that I still have a long ways to go in order to reach Scottish nirvana of perfect dreichitude!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Scottish Graduation Ceremony at Jordanhill

Entry for 11 November 2006:

I thought it would be a good idea to go to the Faculty of Education’s graduation ceremony (referred to as a “congregation for the purpose of awarding degrees”) today. Lorna encouraged me to go in order to support the MSc, Certificate, and Diploma students, especially a group of deaf students who have recently completed requirements for a Certificate in Counselling (this is the introductory-level course). Plus, I had shipped my fancy cap, gown, and hood trimmed with satin (hood) and velvet (gown) in UCLA colors blue and gold, and it seemed like a good idea to make use of it.

This first thing that is very different about graduation here is when it is held: Several months after the end of the term. This allows time for projects to be graded, additional work done if needed, and for the evaluations of the students to be graduated (“graduands”) to be vetted both internally (Associate Dean: Effie) and externally (external examiner: Judy Moore from East Anglia University). This means that people really do graduate at graduations here, instead of getting a stingy, waffling piece of paper that says in convoluted legalese, “If you’ve net the requirements, you’ve graduated”.

It was wet and blustery morning as I walked up from my car. I changed in my office, just upstairs from where people were gathering, and then met up with Lorna and Mike. Finally, John Hogg, the EPS Department Administrator, lined us up. Since I am a Professor, I was put behind the Dean and Associate Dean. We marched to some vaguely pomp and circumstantial type music played on an organ. (I must admit that I missed the UT university orchestra playing Bizet’s Suite from L’Arlesienne.)

Today is Remembrance Day in Britain (Veterans Day in the US). It the custom here to mark the day with 2 minutes of silence at 11 am (that is, 1100 hours on 11-11). This was integrated into the graduation by having it mark the beginning of the ceremony on a somber note. The Principal (that is, the President) reminded us that this is the 88th anniversary of WWI’s Armistice Day, the day the guns fell silent, and led us in observing the 2 minutes of silence.

The next big difference from an American graduation was that the degrees were awarded first, before the speeches. I found this startling: The PhD graduates immediately processed up to the stage, and Iain, the Dean, started announcing degrees and reading student names. Upon hearing their name read, each student walked halfway across the stage to where the Principal was sitting (I was immediately behind him). Each student knelt or leaned down to the President, who did three things: (a) shook their hand, (b) muttered something congratulatory to them, and (c) placed and rubbed a flat, round black velvet thingy on the top of the graduate’s bare head. (I had already noticed that the graduates weren’t wearing mortarboards.) I leaned over to the professor sitting next to me, and whispered, “What is he doing?” My fellow professor whispered back, “He’s capping them, of course.” This is of course what I had suspected, but I had to have a native explain it to me.

After this ritual with the Principal, each graduate then got up and walked the rest of the way across the stage, where they were hooded by a couple of faculty. Lorna had asked me to bring my camera but she hadn’t told exactly what she wanted photos of, only that it was to do with the deaf students who were graduating. I tried taking pictures of the capping process, but mostly these ended being of the Principal’s back. Meanwhile there were two deaf signers, one on stage, for deaf family members in the audience, and the other in the back of the auditorium interpreting for the deaf graduates.

For the most part the audience was quite restrained, applauding politely for everyone. Only a couple of times was there a mild audience outburst from family and friends. Even these did not approximate the excessive display of enthusiasm that is a typical annoyance of American graduations because they typically makes it impossible to hear the next graduate’s name read. Instead, one of the deaf students triumphantly raised a fist as she marched across the stage. Five or six of the male graduates, typically sporting names like McLeod, were in traditional Scottish fancy dress, that is, kilt, sporran and leggings.

Deferring the degrees took about 45 minutes. Then, the Principal got up, poured himself a drink of water and gave a 10-min speech in which he recapped the history and future of the Jordanhill campus of the University (where we are located), touched on the importance of several key sets of graduates, including our deaf Certificate students, congratulated the graduates and told them they are always welcome here. It was a touching, heart-felt speech, similar in content but much less bombastic than the typical American graduation speech.

Then, without further ado, a piper waiting in the wings, whom I had not previously noticed, took up his great pipes and led us out in procession past the graduates, families and friends. It was a thrilling moment, another moment of arrival for me. I thought to myself, you’re really in Scotland when you get to march out of a graduation ceremony to bagpipes!

The piper led us down the winding way through the Stow Building, out and across the way to refectory, where a reception was waiting, with wine and the ubiquitous sandwiches favored at such occasions here. The rain had stopped and the sun came out for a bit. I ran into the Principal at the reception and told him that I liked his speech. I asked about the capping ritual and he said it was part of the “capping and gowning”. “Ah,” I said, “so it’s a verb rather than a noun.” I thanked him for his quick action on my New Professors Fund request; he dismissed this as an easy task readily taken care of. I told him that I was very pleased to be working with such a great group of colleagues. He said that he was pleased that I had accepted the position, and we both moved on to other things. Eventually, I found Lorna and Sheila, but the deaf students had left already, so I took pictures of various Diploma students and their families instead, including one graduate and his son, both sporting matching kilts.

I was certainly glad that I had gone to my first Scottish graduation.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Scotland Photos On-line

Entry for 9 November 2006:

We have named, organized and uploaded almost all our photos from our first two months in Scotland (plus our recent trip back to Ohio) onto the website that our son Brendan maintains at The links in the blog page sidebar will take you to the 2006 folder of our part of Brendan’s site. Select 2006-09 for September and 2006-10 for October. The photos document our Glasgow Saturday adventures in particular, and in general provide a visual diary to complement the words on this site.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Forward Progress: Writing and Strathclyde Counselling and Psychotherapy Research Centre

Entry for 7 November 2006:

The rain finally returned today, after a week of absence. I had begun to miss it. Diane left for Spain this morning, off to see her Chilean exchange student sister Gloria for a few days, in Valladolid. This is a role reversal for us, since it’s usually she who stays home while I go off adventuring in Europe. I spent the day writing and taking care of admin. Mick has been pushing Lorna and I to carve out adequate time for our writing, so yesterday he put it on the Management Group agenda, as a result of which I have agreed to work at home on Tuesdays and two other mornings each week. The immediate payoff of this new regimen was finishing a second draft of my long-delayed paper for Al Mahrer’s special issue for American J of Psychotherapy. It’s not a moment too soon to finally be moving on my writing again, because I’ve got yet another editor (Jean Decety of U of Chicago) breathing down my neck for yet another book chapter (this one on empathy, with Mathias Dekeyser at KU Leuven in Belgium). But it feels very good to get my mojo back. Such colleagues!

More significant was finally getting my New Professor’s Fund proposal off to the Principal of the University, Andrew Hamnett, whom I met during my interview last December. In this case, “Principal” actually means President of the University, but with the difference that at least at this university, the Principal seems much more hands-on than the university presidents I’ve encountered in the US, who seem to spend most of their time talking to other administrators and politicians. (Here, there's another guy who does the ceremonial stuff, so the Principal can get things done.)

At any rate, I have been obsessing over this proposal for 2 months, trying to get it right, thinking and rethinking it, and tinkering with the budget. As I prepared to submit it, an inspiration struck me, and I wrote a brief cover note for the email putting the whole thing in context, as follows:

I have used my first two months here to take a thorough sounding of the possibilities and opportunities for research. In the process, I have put in a successful bid with Lorna Carrick for Faculty Strategic Development funds to set up a practice-based counselling research clinic, and also have put forward a bid for the Leverhulme Research Leadership Award. I am excited by the many possibilities available here for rigorous, ground-breaking and socially relevant research.

In this bid, in addition to paying for basic things such as computer and office furniture, I am proposing to a new line of research developing a new person-centred/experiential treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder, a widespread psychiatric disorder with links to key social problems such as substance abuse and employment difficulties. We hope to develop this as a distinctly Scottish alternative to Lord Leyard's well-publicized (and to my mind rather bizaare) recent proposal for training large numbers of counsellors to provide cognitive-behavioral treatments to the chronically unemployed.

Based my previous experience with American university administrators, I then settled back for weeks of benign neglect while he let my request fester in a pile of documents. Instead, he immediately copied me an email to his secretary asking her to bring it up next week at a scheduled meeting. This was surprising enough, but then a couple of hours later, I was stunned when the secretary informed me that my bid had been approved, for the amount requested, roughly four times the amount of the NIMH Small Grant I received in 1980 (my only successful federal grant)! I think my cover note must have succeeded in intriguing him. Either that, or he’s scarily efficient…

The upshot is the Social Anxiety Treatment Development Study is now in business, piggy-backed on top of the Practice-based Research Protocol component already funded through a Faculty of Education Strategic bid. Two of the three components of the Strathclyde Counselling and Therapy Research Center are funded; the third, Staff Clinic, component, is self-funding. (This was all laid out in my blog entry for September 10, 2006.) We now have to set the whole thing up: order equipment (a process begun yesterday), get ethics approval, develop the specifics of the two research protocols, apply for external funding, etc., etc. Exciting times!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Guy Fawkes Day & Dave’s Badgers

Entry for November 5, 2006

Today is Guy Fawkes Day, perhaps the strangest national holiday that I have encountered. Ostensibly, it celebrates the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot of 1604, in which the Catholic political dissident and proto-terrorist Guy Fawkes tried to blow up King James I (aka King James VI of Scotland) and the English Parliament.

As Diane wrote in a message to her friend Linda, after being caught, Guy Fawkes “was tortured and managed to break his own neck before they could hang and quarter him. As part of the remembrance, they burn him in effigy in large bonfires throughout the UK and set off a lot of fireworks. It feels like we are living in a war zone with all the rather big fireworks people are setting of all over the city. I find the whole thing rather awful and like the 4th of July, I hate the carelessness of people setting off fireworks. A bit judgmental but there you have it.”

Actually, people have been setting off fireworks for several days now, but the festivities peaked tonight (in fact, as I write, there are still a few detonations continuing in the distance). The difference to the American 4th of July seems to be that there is a lot more DIY (Do It Yourself) spirit and a lot more serious private fireworks, of the skyrocket type that have been banned in most parts of the USA for most of my lifetime.

The strange part is that the holiday seems to honor Guy Fawkes more than celebrate his defeat, especially here in Scotland, where the the burning-in-effigy part seems to be largely lacking. Although GFD is generally and perversely celebrated all over Britain, it seems to me that the Scots take particular pleasure in remembering a catholic fellow who tried to blow up Parliament. The Gunpowder Plot was also an attempt to blow up a Scot who had recently acceded to the British throne, but today it plays more like an extreme tactic in support of Scottish devolution and independence. Plus, mayhem of this sort is consistent with the part of the Scottish and specifically Glaswegian spirit that is drawn to anarchy and lawlessness (the dark side of its friendly, egalitarian spirit?).

As I thought about this, I suddenly thought Dave Mearns' little toy stuffed "sociopathic" badgers that he takes along with him to express his dark side. I reasoned that they must love Guy Fawkes day, and sure enough when I phoned Elke and Dave tonight to catch up and wish them well, Dave confirmed that Guy Fawkes is the badgers’ Special Day.

There is obviously something in me that resonates deeply with this dark, anarchic side, also, because I am fascinated with Dave’s badgers and always ask about them, much to Elke’s disgust (“Don’t encourage him,” she says.). My dad would say that in shamanistic terms, Dave’s badgers are trickster figures who act as his power animal and enable him to creatively channel power from the Lower World. However, I suspect that Dave prefers not to put ideas into their heads, so he simply refers to them as “sociopaths.”

Update from Valhalla, Scotland; week of 31 October – 4 November

Entry for 4 November 2006:

1. As predicted, it has turned out to be another busy, interesting, intense week. We returned from the US on Monday afternoon, with a bad case of jet lag that lingered on a good part of the week. I finally got a real paycheck, but the University decided to treatment my summer workshop fee as UK income and so gave the government 40% of it in taxes, which I may (or may not) see again only after the end of the tax year, which for some strange reason ends here on 5 April (!!).

2. I prepared three classes, including my new Level 2 PE-EFT workshop, which started on Wednesday, did a supervision session, and met with various students. My printer still doesn’t work, and the IT people after spending hours on it are clueless. I wrote a couple of abstracts for conference presentations.

3. Diane’s Chilean exchange student sister Gloria and her daughter were unable to come, so we organized Diane to go to Spain next week to see Gloria (her daughter has gone back to France). This is the kind of thing that living in Europe makes possible, and will provide Diane a needed morale boost to help her get through the long wait until she can take the English language exam she is required to pass before the nursing board will agree to examine her credentials.

4. I am a month late on an article for a special section of the American Journal of Psychotherapy, being editted by Al Mahrer, so I came back to a couple cranky emails from Al. So I have been working on the paper, entitled, “The Essence of Process-Experiential/Emotion-Focused Therapy,” whenever I could find the time. By today, I had almost completed the draft, which draws on materials from the Learning book. I hope to be able to send the draft off to Les Greenberg tomorrow. Now Michael Barkham is breathing down my neck for another invited piece, this one on practice-based research…

5. The other high point this week is the visit here by Dion van Werde, the leading Pre-therapy expert from Belgium. He is here to do a 3-day workshop on his version of Prouty’s person-centred approach to working with clients who are out of contact with reality, because of an active psychotic process, or due to severe mental retardation (euphemistically referred to as “learning disabled” here), or as a result of dementia. (Pre-therapy uses very simple, concrete reflections to help re-establish contact with the client, and to help the client to re-contact their environment and themselves when they are dissociating or otherwise out of contact with reality.)

Diane has been enjoying his workshop, and tonight a group of us went to dinner with him as Roast Bubbly Jock’s (despite the name, quite a nice restaurant, with little fried food on the menu). [Note: Elke tells me that Bubbly Jock is Scots for turkey, so the restaurant's name means "Roasted Turkey", this in spite of the fact that there was no Turkey on the menu...]

Dion does training all over Belgium and also on France and more recently in the UK, as interest in working with psychotic clients heats up. Apparently, the tradition is to take visiting presenters out to very nice restaurants and to have great conversations that advance the Person-Centred/Experiential approach. This sounds a bit cynical, but in fact it’s true: we had a great conversation (in spite of the noisy restaurant): (a) Dion explained how he has extended the range of Pre-therapy vertically and horizontally, that is, upward to less psychotic clients, downward to dementing and dying patients, and sideways to other hospital staff and to family members; (b) Mick Cooper and I talked to Dion about the possibility of starting a formal training here, what the format might look like (6 X 2-day weekend workshops, including some supervision); (c) Dion invited Diane to come visit his inpatient unit in Belgium, which is run on Pre-therapy principles; (d) I pumped Dion for information on Pre-therapy outcome research for the meta-analysis that Mick and I are about to start; (e) Dion agreed to use Mathias Dekeyser’s new Psychological Contact scale with his patients (in fairness, it is likely that Mathias has already hit him up for this, but I figured that an additional nudge wouldn’t hurt); (f) we all agreed that it would be a really good idea to see if Don Kiesler would be willing to let us have access to the famous Wisconsin study of Client-Centered therapy with hospitalized mental patients in the late 1950’s (because the 1966 book on the study fails to present the study in a way that makes it possible to calculate effect sizes); and (g) Helen Carruthers (Mick’s partner) and I discussed the nature of evil on the hour-long walk back home from the restaurant. Not bad for an evening’s discussion in a noisy restaurant!

Interestingly, at the beginning of the evening, Dion described Strathclyde as the Valhalla of the Person-Centred approach, and tonight was certainly an instance of that. Interestingly enough, the exact image has occurred to me many times over the past 6 months as I prepared for the move and as things have begun to unfold here. I will never be able to keep up with all the interesting things going here, all the opportunities, and after awhile I have begun to give up even trying to do so. All I can do, to quote Edward Tolman, a famous psychologist, is “to follow my own bent and gleam” and have fun here. Like the slain heroes of Norse mythology, day after day we have great discussions, sometimes roaring arguments, only to continue again the next day. The best thing about it is that we don’t have to be dead to do it!

Finding Your Curiosity: The Appropriate Methods Approach to Developing Research Ideas

Entry for 1 November 2006:

On Wednesday last week, after our return from Glasgow, I did my second research module input for the Fulltime Diploma course. Much of the challenge and fun of working here is adapting to the new student/learner population, which is very different from the North American Clinical Psychology graduate students that I have primarily been teaching for the past 28 years. The key challenge is to find ways of presenting material on research in such as way that it does not turn off this extremely diverse group of students off. This is not easy, especially since many are quite suspicious of research in the first place.

Therefore, the more I contemplated doing a lecture on epistemology and research paradigms, the more it become clear to me that this was not going to work, that a large number of these students were going to find this boring and dry, which would defeat the whole point of trying to teach them this stuff in the first place. Much as I love discussing heavy duty epistemology, it is a bit silly of me to expect that my fascination is widely shared. So instead of doing research paradigms, I took the class through the Appropriate Methods scheme, but adding experiential exercises.

The Appropriate Methods approach to the first stage of research design advocates an experiential approach to research that begins with one’s genuine curiosity, then moves on to considering what kinds of research question are of interest and relevant to the current state of knowledge. Only after selecting one’s research questions is it time to turn to a consideration of what methods best lend themselves to answering the selected questions. The combination of research questions with appropriate methods defines a research genre, which should be judged by the criteria of methodological quality relevant to the particular research genre.

The exercises apply the method of Gendlin’s experiential focusing to construct a research process that begins by helping students identify what they are genuinely curious about.

On Wednesday, I began with a continuation of last time’s exercise:

Exercise 1: Finding your curiosity
1. Take out a blank piece of paper
2. Take a minute to relax, clear your mind
3. Ask yourself: What is something am I curious to learn about Person-Centred counselling? Or: What is my sense of something that is still unclear about Person-Centred counselling that feels like it needs research?
4. Wait… Take your time… See what comes to you… (2 minutes)
5. Write down 1 or 2 general research topics (not questions – yet!) that symbolize your curiosity (2 minutes?)
6. Check each research topic to make sure it fits at least part of your curiosity
7. Share with group if desired

The students nominated a large number of wonderfully diverse research topics, which I wrote on the board.

I followed this with an exposition of the 5 research tasks (Provide Foundation, Describe, Explain, Apply, Evaluate) and the closed vs. open research question dichotomy. After an example of how the same research topic (I used the example of Relational Depth, which I’ll present in a later entry) can be addressed via multiple research questions, I took them through a further exercise:

Exercise 2: Finding your research question
1. Take out your notes from Exercise 1
2. Take a minute to relax, clear your mind
3. Ask yourself: What questions appeal to my curiosity about the topic I found in Exercise 1? (Hint: You could try comparing different questions with your sense of curiosity about the topic you picked.) Alternatively: What questions can I imagine myself trying to answer with research?
4. Wait… Take your time… See what comes to you… (2 minutes)
5. Write down 1 or 2 research questions that help to symbolize your curiosity or what you might imagine yourself studying (2 minutes?)
6. Share with group if desired

This time the sharing focused on the students’ thought processes as they reflected on their topic and as their ideas evolved.

The resulting class might not have covered much formal philosophy of science, but it did spark students’ interest (and also the interest of my fellow trainer, Maggi), awhile at the same time introducing the qualitative-quantitative distinction and grounding it in research questions, not in the available dogma or methods.