Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Open Letter to a Classical Person-Centred Therapist

Entry for 30 January 2007:

Background: To understand this entry, it helps to know that there is a large, continuing division (of varying severity) between "classical" or "nondirective" Person-Centred (Rogerian) therapy on the one hand, and "experiential" or "process guiding" Person-Centred therapy. Historically, this is the difference between two different periods of the development of Rogers' approach: First, the classical versions include Nondirective (1940's) and Client-Centred (1950's) therapies; these were later renamed Person-Centred. Second, Experiential therapies were developed in the 1970's and have continued to the present. Many US and UK therapists follow the classical version, while many Canadian and Dutch- and German-speaking therapists follow the experiential version, which is referred to by various names, including the therapy I helped develop: Process-Experiential/Emotion-Focused Therapy. The problem is, there has been a lot of fighting between these two camps, which continues today; the flashpoint is whether therapists should strive to be nondirective.

This conflict is played out all the time in the Counselling Unit, often at lunch, but also with and in the diploma students. The latest installment was an exchange between Beth and Mick, which started last Wednesday afternoon during the Social Anxiety Study Group meeting and continued by email. I finally caught up with the exchange today, and felt my heart sink as I read it. The following is my attempt to take this debate to a deeper, more personal level:

I'm struggling with the whole nondirectivity-directivity debate between Beth and Mick, because it feels to me that somehow what is really driving much of it is people's sense of vulnerability around deeply-felt ways of being, both in general and in doing therapy. For example, it now seems clear to me that Mick and John feel deeply constrained and trapped by what they experience as the constraints of the classical approach. (They can correct me if I'm wrong!) And like Mick and John, I long to breathe free from what feels like a prison, and I’m pretty allergic to singular solutions. As William Blake wrote,
….Twofold always. May God us keep
From single vision and Newton’s sleep.

There are lots of words; we are all clever academic types, so we can argue things from whichever side we are attached to. But underneath that, it really feels to me, is vulnerability. That's certainly true for me. But it is really hard to own this and just as hard to empathize with it. So, when I read Beth's defense of classical nondirectivity, I have a sense of somehow being misunderstood and judged; that somehow Beth doesn't think I'm as good a therapist because I have to resort to these process guiding things, when Beth feels that empathy should be enough for me and my clients. So that ends up feeling like conditionality, like Beth will think less of me if I don't go along with her view. And that makes it really hard for me to hear her vulnerability around this.

But my experience it this: Knowing the Other is a really deep thing for me, from my childhood, but I never connected with the classical Person-Centred perspective; by the time I came along we were with Gendlin and Rice at the experiential stage of the development of the Person-Centred approach in the 1970's. That's what has always connected for me at a deep emotional and personal level: Empathy plus a wee bit process guiding. That's because, for me, the essence of the PCA is its attention to process. That’s the Rogers I connect with; the one who sat around in Chicago with colleagues listening to hundreds of hours of recordings of therapy sessions and getting really good at hearing process. I love empathy, it's a rich and wonderous thing for me, and I also pride myself at being able to accept just about anything my clients come up with, but ... for me there is more. I have learned lots of cool things about process from listening to hundreds of hours of therapy sessions, often in the company of clients who could tell me what they were really experiencing moment to moment. It is this experience that is the foundation of my practice as a therapist, and some of what I’ve gleaned in this way, sometimes, can be really useful for my clients. And yes, I know all about client deference, inside and out, I was right there with Rennie when that was coming out, and more. So I think I have the same degree of sensitivity to power imbalance that Dot was talking about on Monday.

So: When Beth (or Dot or whoever) starts going on in a way that sounds to me like classical PC empathy is the One True Way, something in my stomach/diaphragm curls up into a defensive crinkly-cranky ball, and wants to fight it, then realizes that it is futile and so just wants to give up and tune the whole thing out, because it feels misunderstood, unvalued, unloved and unaccepted. And the worst part is, it has trouble loving Beth, who is one of the most wonderful people I know, because this part is feeling hurt and defensive and has trouble making space for love and understanding.

And the hell of it is, I have a sense the same thing happens on the other side, that somehow, I’m communicating in such a way that Beth and others end up feeling invalidated and feel the need to go out of their way to defend themselves with elaborate arguments that end with me feeling I have to defend myself also. It’s all done as an intellectual debate, which as academics we should be able to have, but it just seems to go endlessly in circles. In my book, going in circles is a Sure Sign of an unproductive, structure-bound process. It’s a circle of mutual invalidation, which feels like a trap to me.

I think I could be OK with other folks seeing the classical version as all they need, and indeed even a source of a great sense of freedom for themselves and their clients. But at some point it begins to feel like a different view isn’t OK with them, and therefore that I’m not OK with them. I have a terrible time telling how much of this is actually coming from them and how much is My Own Stuff. Some of this is undoubtedly my own personal Person-Centred Critic (PCC), the one who sits on my shoulder and frowns whenever I ask a question or propose a therapeutic task. An awful lot of us have this PCC (among them Les Greenberg and my students). Or maybe it’s my own insecure attachment issues and wanting to be accepted and included. Or something.

But if I’m honest with myself, it doesn’t feel good and I long for a different conversation, one in which I can be free to hear how Beth and Dot make the classical approach really work for them. I’d love to learn about that from them. (I'd love to make it into what I call a task, which is a way of organizing therapist process wisdom.) And I’d really like it if somehow it was free enough between us that I could feel that they could appreciate what I do in my wee process-guiding way. Maybe they can and I just haven’t wanted to let myself be vulnerable enough to show them. Actually, I don’t know.

Small Worlds, Continued

Entry for 30 January 2007:

My entry for 25 January, “Ecumenical Concert at St. Mary’s” attracted a couple of surprising and unexpected comments.

First, James MacMillan, the composer mentioned in the entry found my blog entry and commented on it less than 40 minutes after I posted it. At the time, I felt touched, pleased and somewhat taken aback because I couldn’t imagine how he had managed to find my piece so quickly. It took me a couple of day to realize that Blogspot is Google; that is, Blogspot blogs are part of Google and thus must automatically loaded into the gianormous Google database instantly, if not sooner. (If we don’t watch out, we will end up having comments posted for entries that themselves haven’t been put up yet!) However, the fact that there is a rational explanation does nothing to take away from the simple fact that Glasgow, Scotland, and in fact the world itself is much smaller than we (or at least I) have realized. More than just a small world, it feels like living in one of those rotating habitats in space, constructed from a hollowed out asteroid (a favorite of 1980's & '90's science fiction): We're kind of enclosed on ourselves, so that we meet ourselves and each other coming and going.

Second, Isabel posted a comment this morning in which she gently brought to my attention that we perhaps should have known the identity of the very nice woman who sat next to us at the concert, who did the readings as the concert and talked to us for a while after the concert. I had wanted to include her in my entry but didn’t because neither of us caught her last name. It turns out that she is so well known that she didn't need to be introduced to the audience, because everyone else but us knew already: Kathy Galloway, the leader of the Iona Community, about which I was going on in my entry. Yep, we are just a couple of bewildered Americans/Earthlings trying to find their way around the Habitat, continually running across a really complicated web of interconnections, and missing them most of the time. Furthermore, although I can’t be totally sure because she hasn’t come right out and told me, I’m reasonably confident that the Isabel who posted the comment is the same Isabel who is my student on at Strathclyde.

I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a community where so many people were this interconnected. This sort of thing just makes me dizzy; it’s wonderful, but takes some time to get used to, especially for someone used to American individualism and disconnection. Sometimes it's a bit scary, but I’d really like to live into this one and see where it takes us!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Giving Directions

Entry for 26 January 2007:

A characteristic sight in Glasgow is a stranger being offered (without having to ask for) directions to some place. All you have to do is to pull out a map in a public place, and people will of their own accord come up and offer help.

Last Sunday, as we left church and began walking up the wee lane behind it, we passed an asian-looking woman who was being given directions to somewhere in the West End. After this interaction was over and the woman had hurried away, I turned around and said to them: “That’s what I like about Glasgow: Giving directions to strangers”.

Then, yesterday, a landmark occurred: A Glasgow native stopped and asked us for directions, in this case, to Gartnavel Hospital – and we were able to help them on to their destination! Both Diane and the native, a woman with a small child, each noted and commented on the incongruity of the circumstance: An American visitor stopping to give a native directions. A delicious moment!

Ecumenical Concert at St. Mary’s: Experiencing Contemporary Scottish Music First Hand

Entry for 25 January 2007:

Today is the 248th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland. There is a whole Burns culture around his poetry and life, and an elaborate Burns Night culture has emerged, much of it organized around Burns Suppers, which extend for several days. Haggis is traditionally eaten today, and I was pleased again to be able to have vegetarian haggis at lunch today, noting also that all the tables in the staff refectory had wee plaid cloths laid out on them as centrepieces.

However, instead of going to a Burns Supper or a Celtic Connections concert, we went to a concert at our church (St. Mary’s Scottish Episcopal Cathedral on Great Western Road), featuring a range of religious vocal music (much of it for congregational singing), including compositions by James MacMillan and John Bell, two of Scotland’s major church musicians. This was a special concert/service as part of a week celebrating Christian Unity Week, and brought together leading musicians from Presbyterian (Church of Scotland, represented by Bell) and Catholic (represented by MacMillan) denominations, on neutral (Episcopal) ground (a concrete example of the famous Episcopal via medias, or middle way).

John Bell is associated with the Iona Community, an ancient pilgrimage site off the Island of Mull, which has fascinated my parents and friends of ours in Toledo for years. An early monastic centre of Celtic Christianity, it was later burned by the Vikings; but in modern times, it has been revived, partially rebuilt and is now a centre is ecumenical work including social justice and liturgical/church music revitalization. The latter includes the Wild Goose Resource Centre, whose wonderful music and hymns we have been enjoying since our arrival at St. Mary’s. Iona is now high on our list of places to connect with in our exploration of Scotland, and feels to me like a place that strongly resonates with the spiritual ideals of my parents, especially my dad. John Bell led the concert/service, sporting red shoes and a red tie, with long hair and greying beard, looking like someone who had been a 1960’s student radical, which he was. He is a skilled congregational music leader, entertaining and energetic, and soon had us all singing magnificently.

James MacMillan was an interesting contrast to the most exuberant Bell. He is considered by many to be Scotland’s leading contemporary composer, and not just of church music (as a quick Google search will quickly reveal). I am looking forward to exploring his recorded music over the coming months; I was certainly impressed by the short pieces I heard last night, among them a simple but highly effective Sanctus from his St. Anne Mass and a more complex choral piece, “A New Song”, with richly interweaving voice lines and swirly organ bits. (It was composed for St. Bride’s Scottish Episcopal Church, which is 3 blocks from our new flat in Hyndland.) He skilfully led the audience in a short responsive Psalm setting for which he was the cantor, illustrating modern Catholic psalmody. Also sporting longish greying hair and beard (but not so long as Bell), he was a much more modest presence at the concert, but still his contributions were deeply impressive.

I can’t go into all the highlights of the evening, but will only say here that this was the most impressive concert of church music I have ever heard. Diane and I were deeply moved by Bell’s song, “There is a Place,” composed for those grieving for the children murdered 10 years ago in Dunblane, Scotland. We were amused and sometimes puzzled by the Scots language readings, including the barely-comprehensible Lorimer translation of the Gospel reading of the boy Jesus in the Temple. We were also pleased that they managed to slip in a couple of Burns poems in honour of the poet’s birthday.

As we walked the half-hour to our new flat, we realized how much of the vital life of Glasgow is now within walking distance for us and how wonderful it is to be in a place where concerts like the one we heard tonight can take place. Here, in Glasgow, culture here is not just something to be heard on the radio or on recordings – it’s right here in front of us, like James MacMillan sitting on the pew in front of us, patiently and modestly waiting for his turn.

Overall, what strikes me now is how the music combines so many elements that resonate for me: It was melodic but contemporary; classical but of the people; spiritual but deeply political and concerned with social justice; rooted in both traditional Scottish music and landscape, but also tuned into world music traditions (e.g., South African, Puerto Rico, Morocco). As we listened, I imagined the presence of my father (who died last March) hovering over. I am quite certain he would have approved; and I have a sense that even now there is a place where he is listening to all this, smiling and tapping his foot.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Active Expression Workshop in EFT

Entry for 24 January 2007:
Active Expression: An integrated mode of client engagement that generates productive experiencing by bringing an action-tendency type of processing style to bear on a range of other aspects of experiencing (i.e., emotion scheme elements).
The Emotion-Focused Therapy Level 2 training workshop series, begun in November, has been continuing over the past months. Tonight, with some pushing and prodding from the group, we reached the part of the course on two-chair and empty-chair work. I love doing chairwork, but I don’t like it to be over-emphasized, as I feel sometimes happens in Les Greenberg’s presentation of the therapy. Chairwork is flashy and exciting, but I feel that the other tasks, such as Narrative Retelling, and Focusing, are also important, and were not given enough time in last summer’s EFT Level 1 training.

So I had us back into chairwork by spending much of the session practicing the basics: The Active Expression client mode of engagement (see blog entry for 10 November). This is because Active Expression is the core client process in Two Chair Dialogue for Conflict Splits, Empty Chairwork for Conflict Splits, and Two Chairwork Enactment for Self-Interruption, for which this exercise was an introduction.

Because we had covered the basic client engagement framework in November, we went right into a set of Active Expression exercises. Here are the exercise instructions, revised on the basis of the session:

Exercise: Do these in pairs around the room. It’s OK to be silly! Each person should do several of the following exercises, taking turns in client and therapist role.

Client role: Use your body to enact strong, vivid, specific reactions involving different aspects of experiencing in a relatively unreflected manner. Your job is to show rather than tell the therapist what it’s like. You can do this with expressive body movements, art, and play. You may want to stand up for some or all of these. Don’t worry too much about setting it up, and don’t try to explain it while you’re setting it up or doing it. You can use expressive language, but try to add body movements to it.

Therapist role: Your job is to encourage the client and to enjoy them doing this. After the client is into expressing the experience, ask them to add words to it, and do the expression with words. After each one, take a few minutes to process the experience.

1. Perceptual/Situational experiences: Think of something that happened recently and that is still on your mind. Enact your memory of it. Ask the therapist for help in doing this; perhaps they can play another person.

2. Bodily/Expressive: Pay attention to something you are sensing in your body. Draw picture of it, or act it out.

3. Experienced Emotion: Depict or portray an emotion you are experiencing right now. Try acting it out with your body, or drawing a picture of it.

4. Conceptual: Think of something you believe in, a theoretical orientation, a philosophy you hold, or some other abstract concept, value or ideal that you feel connected to. Try to think of a metaphor for this concept, then attempt to act it out, or draw a picture of it.

5. Motivational/Behavioral:
a. Action by Others: Think about something that you don’t like other people doing to you (e.g., crowding, prodding, confusing, ignoring etc.). Take turns using the therapist to: First, show therapist the action by enacting what these other people do to you. Next, have them do the action to you; help them if they haven’t got it right.
b. Action on the Self: Now think about something you do to yourself; follow the same procedure, first do it to the therapist, then have them do it to you, so you can experience both sides of the action.

How it went: I proposed that we do these exercises for an hour, and went around to the different groups reminding them to keep moving and not get stuck on any one exercise. An hour turned out to be a really good amount of time, giving everyone opportunities to experience active expression in a variety of ways. There were a lot of bodily felt shifts (to use Gendlin’s term) from doing the exercises, as the participants found they could access different aspects of experiencing this way, things that they didn’t or couldn’t from purely verbal exploration of their experiences. One of my favourites involved pacing around the room and slamming a book shut to produce a satisfying loud noise, while saying, “I’ve had it with this!” (This was for exercise 3, Experienced Emotion.) After I left the room, I could hear the slamming noise in the corridor for a couple of minutes, which brought a smile to my face. But there were many colourful enactments and dramatic drawings, and it appeared to me that a good time was had by all. After an hour, the participants were fairly played out, and had worked up an appetite, so we were all happy to take a break before continuing on to an introduction to Two Enactments for Self-Interruption.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Moving to Hyndland

Entry for 23 January 2007:

As is turned out, the actual move was the easiest part of moving day. After weeks of organizing, shopping, do changes of address, packing, etc., the movers were finished by 10:30 this morning. (Not bad, considering that they started at the storage facility a bit after nine, and had to make a stop along the way to pick up two wardrobes in Broomhill.) Our mover, another colorful Glaswegian character named Hugh, decided to use two trucks and 5 helpers. While he and two of his crew were unloading the things from storage and the wardrobes, the rest of the crew packed up from Fulton Street and headed over to Hyndland, arriving shortly after the first crew finished unloading their truck. Having 5 people carting things upstairs and into our flat was somewhat dizzying, with guys arriving every 10 secs and asking where they should put things. We were somewhat dazed as we watched them drive off down Novar Drive, cheerfully waving goodbye to us.

Suddenly faced with many more hours than we had anticipated, we set ourselves an ambitious agenda of four tasks for the rest of the day: To make our bed, restock our groceries, clean out the rest of the old flat, and to get connected to the internet.

Making the bed turned out to be the most challenging, because, of course, this meant literally having to build it from the kit that IKEA Delivery had dropped off yesterday. Having previously assembled 4 IKEA chairs, we were only slightly prepared for this, because it turns out that making a bed is a lot more complicated that making a chair.

In addition, we immediately discovered that due to a printing error, Steps 1 & 2 out of 16 were missing. This required going through the remaining 12 steps in order to infer what had happened in the missing first two steps, and making a careful catalog of the all hardware useful in the later steps so we could determine what was left over for use in Steps 1 & 2. As it happened, this challenge was dwarfed in difficulty by the final two steps in which we were required to attach a set of mysterious metal brace pieces that form a web on the underside of the frame. Putting wood screws in upside down in unmarked pieces of wood was hard enough, but screwing together the two sliding metal pieces that make up each brace defeated us in the end. I probably spent an hour trying to getting the wee screws to thread through the metal pieces, and finally resorted to bracing the inadequately secured braces with bent paperclips. A dodgy set of braces if I even saw one! We'll just have to hope it is a Good Enough Home Assembled Bed and that is doesn't fall down on us someday.

In the middle of what turned out to be a 5 hour job of making the bed, we did manage to get lunch at the Peckhams Delicatessan on Clarence Street, to buy a microwave oven and a bunch of groceries, and to clear out the rest of our things form Fulton Street. It was around 6pm when we finished the bed by putting the slats in the frame, and the mattress on the slats, so we could make our bed in the usual sense.

I can testify to the success of this task, in that the new bed is: (a) very comfortable (no more springs poking back); (b) warm in spite of the central heating having gone off hours ago and refusing communicate with us about how to persuade it to come back on); (c) large (the size of a US queen-size bed); and (d) not too large for the our new bedroom, which also contains a desk, a large Art Deco wardrobe, two large dressers, a small bookshelf and a bunch of suitcases.

After we set up the computer, we were startled to discover that the computer’s internet connection came up right away, as if we hadn’t missed a beat. (We wondered why it took them 2 weeks to set it up in the first place!)

Thus, by 7, we had accomplished all of our four emergent tasks for moving day. However, dinner took us 3 hours, as we gradually excavated our cookware, dishes, utensils, etc. from various not-particularly well-labeled boxes, and tried to figure out how our new, oddly configured kitchen can be made to work for us. In the end, we produced a perfectly serviceable meal of omelet, steamed broccoli, bread and elaborate salad, which we ate while listening to an eclectic mix of folk and pop music on my iTunes Dinner Playlist, ranging from Nancy Griffith to the Beach Boys. Heaven!

So we are now truly Moved In, and are still marvelling at the sudden availability of so much Space. We seem to have double or triple as much room as we dinner at our last flat. It opens up all kinds of possibilities…

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Celtic Connection: Solas

Entry for 20 January 2007:

Celtic Connections is a festival of celtic and world music held every year for 3 weeks from mid-January to early February. This year there are over 300 events, concerts, workshops, art exhibits – it’s huge. It started a couple of days ago, and tonight we went to our first concert: Solas, an Irish-American group whose mainstay is their exceptional instrumentalists, most spectacularly their exuberant and amazing fiddle player, Winifred Horan. We dragged Mick and Lorna along (it wasn’t difficult to persuade them), making a pleasant evening of it.

Celtic Connections is closer to a conference that a folk festival, with up to 8 parallel sessions and concerts in which related groups or sets of performers are put together. Solas fitted into the latter pattern by inviting most of the previous members of the band to take part. As a result, there were times when 9 or 10 people were up there performing, making the group into a small folk orchestra and producing what Mick referred to as a “wall of sound”(a reference to Phil Spector’s work as a producer and arranger for early 60’s girl groups). We left in an exhilarated mood and look forward to more such concerts, as time allows.

Celtic music has been important to me for at least 25 years, certainly since The Thistle and the Shamrock began broadcasting on NPR in the early 1980’s, when I followed the work of Clannad (before they got all mushy and commercial), Capercaillie (my favorite celtic group), Altan, and others. This interest grew out of my earlier interest in folk music from my childhood, which later grew into an interesting folk-based classical music (Vaughan Williams, Percy Granger, Dvorak, etc.). So Celtic Connections and the whole importance of this kind of music here is part of the real attraction that living here has for me, and I love the fact that there are regular local folk music programs on the Radio Scotland, including an hour a week of Scottish dance music and another hour of bagpipe music… and of course the Celtic Connections festival.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Telling the Fulltime Counselling Course Students about Quantitative Research

Entry for 19 January 2007:

For today I had to repeat my lecture on quantitative research, which I had given already last term to the Monday parttime counselling course. I was all ready with the same client PE-111 Hermeneutic Single Case Efficacy Design presentation, using the strategy of hooking the students with interesting case material, when it came to me that the key statistical parts of this presentation were really going to go right over the heads of about half of the students.

So as of 10 last night, I started over on a different lecture, focusing on designing a Person-Centred research protocol. I got up early this morning in order to finish this lecture, which turned out very nicely.

However, as I was leaving for work, I began to feel that this was not really going to work either, so on my walk to work (between looking at the magpies: see previous entry) I made mental notes about a presentation aimed to work more interactively with the students on their stuck points about quantitative research and what they would find helpful. This is what I did, then:

1. I began by reading my poem “Numbers are Words of Power”, part 1 of Magic my Dad Taught Me (http://www.murraycreek.net/elliott/robert/dad75.htm).

2. We explored their relationship with numbers. While a few of the students have math phobia processes, most are simply distrustful, suspicious and turned off by statistics, because of their jargon, lack of meaningfulness, and impersonal nature. Many wanted to know about things like what a “p-value” means, what reliability is, and so on. A few felt that it is not in their ability even understand statistics.

I am a believer in Mahayana statistics (from one of two main schools of Buddhism); that is, I believe that enlightenment into the True Nature of statistics is possible for all (or nearly all people). Therefore, I took this teaching input as a challenge to try to bring enlightenment not simply to a few MSc and PhD students (that is Hinayana statistics, the narrow path for the few), but all or nearly all the post-graduate students.

3. I had decided as part of the second planned lecture to hand out copies of the CORE Outcome Measure and the Working Alliance Inventory. But now, instead of just giving it to them as a example, I began to explain to them how an instrument like this actually works and what the problems are. This was hard going for all of us, but I could feel us moving forward for the most part, but still many were not quite getting it.

4. The breakthrough came, when one of them asked if I could demonstrate filling it out. This sounded like a strange request, but I decided to give it a try. I completed the first two items, describing my thought process as did so. After this, I looked up, noticed that this wasn’t terribly interesting for them, and so I suggested that we all just fill it out for ourselves, and I would take them through using the instrument. This turned out to be a winning strategy, as I could then take them through hardscoring it and beginning to interpret it.

5. In the end, I was able to get as far as explaining the Reliable Change Index so that most but not all of them could understand it. At the end, there was a lot of energy in the room. I left feeling very pleased with the outcome of a very challenging and stimulating morning.

6. Actually, I feel a bit silly at discovering yet again that the only way to understand research is to live it, to experience it form the inside, here by actually filling out, scoring and interpreting the CORE-Outcome Measure. Afterall, I had taken an experiential approach for the first lecture I gave them. I wonder how many times I will have to learn that experience trumps all. I guess it’s a lesson worth learning over and over again!

January Notes and Update

Entry for 19 January 2007:

1. Snow. It snowed yesterday for the first time since we’ve arrived in Scotland, an inch or two of wet snow here in Glasgow. It felt familiar to us, like our familiar Midwestern winters. From the train I could see the fields covered in winter, as I travelled through Central Scotland toward Edinburgh. Unfortunately, this grew less as we approached Edinburgh, and had mostly all melted away by morning today, but still it was lovely to get a bit of Winter. (And a bit of Winter is generally enough for me!)

2. Magpies. Today was a bit warmer, and clearer. As I walked to work, I noticed the black-and-white british magpies fighting in the trees, their loud, raucous cries reminding me of the blue jays of my California childhood. Apparently, they begin to gather this time of year to sort out their territory and pecking order, into groups called “parliaments”. What I saw today was small groups of third birds chasing and scolding one another. Although they are a type of crow, they are certainly prettier. I like their brashness.

3. Catching up. I’ve spent much of the past two weeks catching up on work I didn’t get done over the break. Much of this involved a careful editing of a long book chapter entitled, Experiential Therapy Today, which Alberto Pos and Les Greenberg had done most of the work on. This is good, because the deadline was looming, but other things, like the papers for the Fulltime Counselling course, didn’t get done on time, so then I had to finish them in a rush. I enjoyed reading the papers, and in the end found them easier to read and grade than I had anticipated. I'm not sure my grades are consistent with the rest of the course tutors, but as always I have tried to be transparent about what I am looking for as I read the papers. This generally entails content coding the papers using little letter abbreviations to mark the "pithy points" germane to the different grading criteria along the way.

4. Moving. While all this was going on, we have also begun to move things into our new flat in Hyndland. Diane has been shopping with Elke at the giant IKEA store near the airport. Diane has already packed up much of our stuff. The movers will come this Tuesday to take our furniture out of storage, to collect a couple of old Mahogany wardrobes from a friend’s mom’s flat in Broomhill, and of course our things from the house in Anniesland where we have been living for the past five months.

5. New flat. We really like the new flat, which is a classic Hyndland flat, first floor, tiled close (=pronounced like the adjective for near, but referring to a shared hallway and stairs), stained glass windows over front door and bathroom, bay window in lounge (=living room), cozy dinner room, etc. The quaint touches remind me of our Toledo house. When Mick and Allie (our first visitors!) came by last night to drop off a table, they said, “This seems much more like you!” And that’s how it feels. We feel as though we are making a new beginning, but in a better place and a better psychological state.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Lines of Evidence that Provide Empirical Support for the Person-Centred/Experiential Approach the Therapy

Entry for 13 January 2007:

The following is taken from a statement I have been working on with Jef Cornelius Young, Elke Lambers, Michael Behr, Karl-Otto Hentze and Juergen Kriz for a statement going to the German government body responsible for deciding which psychological treatments should be reimbursed by health insurance. In it I have tried to follow the inspiration of Cook & Campbell (1979), and Lakoff and Johnson (1999) in organizing the results within a framework of converging operations or triangulation of evidence:

A large empirical literature on the effectiveness of psychotherapy research, including studies published in German, clearly and strongly supports the use of PCE psychotherapies for a broad range of client problems. This literature includes data from five complementary lines of evidence:
1. Randomized comparative clinical trials and comparative outcome studies (Elliott, Greenberg & Lietaer, 2004; King et al., 2000; Stiles, Barkham, Twigg, Mellor-Clarke & Cooper, 2006; Bruce & Levant, 1990; Cornelius-White, 2007)
2. Controlled studies (against untreated controls; Elliott, 2002; Elliott et al., 2004; Bratton, Ray, Rhine, & Jones, 2005)
3. Naturalistic open clinical trials (Elliott, 2002; Elliott et al., 2004),
4. Predictive process-outcome research (Orlinsky, Rønnestad & Willutzki, 2004; Bohart, Elliott, Greenberg & Watson, 2002; Cornelius-White, 2007)
5. Patient preference research (King et al. 2000).
Each of these five lines of evidence has its own methodological strengths and limitations, but together they provide stronger evidence than any single line of research. For example, it is long-established scientific fact that randomized comparative clinical trial studies are subject to to strong researcher allegiance effects that compromise their conclusions, both generally in mental health treatment research literature (Robinson, Berman & Neimeyer, 1990; Luborsky et al., 1999; Herres et al., 2006) and specifically in the literature on PCEPs (Elliott et al., 2004). On their own, such studies therefore do not constitute a safe basis for deciding health care policy, and must be supported through the use of triangulating evidence.


Bohart, A.C., Elliott, R., Greenberg, L.S., Watson, J.C. (2002). Empathy. In J. Norcross, Psychotherapy relationships that work (pp. 89-108). New York: Oxford University Press.

Bohart, A.C., Elliott, R., Greenberg, L.S., Watson, J.C. (2002). Empathy. In J. Norcross, Psychotherapy relationships that work (pp. 89-108). New York: Oxford University Press.

Bratton, S. C., Ray, D. Rhine, T., Jones, L. (2005). The efficacy of play therapy with children: A meta-analytic review of treatment outcomes. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 36, 376-390.

Bruce, C., & Levant, R. F. (1990). A meta-analysis of parent effectiveness training. American Journal of Family Therapy, 18, 373- 384.

Cornelius-White, J. H. D. (2007). Learner-Centered Teacher-Student Relationships Are Effective: A Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research, 77, 1-31.

Elliott, R. (2002). The effectiveness of humanistic psychotherpies: A meta-analysis. In Cain & Seeman (Eds.) Humanistic psychotherapies: Handbook of research and practice. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Elliott, R., Greenberg, L. S., & Lietaer, G. (2004). In M. J. Lambert (Ed.) Bergin and Garfield’s Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Change (Fifth Edition). New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Heres, S., Davis, J., Maino, K., Jetzinger, E. Kissling, W., & Leucht, S. (2006). Why Olanzapine Beats Risperidone, Risperidone Beats Quetiapine, and Quetiapine Beats Olanzapine: An Exploratory Analysis of Head-to-Head Comparison Studies of Second-Generation Antipsychotics. American Journal of Psychiatry, 163: 185-194.

King, M., Sibbald, B., Ward, E., Bower, P., Lloyd, M., Gabbay, M., & Byford, S. (2000). Randomised controlled trial of non-directive counselling, cognitive-behavior therapy and usual general practitioner care in the management of depression as well as mixed anxiety and depression in primary care [Monograph]. Health Technology Assessment, 4 (19), 1-84.

Luborsky, L., Diguer, L., Seligman, D.A., Rosenthal, R., Krause, E.D., Johnson, S., Halperin, G., Bishop, M., Berman, J.S., & Schweizer, E. (1999). The researcher’s own therapy allegiances: A “wild card” in comparisons of treatment efficacy. Clinical Psychology,: Science and Practice, 6, 95- 106.

Orlinsky, D.E., Rønnestad, M.H., & Willutzki, U. (2004). Process and Outcome in Psychotherapy. In M.J. Lambert (Ed.), Bergin and Garfield’s Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Change (5th Ed; pp. 307-389). New York: Wiley.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Lousadzak: Proposed Scottish-Armenian Festival Celebrating the Coming of the Light

Entry for 10 January 2007:

“The people who have walked in Darkness have seen a great Light.” -Isaiah 9:2

The sun came out today, shining with almost startling brightness out of the south, not setting until after 4pm this afternoon. My office was brighter than it had been in weeks, and as we gathered this afternoon next door in my research room on the 3rd floor of the Stowe Building for the Social Anxiety Study Group, we marvelled at the light. One of the diploma course students – I think it was Tom – remarked that the two weeks before and after Christmas are always the worst, but by now it is clear that the light is returning.

So it seems that we have reached another turning in the seasons, which could be called the Coming of the Light, or Lousadzak, after Armenian-Scottish-American composer Alan Hovhaness’s Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra, one of my long-time favorite pieces (the Keith Jarrett version with Scottish composer Dennis Russell Davies conducting is quite nice). It is predicted to rain for the next 5 days, and in fact there are rain and gale-force winds tonight, but we who are living in Scotland during the Time of the Dark know that the Light is coming back, day by day, pushing back the Dark a minute or two minutes each day. This would make a nice festival bridging Hogmanay and Burns Night.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Epiphany: Our Journey of the Magi

Entry for 7 January 2007:

Our journey home was long and tiring; after waiting at Gatwick for almost 6 hours, we arrived in Glasgow to discover that my suitcase had not followed us. This has happened to me so many times that I regard it as a minor hassle. What was more difficult was coming home to a cold house, with the central heat out --again -- and no way of contacting the owner to have it fixed until Monday. But we managed to light the gas fire in the lounge (=living room) and borrow an electric space heater from our neighbour. After a couple of hours, the temperature in the kitchen had risen to 55 degrees F (=8 C). We opted for an early bedtime under clammy covers, which eventually warmed up.

This morning the courier delivered our suitcase early enough for us to make it to church. We were late, but arrived just in time for a reading of T.S. Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi,” one of my favorite poems, and certainly my favorite Christmas-related poem. This turned out to be turning point for us: Our friend John proceeded to preach a lovely sermon on the magi story, interweaving both biblical and Eliot versions.

I have been known to inflict this poem on my family during the holidays. Since I discovered Eliot during my adolescence, I have found his poetry has carried a biblical weight and density for me. (Four Quartets is my favorite and I even have the graphic novel version of Wasteland, but “Journey” is right up there, along with “Ash Wednesday”.)

As the serviced unfolded, we found ourselves welcomed back; people had missed us and talked about us in our absence. John and Nena, in particular, were really pleased to see us. Fran and Robert came up afterwards and introduced themselves; she turns out to be one of the counsellors on the Glasgow School Counselling Project. Then, after church, we had a probing discussion of the Magi story and its moral and theological implications that left us pondering and talking the rest of the day.

Fran and I each made the connection between the image of God/Goddess as a companion who suffers with us in such as way as to reveal new possibilities – and our work as Person-Centred/Experiential counsellors and therapists. Like God, we do not force or control, but offer possibilities, which our clients can choose to take up or not. For a long time, this parallel between the spiritual and the psychotherapeutic has resonated deeply with me; my long-ago adolescent intuition of this is one of the main reasons that I choose to become a therapist.

To have all this re-revealed on the celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany, at the end of a long and frustrating journey and homecoming, was an unexpected gift. Diane and I left, feeling warm and welcomed home. Cold house or no, we are moving forward: Diane has passed her IELTS exam, I’ve cleared out an enormous collection of old email; Celtic Connections and Burns Night are coming; and it’s back to work for me tomorrow among colleagues whom I respect and enjoy. It is clear to us now that we are part of a larger community here, and that here, too, is our home.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Return to Scotland: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Entry for 6 January 2007 (En route back to Scotland):

Waiting in London-Gatwick Airport for almost 6 hours, after flying all night from the USA, is not my favourite travel experience. I thought we had a good reason to book this particular flight, but right now I can’t remember what that reason was…

We are in the far end of Gatwick’s North Terminal, at a kind of crossroad with entrances to 4 sets of gates. Passengers come through here in waves: Usually one at a time, then suddenly the crossing will be flooded with people. Some passengers limp by on crutches, others racing like gazelles to catch a flight. There are plenty of small children, frolicking, or dragging, or making strange noises, or dropping money in the donation globe across from where we sit.

Our departure yesterday from Toledo was chaotic: Shortly before he was to drive us to the Detroit airport, Brendan’s car died, requiring a quick change of plans and a phone call to the automobile club. Instead, we left Brendan at home to meet the tow-truck and Kenneth and Mayumi came with us to the airport, receiving a briefing along the way so that they’d be able to find their way home again afterwards. After several days of lovely clear, sunny, mild weather, it had been raining in Toledo for almost a day, possibly to ease our transition back to Scotland. As I drove us to the airport, the rain turned into a downpour, making it difficult to see the lines on highway. Our neighbor from Toledo phoned Diane on her cell phone to express his pleasure at having spearheaded the repair of our street; Mayumi noticed that she had missed a call and called in to retrieve it; then Brendan phoned Kenneth to tell him the truck had come and that Mayumi didn’t need to phone him back. For a few minutes I was left to drive through the blinding rain while everyone else in the car was on their cell phones. This is when I realized that my family had arrived in the 21st century!

At three weeks, this was the longest break from work I have taken in years. We divided our time between Northern California and Ohio, my first and second homes. We’ve had many things to sort out and business to take care of in our complicated new life, so there wasn’t too much down time. As always, it wasn’t the vacation I expected or planning (relatively little academic work got done), but it was, as usual, the vacation we needed.

We returned from California on New Years Eve, just in time to heat up our frozen dinners, hook up the television, and print out the music and words to all 5 verses of Auld Lang Syne, before the ball dropped at Times Square. Kenneth played the music as we made our way through the less familiar verses, some of them requiring translation with the help of the relevant Wikipedia entry. This could be a new family New Years custom…

In spite of being in the Eastern Standard Time zone, we spent our remaining days in the US effectively on Pacific Standard Time, staying up until 1 or 2 in the morning, sleeping in, then making our way through tasks such as organizing our records and my travel forms for our accountant and continuing to sort out the house to make it more liveable in its new 2nd home role. In the end, my main achievement re work was whittling my gmail inbox down from 560 message threads to 230!

Now it’s time to get back to work. It’s going to be a busy few weeks, with manuscripts to revise, research projects to get moving on, the Celtic Connections folk music festival, and of course our anticipated move to Hyndland, which will require us also to furnish an unfurnished flat in order to make it more like something we can make into another one of our Homes. New Years Resolutions include: reading more graphic novels, staying more on top of my email, keep better track of my teaching assignments, and more fully settling in to Glasgow. It should be interesting!