Sunday, January 24, 2010

Compassionate Self-soothing Dialog for Stuck/Collapsed Self State:

Entry for 14 January 2010:

Draft Task Description (R. Elliott; EFT-3; version 14/1/10)

We’ve been talking about a self-soothing task for years, but have never gotten around to writing it up. Now, however, it’s turning out to be a really important part of our work with clients with Social Anxiety, where we are using it as part of a process of helping clients build up a sense of themselves as being able to stand up to their critic. A recent peer supervision session with Lucia about a kind of work that she learned from her supervisor Paolo Nuttrini inspired me to write up the following outline of the work, which I then tested out with the EFT-3 group. I’m next going to add the work to the EFT-2 curriculum for later this year.

A. Background:

•New chair work task; being developed in EFT & other approaches

•Flip side of self-criticism split work

•cf. Paul Gilbert, Compassion-focused therapy (CBT + Buddhism): Compassion dialogs

•Useful with Post-trauma, social anxiety, borderline processes, depression; also within Two Chair Dialogue and Empty Chair Work

•Changing emotion with emotion (emotion scheme restructuring, memory reconsolidation)

•Use to strengthen self

B. Markers: Collapsed/stuck state of self

1. Self-critical or interpersonal loss process leading to collapsed/weak self

2. Strong emotional pain plus stuckness (e.g., vulnerable self with implacable other in Empty Chair work; repeated “I don’t know”)

3. Fails to respond to usual strategies for reactivating collapsed self (heightening critic or deepening experiencing self)

C. Therapist stance:

•Active, genuine compassion for client

•Active process guiding with collaborative co-construction of exercise

•Close empathic tracking


D. Different Self-Other combinations:

1. Imagine yourself in the other chair as a small/hurt/lonely/scared etc child and speak to them.

2. Imagine some other scared/lonely/hurt child in the other chair and speak to them (from Liz Ballinger & Lorne Korman, EFT therapists from Toronto who working with clients with depression/opiate abuse).

3. Imagine a very close friend of yours, so similar that they have had the same experiences as you and are feeling the exact same way as you. What do you want/wish for them? What would help them? What can you give them to help this? Try it. Are they convinced? If not, what would help instead? (from Italian Gestalt therapist, Paolo Quattrini by way of Lucia Berdondini)

4. Imagine your parent/significant other in the other chair not as they were but as you needed them to be (idealized parent). Ask them for what you need. Then have them speak to you. (Extension of Empty Chair work)

E. General suggestions for facilitating client work:

•Be patient; don’t try to move too fast into self-soothing. Make sure you spend time helping the client evoke and experience the emotion pain and collapsed stuckness.

•Make sure you have a firm empathic/compassionate connection with this aspect.

F. Proposed Task Resolution Model

Client Resolution Stages

Therapist Facilitating Responses

1. Marker: Collapsed/stuck self; high arousal

Therapist: Reflect marker; propose task

2. Task initiation: Selects and evokes sad/scared/ collapsed self-aspect or other

Therapist: Propose an appropriate self-other combination to enact; adapt as needed.

•Ask client to imagine the sad/scared/ collapsed aspect; use evocative language

•If possible, help identify what client needs/wants/wishes

•Provide solid empathy for this aspect and allow client to really experience the collapsed/ stuck state before moving on

3. Offer self-soothing: Enact compassionate self-aspect or other

Therapist: Encourage client in Compassionate person role to offer collapsed aspect what is wished for it or what it needs

•Model soothing, compassionate stance

4. Partial resolution: Experiences emotional/bodily relief

Therapist: Listen for, reflect bodily felt shift in response to compassionate, soothing offer

•Encourage client to stay with the new feeling

5. Shifts toward more positive, empowered view of self

Therapist: Help client explore the emergent, stronger sense of self

6. Considers how to extend this process in their life

Therapist: Help client explore possibilities for carrying self-soothing or empowered self forward in their life

Monday, January 18, 2010

Change Process Research on Relational Depth: The Added Paragraph

Entry for 18 January 2010:

Sometimes, an editor or reviewer will call for a last-minute revision that turns out to be a kind of gift, because it takes the paper to another level. In my forthcoming paper on Change Process Research, to appear in the next month or two in Psychotherapy Research, one of the reviewers challenged me to add an example of how the framework of types of change process research I’d been presenting might inspire research. When I asked myself what kind of therapy process might provide a good example, I suddenly thought of Relational Depth, which is a sort of University of Strathclyde speciality. The following paragraph came quickly after that, as I outlined a program of research on this therapy process variable:

Instead [of an RCT on Relational Depth], any one of the designs reviewed here provides a sounder basis for inferring the operation of particular therapy processes in bringing about client change. The optimal strategy, however, is to use several different Change Process Research designs, within or across studies, to build a convincing case for a particular change process. Take for example relational depth (Mearns & Cooper, 2005), a newly-minted formulation for a powerful state of felt connectedness between client and therapist. In order to make a strong case for the causal efficacy of this change process, researchers might want to start with Helpful Factors studies, in order to document the existence and general nature of moments of relational depth (e.g., Knox, 2008). Next, Significant Events studies, using Comprehensive Process Analysis or Task Analysis, could be used to develop and refine models of how client and therapist behaviors and experiences unfold and interact during episodes of relational depth. These models could be further tested at a micro-process level using the Sequential Analysis approach. Finally, quantitative measures (e.g., Wiggins, 2009) could be developed and used in Process-Outcome studies to predict therapy outcome. A body of such complementary studies would go a long way toward establishing the causal efficacy of relational depth in bringing about change in therapy, something that would be difficult if not impossible to do using randomized clinical trials.


Knox, R. (2008) Clients’ experiences of relational depth in person-centred counselling. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 8:3, 182-188.

Mearns, D. & Cooper, M. (2005). Working at Relational Depth in Counselling and Psychotherapy. London: Sage.

Wiggins, S. (March, 2009). Developing the Relational Depth Inventory: Prevalence, Moderators & Characteristics of Relational Depth Events. Paper presented at Meeting of the UK Chapter of the Society for Psychotherapy Research, Ravenscar, UK.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Emotion-Focused Psychotherapy 2010 Level One Training

Entry for 15 January 2010:

Facilitated by Robert Elliott & Jeanne Watson

Tuesday 31st August – Friday 3rd September 2010, 9.00 – 16.30

Jordanhill Campus, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow

Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) – also known as Process-Experiential Therapy – is an evidence-based, pluralistic form of person-centred/experiential therapy, with particular relevance to working with depression, trauma, and anxiety difficulties. It has gained international recognition through the work of Les Greenberg, Robert Elliott, Jeanne Watson, Rhonda Goldman, Sandra Paivio and others. The Counselling Unit at the University of Strathclyde is again pleased to offer Level One professional training in this approach to qualified counsellors and psychotherapists (Diploma level or above).

Now in its fifth year at the University of Strathclyde, this successful, four-day Level One EFT training programme will provide participants with a solid grounding in the skills required to work more directly with emotion in psychotherapy. Participants will receive an in-depth skills training through a combination of brief lectures, video demonstrations, live modelling, case discussions, and extensive supervised role-playing practice. The workshop will begin with an overview of EFT Emotion Theory, including basic principles and the role of emotion and emotional awareness in function and dysfunction; this will be illustrated by Focusing-oriented exercises. Differential intervention based on specific process markers will be demonstrated. Videotaped examples of evidence based methods for evoking and exploring emotion schemes, and for dealing with overwhelming emotions, puzzling emotional reactions, painful self-criticism, and emotional injuries from past relationships will be presented and discussed.

Participants will be trained in the skills of moment-by-moment attunement to affect, and the use of methods of dialoguing with parts or configurations of self and imagined significant others in an empty chair. This training will provide therapists from person-centred, psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioural and related backgrounds with an opportunity to develop their therapeutic skills and interests.

Educational Objectives

Participants on the training programme will learn:

1. To implement the basic principles of EFT

2. To identify different types of emotional response;

3. When to help clients contain and when to access emotion;

4. How to help clients reprocess difficult emotions;

5. To facilitate emotional processing to resolve self-critical splits and unfinished business.

Programme Outline


Foundations, Emotion, Empathy, & Alliance Formation:

• Distinctive features of the EFT: neo-humanism & therapeutic principles

• Process-experiential emotion theory: emotion schemes

• Emotion response types & emotional change principles

Therapeutic Tasks, Accessing and Managing Emotion

• Therapeutic tasks and process formulation

• Emotion regulation

• Focusing and Clearing a Space

• Skills practice


Reprocessing Problematic Experiences

• Empathic exploration, evocative empathy, empathic conjecture

• Evocative unfolding, Narrative Retelling, and Meaning Creation

• Skills practice

Active Expression Processes - I

• Dialectical constructivist models of self

• Two chair dialogue and splits

• Accessing adaptive and problematic emotional responses

• Skills practice


Active Expression Processes – 2

• Accessing core problematic emotion schemes

• Varieties of splits

• Adapting two-chair work to different kinds of clients

• Skills practice

Accessing Primary Adaptive Emotions & Restructuring Emotion Schemes

• Empty chair dialogue and unfinished business

• Supporting the emergence of primary needs

• Helping clients use adaptive emotions to challenge core problematic emotion schemes

• Letting go of unmet needs

• Skills practice


Identifying Tasks; Empirical support,

• Summary of Research evidence

• Review of tasks; strategies for identifying and selecting tasks

• Skills practice

Personalized Applications

• Practical parameters

• Depression, Post-traumatic stress difficulties

• Social anxiety

• Borderline processes

• Question & answer period

About the Facilitators

Robert Elliott, Ph.D.: Robert is professor in the Counselling Unit at the University of Strathclyde, where he teachers on the postgraduate diploma and MSc courses in Person-Centred Counselling. He taught at the University of Toledo 1978-2006, where he was Professor of Psychology, Director of Clinical Training and Director of the Center for the Study of Experiential Psychotherapy. He has also been a guest professor at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, University of Sheffield, UK, and La Trobe University, Australia. He is co-author of Facilitating Emotional Change (1993), Learning Emotion-focused Therapy (2004), and Research Methods for Clinical Psychology (2003), as well as more than 100 published scientific articles or book chapters. In 2008 he received both the Carl Rogers Award, Division of Humanistic Psychology of the American Psychological Association, and the Distinguished Research Career Award, Society for Psychotherapy Research. He is editor emeritus of the journal, Person-Centered Counseling and Psychotherapies and directs the Scottish Consortium for Psychotherapy and Counselling Research and the Strathclyde Centre for Psychotherapy and Counselling Research.

Jeanne Watson, Ph.D.: Jeanne is professor in the Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology, at OISE at the University of Toronto, Canada. Dr. Watson was the recipient of the Outstanding Early Achievement Award from the Society for Psychotherapy Research in 2001. She has co-authored and edited several books on counselling practice, including Learning Emotion Focused Therapy (2004), Client-Centered and Experiential Psychotherapy in the 21st Century (2002), Handbook of Experiential Psychotherapy, Emotion-focused Therapy for Depression (2005), and most recently Case Studies in Emotion-Focused Therapy for Depression (2007). Jeanne conducts research on empathy, depression and psychotherapy process and outcome in EFT. She conducts workshops in EFT and teaches courses in counselling theory and practice to Masters and Ph.D. students in the postgraduate course in Counselling Psychology at the University of Toronto. Dr. Watson maintains a part-time private practice in Toronto.

Application Information

If you would like to reserve a place on this training course, please complete and return the application form overleaf. Places are strictly limited so book early to avoid disappointment. The fee for this four-day event is has been set at £445. Please note that to keep costs to a minimum, catering is not included in this fee.

We are pleased to offer an Early Bird Discount of £50.00 to those who book before 1st July 2010. To take advantage of this offer, applications must be received by this date with no exceptions.

For further information on this event, please contact Jan Bissett, Professional Development Unit on 0141 950 3208 or at

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Curious about PE-EFT or Psychotherapy Research? Questions Invited!

Entry for 14 Jan 2010:

Do you have a question about psychotherapy change process research? Process-Experiential/Emotion-Focused Therapy? Counselling/psychotherapy research methods? If so, please email me at the address at the top of this Blog, and I will do my best to answer your question on this Blog… if I have something intelligent to say about it, that is!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Entry 400: Epiphany 2010

6 January 2010, Epiphany:

This is entry 400 for this blog, which began in September 2006. It is still evolving: The content shifts gradually over time, as my interests and life shift. The readership has shifted also over time, which means that I have to be more careful about what I write. My kids read it less; but students and sometimes clients read it now. The mixture of content continues to be quite diverse, from poems to statistics, with Saturday Adventures and bits about therapy and training in between: I like to say that there is something here to bore everyone.

I plan to continue the blog, but can’t promise to continue posting close to 100 entries per year. We’ll just have to see what emerges!

Yesterday, January 6, was the Feast of the Epiphany. My mom sent me an email about some things that have been happening; in response I wrote:

We are all at various points in our different life labyrinths. At this moment the little ornamental elm tree by my garage here in Toledo has seemingly sprouted brown squirrel fruit in its bare branches, stark against the white snow-covered roofs to the side and behind. The squirrels huddle high in the branches, one with its tail curled back over its back and head, grooming itself, the other working on a nut. The first squirrel wanders off, tight-roping along the cable TV line. When I look up again, it has returned to its perch in the little elm tree, and is now working away on its own nut. The squirrels have their labyrinths of branches, as we have ours of relationships, rich interconnections. It’s good to have company while we gnaw away at the nuts we’ve hidden away for a time like this!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

What is a Standard Deviation?

Entry for 31 December 2009:

An excerpt from Training the Trainers: A Research Training Manual, McLeod, Elliott & Wheeler, in press.

Commentary: I spent the end of November and the beginning of December working on revisions to the research training manual that John McLeod, Sue Wheeler and I have been working on for the past 2 years. John added a section on understanding common statistical concepts to the latest version, which I thought was a good idea, but as usual, we are struggling with how to explain in ordinary language what a standard deviation is. If I remember correctly, it was my attempt to explain this concept that lead one of our diploma students to make a t-shirt that read, “The last thing I understood was the baked potato I ate for lunch.” The following builds on John’s version and is my most recent attempt to get the idea across:

It is also important to know about the variability of scores - the amount of spread in the distribution of scores. The standard deviation statistic (abbreviated as s, s.d., sd or SD) is usually given in research reports as a measure of variability. In fact, the SD figure is the average variability of scores. That’s where the term “standard deviation” comes from: It is a kind of average or typical (hence “standard”) difference (hence “deviation”) between each person’s score and the mean score. It tells us how far off the average person is from the average, which also tells us how far we should trust the average as a way of representing the people in the sample: The bigger the SD, the farther people tend to be from average. Interesting facts about SDs:

• About two-thirds of people in a sample will have scores that are within one SD above or below the mean.

• About 95% of people will have scores that are within 2 SDs above or below the mean.

• On a standard 5-point rating scale, such as that used by the CORE Outcome Measure, many items will have SDs of about 1 scale point, so it’s a good idea to pay attention to items with SDs substantially above (1.5) or below (.5) that.

Further reflections. "Standard deviation" is another one of these oxymorons that we never think about: The idea of a standard/typical exception/deviation from the general case clashes internally; if we listen to it careful, we can hear its Bartokian dissonance as another kind of harmony. We tend simultaneously toward the general, the central tendency and to our own individuality and uniqueness. The Standard Deviation recognizes this and its own peculiarly quantitative way honours this individuality.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Trip to Seattle at the End of the Year

Entry for 31 December 2009:

Our lives have become increasingly scattered over time, as we moved first from Northern California to Toledo, Ohio (1978), then sent our kids, one-by-one, off to university in Cleveland (2000), then moved to Scotland (2006). In 2008, our oldest, Brendan, moved to Seattle, Washington, with his partner Mayumi. Now they are expecting a daughter this coming May, and we are facing a level of fractionation that we are having trouble coping with. Kenneth had been up to see them last July and Diane is planning to go to help with the baby in May. I, however, had no plans to visit them in Seattle, and had been feeling rather uncomfortable about this, so I booked a flight for a short trip to Seattle between Christmas and New Years.

On the Tuesday after Christmas, I caught the 5:12am BART train from Pleasanton-Dublin to San Francisco Airport for my 8am Virgin America flight to Seattle, arriving there about 10:30, where I enjoyed the free wireless internet service while I waited for Brendan to pick me up. The weather is startlingly beautiful: sunny, mild, clear.

There then followed three days in which were packed with a month or more of intensive Seattle Adventures:

Day 1:

1. Sammamish River and Pho lunch. Tuesday’s Adventures started with a walk along the Sammamish River, near Brendan and Mayumi’s apartment. This river used to be twisty and shady, with lots of dead trees and banks; the salmon loved it. Then the Army Corps of Engineers did its thing, rationalizing the river by straightening and dredging it; the fish hated it and didn’t do so well. Now they are trying to put it back somewhat like it was before, but it’s not as easy to unstraighten a place as it was to untwist it, so progress is slow, and here and there dead logs have been tipped into the river. They have a long way to go!

We stopped along the way on our walk to have lunch at the Pho Than Brothers restaurant in Redmond, one of Brendan and Mayumi’s favorite places. It turns out the Pho (pronounced “fuh”), a Vietnamese beef-and-rice-noodle dish, is big in Seattle; we see Pho restaurants repeatedly over the next two days.

2. Microsoft. Then it’s time for the Microsoft Tour. Brendan has worked for Microsoft for a bit more than a year, during which time he’s mostly been occupied with cleaning up Windows 7 for release (along with a couple thousand other people). He is clearly proud of himself; we got signed copies of Windows 7 for Christmas this year, which I’ll now use for running my one Windows program: Winsteps (it’s the only program that I know of that runs a form of advanced psychological measurement analyses known as Rasch analysis).

The Microsoft campus is enormous, bigger than a major university campus, spread out on both sides of State Highway 520, with at least 100 separate buildings (40,000 employees just in the Puget Sound area, bigger than the town I grew up in). Today, between Christmas and the New Year, however, most of it is like a ghost town; Brendan only sees one person that he knows. Around the corner from his office there are 3 guys he doesn’t know playing foos ball.

Brendan makes me wait outside in the hall while he erases his white boards and hides his work; they take the security of their intellectual property security very seriously here! I’m startled to find our old living room couch sitting in his office, the one we bought in 1981, not long before he was born; as soon as we brought it home, we had fights with our cat over it, when she decided it looked like a pretty nice scratching post. Brendan, who can’t stand for anything to be thrown away, eventually cajoled it away from us and took it off to Cleveland with him. Now it sits incongruously in the middle of this nexus of high technology. On a bookshelf, surrounded by old textbooks and computer manuals, a collection of favored tchatchkas: kimono-clad Japanese doll in a case; replica of the TARDIS; a set of action figures from one of the Final Fantasy Games, still in their box. So this is where my oldest son hangs out, doing his work! I will picture him here, working on whatever comes next after Windows 7.

After that, we stop at the Microsoft Visitor Center, which looks like a museum but is really more of an extended product placement for Microsoft products. The large, interactive table-top computer screen known as the “Microsoft Surface” is one of the main crowd-pleasers, allowing multiple users to independently and simultaneously manipulate objects like photos and chess pieces. Clearly, touchscreens of various kinds are an important Coming Thing.

Home again, we work on dinner while waiting for Mayumi to come home: a delicious steamed salmon dish from Hokkaido, Japan’s northern island. After that, I try to stay up and chat with them, but waves of exhaustion wash over me, and there is nothing for it but to crawl off to bed and crash.

Day 2: I get up early, before sunrise, see Mayumi off to work, then go for a run up and down the Sammamish River, making a big loop out of the trails that run along both banks. Temperatures in the upper 30’s; it feels refreshing.

3. Chittenden Locks. We head out for the Chittenden Locks, on the west side of Seattle, crossing Lake Washington, past the University of Washington, and over the ridge between east and west parts of northern Seattle. I love the lakes, hills and ridges that complexify the landscape here, frustrating attempts to impose a grid pattern of rectilinear streets and making driving unusually difficult for a major American city: The roads twist and turn, run up and down steep hills and change names regularly as if this were a European city.

The locks turn out to be a pair of sea locks, one very large, the other medium large. In contrast to Glasgow’s narrow canal and locks, used by hobbyists as a kind of historical re-enactment, these locks are real working locks for safely taking boats of various kinds from Puget Sound into a series of interior rivers and lakes in the interior. Boats are queued up upstream waiting for their turn to go out the medium sized lock. There is even a traffic signal for them.

On the far side of the locks there is an elaborate fish ladder for the salmon. It’s out of season, but we go down into the underwater viewing area, where humans can participate vicariously in the drama of mature salmon swimming against the torrent as they try to return to their birthplace to spawn. Obviously, this makes a handy metaphor for lots of things in life: struggling against powerful forces in search of something deep inside us that urges us forward, suffering setbacks, but persisting anyway, all for the sake of sex/romance and fame/progeny.

4. Space Needle and Science Fiction Museum. We’ve worked up an appetite at the locks, so we head for Marianne’s for lunch and a visit. Marianne is Conal’s ex-partner and a botanist specializing in tree diseases. There we meet her current partner, Michael, as well as my niece Becky, her boyfriend Nick, and my nephew Pat. We always have great conversations with Marianne, and her kids are charming as always, so two hours there passes quickly. Afterwards, we stop briefly at the hospital where Mayumi works as an oncology nurse, in the Capitol Hill area.

We drop the car off with Mayumi and take the bus to the Space Needle. I am struck by how friendly and helpful the bus driver is. People talk to him the whole time; he jokes with them; they ask him for directions, and, unlike Glasgow bus drivers, he is genuinely helpful and clearly cares about his passengers. I find this heart-warming.

We don’t have much time, but decide to check out the Space Needle first, before the sun sets. The Space Needle is like a smaller version of the CN Tower in Toronto, but with more interesting views out over Seattle’s varied landscape in all directions. East: Lake Union, where a hydro-plane is taking off, and beyond that, Lake Washington and the city of Bellevue; north: the Locks we’d visited in the morning; south: the sky-scrapers of the city center; west: Puget Sound, the late sun glinting on the rough waters. And on various sides, in the far distance, rows of jagged mountains. We circle several times, inside and out, taking photos, before taking the elevator back down.

I’ve read about the Science Fiction Museum in Locus, the science fiction writer’s magazine that I get; it’s built around Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s personal collection of science fiction books, models, movie props (they have a whole arsenal of Star Trek phasers of varying vintages), posters, videos. There is a section devoted to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame; we stop to watch a video about Gene Wolfe, author of the amazing four-volume Book of the New Sun, which I spent a couple of years working my way through in the early 1980’s. In fact, all of my favorite science fiction writers are here: From my youth: Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Andre Norton, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jack Williamson. From my early adulthood: Roger Zelazny, Samuel Delaney, Ursula K. LeGuin, John Varley; and from more recent years: Kim Stanley Robinson, Neale Stephenson, Vernor Vinge, Greg Egan, Bruce Sterling. Kitsch next to transcendence; space opera, sociological science fiction, near-future extrapolation, far future metaphysical speculation.

We stagger out of the museum; there is a full moon shining down, glinting off the undulating surfaces of the whimsical Frank Gehry structure that houses it. Mayumi is waiting for us, and takes us on a drive around downtown Seattle in the dark, stopping for a delicious dinner at the Palace Kitchen along the way. We end up at an enormous Japanese market and bookstore; I buy smoked salmon for Diane’s mom and they buy a Japanese children’s book that preaches the benefits of frugality.

Returning home we are not done yet: Brendan puts on the latest Miyazaki movie, Ponyo. We’re all tired from working or Adventuring, but I’m not too tired to miss the influence of The Little Mermaid, Wagner’s Die Walkyrie, and Mozart’s Magic Flute, all within a movie that beautifully captures the mentality and spirit of a bright but somewhat out of control five-year-old.

Day 3: After all this, it’s a bit difficult to get up the next morning. But it’s New Year’s Eve, and we resolve to go out for one more adventure.

5. Snoqualmie Falls and the Northwest Railway Museum. Half an hour’s drive from Brendan and Mayumi’s place in Redmond, there is Snoqualmie Falls, overlooked by the Salish Lodge. Years ago, these featured prominently in David Lynch’s weird TV drama Twin Peaks, but in fact the Falls have been a tourist destination for more than a hundred years, when a train line was built out to them, just like the rail line that used to run to the Campsie Glen north of Glasgow (which also features a waterfall). As with the other tourist destinations on this trip, the winter weather (it’s clouded over today and is beginning to rain) has driven away most of the tourists and it is easy to get unimpeded views of the Falls and hotel. December Adventures Rule!

We drive up the road a few miles to the Northwest Railway Museum. Compared to the UK, with places like the National Railway Museum in York, this is a sad affair, with rows of rescued locomotives, passenger cars and odd service and construction rail vehicles rusting in the rain. However, close to the museum visitor center, the trains are in better shape and we spend 15 minutes in the bookshop talking with the garrulous, enthusiastic train guy who runs the place and keeps trying to get Brendan and Mayumi to volunteer in the museum. Afterwards, as we drive back into Redmond, we muse on the lure of obsolete technology, because it’s clearly the case that my kids are as drawn to obsolete videogame systems as the museum train guy is to trains. What is it about these old technologies that so charms people? Childhood nostalgia (even when it’s not one’s own childhood one is nostalgic for)? The fact the obsolete technology is no longer new and scary but has been rendered somehow cute with time? Or is this another metaphor, as if we saw ourselves in these old machines, recognizing in them all our own obsolete parts?

On the way back we pick up Mayumi and Brendan’s friends Kayo and Jeremy and all go out to lunch at an Italian restaurant in Redmond. The afternoon of New Year’s Eve Day turns out to be a great time to linger over a meal, talking about work, rapidly approaching parenthood (both Mayumi and Kayo are pregnant with their first children), and the ways in which having to speak in a nonnative language changes one’s sense of who one is and what opportunities and difficulties emerge from this situation. It is one of those far-ranging, memorable conversations that linger afterwards in memory. As Mayumi and Brendan drive me back to the airport and I board my plane and head back down the coast to San Francisco on the last day of 2009, I am both exhausted and filled by these three days, like a plant we’d thought was finished for the season suddenly bursting in flower, an unexpected gift.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Update on the Change Interview

Entry for 1 January 2010:

Judith, a PhD student, writes, “My dissertation deals with the qualitative investigation of change process in art therapy. We were thinking of using the Change Interview for the data collection. I already read the paper you published in Frommer`s book about qualitative psychotherapy research. My question was if you could give me some more relevant literature about the change interview, so that I can deepen my knowledge about it."

Here is my reply:

Dear Judith,

Hmm... that's an interesting question. Because the Change Interview is not a psychometric measurement instrument but rather a qualitative interview protocol, one can't point to specific validity and reliability data. That means that the instrument really stands or falls on the basis of the usefulness of the data generated for addressing particular research questions.

At the core of the Change Interview are questions on three key issues: (a) Pre-post changes; (b) helpful factors; and (c) hindering factors. Each of these questions has a literature to go with it, reviewed in Elliott & James, 1989, for example:

Elliott, R. & James, E. (1989). Varieties of client experience in psychotherapy: An analysis of the literature. Clinical Psychology Review, 9, 443-468.

John McLeod has a line of research on clients' qualitative perceptions of how they've changed; see also Klein & Elliott, 2006:

Klein, M.J., & Elliott, J. (2006). Client Accounts of personal change in Process-Experiential psychotherapy: A methodologically pluralistic approach. Psychotherapy Research. 16, 91-105.

Helpful and hindering factors also have their own literatures; see for example, papers in the recent 2008 special section of Psychotherapy Research on research on client experiences of therapy. Timulak recently reviewed some of this literature:

Timulak, L. (2007). Identifying core categories of client-identified impact of helpful events in psychotherapy: A qualitative meta-analysis. Psychotherapy Research, 17. 305-314.
The Change Interview is now a key element of the Hermeneutic Single Case Efficacy Design (HSCED); see Elliott, 2001, 2002, and Elliott et al., 2009. HSCED studies have enabled us to develop further interesting uses for Change Interview data, and we are continuing to do so:

Elliott, R. (2001). Hermeneutic single case efficacy design (HSCED): An overview. In K.J.Schneider, J.F.T. Bugental & J.F. Fraser (eds.), Handbook of Humanistic Psychology (pp. 315-324), Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Elliott, R. (2002). Hermeneutic Single Case Efficacy Design. Psychotherapy Research, 12, 1-20.
Elliott, R., Partyka, R., Wagner, J., Alperin, R. & Dobrenski. R., Messer, S.B., Watson, J.C. & Castonguay, L.G. (2009). An Adjudicated Hermeneutic Single-Case Efficacy Design of Experiential Therapy for Panic/Phobia. Psychotherapy Research, 19, 543-557. [Appendices available at:]

Was Freud a Mistranslated Experiential Therapist?

Entry for 3 January 2010:

It's beginning to sound like most of what we in the PCE tradition hate about Freud is a really a result of mistranslation: expert, experience-distant, intellectualizing terms like "interpretation",“transference”, “defence”, “cathexis”, “parapraxis”, not to mention, “ego”, “superego”, and “id”.

My friend Jo Hilton, who teaches part time in the Counselling courses at the University of Edinburgh, sent the following to me, from the Translator's Preface (p. xxix) by Alan Bance of the new Penguin edition of Freud’s Wild Analysis (Adam Phillips, General Editor):

" ... English, no doubt tends to euphemism. It certainly didn't seem quite right - and neither did it to earlier translators to translate the brutally honest "erraten" literally as guess in contexts that related to the analyst's attempts to put a construction on the meaning of the patient's revelations. "Conjecture" or "interpret" seem more respectful terms, offering fewer hostages to fortune. But if the equivalent of "guess" was good enough for Freud ...? This is an example of the way that the translator can begin to identify with the translatee, even to the point of trying to protect the latter's posthumous interests"

Jo notes, “He [Alan Bance] goes on to talk about the way that Freud is careful always to manage the ambivalence between art and science that exists in psychoanalysis - he talks about Freud's humorous intelligence and avoidance (for me, like Rogers) of idolatory.”

She says, “I think that Strachey along with Freud's acolytes did him a disservice in over Latinising his work. I have always referred to Jeremy Holmes’ position that meta-phor [in] Greek means "carry across" and is an equivalent to the Latinised trans-ferre ... and so to transference.”

Thus, the German word Freud used for what has been translated as “transference” was Ubertragung, meaning to carry over or across. In other words, transference is a “carry over effect”.

Strachey also translated the German Abwehr as “defence” rather than the colloquial “fending off’ or “warding off” (with which it is cognate).

And what started the whole exchange with Jo: What is today referred to as interpretation was erraten in Freud’s colloquial German: "to guess", as in "to take a guess, or to guess at the answer to something", but also "to figure out". This is uncannily similar to what we call “empathic conjecture” in Process-Experiential/Emotion-Focused Therapy.

And what about “ego”, “superego”, and “id”? These are Strachey’s translations of Freud’s ich (= “I”), ├╝ber-ich (= “over-I”), and es (= “it”), perfectly good German pronouns and a pronoun-based linguistic construction.

Jo says that people in the psychoanalytic/psychodynamic community are now trying to reclaim Freud from these bad translations, something that should bring psychodynamic and humanistic-experiential traditions closer together, if it is successful.

Friday, January 01, 2010

American Train Systems: Amtrak from Stockton

Entry for 28 December 2009:

On our way back from Murray Creek to Pleasanton, we’d agreed to drop my nephew Luke off at the train station in Stockton, so he could take the San Joaquin train down the Central Valley to Hanford, where he would catch a bus over the Coast Range to Paso Robles. We left Murray Creek at a bit after 7am. As we drove down out of the foothills, the fog thickened into a classic Central Valley pea soup. We found the Stockton Amtrak station without too much trouble, about 45 minutes early. There was almost no one there. Luke went inside to pick up his ticket. There were only 3 trains scheduled to stop there that morning. The woman at the ticket counter told us apologetically that the Bakersfield and Oakland trains were expected to arrive at about the same time but no one knew exactly which one would get there first. She carefully explained that the Bakersfield train, the one that Luke was taking would be going in that direction (pointing East, to our left), while the Oakland train would be going the opposite direction (pointing West, to our right). We found this puzzling, but when we went out to the platform to check things out, we discovered that although there were two platforms, they were not in fact numbered, nor was there an overpass or tunnel for getting between the two platforms. If both trains were in the station at the same time, it would be quite difficult to get to the one on the far platform.

We then drove a few blocks north and spent a half an hour wandering around downtown Stockton, including the County Courthouse where my father, who was a lawyer for his day job, used to argue cases.

When we returned to the train station, there were lots of people there, waiting for one or the other of the two trains. A female announcer came on the PA system to report dramatically that the two trains were racing to see which one would arrive at the station first. Finally, we spied a light in the West: it was the Bakersfield train! Then we noticed that there was also a train coming from the East: the Oakland train; however, this train had apparently lost the race, because it stopped approaching. The Bakersfield train, all 4 double-decker cars of it, pulled into the station. Now it became apparent to us that this station could only accommodate one train at a time. We hugged Luke goodbye and wished him well for his second semester at University.

After the train had left, we didn’t stick around to watch the Oakland train, now 20 minutes late, come in. On the way back to the car, however, we did stop to read the commemorative plaque for the train station, citing it as an historic building, constructed in 1900. This is about as good as train service gets in California, more a relic of the past, a kind of hobby transport, rather than a really useful service. It’s clear to me that plenty of people like to take the train, because it was pretty full, but it’s a shame to see it so poorly supported and provided for. It gives all the more reason to appreciate the level of train service in the Scotland and the UK, not to mention Europe more generally.