Sunday, December 21, 2014

Book Chapter by Muntigl et al on Empathic Practices in Person-Centred Therapy

I've now read the parts of a book chapter by Muntigl and colleagues (available on Google Books, see link at bottom of this entry). This is a very interesting conversation analysis study based on videos from the person-centred arm of Greenberg et al.'s York Depression studies comparing person-centred to EFT.  There is some really nice stuff here, i.e., "troubles telling" as "empathic opportunity", and five kinds of empathic response favoured by person-centred therapists: naming another's feelings, gist formulations, upshot formulations, and co-completing another's utterances, and nonverbal following responses.  Some of these are newly described.  They also describe the precision with which nonverbal following responses are offered in response to indicators of the client's affectual stance.  I particularly liked their discussion of the delicate epistemic stance of person-centred therapists. 

I realise that few person-centred therapists are into conversation analysis, but I think that this sort of analysis really captures to how good person-centred therapy and counselling actualy works.  I would like all my students on our Person-Centred Postgrad Diploma Counselling at Strathclyde to know this stuff, and I wish I could develop some sort of research input for the course on this.  It's also very relevant to EFT practice, which is based on person-centred empathic work as its baseline. 

As a side-note, one of our MSc students, Catherine Cowie, recently completed her dissertation on the same topic, so it will be useful for us to compare her results to those of Muntigl et al.  In the meantime, I'll just give the reference here and add my endorsement to this line of research: 

Muntigl, P., Knight, N. & Watkins A. (2014). Empathic practices in client-centred psychotherapies: Displaying understanding and affiliation with clients.  In E-M. Graf, M. Sator & T Spranz-Fogasy (eds.), Discourses of Helping Professions (pp. 33–57). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing.

Author summary: DOI: 10.1075/pbns.252.03mun
Google Books extracts:

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Do Biological Explanations of Psychological Difficulties Reduce Empathy in Mental Health Professionals?

Interesting report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (USA) about a series of clinical perception analog studies in which mental health practitioners were given written vignettes of clients/patients with common mental health difficulties (schizophrenia, depression, social phobia), and then randomly given either biological or psychosocial explanations for the person's problems. (I thought the explanations were quite well done and evidence-based.) After that, they were asked to rate their feelings toward the client on 6 relational emotions (including "warm, compassionate, sympathetic"), labelled by the researchers as "empathy". 

Results: The researchers said that they had expected that the biological explanations would make practitioners more sympathetic to the hypothetical clients.  Instead, they were surprised to find that the so-called empathy ratings were higher when practitioners were given psychosocial explanations (e.g., trauma, poor living conditions, family conflict) than biological explanations (e.g., family history of the problem, MRI results.) 

I think that humanistic psychologists will not be surprised by these results, since this is consistent with what we have been warning of for years. Still, it is a sobering finding for those of us who do like to dabble in neuroscience (e.g., brain correlates of empathy).  However, I think that what is really going on here is that the psychosocial explanations provided a more coherent narrative for the person's problems, locating them within the person's life history and context to a much greater extent that the biological explanations did.  Empathic, caring emotions are much easier to access within a narrative context. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Scottish Independence Referendum: An American Expatriate Perspective

--> Entry for 21 Sept 2014:

People have been asking me about the current mood of people in Scotland in the wake of the Scottish Referendum vote last Thursday.  Many people in Scotland have been surprised to learn that American citizens living in Scotland could not vote, but nevertheless that was the case. As a result, Diane and I were bystanders to this process, caught in the middle of an historic event but able to do little except share our views and encourage people who could vote to do so.

I think that for most people this was a very personal choice:  It was interesting to see how the different people in our circle made up their minds. People from England living in Scotland voted predominantly No, because of their sense of vulnerability as an often-resented minority; some English people we know were so afraid of independence that they had vowed to move back to England if the Referendum had succeeded.  You voted No if you thought that independence was going to threaten your livelihood (eg if you worked in the finance industry), your pension, or your research grants; if you didn’t trust Alex Salmond and the Scottish National Party; or if you were just generally risk-averse.

In the same way, you voted Yes if you felt adventurous; longed for or idealized the rational social democracies of Scandinavia and imagined that an independent Scotland would follow their example; felt overlooked, short-changed, alienated by the Westminster government in London; if you didn’t like having nuclear weapons parked down the Clyde from where you live; or if you just didn’t trust the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition (or the Labour Party for that matter) to act in the best interests of Scotland.  This appears to have been more the case for young people than people our age.  In the end, it is easy to imagine that most people who voted Yes did so from a genuine sense of doubt and fear that the three main parties in Westminster have either the will or the means to come to an agreement any time soon about further devolution for Scotland. 

And for us, as foreign nationals living in the UK, it was difficult not to be strongly swayed by the increasing xenophobia of the ruling coalition, as evident in their anti-immigrant policies and Eurosceptic views.  We were (and still are) afraid that the Westminster government is going take the UK out of the European Union while making foreigners like us feel even more unwelcome.  So we too were strongly influenced by our sense of vulnerability but saw an independent Scotland as a potentially friendlier place for us to live.

Yes and No supporters in Glasgow found themselves in the particularly puzzling place of being in a city that had voted Yes while because the rest of Scotland went for No.  Perhaps that sense of dissonance explains why violence broke out in George Square on Friday night (it was quickly contained).

So what is the current mood of the people of Scotland?  I think that most of us are relieved that the whole long, loud messy business is done with (for now anyway).  Beyond that, it depends which side of the Referendum you ended up on:  Folks who had voted No were greatly relieved that the Independence Referendum didn’t pass, thus sparing them from the negative outcomes or uncertainties they had envisioned.  On the other hand, many folks who voted Yes are feeling pretty let down.  Other Yes supporters, however, are vowing to fight on for greater devolution and autonomy for Scotland.

But in any event now we know that in spite of the many real uncertainties about what independence might bring, fed by the scare tactics of the No campaign, and the last-minute three-party promise of significant further devolution, 45% of the 85% of eligible Scottish voters were still willing to leave the UK.  Moreover, some very large but as yet unmeasured proportion of those voting No were in favour of further devolution, seeing that as a safer path to increased Scottish autonomy than a precipitous leap into independence.  In other words, it’s pretty clear that a large majority of the people of Scotland want to see change from the status quo of under-representation and dominance by the overly-centralised British Government; the main disagreement is over how much and how fast. 

For now, everyone, Yes- and No-supporters alike, is watching Westminster to see if the powers that be will allow themselves to be dragged into further devolution by Gordon Brown (the former UK Labour Prime Minister who has taken this on).  The day after the Referendum, Alex Salmond announced he will step down as head of the SNP and thus as First Minister of Scotland (from a US perspective, think State Governor but in a parliamentary system). This appears to be intended to allow his successor (probably Nicola Sturgeon) a free hand in continuing to push for devolution, or failing that, to begin planning another independence referendum. What all this means is that this is not over, for either Scotland or the UK.  Is anybody ready for English Devolution?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Questions & Answers about Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) and Social Anxiety

Entry for  26 Aug 2014:
 This was written some time ago for a mental health organisation website, but unfortunately never saw the light of day.

1. Can you say a few words about how you became interested in researching social anxiety and about your therapeutic approach?

Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) -- not to be confused with the “Emotional Freedom Technique” – is a humanistic approach to psychotherapy or counseling that is similar to Person-Centred Counselling but is more structured and combines a genuine, caring, empathic relationship with specialized techniques to help clients deal with specific issues that they bring to sessions.  These issues, referred to as “tasks”, include internal conflicts, unresolved relationship issues such as emotional injuries, puzzling personal overreactions to situations, and problems finding the most useful level of emotions.

EFT was originally developed as a treatment for depression in the late 1980’s, before being extended to trauma in the 1990’s.  However, there is a large overlap between depression and anxiety, so EFT therapists have always had to work with anxiety alongside other presenting problems.  Furthermore, many clients who present with traumas such as childhood mistreatment suffer from PTSD, which is usually regarded as a type of anxiety problem.  Building on this earlier work, in the past 10 years EFT therapist-researchers in the Canada, Ireland, Israel and Scotland have begun turning their attention to anxiety as a main presenting problem.

2. How is EFT different from other approaches in working with social anxiety?

Social anxiety is fear of other people, most commonly fear of speaking or doing things in public and fear of close relationships with others.  The main other approach to social anxiety is cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT).  CBT focuses on the dysfunctional thoughts or beliefs that generate social anxiety, as well as the avoidance or safety behaviours that maintain it.  EFT sees dysfunctional thoughts and avoidance behaviours as the result of underlying emotion processes, such as “anxiety splits” in which one part of the person tries to induce fear in order to prevent perceived social dangers.

3. What is the evidence that EFT is effective in working with social anxiety?

We’ve just completed a reasonably large study with socially anxious clients, comparing EFT to person-centred counseling.  Clients in both treatments showed substantial pre-post improvements, but clients in EFT improved more, especially on measures of social phobia and the particular issues they wanted to work on.  Our results also suggest that we got better at working with social anxiety as the study progressed, as we developed and refined our approach, especially in the EFT arm of the study.  We are currently writing this study up for publication but a preliminary report was published last year in the journal Person-Centered and Experiential Psychotherapies.

We’ve found that some socially anxious clients benefit from an unstructured nondirective approach; however, we’ve also found that many others have trouble coping with unstructured social situations and therefore seem to do better with more structure and focus in their treatment.

4.What can a client expect to happen when they engage in Emotion-Focused Psychotherapy?

The first few sessions of EFT are fairly similar to Person-Centred Counselling (from which EFT is a development):  The therapist begins by trying to establish a genuine, caring and empathic relationship.  However, for clients with social anxiety who are afraid of unstructured one-to-one situations EFT therapists try to offer more structure at the beginning, until they feel safe with the therapist.  Also, EFT therapists tend to provide more information about the nature of therapy and social anxiety.  As therapy progresses, EFT therapists listen very carefully for what the client is bringing into each session to work on, such as being puzzled about why they get so anxious around other people, or self-criticism, or unresolved feelings from having been bullied when younger.  These are examples of EFT “tasks”, specific pieces of the social anxiety that can be worked on bit by bit, using specific techniques such as “replaying” a social anxiety episode like it was a movie to recapture triggers; or having an imaginary conversation with your internal critic or even with the people who bullied you.  The therapist never imposes these ways of working on the client, but does offer them as things that EFT therapists have found to be helpful with clients.  The therapist also tries to leave time at the end of each session for helping the client set aside any painful emotions that they might have gotten in touch with, and also for reviewing what has been accomplished in the session and what might be next in therapy.  In the end, however, the therapeutic relationship comes first, both because it is healing in itself and because it provides a safe situation for the client to work productively on the difficult or painful experiences that are at the heart of social anxiety.

5. How long is a course of treatment?

The version of EFT that we’ve developed for social anxiety at the University of Strathclyde lasts up to 20 X 50-min sessions.  Although some clients require fewer sessions or more sessions, most are able to make productive use of the available sessions.

6. Do you have a few helpful strategies or tips for someone suffering from social anxiety?

First, the thing about social anxiety is that everybody from Freud to your gran knows that the only way to get over being afraid of other people is to spend time hanging out with them until you stop being so afraid.  The problem, is how do you get yourself to do that, when you’re so scared? 

Second, self-acceptance is a very important part of recovery from social anxiety.  EFT is an acceptance-based therapy, like mindfulness. We say, “You have to arrive at a feeling before you can leave it.” It’s important to accept the fact that you are afraid of other people; this is the starting point.

Third, it’s useful to try to change emotion with emotion, to begin to move past simply focusing on being afraid of the horrible things that might happen with other people.  So it’s very useful to discover other feelings you might have:
·      Self-reflective curiosity about what your underlying feelings are and how this social anxiety stuff works for you
·      Connecting sadness at missing out on human connection
·      Protective anger at past unfair treatment or violations of your boundaries
·      Self-compassion for all the difficult things you’ve been through and the sad and lonely parts of you.

These are a few suggestions for beginning the journey of recovering from social anxiety.  However, because social anxiety comes from and involves relationships with other people, it is best treated within a safe, empathic, genuine relationship, whether that’s a counsellor/psychotherapist, parent or partner.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

PCE Conference in Buenos Aires

Entry for 24 July 2013:

Wonderful PCE conference in Buenos Aires!  I was overwhelmed by friendliness and care of our Argentine hosts. The weather turned cold (3C this morning), but that did not take away from the warmth of our Latin American colleagues.  High points:
• Unstructured large group (150 - 200 people) that inevitably ended up focusing on intercultural issues, some tragic, like the Malvinas-Falkland War and the Fukushima accident, other charming like the young American grad student who said she was going to tell her father how nice all the people she met were.
• The charming conference site (a private primary school with small desks that made me feel like I was 10 again).
• Keynote talks by the likes of Charlie O'Leary (who charmed everyone's socks off) and Shoji Murayama (who reviewed 50 years of building a person-centred community near Kyoto).
• A varied and interesting program that included sessions by Margaret Warner's session on fragile process and fragile relationships (including a very personal and moving account of her own journey) and Sylvia Lombardi's very helpful sessions on doing PCE therapy via Skype (just to pick two idiosyncratic choices)
• Oh, and my two presentations went very well, also:  The Counselling for Depression Workshop was popular enough that many people were very disappointed when they had to be turned away (they asked me to repeat the session on Thursday morning but unfortunately I had to miss the final half day of the conference), while the session on the Personal Questionnaire content analysis study was also well attended and successful, in spite of research not really being the South American PCE therapists’ thing.
I’ve heard many wonderful stories over the past few days, and hope I will be able to remember some of them, because many were very much worth retelling.  The sequential translation in large group and break out sessions provided me with a Spanish crash course, so that by the end of the conference both my receptive and expressive Spanish had greatly improved.  This should be very helpful as we move on to Ecuador today for several days of EFT training in Quito.  I’m looking forward to coming back to South America again before too many more years have passed.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Prospects for the Next Year: An I Ching Reading on Turning 64

Entry for 1 June 2014:

My brother Willy reminded me that 64 is the number of hexagrams in the I Ching, the ancient Chinese book of divination. His email gave me the idea of consulting it about the prospects for the next year: Unfortunately, I left my yarrow stalk oracle (actually they are chicken skewers but they work just fine) in Ohio. However, it's all on line now, and I found a yarrow stalk oracle site I kind of liked, although I'm not completely sure of the readings (as usual). 

Any way, I got hexagram 37, Jia Ren/The Family, moving to 33, Dun/Strategic Retreat/Save your bacon. I don't remember ever seeing either of these hexagrams before back in my I Ching consulting days in the late 1960's/early 1970's. 


Hexagram 37:  Wind over Fire: The Family: There is a lot here about first protecting one's family, however that may be defined, by perseverance even in hard times.


Hexagram 33: Heaven over Mountain: Strategic Retreat: This then moves to making sure to hang onto the valuable essential things that sustain one's life. 

 Together, these seem like really good advice!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Dundrennnan Abbey Adventure on my Birthday

Entry for 31 May 2014:

Many, many warm thanks to all my friends and family who have wished me happy birthday in various way. We had lovely Adventure near Kirkcudbright visiting Dundrennnan Abbey, a ruined 12th century Cistercian abbey with wonderful stonework.  As is so often the case for us, the high point was our interaction with the Historic Scotland docent/caretaker.  Glyn, an enthusiastic retired stone mason from Yorkshire, kept dragging us around the site to show one wonderful piece of stone work or architectural feature after another.  
 Right before we left, he took us to an iron gate in the south side of the cloister, which he said had been the door to the kitchen at some point:  "Do you seen that bottom stone on the right side of the door frame?, " he asked, pointing to a lovely carving of flower that stands out against the straight vertical groove carved through the stack of stones there.  "That were just some guy who decided one day to cut t' stone that way.  He didn't get paid for it, he just did it to say he were here.  And here he still is, you can read him in t' stone, all these hundreds of years later!"  The big smile on Glyn's face showed his vicarious pride, empathically resonating with his fellow craftsman across more than 800 years.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Spring 2014 EFT Network Meeting

The Spring 2014 EFT Network meeting will take place
Saturday, 3 May 2014: Video: Rhonda Goldman: EFT Case Formulation
Time: Saturday noon - 5pm

If you are interested in attending please contact me for more details.

Agenda/Approximate Timings:
1. Check-in/update on your practice, including EFT News Update (1 hr)
2. Video (1 hr)
3. Break: Please bring a wee snack to share; we will provide tea/coffee/juice (.5 hr)
4. Skill practice: open marker work; unless otherwise agreed (1 hr)
5. Group supervision (1 hr)
6. Processing (.5 hr)

You don't have to tell me if you're coming; but it would be helpful to know numbers.

We've also scheduled the next two EFT Glasgow Quarterly Network Meetings:

Summer: Saturday, 30 Aug 2014: Video: EFT for Depression, part 1
Autumn: Saturday, 29 Nov 2014: Video: EFT for Depression, part 2

All EFT Network Meetings are free and open to everyone who has completed at least one level of EFT training and is interested in developing their EFT practice.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Emotion-Focused Therapy Masterclass: Emotion Focused Therapy for Anxiety

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

Openings remain for the next EFT masterclass.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Al Mahrer, Eccentric Humanistic Psychologist, RIP

--> Entry for 16 April 2014:

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

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

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

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Craigmillar Castle: Edinburgh's other castle

Entry for 12 April 2014:

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 03, 2014

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

Entry for 3 April 2014:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sanders & Hill’s Counselling for Depression (2014)

Entry for 28 March 2014:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 17, 2014

Bowling to Dalmuir

Entry for 15 March 2014:

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Three and a Half Years

Entry for 13 March 2014:

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

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

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

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