How psychotherapy works

ConsultI have been practicing psychotherapy for nearly 30 years now, continually asking myself (and others) the question: how and why and where and when does therapy get results?

Here are some of the things I have learned:

    1. No one technique or type of therapy works all the time (or even most of the time)
    2. The experience of the therapist is more important than any other qualification
    3. Therapists who can work on different levels – thoughts, emotions, relationships, the body/brain, behaviour and the environment are more likely to be effective
    4. Therapists who adapt to the client with different styles of communication: listening, teaching, nurturing, challenging, directing and humorous – are also more likely to be effective
    5. Analysis of past events or ‘the unconscious mind’ is only marginally useful
    6. It is not what the therapist says that is important; it is what the client does with the information given
    7. Most of the changes the client hopes for will come in the first few sessions
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New book on Reverse Therapy out now

I have now published the new paperback on Reverse Therapy.

This replaces the best-selling 2005 Book M.E., Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia – The Reverse Therapy approach. Contains new and up-to-date information on the Reverse Therapy approach as well as explanations for the conditions it treats. This conditions include: chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, tension myositis, medically unexplained pain, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), eczema, psoriasis and auto-immune disease.

Further information about the book:

Reverse Therapy is a radical Bodymind healing process and is an effective treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and other medically unexplained disorders. It has helped thousands of people recover from these disorders since it was first offered to the General Public in 2003. Reverse Therapy is explained in simple terms, accessible to the general reader. The first chapter describes how the ideas for Reverse Therapy evolved, along with and underlying treatment process. Other chapters explain the nature of these illnesses and what exactly causes the symptoms. Then the book goes on to explain how and why Reverse Therapy works and what sufferers can do to get well again.

To purchase the book on Amazon click here.

A New Map of the Mind

It is now practically a cliche, and has been so ever since Howard Gardner published his work on the 7 different types of Intelligence, that we human beings possess multiple minds. Of which the ‘Rational Mind’ and ‘Emotional Mind’ are perhaps the most familiar.

I was thinking about this fact when one of my clients reminded me of the ‘Rational Mind – Emotional Mind – Wise Mind’ scheme which (I think) was first sketched by Marsha Linehan – the founder of Dialectical-Behaviour Therapy. DBT is the treatment of choice for Borderline Personality Disorder and in my view is a very powerful model indeed and I have great respect for Linehan’s work. The purpose of the model is to help people with Borderline Personality Disorder stay in ‘Wise Mind’, avoiding over-analytical thinking and ‘irrational’ emotions and retaining Mindfulness. This is a good strategy for people who are overwhelmed by anxiety, bad moods and tantrums but I think it is too negative about the Rational Mind and the Emotional Mind. It also leaves out ‘Bodymind’ – the real source of emotional intelligence.

So here is my own model:
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The Truth about Anger Management

Most approaches to anger management are fatally flawed through seeing anger as bad and something to be controlled and avoided. People with ‘anger management issues’ may be referred on to psychobabble specialists like Dr Buddy Rydell as played in the film Anger Management who treat anger as a mental health disorder rather than as a potentially healthy response to poor behaviour on the part of others.

The study of emotional intelligence suggests a different view.

Anger is good:

  • It brings issues out into the open
  • It gets you taken seriously
  • It corrects poor behaviour
  • It initiates change in others
  • It fights injustice (think Martin Luther King)
  • It protects you from manipulators
  • It urges you to leave abusive relationships
  • It forces you to define yourself and what you want
  • It helps you towards self-respect
  • It maintains boundaries between you and others

Rage is bad….
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Facts about Trauma and PTSD

Trauma, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition in which a person goes through a terrible experience (as we see in war veterans) and is then plagued by memory ‘flashbacks’, anxiety, panic, depression, sleeplessness and hyper-vigilance.

Here are the most common myths about Trauma:

  • You never really get over it
  • The trauma is stored in the Unconscious mind
  • The problem needs long term therapy
  • Treatment involves working through so-called ‘irrational’ emotions
  • The cure arrives when the individual learns to control those ‘irrational’ emotions with the ‘rational mind’.

Some facts:

  • The majority of people exposed to awful events do not develop trauma and many people with PTSD do recover
  • There is no such thing as the ‘Unconscious Mind’
  • EMDR therapy is extremely quick
  • Successful treatment means getting rid of irrational ideas and reactions, not emotions

And here are some more facts:

  • It’s fairly uncommon – only about 20% of people who go through a traumatic event actually develop a Traumatic reaction.
  • Some types of therapy can make the problem worse rather than better if they focus on reliving the trauma
  • It is not caused by out of control emotions
  • It is caused by the over-attentive conscious mind
  • Tt is relatively straightforward to eliminate traumatic memories and the symptoms that come with them
  • Traumatic problems are best treated with EMDR.

7 Myths about Anxiety

 medium_4599849705Myth 1. Anxiety is natural

Anxiety might be common but it isn’t natural. The fact that anxiety rates in present-day Africa and Asia are far lower than in the West points to this as does the fact that it is almost non-existent in so-called ‘primitive’ cultures. It is arousal that is natural and anxiety is largely exaggerated (and malignant) arousal. Anxiety disorders are created when thinking centres in the brain are allowed too much time to dwell on worry, perfectionism, guilt and other wrong thinking habits.

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The truth about stress and resilience

This post follows on from my earlier article Why Stress Does Not Exist.

It was Hans Selye who first coined the word ‘Stress’ in relation to non-specific illnesses. Contrary to popular myth, Selye did not say that ‘Stress’ caused illness. What he meant was that if the individual fails to adapt to adverse Life Events then a breakdown in body functions could occur. Examples of ‘bad’ life events include job loss, relationship breakdown, financial disaster, overwork and illness.

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7 keys to Mindfulness

Mindfulness as a word can be misleading as it does not mean a mind which is filled with thoughts. Instead it refers to present-moment awareness. It is a state in which you are focused on what is happening to you in the now. The focus could be on external events such as sights and sounds, or on your sensations and feelings. In fact most forms of meditation, including Transcendental Meditation (TM) are types of Mindfulness. Mindfulness can also be achieved through Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong and the like. Recorded tapes are the most common aid to the practice of Mindfulness.

Here are seven key words and phrases associated with Mindfulness:

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The Buddha and Psychotherapy

After Siddhartha Gautama was enlightened he became the Buddha. Before that time he had been first a great prince and then, after his renunciation, a wandering monk. His aim was to uncover the secret of suffering and find enlightenment. He tried several teachers, starved himself close to death, practised self-torture and meditation, but none of these worked. In despair he decided to sit under a Bo tree, not leaving until he had found either enlightenment or death. Four weeks later it came to him in the night. He ‘saw’ into the ultimate nature of reality: that it was without names, time or permanence. He realised that he was it and it he.

A few weeks after that he gave his first sermon in the Deer Park at Sarnath to five disciples. He told them that he had discovered that everything that arises is subject to cessation, including suffering. The path to enlightenment lay in the Four Noble Truths:

1.   Know that there is dukkha

2.   Understand the origin of dukkha in attachment

3.   Let go of attachment and dukkha

4.   Follow the Eight-fold path

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7 things they don’t teach you at therapy school

When I graduated as a psychotherapist in 1990 I had been taught a lot of things that were never any use in therapy – watching out for ‘transference issues’ was one of them. I had also not been taught a lot of things that I really needed to know but only found out later. So like most therapists I had to make it up as I went along. But now I have been doing it for 23 years I have learnt a few things I am going to share with you.

Here is my list of seven things that really do work.

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