If you’re going to seek help from a therapist (or coach), then how do you set yourself up for success? How do you find the right therapist? And how has the process of therapy evolved to achieve better and better results? To answer these questions and more, we have a return visit from Dr. Jeffrey Zeig, the Director of the Milton Erickson Foundation. Along with having been a student of Milton Erickson, and being an incredibly skilled therapist and trainer in his own right, Jeff is also the architect of the Evolution of Psychotherapy conference, which pulls together the top minds in the field of psychotherapy to discuss what’s working, what isn’t, and to collaborate on enhancing what’s possible through the art and science of psychotherapy. As a bonus, we also chat about how you can change your negative habits and addictions into positive habits and addictions! Our goal with today’s episode is to give you the best sense of how to get the most out of a decision to seek professional support for yourself and your relationship.
If you’re interested in hearing our first conversation together you can listen to that here:
A little nudge: There is not any one of us that does not have a place in our inner world in which we struggle. We all have areas where we are remarkably competent, and other areas in which we are not functioning at our fullest capacity. We find ways to adapt, defend, and protect ourselves in order to manage despite our shadows- sometimes to our own detriment. A psychotherapist can offer intent attention and support as we learn to untangle our patterns and learn to function more adaptively. Our wounds occur in relationship, and therefore healing is often most effective when it is also relational. We heal when we feel the presence of another person- someone who is unconditionally supporting all of who we are. In this supportive atmosphere we begin to respond to little nudges and gentle pressures, and in discovering our own internal resources we can begin to move in the direction we are designed to go.
Finding the right fit: Due to the fact that healing in psychotherapy depends greatly on the therapeutic rapport between therapist and client, it is critical that you feel met. When you are searching around for a therapist, know that it may take a few tries. As you meet with potential therapists, ask yourself questions such as ‘is this someone I feel rapport with? Is this therapist working hard to understand me? Does this person have the tools that will help me? Do I feel safe in this person’s presence?’ Check in with your felt sense in their space- how does your body respond in their office? Remember that effectiveness of therapy has more to do with the relationship than with the specific techniques and interventions. Note that therapists are aware of this as well and that it is their responsibility as well as yours to assess fit- do not hesitate to share your experience with them as they are trained to help navigate referrals when it is not the right match.
Get the most from therapy: If you can get a very clear image of the outcome you want to see through therapy, the deeper and more effective your process will be. Ask yourself what you want to achieve, and then express this to your therapist. If you are feeling stuck in desperation and lack of clarity, speak this to your therapist as this can then become the first target area. The time formulating your vision of change is invaluable to the healing process, and is medicine in and of itself as it awakens slumbering parts of our consciousness that actually know how to get us there.
See things from a different perspective- We are all the products/results of our habits of being. Nearly 90% of the habits we form are really good for us- the other 10% of our habits are ones that are maladaptive. A psychotherapist can help us see the ways in which our current approaches are not helping us get to where we are wanting to go. Once we see how our perspective can shift, we can begin to change our cognitions, behaviors, physiology, emotions, relationships, and perceptions in order to create new mental mechanisms.
Recycling addictions- from negative to positive: Addictions have a certain intensity of energy to them. We can harness the energy from old habits and direct it into the fuel that propels us into activities that give us more physical, spiritual, social, and emotional meaning to our lives. You might even be able to double up on your addictions! Can you combine an elliptical workout with learning something new? Can you cook and listen to an audiobook? When we can appreciate the underlying energy in our addictions, we can begin to resource it in ways that are beneficial and generative to our personal growth.
Moving into procedural memory: New habits take time to form- it is important to dedicate ourselves to building the muscles around our positive addictions to the point that they become integrated seamlessly into our lives. When, for example, we were learning to tie our shoes, we did it from working memory until, after enough practice, the entire activity moved into procedural memory. We want to dedicate ourselves to our new positive habits until they too enter procedural memory- where we don’t even have to ‘think’ about it.
A Brief history of Psychotherapy: The field of psychotherapy has exponentially expanded with a proliferation of perspectives since its establishment in the mid 1900’s. We can understand some of the different perspectives through the metaphor of a growing tree. Psychoanalysis (which was the basis of the psychotherapy field) asked why the tree was growing the way it was. This approach holds the belief that understanding the roots (the past) is sufficient for understanding the present.
From here, the field began to shift in response to American pragmatism and the advent of the behaviorist schools of thought, which posits that if you change where the sun is, the tree will shift. This approach places much less weight on understanding the why, and much more emphasis on the how. At the similar time the ecosystemic approaches took hold in which psychotherapy was about treating the ecosystem in order to change the tree.
Then the humanistic traditions began to develop modalities that were more about being present and admiring the tree. Now cognitive behavioral therapy is the most dominant approach (due to both effectiveness and popularity due to research and funding) which states that the tree will change depending on our cognitions. At the same time that CBT is dominating the field there are more and more experiential modalities available that help clients understand themselves from an inside out, and bottom up approach. The field continues to shift, expand, and develop with more about more data available about neurobiology.
Talkspace.com – Online therapy that matches you with your perfect therapist. You can communicate with your therapist daily – so they can be there for you during the moments you most need support. Visit talkspace.com/ALIVE and use the coupon code “ALIVE” for $30 off your first month of online therapy.
To learn more about the work of Milton Erikson click here
Read more about Erikson’s work in Uncommon Therapy by Jay Haley
Check out Dr. Jeffrey Zeig’s website to find workshops for professionals
Find his video lectures on Youtube
Learn more about Dr. Zeig’s new project on evocative language here
Go to this website to read about positive addictions
And last, but certainly not least find, out more about the Evolution of Psychotherapy conference!
Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook
Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: