In my opinion, much of modern therapy is dominated by passive forms of listening to the client, as though waiting for them to somehow heal themselves through talking for endless hours about what they are going through.
I rejected that approach soon after earning my doctorate in Clinical and Counseling Psychology (University of New Mexico) almost 45 years ago. I thought to myself, "Aren't clients wanting to see me precisely because I am an expert in all things that psychologically effect the human condition? Aren't they hoping to get definitive answers for what ails and pains them, instead of having me 'hem and haw' as though I don't have a worthwhile perception?"
So I started my lifelong practice of giving clients cogent information about every aspect of psychology in which they had knowledge deficiencies. Developmental Psychology. The Psychology of Men and The Psychology of Women. Cognitive Psychology. The Psychology of Addictions. The Psychology of Human Sexuality. The Psychology of Interpersonal Relationships. The Psychology of Romantic Love. The Psychology of Recovering from Trauma. The Psychology of Stress or Anger Management. Etc.
For the decades that have spanned my career, I have read the latest General Psychology textbook in the academic world once a year, just to review the whole field of behavioral science. I've desired to keep abreast of any and all new developments.
Now back to creating an Action Moment for self-learning and self-help in every session. I usually use the first fifteen minutes of a session to review what the client has been learning and how they are applying it in real life. Then I scope in on a bite-sized issue for this particular session, and switch to Active Learning. I will use role-playing, psychodrama, hypnosis, EMDR, and even invent new techniques on the spot, if it will help my client to make progress.
For instance, last week a woman who considered herself to be a lapsed Christian, said, "I feel so guilty that I worship God on Sunday, but don't trust him during the rest of the week."
I said, "Okay, could you please stand up right now and place your hands on the back of this leather lounge chair."
She did so. I continued. "Now rest your hands lightly on the chair without leaning on it at all."
"Is this what you do on Sundays? You rest lightly on the Lord, while still supporting yourself entirely. Then the rest of the week, you live life your own way as though you don't know or trust God at all?"
She pondered, then smiled. "Exactly. I say I trust God, but I end up never trusting him."
"So let's change this here and now. Please walk around and sit down in the chair, which for our purposes represents Almighty God. Think of the Bible verse that says, 'Underneath are the everlasting arms.' Surrender to the chair. Let the chair do all the work of upholding you and safeguarding you from falling to the floor."
She did so, gingerly at first. Then she sank fully into the chair. A sound of relief escaped her lips. Joy flowed across her face.
"Oh my goodness. This feels really good. I'm actually trusting in the chair—and it's holding me up! I feel safe and protected. And happy."
"Do you suppose you might try doing this with God this week?"
"I'd like to, but how can I make that transition?"
"Easy as pie. Talk to the Lord right now. Tell him about your new intention."
She bowed her head, still sitting peacefully in the chair. "Dear Heavenly Father, I'm sorry for all the time I've spent not really trusting you. But this week I want to let go and let God—I want to surrender to your presence like I'm doing with this chair. In Jesus' name. Amen."
"You just took an action step," I said, inviting her to return to the sofa where she had previously been sitting. "Now just stay mindful of this new intention, and let's see if you can put it into practice this week. Next session I'll look forward to hearing what happened."
For 25 action techniques you can use for self-help, or in individual or couple therapy, read Christian Counseling That Really Works.
To view a Visual Tour of my office, while hearing me succinctly describe my action approach to therapy, visit: AustinPremierTherapy.com.
Blessings, DR. DAN