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Five Strategies for When Therapy is Stuck

Bypassing the Limits of Feelings, Judgments, and Language

Steve Andreas

By Steve Andreas - When therapy goes wrong, it’s typically because we’ve entered our clients’ trance, joining them in their myopic misery. Therapy typically hangs on your ability to demonstrate more skill and awareness in using the trancelike qualities of human communication to move beyond the tunnel vision that can stall therapy and prevent change and healing from taking place.

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VIDEO: David Kessler on Coming to Terms with the End

A Special Storytelling Piece from Our 2018 Symposium

David Kessler

When our clients are facing their own mortality, how can we guide them in a way that's both compassionate and realistic? In the following video, therapist David Kessler, an expert on healing from grief, shares the story of his work with a terminally ill client and what it took for her to come to terms with her illness and finally reach a place of acceptance.

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Thinking Outside the Box

Giving Stuck Clients a Therapy Experience Like They've Never Had Before

Cloe Madanes

By Cloe Madanes - There are times when clients are so deeply stuck, not just in the unhappy circumstances of their pain, but in the unshakable sense that nothing they do will make any difference, that they need a little benign shaking up.

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Six Ways to Find Comedy in Even the Darkest Moments

Shaking Your Clients Loose from Their Tragic Stances

Frank Pittman

By Frank Pittman - Therapy, in order to shake people loose from their tragic stances and bounce them into the human comedy, is at its best when it is funny, when the tragic family story being acted out is rewritten to provide a happy ending. I urge therapists to keep these simple guidelines in mind as they go through their day.

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An Eccentric in Therapy

A Storytelling Piece on Looking for Therapy in the Wrong Place

Bruce Jay Friedman

By Bruce Jay Friedman - Stranded in Manhattan on a holiday weekend, Nat Solomon, a visiting academic from Detroit, decided to treat himself to an off-Broadway play. Solomon couldn't take his eyes off the actor who played the psychiatrist. Never before had he seen such compassion in a therapist's face. "On a night that you're not performing," he told the actor after the show, "I'd ask you to simply sit for me, much as you do in the play, and listen."

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Therapy Strategies for Working with Underprivileged Youth

An Inner City School Social Worker Shares Two of His Cases

Howard Honigsfeld

Public School 48, where I’m on staff as a social worker, sits on a block between a juvenile detention center and a strip club. I became a social worker because I wanted to directly address the problems---truancy, childhood depression, and the overwhelming responsibilities of being an older child raising siblings---that were keeping them from functioning well in school. My current job is to counsel children with Special Education Services, as well as to handle the daily emotional crises that arise in a place like PS 48. A week of work can be exciting, frustrating, and often hair-raising---anything but boring.

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Creative Therapy with the Humor Antidote

Using Playfulness to Move Stuck Clients Into Recovery

Cloe Madanes

When clients are deeply stuck, they have lost all sense of perspective, all capacity to see any possible humor or lightness in their problem or in their lives. Emotionally and cognitively, they’re trapped in their own sad story. In these cases, the approach that I’ve found most useful is a kind of soft shock therapy in the form of a humorous paradoxical directive. Playful, humorous strategies can be like therapeutic life preservers, which keep both therapist and client afloat until both can get back to shore. Humor reboots the emotions and enables us to look at our situation with fresh eyes.

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The Accidental Therapist

Jay Haley Didn't Set Out to Transform Psychotherapy

Mary Sykes Wylie

Jay Haley, who died earlier this year at the age of 83, was an unlikely candidate to become a founder of the early family therapy movement. An outsider to the field, he had no formal training in psychology or psychotherapy. Yet, if you ask family and brief therapists who most inspired them, chances are his name will be among the first mentioned, and if you ask which figure inspired the best arguments about therapy, you'll probably get the same result.

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Soft Shock Therapy

The Art of Speaking the Unspeakable

Cloe Madanes

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