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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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In Your Client's Shoes

To Get a Depressed Client Unstuck, First Understand Their Thought Process

Michael Yapko

By Michael Yapko - Often when I work with depressed clients, I learn about the discriminations they didn’t make that have made matters worse. That typically leads to my asking a series of questions that begin with the word how. I’m not looking to interpret the meaning of people’s depression: I’m trying to understand the way my client is thinking that limits their perspective.

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What Comedians Can Teach Us About Therapy

A Comic-Turned-Therapist's Guide to Dealing with Unruly Clients

Kirsten Lind Seal

By Kirsten Lind Seal - Before I became a therapist, I spent 20 years as a professional performer, during which time I was a regular at standup comedy clubs. Many of the skills I learned as a performer have proven readily transferable to therapy, namely the skill of using humor to defuse tension, create alliance, and challenge what we often call resistance in difficult clients.

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Learning to Let Go

Sometimes, Too Much Investment in a Client's Recovery Keeps Everyone Stuck

Daphne de Marneffe

By Daphne de Marneffe - After decades in practice, I still find myself blindsided by certain clients in ways that both humble and mystify me. I’ve learned that if I’m going to be helpful to these clients, I have to work through something difficult in myself. Our ability to inhabit our clients' experiences is part of what makes us good therapists, but there’s always a delicate balancing act in not getting too involved.

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Getting Comfortable with Discomfort

Using Art Therapy to Welcome the Unknown

Lisa Mitchell

By Lisa Mitchell - As both an art therapist and a marriage and family therapist, I believe that vulnerability, doubt, fear, and uncertainty—feelings most people try to avoid—are essential to getting unstuck. I teach clients how to move beyond "artist’s block," a state of being joylessly trapped in repetitive patterns and rigid expectations, and welcome the type of anxiety around the unknown that creativity invites.

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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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Breaking Through Therapeutic Gridlock

How to Respond When Clients Resist Your Advice

Jay Lappin

By Jay Lappin - As therapists, we need to be open to feedback, even criticism, as a means of deepening the therapeutic relationship. Establishing trust by moving beyond the reflex action of offering a solution and creating a context in which the possibility for transformation is greater than the pull of old patterns is hard work both for clients and for therapists.

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Connecting Emotions to a Felt Body Sense

Using the Body to Help Clients Break Old Habits and Stuck Patterns

Daniel Leven

By Daniel Leven - Many therapists remain so focused on understanding the thoughts and feelings in clients’ minds that they forget about the pivotal information to be gleaned by paying more attention to clients’ bodies. The three-step somatic process below can be used with just about any therapeutic approach, and it will help you directly access the important information that lives within clients’ immediate physical experience.

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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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Solutions for Moving Beyond the Therapeutic Impasse

Three Strategies for Making Progress with Stuck Clients

Steve Andreas

When clients get immersed in their problems, they often suffer from a kind of tunnel vision, focused on a small range of experiences, with their bad feelings taking center stage. When therapy goes wrong, it’s typically because we’ve entered our clients’ trances with them, joining them in their myopic misery. Once caught in such a trance, we need to break the spell, broaden our vision, and open ourselves to new possibilities. Here are three ways to do it.

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