PMTH NEWS                                                                03/09/00

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The meaning of words is subtly 
altered in each new context of
usage, and  new words 
may be coined 
at any time.
Ken Gergen, p.130
 
 

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PMTH Gets 
Imaginary Clients
03/09/00
Lois Shawver

PMTH has some new imaginary clients.  They are called "Jack and Jill". Jack and Jill are in therapy with "Taylor."  Taylor's part is authored by a real therapist (and friends) on PMTH.   Jack and Jill is authored by another therapist whose real name shall also remain undeclared.

Jack and Jill have already had one session with Taylor.  It was constructed by Jack and Jill's author posting a note to the list saying what Jack and Jill said.  Then, the other therapist would respond with another note which wold tell us what Taylor said in response.  This went on for some weeks, until Taylor thought it was time to end this session.

Then, a reflecting team sprang into action.  Here the author's of their various roles are less camera shy.  Kilian Fritsch led this team.  Fritsch has led a lot of reflecting teams and taught the process.  He was joined by three others: Marsha McDonough (who has some experience herself as a participant in reflecting teams), Riet Samuels, and Val Lewis.

The results are available for you to see.  But before I give you the links, let me tell you that I have been hoping that PMTH would get some imaginary clients like this.  This way we can show each other how we work.  My hope is that we will continue to work with Jack and Jill in a series of sessions - that we'll talk about how the prorcess went, and then get some more imaginary clients, and another therapist, perhaps even another reflecting team.  Of course, I'll keep PMTH NEWS readers informed about of all of this, if it happens.

In the meantime, do you want to see what we have done? 

Click on this link and you will see the transcript of the original session. 

Click on this one to see the reflecting team in action.

More to come, folks, I hope, in future weeks.
 

Are Therapists Experts on Living?
03/09/00
Tom Strong

Some time back, Val Lewis asked us to consider how we felt about being postmodern in our own eyes and "expert" (or modernist) in the eyes of our clientele. This sparked a wide-ranging discussion. 

What is the difference between these two models?  As Katherine Levine reminded us, the modern expert-based practice of therapy tends to pathologize and then offer remedies, be they forms of therapy or medications.  Pathologizing like this plays right into the commercial trends of managed care where therapy has become a commodity to be rationed on the basis of expert diagnostic and treatment skills requiring compliance to an industry standard.

Val Lewis put forth the view that in a postmodern world without a metanarrative, no one can claim to be more of an expert that is more objective - than the next person, at least not in terms of how people should live their lives. Hence, goes this view, postmodern therapists can't be authoritative advisors on how people should live their lives. In my own (Tom Strong's) view, some of the problem, comes down to our continued use of  the modern term: therapy. To me, this word implies something done to people.

This dovetailed with a related view, put forth by Derrik Klassen, myself (Tom Strong) and others.  We were expressing the view that postmodern therapy is focused on promoting dialogic relationships where conversation can both construct and, alternatively, deconstruct meanings. According to this view, it is in how the therapeutic conversation is undertaken, its way of focusing on collaboration, that makes it possible to elicit and negotiate meanings without a sense that these meanings must meet some "objective criteria" that is external to clients' evaluation. Expertise, for Collaborative Language Systems therapists, for example, means something different than telling people how to live -- as indicated in this interview quote from Harlene Anderson:
 

The therapist does not talk with the client and determine new ways to envision and look at their lives that they hope the client will accept and find helpful. The therapist's expertise is to be in conversation with the expertise of the client.

    Still, questions about therapist expertise come up for mental health professionals who consider themselves postmodern.  In a world that often expects therapists to offer modern advice, postmodern therapists look for for ways to establish a different relational stance to their work. The point is to avoid simply continuing the modern practice of conducting therapy as if the therapist has correct, universally applicable, expert advice to hand out. Sheila McNamee, a PMTH listmember, recently wrote: "If the therapeutic profession itself developed as a modernist project, why or how can we hold on to this profession in a postmodern world?" I, for one, would welcome more discussion in response to McNamee's question.
 
 
 
 
 

Starlight Therapy
03/09/00
Lois Shawver

PMTH seems to be a hotbed for new terms.  Last issue PMTH  gave you the "pagan yelp"
and "idioverse"

This issue, we give you "therapy in the stars."  This was a concept born between the lines as we discussed the way a good therapy session feels when you leave the office.  Inspired by the thought,   Manfred Straehle wrote that as a client:
 
 

"you may leave the
 therapy session each week and climb those stars, and think of what actually occurred here..." 

It was a typo, but we didn't care.  It had a nice ring and Joe Pfeffer responded saying:
 

whether or not you meant to say that, it's a wonderful metaphor for how one feels after a "good session." 

I bet lots of terms are born like that.  Maybe we could replace the concept of "insight therapy" with "starlight therapy."  Think about it.  You know that feeling when you look off in the stars and feel the enormity of the universe.    If everything comes together just right in a therapy session, sometimes, it can even feel like that.
 
 

Want to Join PMTH?
02/17/99
Lois Shawver

PMTH is a private online community of professional therapists interested in postmodernism.  Almost everyone here is a practicing and credentialed therapist.  If you are a therapist interested in postmodernism, write the listowner and explain your background and you will be subscribed.  If you are not a therapist, but want to subscribe anyway, write the listowner and explain your background and your request will be considered.
 

This is a past issue of 
PMTH NEWS
CLICK HERE 
to visit the most recent issue 

 
Our Fickle Definitions
03/09/00
Lois Shawver

Today's quote is taken from Ken Gergen's brilliant new book, An Invitation to Social Construction.  You'll learn more about this book in weeks to come, but for now, I would like to focus on our quotation.
 
 

The meaning of words is subtly altered in each new context of usage, and  new words 
may be coined 
at any time.
Ken Gergen, p.130

Is it so?  How can the meaning of words be subtly altered in each new context?  And we coin words at any time?  How on earth would we communicate?  Yet, I think this is just what Gergen would have us notice about our language. 

Say I tell you "I'm angry."  Do I mean that I feel exactly like other people who say (honestly) that they are angry?  You and I know (let us imagine) that you and I had a fight afew weeks ago when I feel you broke your promise.  You, rascal that you are, said you would never tell my mother that I was the one who broke her teapot, and there you were sitting in her living room with me right there.  She happened to mention her broken teapot (yet again!) and you said, "Oh, didn't you know who broke that?" And then you spilled the beans. 

You always seem to do that, it seems to me, and so I'm angry.  You don't even have a recollection of your promise.  So, I'm even more angry.

But this "anger". Is it the same as your anger?  Take the time just last week that someone cut you off on the freeway.  Remember that?  I do.  It scared me half to death, and you, you just cursed a blue stream.  And you said you were "angry."  But that's not really anything like the anger I feel.  At least, I don't think it's the same.  Your anger just has to be mixed with fear, because I just know that you must have felt a moment of terror.  It was really dangerous.  But you react by getting anger in a way that is still mixed with fear.  That's how I read it.  It's a hot anger, blazing with aggression.

My anger, on the other hand, is a subtle anger that I tuck away. There was a little flare of feeling when it happened, but it wasn't fear. Mom doesn't care if I broke her teapot.  It's me that cares that you forget.  How can I tell you secrets if you violate my trust?  I feel this undermines our relationship.  So, my anger, if it's mixed with anything, is mixed with hurt, and maybe disappointment, too, because I would like to be able to trust you.

Yet, look at it, we both say that we are "angry" and in ordinary contexts we would never make this fine tooth comb analysis of the differences in our types of anger.  Yet, both of us want to use this big blunt instrument word "anger" to point to these different kinds of anger.  So different, I think, that yours is as much like "fear" as it is like my anger.  And if we classed it as "fear" it would be in another category than mine altogether.

Of course we could, I suppose, coin a new term for each kind of anger.  Sometimes we might do that, but the truth is, I have a thousand kinds of anger; I haven't even experienced, yet, all the kinds of anger possible for me.  And I think it's true for you, too.  So, we'd have to coin a lot of words.

I think it is considerations like this that lead Ken Gergen to say:
 

The meaning of words is subtly altered in each new context of usage, and  new words 
may be coined 
at any time.
Ken Gergen, p.130

(By the way, I have a review copy of Ken Gergen's book that provided me with this quote -- but I am going to wait to give you a review until someone can actually receive this wonderful book from Amazon.  It is so hot off the British press, that Amazon does not seem to have enough copies to mail out.  But, I will keep you informed, and, as soon as the book is readily available, I'll give you a detailed review.  In the meantime, though, it is worth preordering.  To do that through Amazon, click here.) 
 

What's Up with the 
New Therapist
03/09/99
Lois Shawver

Your latest issue of New Therapist is in the mail, but if you want to sneak a preview, I'll tell you how to get it.    Just follow the clickable links below:

There is available online:

1. Tom Strong  -- Unpicking Labels - 
Yes, this is the same Tom Strong you have met in PMTH NEWS.  In this article he gives you his thoughts on what a therapist might do when when clients presents their problems by giving you their own diagnostic label.

2. Lois Shawver  -- What is Postmodernism and What Does it Have to Do with Therapy, Anyway?   Yes, this is me.  In addition to my answers, this site includes a splashy photo of yours truly.  (How did they do this to the simple photo that I sent them?)  Anyway, it's my brief account of what postmodernism is and what it has to do with therapy.

3. Bruce Ecker and Laurel Hulley  -- A New Zone of Effectiveness for Psychotherapy - introduces a new form of indepth therapy that is brief and effective.  These authors are new to me.
 

The above articles are available for free.  But don't think that the New Therapist gives everything away.  For example, only if you're a subscriber will you be able to read 

Lynn Hoffman
Thirty-Seven Years of Therapy

If you have ever read Hoffman, then you know this is an article worth reading.

And there is lots lots more in this issue of New Therapist, including a play by psychoanalyst Robert Langs. 

I haven't received my copy yet. If you want 
your own copy to arrive at your door,  I can tell you how to do that, too.  Just click here and follow the instructions.
 

Question of the Day
02/17/00


Do you know...
what a reflecting team is? 
Click Here!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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