|Basic InformationMore InformationLatest NewsQuestions and AnswersLinksBook Reviews| Maximizing Effectiveness in Dynamic Psychotherapy Self-Compassion in Psychotherapy101 Healing Stories101 Things I Wish I'd Known When I Started Using HypnosisA Primer for Beginning PsychotherapyA Therapist's Guide to Understanding Common Medical ProblemsACT With LoveAlready FreeAssessment and Treatment of Childhood Problems, Second EditionBad TherapyBefore ForgivingBeing a Brain-Wise TherapistBiofeedback for the BrainBody PsychotherapyBody SenseBoundaries and Boundary Violations in PsychoanalysisBrain Change TherapyBreaking ApartBuffy the Vampire Slayer and PhilosophyBuilding on BionCare of the PsycheChoosing an Online TherapistClinical Handbook of Psychological DisordersClinical Intuition in PsychotherapyClinical Pearls of WisdomCo-Creating ChangeCompassion and Healing in Medicine and SocietyConfessions of a Former ChildConfidential RelationshipsConfidentiality and Mental HealthConfidingContemplative Psychotherapy EssentialsCouch FictionCounseling with Choice TheoryCritical Issues in PsychotherapyCrucial Choices, Crucial ChangesDecoding the Ethics CodeDepression 101Depression in ContextDo-It-Yourself Eye Movement Techniques for Emotional HealingDoing ItE-TherapyEncountering the Sacred in PsychotherapyEnergy Psychology InteractiveEssays on Philosophical CounselingEthics in Psychotherapy and CounselingEveryday Mind ReadingExpressing EmotionFacing Human SufferingFairbairn's Object Relations Theory in the Clinical SettingFamily TherapyFavorite Counseling and Therapy Homework AssignmentsFlourishingFlying ColorsGod & TherapyHandbook of Clinical Psychopharmacology for TherapistsHandbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual ClientsHealing the Heart and Mind with MindfulnessHealing the Soul in the Age of the BrainHeinz KohutHow to Give Her Absolute PleasureHow to Go to TherapyIf Only I Had KnownIn SessionIn Therapy We TrustIn Treatment: Season 1Incorporating Spirituality in Counseling and PsychotherapyIs Long-Term Therapy Unethical?Issues in Philosophical CounselingIt’s Your HourLearning from Our MistakesLetters to a Young TherapistLogotherapy and Existential AnalysisLove's ExecutionerMan's Search for MeaningMetaphoria: Metaphor and Guided Metaphor for Psychotherapy and HealingMindfulness and AcceptanceMindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for DepressionMindworks: An Introduction to NLPMockingbird YearsMomma and the Meaning of LifeMotivational Interviewing: Preparing People For ChangeMulticulturalism and the Therapeutic ProcessOf Two MindsOn the CouchOne Nation Under TherapyOur Inner WorldOvercoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and BehaviorsPhilosophical CounselingPhilosophical MidwiferyPhilosophical PracticePhilosophy and PsychotherapyPhilosophy for Counselling and PsychotherapyPhilosophy PracticePhilosophy's Role in Counseling and PsychotherapyPlato, Not Prozac!Psychologists Defying the CrowdPsychology, Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis, and the Politics of Human RelationshipsPsychosis in the FamilyPsychotherapyPsychotherapyPsychotherapy As PraxisPsychotherapy for Children and AdolescentsPsychotherapy for Personality DisordersRational Emotive Behavior TherapyRational Emotive Behavior TherapyRationality and the Pursuit of HappinessRecovery OptionsRent Two Films and Let's Talk in the MorningSaving the Modern SoulSecond-order Change in PsychotherapySelf MattersSelf-Compassion in PsychotherapySelf-Determination Theory in the ClinicSexual Orientation and Psychodynamic PsychotherapyStrangers to OurselvesTaking America Off DrugsTales of PsychotherapyThe Art of HypnosisThe Case Formulation Approach to Cognitive-Behavior TherapyThe Crucible of ExperienceThe Education of Mrs. BemisThe Fall Of An IconThe Gift of TherapyThe Great Psychotherapy Debate: The Evidence for What Makes Psychotherapy Work The Husbands and Wives ClubThe Love CureThe Making of a TherapistThe Mummy at the Dining Room TableThe Neuroscience of PsychotherapyThe Neuroscience of Psychotherapy: Healing the Social BrainThe New PsychoanalysisThe Philosopher's Autobiography The Portable CoachThe Portable Ethicist for Mental Health Professionals The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday LifeThe Problem with Cognitive Behavioural TherapyThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Psychotherapy Documentation PrimerThe Real World Guide to Psychotherapy PracticeThe Schopenhauer CureThe Talking CureThe Therapeutic "Aha!"The Therapist's Guide to Psychopharmacology, Revised EditionThe Therapist's Ultimate Solution BookThe UnsayableThe Wing of MadnessTheory and Practice of Brief TherapyTherapyTheraScribe 4.0Thinking about ThinkingThriveToward a Psychology of AwakeningTracking Mental Health OutcomesTreating Attachment DisordersWhat the Buddha FeltWhat Works for Whom? Second EditionWhy Psychoanalysis?Yoga Therapy
by Courtney Armstrong
W. W. Norton, 2015
Review by Beth Cholette, Ph.D. on Mar 15th 2016
As a clinical psychologist who has worked in a college counseling center for over twenty years, I've definitely seen my share of "stuck" clients. Although therapy is not necessarily meant as a quick fix, solutions-focused models of treatment have been shown to be efficacious, and thus I was curious as to whether The Therapeutic "Aha!": 10 Strategies for Getting Your Clients Unstuck might be beneficial as well.
Author Courtney Armstrong, a masters-level licensed professional counselor, describes a significant amount of research supporting her methods, which are based on Jon Connolly's Rapid Resolution TherapyTM. In particular, she reviews the importance of engaging the emotional brain as a means not only to strengthen the therapeutic alliance but also to foster true change. In terms of a specific therapy strategy, Armstrong refers to what she calls "Align, Lift, and Lead." Aligning and lifting are similar to traditional therapy interventions involving acknowledging and affirming; by leading the client, the therapist provides a slight nudge in the direction of what is possible for the client, making statements such as "as the result of us working together, I'm seeing you..." The goal of this is to help provide the client with insight, possibility, and hope.
Another major focus of this book is on healing of traumatic or emotional memories. Here Armstrong applies what she calls her RECON method, an acronym for five-step plan which involves the following: 1) Recall the current undesired state of mind briefly, 2) Explore for a similar associated memory from the past, 3) Create a calm, pleasant experience to elicit the desired response, 4) Observationally describe the troubling memory, and 5) Neutralize the negative emotions with the contrasting positive state to update the original learning. This process necessitates engaging the client in identifying symbolic visualization, with the prompt being "let's create a symbol of your mind working that way [in the desired, more positive manner], something in nature or an animal in the wild--what comes to mind?" Of course, in every case example Armstrong uses in the book, the client immediately comes up with something--"a sunset" "a beautiful white horse." These uber-compliant cases are not truly valid illustrations of "stuck" clients; it would have been much more helpful had Armstrong included clients who resisted these interventions or who simply were uncertain how to respond.
Still, while the RECON technique itself may have some limitations, Armstrong includes a number of strategies that can easily be employed independently. She talked in detail about use of metaphor--certainly not a new concept in psychotherapy, but one for which she offers specific guidelines in becoming a "spirited storyteller." Along those same lines, play and humor form a large part of Armstrong's work, and she discusses how to use these methods in dealing with difficult issues such as trauma and anger. Finally, Armstrong offers ideas for incorporating alternative modalities such as music, movement, and poetry. Her idea of creating a mood-modifying playlist so resonated with me that I found myself recommending it to two separate clients just yesterday. On the other hand, I'm not sure I'm ready to encourage traumatized clients to virtual punch me, another strategy that Armstrong has used in her sessions.
In summary, whether or not one fully embraces Armstrong's approach, The Therapeutic "Aha!" provides a wealth of options for inspiring therapists to think outside of the proverbial box. By being open to bringing new ideas into the practice of psychotherapy, we avoid becoming stuck ourselves, which can only serve to benefit our clients.
© 2016 Beth Cholette
Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students.