Tim Brunson DCH

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Thinking Therapeutically



A Book Review by Judith E. Pearson, PhD

Thinking Therapeutically, by Tom Barber and Sandra Westland affords a rare look into the minds of two seasoned hypnotherapists, as they relate case studies and comment on one another's work. This book is ideal for beginning hypnotherapists and for those who wonder about a therapist's internal process during the external therapeutic conversation.

The authors open the book by each telling the personal story of how he/she came to be a therapist, reflecting on life-changing experiences as well as an existentialist philosophy. From that point, Barber and Westland alternate authorship of the subsequent chapters. The reader learns that these authors are highly eclectic hypnotherapists, drawing from a wide variety of approaches.

Each chapter presents a single client session and is built around this format:

  • A description of a particular therapeutic method, citing authors who have written about the method
  • How the author applied the method in a session with a client. The author explains the rationale for selecting this method for this client, with consideration of the client's presenting issue and the client's outcome. Excerpts of session transcripts are provided, with the therapist's running commentary.
  • The other author's comments on the session.
  • "What happened next" – a follow-up on what the client did after the session.

I liked the authors' expert descriptions and real-life applications of a wide variety of interventions that are a hypnotherapist's stock-in-trade: anchoring, swish pattern, parts work, guided imagery, dream analysis, regression, hypnoanalysis, and inner-child work. The descriptions are so clear, readers can easily model them. In fact, the day I read about "the library" regression method, I used it on a client with success! The authors explain how to apply these methods to a wide range of typical, yet often challenging issues such as agoraphobia, shyness, internal conflict, irritable bowel syndrome, bulimia, and overeating

The book is reminiscent of the conversation between Milton H. Erickson and Ernest Rossi in the classic: The February Man. The two authors take turns explaining their selection of interventions, perceptions of their clients, feelings during the session, and evaluation of each outcome. What I found most touching was the honesty with which the authors shared their perceptions and emotions during each session, even when they were uncertain as to how to proceed.

Reading the book, in between therapy sessions with my own clients, I found myself commenting on each session along with the authors, as well as reflecting more closely on my own internal process as a therapist. The book made me realize two things: First, how much we, as therapists, need one another as sounding boards. Second, how much being a therapist differs from most other occupations in that we bring to our work not only our skills, but elements of our selves – our own histories and emotions. It's always amazing to me how we as therapists manage to tread the fine line between professional objectivity and the ability to be fully in rapport with clients expressing and exploring their most private emotions and thoughts. Barber and Westland describe that process with remarkable precision.

Judith E. Pearson, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist, coach, and NLP practitioner and trainer in Springfield, Virginia. She has authored The Weight, Hypnotherapy and You Weight Reduction Program: A Hypnotherapy and NLP Practitioner's Manual. Her practice is Motivational Strategies, Inc. Her web site is www.EngageThePower.com.

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