Psychotherapy has an obsession with models. Not the catwalk kind. CBT, DBT, EFT, EMDR, ACT (clearly we also love acronyms); there are hundreds. I’m not exaggerating… this list of almost 150 covers just the most common. One you won’t find on this list is my own. I provide Chris Therapy.
“Chris Therapy” first occurred to me in the early years, when faced with a dilemma. You see, I do a pretty good job of learning things, including therapy models. As a starry-eyed novice, I performed a number of therapies du jour dutifully. I expected the remarkable results featured in the books, seminars and videos of the therapy gurus who created the models.
That did not happen.
What the Heck?
I did what the gurus said to do. Not saying I did it perfectly; but I also didn’t botch the job. But the amazing outcomes achieved by some of the people in therapy with the gurus just didn’t happen. I felt discouraged and more than a little inadequate.
Thankfully, I also felt curious.
So I did what I do: I pondered. Something dawned on me. Amazing things happened with Michael White, Insoo Kim Berg, Harry Goolishian and Harlene Anderson, and other master therapists I was influenced by at the time.
But I’m not Michael White. I’m Chris Lindsay.
Models… Are Just Models
In my opinion, models just can’t capture everything that psychotherapists do.
The birth and development of a therapy model often follows a familiar path. A young therapist starts out and after a period of struggle, discovers a thing or two. This leads to changes and implementation of new methods. Good things happen.
This attracts attention, and the therapist gets placed under a microscope for study. After much observation, head scratching and deep thinking, a model is born. A book gets written, and the therapist evolves into a therapy guru.
That’s cool, and I have to acknowledge that a ton of effort and thought goes into the development of models, by people who are considerably smarter than me. These models can be very complex and sophisticated. If nothing else, they do help to push some of the more wack-o and unhelpful ideas out of common practice. (I hope.)
I’m just not sure if even the most elegant models completely capture everything which the guru does in a psychotherapy session.
For example, Stephen Porges has demonstrated that vocal tone — or prosody — has a soothing effect on the nervous system of the listener. Some psychotherapy models consider vocal tone a bit… some not at all.
My own voice can get a bit monotone at times, which is not so soothing. It’s possible this has worked against me over the years, interfering with results even when I implemented a model quite well.
And that’s just vocal tone. There are so many variables to consider, it becomes a “herding cats” situation. No model can capture them all.
Models Are A Minor Matter
One of my heroes, and someone I’ve featured in blogs before — Scott Miller — has been saying for many years that the methods we use account for only a small percentage of the effectiveness of therapy. Sadly, this message tends to get drowned out by the hurricane force of marketing.
Yes, I’m sad to report that therapy is not immune to consumerism and good old capitalistic greed. Just look at my inbox, which is flooded daily with emails promising incredible results from a variety of trendy therapy methods… for a fee. I’m old enough to have watched the list of specific models being peddled change over time. Actually it has changed a lot.
As Scott Miller and his colleagues point out, there is little to no evidence supporting the notion that any of these models outperform the others. My inbox seems to support that.
If there was One Model to Rule Them All (shameless Lord of the Rings reference), then why would I receive endless emails hawking dozens of different methods, all claiming miraculous results? Why would this list change over time?
The Bottom Line
I once tried to tease a psychologist friend of mine by informing him I had read an academic article about a psychotherapist who practiced my friend’s preferred type of therapy. This man had adapted the therapy (i.e. had created a new model) so that he could use it for purposes I knew my friend would find irritating at best.
The specific details are not important. What matters is my friend’s response. When I suggested he should try this model, and sat back with a smug grin, my friend calmly replied, “I wouldn’t assume that I could provide therapy like he does, because I’m not him.”
As much as it bugged me to fail in my mission to needle my friend, I had to admit his response was excellent.
He summed up what I’m trying to say here. Models have their place, but the fact of the matter is, every therapist is a unique person. Even when we try to implement models, we do so with a unique flair that is inimitably our own.
I provide Chris Therapy. Not only am I the only one who does; I’m the only one who can.