Oct 13

Insight Or Action–Or Both? Psychodynamic Vs. Solution-Focused

Oprah’s term “aha moment” was officially added in 2012 to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and is defined as “a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension.”

Aha moments are pretty much like flashes of insight, those internal discoveries often made in therapy and elsewhere. One common type of therapy, psychodynamic, is even otherwise known as “insight therapy.”

As wise physician Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894), once said, “A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience.” So, surely these are worth finding.

On the other hand, according to psychotherapist Milton H. Erickson (1901-1980), “Change will lead to insight far more often than insight will lead to change.” And isn’t change what we’re really looking for in therapy?

Not surprisingly, Erickson’s work has been highly influential in the development of therapies that are more solution-focused, problem-focused, or action-based than psychodynamic. Often these are shorter-term in nature but not always, and, as Lindsey Antin states on website Good Therapy, “I consider these kinds of therapies to be ‘strength-based’ as opposed to ‘insight-oriented.'”

Antin lists “Three Simple Reasons Solution-Focused Therapy Works”:

  1. Focusing on your strengths always produces the best return on your investment…
  2. People are always trying to right themselves…When a client and therapist can tap into the right system to solve problems, the client’s constant efforts to right themselves will eventually work. A solution-focused therapist works hard to believe the best in the client and to act as a coach and facilitator toward the client’s goals.
  3. Thoughts are our best predictors of happiness…(T)here is a direct link between the thoughts you think and the feelings you feel. When practiced over time, healthy and productive thoughts produce effective long-term results.

As an eclectic therapist, I’m a proponent of both types of therapy, as well as a hybrid that is sometimes called process-oriented solution-focused therapy. (Oh, the many labels there are!)

Interestingly, there’s often a natural mix of insight and action no matter what the professed therapy orientation. Solution-focused therapy often becomes insight-oriented, and insight-oriented therapy generally also involves some solution-focusing.

Bottom line: Whatever a client wants. Whatever works for the client. And, whatever a client wants is often what works.

It doesn’t even have to be labelled. It just happens.

Feb 27

“Our Time Is Up”: The Long and Short Of It in Live Short Action Film

Speaking of the Academy Awards (and I’m guessing many of you were at some point recently?), a nominee for Live Short Action Film in 2006 was called Our Time Is Up, which I would sum up as being about—you guessed it—minding therapy.

Writer-director Rob Pearlstein depicts psychologist Dr. Stern (Kevin Pollak) as an ineffectual shrink who lacks, for whatever reasons, an essential oomph behind his work—is it boredom? depression?

At any rate, he basically just goes through the motions; despite this, at least some of his clients seem to continue seeing him despite their lack of progress and his unhelpful stock responses to their problems. Let’s just say that something then happens that leads to a drastic change in his therapeutic approach. If you want to know more (as in spoilers), keep reading after the video.

Although the video below indicates a length of almost 15 minutes, the movie itself sans credits actually runs less than 12.

An argument for using a therapeutic style somewhere between these two approaches right from the get-go?  In other words, instead of non-helpful longer-term therapy on one extreme or Dr. Phil-like instant therapy on the other, how about solution-focused process-oriented therapy?

The Spoiler Intro to Our Time Is Up per The Short Films Blog:

“Dr. Stern is an extremely organized and uptight psychiatrist who does his job every day with less than a smile on his face. His patients include a womanizer who can’t form a connection with women, an anorexic,  a man who is in denial about his attraction towards men, a woman who is obsessed with cleanliness, a man who can’t help but touch a woman’s ass, a man who is deathly afraid of turtles, a man who is abused by his girlfriend and a man who is afraid of the dark. Dr. Stern doesn’t do much of anything for these patients, that is, until he gets a call from his own doctor with pretty horrible news… he has only six weeks to live. Upon retrieving this information, Dr. Stern begins to care less about being professional and more about living his life. Along with this new appreciation for life, Dr. Stern also starts to actually give his patients advice. As brutally honest as he is in his delivery, Dr. Stern truly makes a remarkable difference in each of his patients’ lives.”