With mental health benefits being slashed or all together disappearing, consumers & insurance companies are looking for ways to get in and out of therapy quickly by strategically targeting specific problems. As an old school psychodynamic, existential and humanistic therapist I am impressed with emerging theories of psychological thought called "Post Modern Therapy."
Post Modern includes theoretical orientations such as Solution Focused and Narrative. New lingo includes "externalizing the problem," "strength based" and "resiliency." Most of this work focuses on identifying the problem in a non-judgmental supportive forum, helping the client become aware of their inner resources and strategize solutions to the problem. Although post modern therapy lends well to long-term work it tends to be short-term and highly focused. Insurance companies and clients like these therapies because less sessions mean less out of pocket expense as well as a quicker return to wellness.
Stephanie Gregory, a Beverly Hills Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in Narrative Therapy describes why she likes this modality; "[The therapist] takes a non-pathologizing stance and a collaborative stance with the client. Both the client and the therapist are viewed as experts in the process." This strength-based approach makes it easier to solve problems.
When a client comes into therapy with a problem such as depression, a narrative therapist will immediately separate the person from the problem. This is called externalizing the problem. Ms. Gregory stated, ". . . When you separate the person from the problem it allows you to look at the problem as a separate entity which protects the person from feeling deficient." For instance she says it's very different to say: "depression has a hold over you vs. you're depressed."
This slight change of phrasing has a big impact on clients as it helps them stop blaming themselves for the problem and connect to their inner sense of self. It also empowers them to challenge or fight the problem. "The problem clouds . . . your whole sense of self; who you are, how you see yourself and how you want to be in the world. So we try to get back to the glory of you by finding ways to fight the problem. Narrative therapy is a two-fold approach; first realizing that the glory [your sense of self] is still there and second, [developing] tools to fight the problem."
One of the tools Ms Gregory uses in her practice is called interviewing the problem. This technique helps a client learn about the problem and how it impacts their life. It also helps a client gain self-awareness of their inner resources that will ultimately defeat the problem. Ms Gregory will work with a client to answer questions such as:
Post Modern modalities such as Narrative therapy offer consumers a fresh approach to resolving problems and reclaiming their sense of self. Some of these techniques can be easily applied to your daily life. Try externalizing the problem. If you find yourself making statements that are self blaming or make you feel stuck, empower yourself by changing your phrasing. Remember you are strong! It's the problem that clouds your view of your inner strengths.