May 19, 2024

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We're always thinking of ways to provide content in a form that is useful to therapists practicing in the field as well as adapting to current times

One of my focuses after 27 or so years of recording who I consider to be the greats in our field and making training videos, is finally stepping up to the plate and doing some recordings of my own work as a therapist. Just yesterday, I recorded a case consultation group that I led online. This should result in one or more online courses in which I will be teaching some core skills in therapy that I have learned from my mentors as well as from my clients. So, that's very exciting. 
In addition, we at are always scouting out and finding experts to be featured in videos. We have a new video coming out on Emotionally Focused Therapy and another on online crisis counseling. We're always thinking of ways to provide content in a form that is useful to therapists practicing in the field as well as adapting to current times. We realize that while people have grown accustomed to receiving video content in shorter bursts, we haven't quite reduced ours to the 15-second clips of TikTok. However, we are producing, for example, a shorter series called Mastery in Minutes that are up to 30 minutes long where we're trying to present core ideas or skills to therapists.
There was tremendous demand and excitement, so I realized I was onto something. Now recall this was 1995, right at the birth of the internet, so if you were a professor or a therapist wanting to get or see therapy in action, it was very hard to do. There was no YouTube. There were no online courses. And the few videos that were out there were hard to track down. 

I realized I had found an untapped need

At that point, I realized I had found an untapped need. I’m not a trained businessperson, but I did learn a bit over the years, like when folks are pitching business ideas now, one of the things they think about is what problem are they solving? In looking back, I was solving a problem that I had experienced in graduate school. Up to that time, I had hardly ever seen a therapist do therapy, and I thought, “This is crazy.” So, I clearly felt there was something there. 
I hadn’t thought until you just mentioned it how much value, over and above whatever benefits accrue to the audience of these videos, the clients might reap in being with a master, and how putting themselves out there might give them an opportunity to share in some way beyond the isolated room of therapy, and even truly benefit others who might be reluctant. 
I strongly suspect that part of the clients’ motivation in that series was, “I can help normalize this therapy process for African American men who have certain struggles often related to racism, and I want to encourage others who may have similar struggles as me to get therapy and to train therapists in how to better work with this population.” So, I suspect there’s some sense of advocacy and caring that therapists get the best training possible to treat folks that are similar to them in whatever characteristics. 

I made a conscious effort starting several years ago to produce videos with both therapists and clients of more diversity

One case always stands to mind. I made a video with Natalie Rogers, art therapist and daughter of Carl Rogers. At the end of the production, we were filming in her house, and she brought out a shoebox full of old VHS tapes and DVDs for me to look through. She entrusted me to take them home, and I reviewed them. Some were home recordings with poor video or audio quality. But I came across one excellent interview of him, professional quality, and finally tracked down that this was produced in Ireland by RTE, I believe it stands for Radio Television of Ireland. Lo and behold, they had the original master in the vault and managed to work out a deal so we could distribute it, so I recorded a new introduction with Natalie. That’s a little aside just to state that we haven’t produced all the videos we offer. 
But we have a legacy of titles. And I realized some time ago that we were, not surprisingly, overrepresented with master therapists. Let’s take out the term master therapists, but with White male therapists and Caucasian clients. So I made a conscious effort starting several years ago to produce videos with both therapists and clients of more diversity. So, we’ve been doing that, but I have a lot of catch-up to do. 
So, we try to meet both needs. We do try to offer shorter videos, and our longer videos are broken up into chapters. We have some very long courses that might be 6 to 10 hours, but they’re broken up into shorter chapters. 

One of our productions I'm most proud of, Emotionally Focused Therapy Step by Step, is the most ambitious project we’ve ever done

One of our productions I'm most proud of, Emotionally Focused Therapy Step by Step, is the most ambitious project we’ve ever done and frankly, I think that anyone has done. We filmed over 100 hours of EFT sessions with six couples and four different therapists over a year and a half, edited that down to about eight hours of sessions and a few hours of discussion and commentary. I have to give my wife, Marie-Hélène Yalom, our Senior Director of Strategy and Product Development, a lot of credit. While she’s not a therapist, she’s learned a lot about EFT and painstakingly edited this down with Rebecca Jorgensen, the main therapist featured in this project. 
Obviously, we don’t expect someone to sit down and watch that all at once. So it’s broken down as the title implies, step by step, into many small skill sets, and EFT, for people who know, is broken down into steps and stages. So, you can watch our longer videos in shorter chunks and skip from chapter to chapter. 
My drawings were literally stick figures. And when I created the website, I had an idea to put a few cartoons up there, so I hired some people who knew how to draw and took these ideas and made cartoons out of them. And then at some point, an ex-girlfriend of mine said, “Well, you have a very primitive drawing style, you should draw them yourself.” So, I started drawing my own cartoons, and that led me to taking a painting class, and as you mentioned, I now do metal sculptures. But this all started maybe 20 years ago when I was about 40. So, I credit with helping me to discover some activities that bring me a great deal of pleasure. 

increasingly view therapy as a creative enterprise

In terms of your question about how that may impact my therapy or show up in my therapy, I increasingly view therapy as a creative enterprise. I grew up in an academic family. My parents are writers. I’m taking another little aside here, but I always had an interest in or fascination with the business world but was very much an outsider, and back then, you know, when I graduated from college, you couldn’t start a business as you can today. If you wanted to work in the business world, you worked in a Fortune 500 company. I tried and I was fired. I failed miserably. 
And in the process of creating, which was just a side hobby for many years while I was in full-time practice, I came to realize that building and growing a business is the ultimate creative enterprise. I had an idea to make a videotape, I took that idea and created something from it, and then that evolved to something else, which evolved into something else. 
And now here, you and I are having this interview on a technology that didn’t exist when I started this, so getting finally to your question about psychotherapy; it’s an extremely creative enterprise, just like this conversation. A client comes in and says something and you react, you have internal reactions, and then somehow words come out of your mouth and you say something, and it goes from there. 
You don’t know what’s going to happen with what you do with them and what’s going to happen with their life. You try to adapt what you do and what you say in a way that’s going to be helpful. Certainly, there are certain approaches that give you more structure or guidance, and those can be critiqued as overly manualized or cookie-cutter, but ultimately, in my opinion, if you’re going to do work that’s at all meaningful and helpful, you need to find a way to enter their world and to do so in a creative and imaginative way. 

I feel reasonably confident that I have some things to offer myself and some important things I’ve learned that I don’t think are widely taught

And over the years, like I think any maturing therapist, I have been able to integrate and internalize that into my own style of working to the point where I feel reasonably confident that I have some things to offer myself and some important things I’ve learned that I don’t think are widely taught. 
In terms of approaches, CBT and other so-called evidence-based approaches are being taught much more widely. I have concerns about that. I think that yes, we want to do therapy that’s effective, and yet we seem to have traded on the idea that evidence-based treatment somehow defies this entire other line of valid research showing that the most important elements of change are the therapeutic relationship and client factors. 

The research consistently shows that one approach is not better than another approach

The research consistently shows that one approach is not better than another approach. And that may be just a research limitation—there are so many complexities and variables involved. But it’s clearly easier to research treatment methods than relationship variables, and there’s more funding available to research certain types, so there may be more data showing that those approaches are effective, but that does not mean that other approaches are less effective. 
So I don’t know what the answer is. I’m not involved in policy making or in formal training programs. But I am concerned about the narrowness or limitations that seem to be taught in many of the clinical graduate programs that students are being trained in. 
There are obvious other big changes in the field, the most striking of which is the move to online therapy that accelerated with the onset of COVID. And that’s never going to go back to fully in-person, though it’ll be a hybrid model. I think in many ways, it’s a good thing. It’s going to increase accessibility. It’s going to increase availability. 
I continue to do a group that moved online. While I was reluctant to do so initially, it allowed people who have moved or are on vacation or in another town to continue to be in the group. So, it’s better in that way, but you do lose the vitality of the in-person group experience. 

Traditional models have to be challenged and evaluated on a regular basis, or else they just become vestigial

We all know of these other changes, app-based therapy, chat therapy, different pricing models, etc. There are problems with many of them, the reimbursement rates for therapists are quite low. Does chat have a useful place in therapy? The good thing, I think, is that it’s loosened up this historic and restrictive idea that therapy should be once a week in the office for 50 minutes, which came out of the idea that people have to get in their cars every day and drive to the office. Well, you know, I was guilty of that as well, in having our staff work primarily in the office. Suddenly we realized, as with all our assumptions, that doesn’t need to be the case. 
Therapy, like most every other business, has moved online and is doing just fine. So, in terms of therapy, what’s the best way to do it? Can it be fully online? Can you, when possible, combine online with in-person sessions? Should it be every week for 50 minutes? Should it be some more fluid model? I mean, for clients in crisis, why not meet for 90 minutes or two hours, and why not be able to have email or text during the week? Then you have to come up with different pricing models for reimbursement. But surely, we’re not going to go back to once a week in the office for 50 minutes, and I think that’s a good thing. 
Most of the online training seems to be done primarily by talking heads, lectures, webinars, and it just seems crazy to me that this is the way training has traditionally been done in our field, reading books, talking about therapy. In every other field, and I’ve said this over and over and over again, whether you’re a plumber, a dancer, a lawyer, or an architect, you learn by watching others do their work. I mean, you have to study and know the basics, but you learn by watching other masters doing their work, your bosses. 
You’re in court. You’re in second seat in a trial, and then your bosses are watching you do the work and giving you feedback, giving you coaching. Hopefully, constructive feedback. So, that’s kind of the essence of what we do, which is to show excerpts of therapy in action and explain why we’re doing it. Now, certainly, we’ll adapt. We’d like to do some live events, live webinars, and do these interviews. I don’t know what we’ll be doing, exactly. People talk about gamification and interactive video. I haven’t seen much of that yet, at least in our field, that’s useful. So, I’m not worried about that. 

I think the great thing about our field is that life experience helps

In terms of your thing about therapists getting younger, well, obviously, there’s partly a tongue-in-cheek thing going on there, because we’re getting older. I still have this little thing going back to Transactional Analysis, kind of a one-down stance where I still feel like I’m the kid in the room. I’m often surprised, I may be emailing people, I get on a Zoom call, and “Hey! You look so young.” I’m still kind of assuming that I’m going to be the youngest. 
But I think the great thing about our field is that life experience helps. Yes, you’re more in touch with young students, or have been as a professor for many years, but it’s a great profession for people to go into as a second career. If you start doing this when you’re 30 or 40 or 50, what a gift that you know something about life, having worked in other fields, having children, having a family, having suffered losses that invariably occur. So, you do what you can with the resources you have, and hopefully those grow over time. 
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