Archive for September, 2011

What the hell is ‘therapy’?

September 23, 2011

This is a copy of an email I sent to Jim Camp.


Hi Jim,


        Just some thoughts from my world. In my field, one thing I have noticed is that fairly often the most difficult mental health patients are those that aren’t qualified to make a decision or follow through with it, especially when they start treatment and are struggling the most. In other words, negotiating with them alone would violate the rule – ‘never negotiate with the unqualified’.

Nevertheless, they are often able to identify decision makers in their lives and negotiations can continue. This sounds so simple but it has been a real eye opener. One of the reasons for this is that involving others in someone’s therapy Is often viewed as ‘family therapy” , and that is a specialty that many practitioners simply refer out to a specialist. Now that I see therapy as an arena which needs to be negotiated at all levels, I bring people in all the time to negotiate with set agendas and keep the sessions from devolving into ‘working on the relationship’ or ‘having better communication’ or some other fuzzy focus that as often as not leads to aggravation.

 The term  ‘therapy’ is really a suitcase term nowadays. People even refer to a glass of scotch as ‘their therapy’.

      I am not even seeing myself as a ‘therapist’ anymore. I help clients negotiate desired outcomes in the mental health arena. I am ‘in this world’ of mental health, but ‘not of it.’  It flows from the re- reaction mindset that is so important to the system, but it has taken me awhile to develop these concepts and apply them to myself and my work.

 I used to see negotiation as something that might fit into therapy, but now I am seeing ‘THERAPY’ as being just one potential item in the PRESENTATION section of the whole system.

 You asked me to share from my world, and as I try to do so I realize it has been turned inside out.

    I wonder if this phenomenon is common in other fields.





How to Use the USEFUL WAYS TO THINK Category on my Blog

September 16, 2011

I want this blog, and this category in particular, to be a very practical  and hands-on way for people to solve problems. Maybe some day it can become an app and I’ll get rich. I will owe Marvin Minsky though because I pulled these USEFUL WAYS TO THINK from his book – THE EMOTIONAL BRAIN.

So this is an experiment. If I don’t find myself going to this ‘app’ and getting benefit from it, than this project will be ‘scrapped’, or at least, reformulated.

So this is how I suggest you use it:

1. Click on the USEFUL WAYS TO THINK category. ( you are on it now if you are reading this, so just scroll down)

2. Read the first description of a USEFUL WAY TO THINK.

3. Say yes or no to adopting the first USEFUL WAY TO THINK. Move on relatively quickly to the next USEFUL WAY TO THINK.  Think of it like you are on the couch surfing channels with your remote. You should have many more no’s than yes’.


4. Now go through any you’ve said yes to and pick one that you want to start right now, or put on your schedule right now.

5. Repeat if necessary once you’ve tried one way to think. It may take only a few minutes to solve the problem or to realize you need to try another USEFUL WAY TO THINK.

The genius of Steve Jobs and saying ‘no’

September 16, 2011

“We Don’t Want a Thousand Features”

Steve Jobs gave a small private presentation about the iTunes Music Store to some independent record label people. My favorite line of the day was when people kept raising their hand saying, “Does it do [x]?”, “Do you plan to add [y]?”. Finally Jobs said, “Wait wait — put your hands down. Listen: I know you have a thousand ideas for all the cool features iTunes could have. So do we. But we don’t want a thousand features. That would be ugly. Innovation is not about saying yes to everything. It’s about saying NO to all but the most crucial features.”

—-Derek Sivers, president and programmer, CD Baby and HostBaby
(from Say NO by default


           We therapists call this ‘having good boundaries’.



September 14, 2011

Whenever you find yourself totally stuck, you can shut down the resources you are using and totally relax, lie back, drop out, and stop. The the “rest of your mind” may find an alternative- or conclude that you don’t have to do this at all.

Ask for help

September 14, 2011

If your status is high enough, you can persuade or command someone else to help- or even offer to pay them.


September 14, 2011

One can avoid taking physical risks if one can predict “What would happen if” by simulating possible actions inside the mental models that one has built.

Cry for help

September 14, 2011

You can behave in ways that may arouse your companions’ sympathies.


External Representations

September 12, 2011

If you find you’re losing track of details, you can resort to keeping records and notes, or drawing suitable diagrams.

(essential habit in negotation where you are focused on discovering their world rather than your own thoughts)

Logical Reasoning

September 12, 2011

We often try to make chains of deductions – reasoning from the general to the specific. However, this can lead to wrong conclusions when our assumptions turn out to be unsound.

(Logic can be useful after a problem is solved, for justifying one’s reasoning and refining one’s crdit assignments.)

For some important discussions about the role of logic in commonsense thinking, go to John McCarthy’s website:


Logical Contradiction

September 12, 2011

Try to prove that your problem cannot be solved, and then look for a flaw in the argument.

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