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|Dear Michael - Page 3|
Your questions subtly helped people not only step aside from the problem, but begin to link it to a social and cultural context that was destructive to them personally. By "communalizing" problems in this way for those with whom you worked, even people considered "hopeless" by many other professionals would realize that there was something healthy and strong within them that could resist this social indoctrination and begin to live differently.
Unfortunately, many therapists mistook your therapeutic conversations as merely attending to the "positive in people," but it wasn't so simple. Your approach was different from solution-focused therapy, although many aligned you with it, and it definitely wasn't CBT! Therapies like these are informed by humanistic accounts of behavior, and don't seem at all concerned with the impact that people's places in the social order have on "their" problems. What set you most apart was the fact that your therapeutic practice wasn't informed by psychological theory.
I'm fond of telling beginning therapists that the furthest you went in your university career was a B.S.W, a fact that seems to both bewilder and inspire them. I'm often asked to make sense of your improbable rise from being an incredibly shy, working-class social worker living in the middle of Australia, who'd much rather be surfing large waves, flying planes, and cycling up tall mountains, to a kind of celebrity in the international world of therapy. Part of it was that you were the first to translate postmodern ideas drawn from the anthropologists Clifford Geertz and Barbara Myerhoff, philosopher–historian Michel Foucault, and others into concrete therapeutic practices.