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Finding Strength in the Symptom

Breaking Free from the Limits of Our Medical Treatment Model

Courtney Armstrong

By Courtney Armstrong - As therapists, we’re taught to be master detectives, methodically investigating our clients’ symptoms in search of the source of their pain. But if we spend too much time preoccupied with them, we’re likely to miss important clues to their hidden strengths. I’ve learned that turning a symptom into a client’s ally can transform the whole experience of therapy for both the therapist and client.

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A Polyvagal Primer

A Three-Part Exercise That Taps Into the Nervous System to Create Safety and Trust

Deb Dana

By Deb Dana - The three elements of our autonomic nervous system—ventral, sympathetic, and dorsal—act as our largely subconscious surveillance system, working in the background to read subtle signals of safety or threat. That’s why I help clients create a clear map of their own autonomic nervous systems, so they become aware of their patterns of response to ease and distress.

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VIDEO: When Our Clients Help Us Overcome Our Greatest Fears

A Therapist Shares Her Most Memorable Clinical Experience

Lynn Lyons

Not all professional growth experiences come from classes, workshops, and consultation groups. Sometimes our clients can expand our comfort zones and teach us more about ourselves than we ever thought possible. Here, Lynn Lyons shares a moving, often hilarious, story about how her young client helped her become a stronger person and a better therapist.

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VIDEO: How Symptoms Reveal the Path to Growth

IFS Developer Richard Schwartz on Befriending the Inner "Protector"

Richard Schwartz

Often, our attitudes toward anxiety symptoms are misguided, says Richard Schwartz, the originator of Internal Family Systems. By understanding responses like cold sweats and heavy breathing, for instance, as positive expressions of a wish to protect oneself, rather than simply negative symptoms, Schwartz says, trauma survivors are in a better position to begin the process of healing.

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Crossing to Safety

A Master Clinician Shares Her Most Therapeutic Moment

Courtney Armstrong

By Courtney Armstrong - Many people wonder how therapists manage to do the work they do. Of the thousands of meaningful sessions that take place in a therapist’s office, certain ones stand out. In the following storytelling piece, Courtney Armstrong shares a memorable moment from her own work.

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The Healing Power of Uncertainty

Our Traditional Approaches to Anxiety Treatment Aren't Good Enough

Reid Wilson

By Reid Wilson - Therapy with anxious clients is most effective when I repeatedly challenge their underlying beliefs about how to handle distress. Anxious clients don't need my cleverness. They need therapeutic principles powerful enough to offset their faulty beliefs. I've learned to help my anxious clients by challenging three of their most basic life stances: their attitudes toward worry, certainty, and comfort.

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Why You Should Want Your Anxious Clients to Get Anxious on Purpose

Getting Rid of Panic Symptoms in as Little as Three Weeks

Reid Wilson

By Reid Wilson - My clinical experience indicates that clients who can be persuaded to provoke and endure their symptoms without resorting to relaxation exercises quickly become habituated to their fears. Here's the five-step treatment I've developed, based on the work of the top clinicians and researchers in the anxiety field.

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The Silver Lining in Failure

Not Every Teachable Moment Has to Be a Successful One

Cloe Madanes

By Cloe Madanes - The problem with a failure is that one doesn't really understand why one failed. If one did, it wouldn't have been a failure. But I'm not giving up on my toughest client, Bob. There's one strategy I still haven't used.

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The Emotional Truth Behind Anxiety Symptoms

An Exercise That Gets at the Root of Your Clients' Worries

Bruce Ecker

By Bruce Ecker - Anxieties and panics aren't merely neurobiological dysfunctions. By heading straight into the core of meaning at the heart of symptoms, therapy becomes a place where a deeper sense of order replaces the apparent senselessness of presenting complaints, and clients awaken to areas of self that have control over what previously seemed utterly out of control.

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Turning Panic into Power

Hidden Strengths Can Be the Key to Healing Trauma

Courtney Armstrong

By Courtney Armstrong - As therapists, we’re taught to be master detectives who methodically investigate our clients’ symptoms in search of a “culprit”—the source of their pain. But if we spend too much time preoccupied with symptoms, we’re likely to miss important clues to hidden strengths, which can transform the experience of psychotherapy.

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