VIDEO: What Therapy and Surgery Have in Common

Bill Doherty on Crafting the Right Language for the Right Therapy Outcome

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What's the best way to open and close therapy? It's a question with many answers, but depending on your client, a particular greeting or goodbye has the potential to make or break therapy. "Nobody ever taught me anything in this area," says therapist Bill Doherty. "But therapy, like surgery, is a craft. Each surgeon doesn't figure out where to cut on their own."

Using this logic, Bill took a poll among his colleagues. Should we standardize greetings? Make them intentionally vague so clients can interpret what they will from them? Or should we carefully customize introductions to increase productivity and inject positivity into sessions where clients might shut down or become volatile?

In the following video clip from his Networker Symposium Keynote address, Bill shares the lesson he's come away with, and explains why, without viewing therapy as a "craft," the effectiveness of our interventions significantly decreases.

William Doherty, PhD, is a professor and director of the Minnesota Couples on the Brink Project at the University of Minnesota. His books include Take Back Your Marriage, Take Back Your Kids and Medical Family Therapy with Susan McDaniel and Jeri Hepworth.

The secret to doing good therapy, Bill says, is developing a protocol by trial and error, and then repeating what works. "There are better and worse ways to ask certain questions," he says. "We are repair conversationalists." How we make bids for connection, pace ourselves, and most importantly, use language to elicit responses directly impacts therapy outcomes.

"Many of us are practicing in another century for another culture," Bill says. "It’s still unclear what we have to offer in a world that’s both hyperconnected and fragmented." But by honing our craft, and then sharing it with our colleagues, "we can successfully address the needs and engagement styles of the culture to open up opportunities for the rest of us to prosper."


Stay tuned for more of Bill's clinical wisdom in our upcoming video blogs!

Did you enjoy this video? You might also enjoy Bill's article "New Choices for New Times," where he offers tips for practicing in today's marketplace, or other highlights from our assessment of the psychotherapy profession in Taking the Pulse of Psychotherapy: We're Older. Are We Better?, including reflections from Mary Pipher, Scott Miller, Kenneth Hardy, and more!

Topic: Professional Development

Tags: bill doherty | William Doherty | 2013 | Couples & Family | couples therapist | couples therapists | marketing | marketing private practice | Networker Symposium | professional coaching | Professional Development | Symposium | therapeutic alliance

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