Case Study


Case Study

Rediscovering Happiness: The Use of Positive Childhood Triggers in Psychotherapy

May/June 2015


I’ll give you three months,” Rosemary announced, shaking my hand and plunking herself down on the couch. “I’ve done therapy before, and I don’t want to go digging around into childhood stuff or anything like that.”

Ugh, I cringed inwardly. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear at the onset of my first session with a new client. She’d set the timer for tangible, lasting results, and the clock was ticking. I knew I wouldn’t have the luxury of gradually letting therapy unfold, and I’d already seen the shortcomings of many of the techniques out there for effecting the quick change she demanded. I’d regularly used gratitude journals, appreciation letters, yoga, and meditation to jump-start therapy, but I knew that these techniques, in themselves, often had limited effects.

My experience as a therapist had shown me many times over that if you really want to help people open a doorway to a different way in life, therapy needs to give them powerful experiences—positive ones. Low-energy encounters with a therapist just don’t make enough of an impact to create real change. So I’d even gone so far as to create retreats where people could swim with wild dolphins, pet whales, and firewalk. These were certainly powerful experiences, but they didn’t have the staying power I was looking for.

Then I saw a picture that captured the experiential intensity that can make a real difference in people’s lives. It showed a group of boys playing soccer on a pile of…

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Sunday, February 21, 2016 3:58:43 PM | posted by John
I think having the patient return to positive experiences in life can remind them that once upon a time they could be happy. That could mean they are able to find ways to be happy again; that all is not lost. I have found that patients in the 7th stage of Erikson's model often find themselves without the interests and energy they had in earlier stages. If I can get them to 'relive' some of what they experienced, they seem to reap benefits, consistent with Rhegina Sinozich's outcomes. I have one patient taking her teenage Daughters out for 'fun' days and it seems to be working.