Monday, March 12, 2012

Asking the Right Question

Jon Connelly, the creator and master teacher of Rapid Resolution Therapy, will generally start a session off with a question. Something like…

"I'm wanting what we get done for you today to be really valuable. Do you have a sense of what that would be?"

It's worth pausing and taking in how different this question is from the usual ones that therapists ask. Many are still doing years later what they were taught in graduate school--to "take a good history." The client mentions a symptom, issue, or struggle and the traditional therapist is off on a psychosocial and historical excavation. In all fairness, many of us wouldn't get paid by third parties or the client wouldn't get admitted to our programs without it. So it is perhaps the case that many of us pursue this line against our own best instincts.

It particularly matters in trauma work that participants not be plunged into their past without the proper foundation being laid. After all, they've told or thought about their core story of trauma, injury, or abuse many times before and it only tends to lead them into either a rehearsed rehash of misery or a triggered, abreactive state which they can't easily turn off. Once this happens, it is hard to recoup the atmosphere of safety they so badly need.

Rapid Resolution therapists aren't trying to probe irrational thoughts, create genograms, trace substance abuse histories or any number of other therapist-centered agendas, illuminating as those may be. They are letting the participant teach them what is most needed right now to unlock the mind. They are conveying the participant is a valued human being, not a disease category. They are listening to the living human document, quickly noting silently the way mind has been affected by something that has happened. They are conveying positive regard for the strengths the participant has brought with them. They are uplifting and looking forward to a finished product.

If you look closely at Connelly's question, it is brimming over with collaboration and hope--that together we are heading somewhere new. Together we are about to do something really effective.

Hearing this message, participants are more likely to enter into a special state of consciousness called "connection." It registers with them that the therapist is not so interested in what is wrong with them, as what has happened to them; looking not so much at what is broken, as at the person who is still basically intact and already on their way to who they want to be. Odds are they have never been treated this way before in therapy. It is a powerful place to start from, and is entirely possible if only we learn to ask the right question.

Mark A. Chidley, LMHC, CAP, a fully licensed mental health counselor and certified addictions professional, offers counseling services at his office Kelly San Carlos Executive Center in Fort Myers, Florida.He has been in private practice since 1997. He holds certifications in Rapid Trauma Resolution (2010), Imago Relationship therapy (2001), and now specializes in the treatment of couples as well as individual trauma recovery and anxiety issues. He brings rich experience from a combined 26 years of hospital work and mental health counseling.

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