In "Personally Speaking", psychologist Dr. Bob Rich presents his therapeutic advice to 50 unique individuals. Each one of these people has reached a critical point in their life where they feel that they cannot go on with whatever issue is after them: depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, loneliness, agoraphobia, ADD, history of abuse, self-image, suicidal thoughts, etc.. many of people have each posted their list of woes on an Internet service called the Body-Mind Queendom (http://www.queendom.com/). Once posted, a registered counselor or therapist can volunteer to answer such a plea for help. Bob Rich has mixed in his private clients with his answers to these often anonymous people.
You may immediately ask, how could email "therapy" possibly make a difference in someone's life? Consider that David Epston, one of the co-inventors of Narrative Therapy, has found in his research that one good letter is worth four to five face to face sessions. He began to replace the usual case notes with a letter to the client, summarizing the session. These letters (and by extension emails) are often taken to heart by the client, kept and read over-and-over as a talisman against distress.
Another key to the success of one-shot email therapy is the intention to get maximum gain from the medium. Bob Rich has said that he considers every session, in person or by email, as the last. In his replies, he gives it everything he's got: acknowledging them for what they have achieved and obstacles overcome, providing real data on their condition and how they are not alone, and advising them on a course of action.
Dr. Rich is also never afraid to share where he has also struggled with the very same issues that clients bring up. Clearly his compassion and love for people shows up in every posting. A few of these clients have developed elaborate stories of inadequacy and built up false stigma to support them. His advice might then fall along the lines of: "Don't change. Just think of yourself with kindness and acceptance." Sometimes the client can get the basics and work on their own with a book such as Dr. Rich's "Anger & Anxiety: Be In Charge of Your Emotions and Control Phobias" and other times they are advised to seek a school counselor or other therapist.
"Personally Speaking" is a book you're unlikely to read cover-to-cover in a single sitting. Rather, you are encouraged to browse along the thread of subject keywords that appeal to what you need. The client stories are intense, genuine, and replete with real-life details. You will undoubtedly discover part of yourself in one or more of these requests for help. I urge anyone who feels condemned by their past to read this inspiring dialog. I also highly recommend it to any therapist willing to take a risk and treat every session like it was the last opportunity to make a difference.
Victor R. Volkman is the webmaster for the Traumatic Incident Reduction Association (TIRA) and owner of Loving Healing Press. He is a trained Metapsychology facilitator, but primarily works on the TIRA Public Information Committee and in support his wife's Metapsychology practice as well. He is the author of several computer programming books and teaches part-time at the community college level. He has lived in Michigan all his life.
He is the editor and major contributor of an excellent book on dealing with trauma: Beyond Trauma: conversations on traumatic incident reduction.
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