Thursday, April 03, 2008


OK, so I just had to follow up my last post with an example of the kind of genius I had the chance to observe at the SPA conference. Part of the training involved the chance to watch videos of assessment work.

In one video, the psychologist was assessing a woman who hadn't been progressing as she'd hoped in her therapy. So he did a number of tests with her, and found a number of results suggesting a tendency to keep others at a distance, a belief that she has to be "tough" and handle things on her own, and a kind of self-centeredness.

So he's meeting with her and when he gets to the finding about narcissism/ self-centeredness, he approaches it by saying "...this is a finding that often happens when people grew up in homes where they often felt alone." And after she agreed and processed how often she felt alone, he said "...this also comes up in homes where parents had a difficult time keeping their kids' needs in mind." All of this led to a discussion of how often she felt neglected, how selfish they were, how they insulted her and even kicked her out of their home. And then they discussed how she learned to be "tough," how she had to fend for herself, etc.

But notice where he started -- not with a label, not with "this finding suggests that you become preoccupied with your own needs." No, he begins on a level more in tune with her experience -- of being so alone.

Pure, utter genius.


Katherine E. said...

Glad the conference was good. Sounds like it's one I would have liked as well.

Diane said...

ah yes, because if he had started with the conclusion, she wouldn't have bought it, would she?

steve said...


Precisely. And because by starting with an area that experientially felt "right" to her, she felt understood, even validated -- and was able to explore her way of coping with the aloneness (i.e., by getting tough, focusing on her own needs, keeping people at an emotional distance, etc.)