Our Fear of Change: Resistance Is Built into Our Evolutionary Wiring

By Rich Simon

Animals, including humans, are programmed by evolution to fear change—after all, in the distant past, change in the status quo usually signaled life-threatening danger. Even now, humans are instinctively afraid of change—even if it offers something better than our current condition. If you doubt it, look almost anywhere around the globe: The fiercest, most destructive struggles tend to revolve around the fearful possibility of change.

It used to be that psychodynamic therapists, as well as those trained in paradoxical methods, took it for granted that no matter how much clients suffered and yearned for relief, they often resisted mightily the very therapeutic help they sought. A major part of therapy was finding the hidden reasons for their resistance and motivating them to overcome their antipathy to change. The new high-tech, quickie methods of treatment—CBT and/or meds—too often rely on the assumption that the mind works in straightforward, sensible ways: If you’ve got a problem with anxiety or depression and you want to get rid of it, you do your homework, take your pills, and bingo! End of problem.

But what if in some fundamental way of which they themselves are not really aware, they don’t really want to get better—or at least not too much better? That’s the subject of David Burns’ featured luncheon address at this year’s Networker Symposium. Click the video below for a preview of what David has to say:

What makes David such an interesting spokesperson for the power of resistance to change is that for many years he was a leading advocate for high-tech treatment, first as a “biological psychiatrist,” and then—disenchanted with meds—as a practitioner of CBT. He found, however, that CBT by itself often fell short. His patients would improve to a point and then stall out just as they should have been making their victory laps. Setting aside his CBT agenda, he began exploring with his patients what it was in their lives that might prevent them from wanting to get better. Among other issues, he began to believe that all too often they were in fact afraid of relinquishing bad feelings or phobias, however much suffering they caused.

“I wonder,” he wrote in the January/February 2013 issue of the Networker, “whether anxiety might ultimately result from a kind of existential fear of the self—fear of who we are and how we really feel as human beings. Perhaps these phobias and fears serve the purpose of safely isolating us from uncontrollable urges, feelings, desires, and impulses that we dislike and that contradict our idealized notions of who we think we are or should be.”

Now a fervent advocate for what he calls the “motivation revolution,” Burns has developed a variety of motivational techniques for preparing patients to want to change and become full participants in the process of therapy (rather than “yes, but” resisters). He still is a fan of CBT, by the way—it’s just that he’s more likely to think in terms of the old saying, “drink no wine before it’s time”: The patients must whole-heartedly want to lift the glass before the therapist even uncorks the bottle!

Find out more about David’s latest work and that of other innovative leaders’ approaches to the dilemmas and paradoxes of change at this year’s Networker Symposium.

The Therapist’s Craft:
Healing Connection in a Digital World
March 21-24 · Washington DC
Learn more here

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Capturing the Symposium in One Minute or Less

When it becomes time to open registration for the Networker Symposium each year, we always wonder what the best way is to introduce the event to those who have never attended.

How do you summarize a four-day affair with a packed schedule and over 3500 attendees in just a handful of words?

If we focus on the multitude of workshops being offered, then the Symposium sounds like any other professional conference.

If we focus on the social and networking opportunities, then it starts to sound more like a party and less like an opportunity to learn and grow.

It turns out that the best review comes from someone who has first-hand experience. Mary Pipher—noted writer, Symposium presenter, and frequent contributor to the Networker—perfectly summarizes the Networker Symposium experience in this quick Symposium clip: It’s both a professional tribal gathering and a family reunion.

Think about joining us.

The Therapists’ Craft:
Healing Connection in a Digital World

March 21-24 · Washington DC
Click here for all the details.

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Emotion in the Consulting Room

Symposium keynote speaker Susan Johnson has done more to demonstrate that emotion, far from being a frivolous, “touchy-feely” dimension of our experience, is the key to therapeutic change. Today, her Emotionally Focused Therapy—founded in the principles of Attachment Theory—is widely recognized as the most empirically supported approach with couples. To watch Sue talk about the next step in improving psychotherapy’s effectiveness—the theme of her upcoming address at the 2013 Symposium—just click on the video below.

In addition to her keynote address, Sue will also be co-presenting a workshop with scientist James Coan addressing one of the most intriguing questions facing therapists today—how can we expand our repertoire and improve our outcomes by incorporating the lessons of brain science in our work? Their all-day Saturday workshop, The Neuroscience of Couples Therapy, will offer the unusual opportunity to see a skilled therapist partner with a noted neuroscientist to offer a moment-by-moment analysis of a couples session to explore the relevance of neuroscience to relationship repair.

Whether your interests are couples therapy, trauma work, mindfulness, anxiety, depression, children and adolescents—or just about anything else under the sun—you’ll find cutting edge ideas and methods that you can use in your practice at this year’s Symposium.

Now is the time to register. Space is limited and workshops are filling up. Register today!

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The Shape of Things to Come

By Rich Simon

We asked educator, couples therapist, and wise-man-in-residence Bill Doherty—an old friend and ally of the Networker for more than 30 years—to explain why he thinks that, at its core, therapy is not an art or a science, but a conversational craft. And, what’s more, does he feel that if the field is to continue to survive, do we need to find better ways of mastering the subtle conversational skills increasingly being ignored in clinical training; skills that mark the difference between well-intentioned, but ineffective chatter, and something that truly deserves the label “good” therapy. Click on the video below to hear what he had to say.

This is the first of a series of video previews by Symposium 2013 Featured Speakers. This year we’ve decided to let the larger therapy community in on some of the secrets to be revealed at the Symposium by offering some video previews of what featured speakers consider their own professional cutting edge (at least for the moment).

Most practitioners, as they traverse the bumpy obstacle course of their daily appointment schedule, don’t have the luxury of taking time off to peer into their crystal balls to divine what’s ahead for psychotherapy. That’s where we step in.

We see our job as providing a kind of early-warning system highlighting the trends shaping the future of the field (for better and worse) and the new ideas and methods that promise to help us do our jobs better. That’s why the Networker Symposium—our annual schmooze fest, house party, and celebration of new ideas and innovations—is so central to everything else we do. The hundreds of conversations that go into the months of planning the Symposium, selecting its faculty, and finding out about their latest work is our main source for getting the Big Picture of our profession. It determines everything else we do, including what we’ll cover in our magazine, what resources and developments we highlight on our website, and what courses we’ll be offering in Networker U. And that‘s why coming to Symposium 2013 is the closest thing to coming to the world premiere of “The Shape of Things to Come in Psychotherapy.”

Whether you’re able to join us in March or not, stay tuned for more video previews from leaders in our field.

Free Symposium Video Offer Ends January 14th!

Over the past 35 years, there have been many transcendent Symposium moments—including presentations by Gloria Steinem, Tom Wolfe, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Mary Pipher, Salvador Minuchin, John O’Donohue, and others. These are all captured in the 35th Networker Symposium Anniversary Video.

Get It Absolutely FREE
When You Register
For Symposium 2013 Before Midnight January 14th!
Get Registration Details.

Sign up before Midnight, January 14 and we’ll send you the video link by January 16th.

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John O’Donohue on the Therapist’s Task

John ODonohue

By Rich Simon By now, it’s a standard joke that most New Year’s resolutions made with great earnestness on January 1—often having to do with losing the weight we gained since last New Year’s—are usually history by January 2. Still, for therapists at least, it’s a natural impulse as the new year begins to reflect a bit on our lives, our relationships, and perhaps even the future of our profession. Continue reading

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Remembering Psychotherapy’s Mark Twain

Who of us couldn’t use some more inspiration, an occasional reminder of truths that get obscured in day-to-day life, or maybe even some telling observations that make us laugh out loud? That’s why so many therapists have made attending the Networker Symposium an annual ritual. Continue reading

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Why Come to the Networker Symposium? Just Listen to the Attendees

No matter how much we have to say about the inspirational speakers, the enlightening workshops, or the vibrant energy of the Networker Symposium, nothing compares to hearing its praises sung by actual attendees.
Continue reading

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CREATIVITY DAY: A Time To Rekindle Your Spirit

Jump start your Symposium experience by attending Creativity Day, a program of more than 25 workshops devoted to sparking your imagination, refreshing your spirit, and rejuvenating your body.
Get Inspired: Check out the video above from Creativity Day, Symposium 2012.

Include Creativity Day In Your Symposium 2013 Plans!
Creativity Day is Thursday, March 21, 2013. Workshops include:

  • Self-Care, Healing, and Body Awareness
  • Writing, Visual Arts, and Self-Expression
  • Music, Rhythm, and Voice
  • Dance, Movement, and Theatre
  • Personal Growth

Get Details On All
Creativity Day Workshops here

Read Rich Simon’s Sunday Essay About
His Transforming Plunge Into Improv Class
During Graduate School

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A Conference with a Touch of Mardi Gras

Symposium. Conference. Workshop. Retreat. When we hear these words, we tend to think of large, uninviting rooms filled with rows and rows of chairs, where we sit quietly with a notepad, listening intently while someone in the front of the room talks about our profession—where it is now, where it’s going, and how we can be more successful in it. There’s a break for lunch where we can finally stretch our legs and make some awkward chitchat with our colleagues. Then it’s back to the rows of chairs for some more lecturing.
Continue reading

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An Antidote to Professional Isolation

Today, more than ever, we’re all aware of the occupational hazards of our trade. Wherever we practice, we know the daily pressure to see more clients in less time, with less opportunity to talk about our cases, develop our skills, and give each other the kind of support our demanding craft requires. That’s why we want to extend an invitation to the 36th annual Networker Symposium, “The Therapist’s Craft: Healing Connection in a Digital World,” coming this March 21-24 in Washington, D.C.
Continue reading

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