By: Lori Beth Bisbey, PhD
The views and opinions expressed in these articles and interviews are those of the individuals speaking, and do not necessarily represent those of Applied Metapsychology International.
This article and other similar articles can be found in Traumatic Incident Reduction: Research & Results (2nd Edition) available from our bookstore at www.TIRbook.com
About the writer
Ms. Lori Beth Bisbey obtained her B.S. at Boston University in 1984, and an M.A. in Clinical Psychology at the California School of Professional Psychology in 1988. She completed required course work and internship hours towards a PhD in Clinical Psychology in 1989 and then her doctoral dissertation – a study comparing the effectiveness of Traumatic Incident Reduction (TIR) with that of currently recognized treatment modalities for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Her dissertation No Longer a Victim: a Treatment Outcome Study of Crime Victims with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was published in 1995
From 1988 until September of 1990, Lori Beth worked as a Staff Psychologist Intern at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in San Diego, California. Her duties there included individual and group therapy with inmates, staff counseling, extensive work with PTSD victims (stemming from both combat stress and sexual abuse), the administration of psychological testing for the courts, liaising with law enforcement, prison staff, and attorneys, running two drug addiction groups, and the supervision of three other interns. It was during that period that she first encountered Applied Metapsychology. She did her first training in TIR in May 1990. Immediately upon her return to San Diego, she began using the techniques she had learned with a high degree of success. She now resides in England.
Of her first one-week course in TIR, Lori Beth writes: “In it, I learned more useful and practical information than I had learned in four years of graduate school in clinical psychology… The techniques I learned proved to be incredibly useful in my work at the prison. I came away from the course armed with techniques that I know work, which greatly increased my confidence in dealing with clients… I feel strongly about this. My primary intention as a therapist is to help my clients, and what I have learned virtually guarantees my success in realizing that intention.”
As a graduate student in clinical psychology, I have always believed that in order to be a good psychologist, one must personally experience the therapies one intends to practice on others. In my own case, the experience of receiving therapy preceded my becoming a student of the subject and, in fact, that experience was one of the reasons why I became interested in becoming a therapist.
I entered therapy following a severely traumatic event that occurred at the end of my second year of college. This was not a brief incident; it lasted several days, in the course of which I nearly died at the hands of another. Fortunately, I received “psychological help” almost immediately following the ordeal. My first therapist was a Jungian analyst who began his professional career as a PhD in molecular biology but subsequently became interested in psychotherapy. Following his own extensive analysis, he trained as an analyst at the Jungian Institute in Zurich. He was a very non-threatening and non-confrontational fellow. What I remember best about my therapy with him was the comfy chair I sat in and the lovely decor of his office. I had “proper” Jungian dreams and Jungian insights while working with him and decided to take up the study of psychology myself so that I could become a Jungian analyst.
I left that course of therapy with the same two diagnoses with which I had entered it – Dysthymia (mood disorder) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I still had nightmares every night and continued to live largely in the past. Still, some help was better than none. I was able to finish college on schedule, was still alive, still in touch with reality… and had had my first “positive therapy experience”, as it is called in the field. The fact that my symptoms had not significantly lessened or changed didn’t seem especially relevant at that time.
When I moved to North Carolina, I decided to take a break from “treatment”, but the stress of the move and some new trauma increased my symptoms, and I soon found myself back in therapy. I could only find one Jungian analyst in the area – an 80 year old woman with severe Parkinson’s disease and a very thick accent – but I wasn’t comfortable with her. Consequently, I settled for an eclectic therapist, a woman who had had some Jungian training. “Eclectic”, in the parlance of clinical psychology, means that you use whatever techniques come to mind at the moment and that you do not follow a particular theory of personality or human behavior. I spent a year in therapy with this therapist, during which time I applied for and was accepted into a doctoral program in clinical psychology in California. What I recall most vividly from that course of therapy was that the therapist felt I was not confronting the “issues” I should be confronting, and told me so repeatedly. She told me that my more recent trauma (by then, three years behind me) was “nothing” compared to the traumas she had discovered in my childhood. Since she had done no testing and no successful hypnosis – I remembered everything, despite her suggestion that I forget the session in question – I couldn’t understand how she could have discovered such information about me, when I myself was completely unaware of it. I discovered much later in viewing (session work using TIR and related techniques), that she was right about some of the traumas she hypothesized; at the time, however, she did not provide me with the means to confront them. My year with her was not a good therapy experience, and I left it with – again – the same two diagnoses as I had had when I began, as well as with a significant worsening of my symptoms. I could have done without her “help”.
When I entered graduate school, I was informed that I had to fulfill a “growth requirement” by having a year of individual therapy and a year of group therapy. This was not a problem for me, since by now my distress and awareness of unresolved past trauma was increasingly painful and being continuously stirred up. So I entered therapy yet a third time, now with a psychoanalytically oriented therapist.
This experience lasted four and a half years; overall, it was quite beneficial, but very, very slow and painful. On the positive side, I learned to trust this therapist, found out that a relationship need not be painful all the time, and became more causative. At this point, after about three years of individual therapy, two years of group therapy and various other therapeutic practices, my symptoms began to lessen. But I still carried the same two diagnoses.
In the fall of 1989, I went to San Francisco and attended the annual conference on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) sponsored by the Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (now the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies). By then, I had completed the course requirements for my PhD and most of my internship hours and was working on a doctoral dissertation in the area of PTSD. This, by the way, is quite a common phenomenon: students often pursue research in the areas with which they themselves have had the most problems. At this conference, I had a chat with a Viet Nam combat veteran named Pieter van Aggelen, who told me he knew of “some fantastic techniques” for dealing with PTSD. Since my dissertation concerned Viet Nam vets, I was intensely interested. We spoke briefly, he gave me a Newsletter from the Institute for Research in Metapsychology – and then I was dragged away to a prior social engagement. Going home on the plane, I read the Newsletter and was intrigued.
About two months later, as I was looking for some subjects to interview for my dissertation, I came across the Newsletter again. I wrote to Pieter for more information and also asked for his help in finding veterans to interview for my study. He asked for more information about my particular interest in the area, and I told him about my personal history. He told me that in order to understand the techniques, one should experience them. And he offered me a bargain: if I were willing to commit to having a few sessions, he would help me find the vets I needed. I decided to give it a try, and the first week in February of 1990 found me in Menlo Park.
It is difficult to find words to express the changes that were wrought in my life as a result of that week. When I came to Menlo Park, I was still diagnosed as having PTSD and Dysthymia. When I left, I no longer qualified for either diagnosis. For the first time in almost eight years, I was free. What I had tried and largely failed to do in seven years of conventional therapy had been accomplished in a single week’s time.
To be fair, I should point out that two external factors may have contributed to this happy outcome. First of all, I had had lots of preparation for that work – years and years of therapy. Secondly, the work was very intensive. With the exception of a bit of social time, I spent the entire week involved in either viewing or in intense, educational conversations about TIR and Applied Metapsychology. Needless to say, however, I was impressed with the results. Though never presented as therapy, it was, indeed, a “good therapeutic experience” – and the first one I had ever had in which the true definition of help was satisfied: I went away having fulfilled my own intention to rid myself of a chronic, extremely painful condition.
Since then I have also trained in some of the methods of Applied Metapsychology, and I strongly encourage my colleagues to do the same. I have had consistently spectacular results with my clients in using the methods I have learned.
And now to the purpose of this essay: to enumerate the differences between conventional therapy and viewing.
In conventional therapies, the therapist makes suggestions and offers interpretations and evaluation. In viewing, I was immediately struck by the fact that my thoughts, opinions, and considerations that I voiced were never explained, paraphrased, interpreted, or evaluated for me. I now know that this lack of evaluation was not a fluke not just the “style” of the particular facilitator I began with, but an absolutely essential element in all viewing sessions. It enabled me to do something I had been unable to do in seven and a half years of therapy: to say exactly what came to my mind with no restraint at all. It was – and is – an amazing feeling to know that I can say anything at all to a facilitator, knowing that he will not judge or restrict me in any way, and that I do not have to judge or restrict myself.
Another aspect of viewing that amazed me was that even though I was saying anything that came to mind, my viewing had a logical direction; there was an attainable goal. This – the concept of an end point – simply does not exist in most forms of conventional therapy. There, no specific point can be found at which one is supposed to stop working on an issue or area or, for that matter, where one is supposed to end therapy. The therapist never acknowledges that the client is finished looking at any particular subject. Being allowed to have an end point enabled me to experience a success. This was a new experience in therapy for me.
(As an aside: Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies do often have end points, but they are not necessarily determined by the client’s interests or feelings, and they don’t necessarily allow the client to experience the full success or benefit that end points in viewing do.)
Yet another wonderful difference is the fact that, in viewing, the session doesn’t end at a set time. Anyone who has been in traditional therapy is familiar with – and comes at one time or another to dread – hearing some variation of the phrase, “I’m sorry, our time is up for today.” I had countless experiences of being in the middle of an emotionally charged incident and being ushered out the therapist’s door, while still extremely upset, to fend for myself “until Thursday’s session”. I had so much unfinished business stirred up that it was a wonder I was able to focus at all on what was going on around me in the present. Leaving a viewing session feeling good, successful – feeling that I had gained valuable insight and was in control of my world – was the greatest gift I have ever been given, or given myself. The reparative force of ending at a proper point cannot be overstressed. A proper ending acts as a valid and significant source of empowerment for the viewer, and greatly reduces dependence on the therapist – a touchy issue in conventional therapy.
There is a further difference involving another type of potential evaluation: it was especially important for me that no one should evaluate – determine what I chose to look at in a viewing session. No facilitator ever told me that something I brought up was “not an issue”. Nor was I ever told that something I hadn’t even thought of was an issue. I was the one who determined what I would look at.
Yet another aspect of viewing that I have found valuable is the fact that I do not have to plan the agenda for my own sessions. The facilitator is responsible for selecting the techniques we will use and a technical director (TD) is responsible for planning the overall programs to fit what I am interested in looking at. My sessions have followed a logical sequence in addressing and eliminating areas of emotional charge. In my conventional therapy sessions, it was often left up to me to start the session. If I wanted to continue from where I had left off in my last session, I was usually able to; if I wanted to avoid confronting areas, I was able to manage that as well. In my earlier therapies, I was never aware of a general treatment plan – though I am sure there was one – and I was certainly unaware of the steps that might have been necessary to complete any such plan. Thus, some of my attention was always trapped on how things would get handled and when they might be resolved.
In viewing sessions, my attention is on viewing alone. I know that the facilitator and technical director will competently plan and implement my program and that, if problems do arise, they will devise a scheme to handle them. Furthermore, my experience to date has consistently demonstrated that such handlings will work and that I will not be left with yet another piece of unfinished business. I know what my job is as a viewer, and I don’t feel it necessary to attempt to do the job of the facilitator or technical director. In the past, I have felt it necessary to check on planning with my therapist in order to ascertain (from him or her – an idea that now seems foreign to me) whether any progress had been made and to provide my own handling for problems that arose in session. All such checking accomplished was to upset me further. If I had been able to be that objective about my own case and problems at the time, this might have worked. But no one can be truly objective about his or her own case.
It may seem as though I am totally negating the utility of traditional therapies, but I am not. In some cases, traditional therapy may be the optimum course to take. For example, in circumstances where someone is so completely disoriented that he is continually hallucinating, medication might be necessary at first. When working with young children, play therapy might be a better a venue than viewing. However, the Rules of Facilitation, which prohibit evaluation, invalidation, and the like, and the Communication Exercises (essential elements of communication, done as exercises and employed by trained facilitators in and out of session) would greatly enhance any therapeutic technique. Many trained psychologists and therapists use mainstream methods of therapy that are not at all damaging to their clients and that do have some measure of success. The difference I have seen here lies in the degree of success and the speed of its attainment. Viewing works better and more quickly than other methods. It requires commitment on the part of the viewer … but so does any method of growth. It also empowers the client to a greater degree than most mainstream methods of growth and therapy.
I cannot recommend any other method with more certainty. It is my hope that viewing techniques will become much more broadly available in the near future and that many more qualified practitioners will be trained in their use.