I usually tell my own stories here, but I heard these from Catherine Freemire, LCSW, a psychotherapist and life coach, and they were too good not to share. Her web site is called A Balanced Life. Both stories involve mental health professionals, so I could have called them brilliant therapy. But I don’t think professional help is what these stories are about.
The first story was reported by Bill O’Hanlon, the founder of solution-focused therapy, in his book “Do One Thing Different.” It’s about a woman in Milwaukee who had become quite seriously depressed. When the great psychiatrist Milton Erickson gave a lecture there, her nephew asked him to visit his aunt and see if he could help her.
The aunt lived alone, was now in her 60s and had lost most of her close relatives. She had medical problems that put her in a wheelchair and severely curtailed her social activities. She had begun to hint to her nephew that she was thinking of suicide.
When Erickson arrived, she gave him a tour of the house. Everything was dark, curtains drawn, furniture musty. But then she showed him her one bright spot, a greenhouse with beautiful plants including African violets, which she cut and replanted until she had filled the room with glorious blues and purples.
After the tour, Erickson didn’t talk to her about her obvious depression. As was his style, he focused on her abilities instead of weaknesses.