One Positive Thing

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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.

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5 Responses to One Positive Thing

  1. It amazing that while sitting outside our building I encounter many people with issues who wish to discuss these issues carefully. For some reason the cosmos wants me to understand these issues as my own, and listen carefully to my responses.

  2. Amy Herskowitz says:

    Thank you for sharing these stories, David! I work in mental health as well, although on the government program/policy side of things and one of the best things to happen to mental health in the province of Ontario has been the use of a new standardized tool to help both clinician and client work toward the CLIENT’S expressed goals. Before, we used to have such a paternalistic way of viewing clients with mental illness and advocating for their “recovery” – only as clinicians and practitioners perceived it. Now, we have a tool that allows the clients themselves to tell us what elements in their life they are interested in improving: relationships, housing, vocational skills, activities of daily living, and the clinician works as a team-member with the client rather than trying to “enforce compliance” from him/her. It’s such a simple thing but a crucial shift in understanding what really matters to people who struggle with mental illness.

    Thanks again for sharing these.

  3. cesar says:

    Thanks, David for your stories and the class you taught in spring. It was inspiring. On top of doing 200 push-ups, I’m now getting my writing published and training for a marathon.

  4. Will Fudeman says:

    Thanks much for these, David! It’s important to share stories of people recovering from mental illness by finding ways to live more satisfying lives. This gives hope and a creative perspective to many who might otherwise buy into the pharmaceutical/medical inadequate band-aid approach to ‘treatment’.

  5. Rose Martine says:

    I want to express my appreciation to the writer just for bailing me out of this type of setting. After looking through the world wide web and getting views that were not beneficial, I assumed my entire life was well over. Existing without the presence of solutions to the difficulties you have solved all through your entire write-up is a crucial case, and ones that might have negatively damaged my entire career if I hadn’t come across your blog

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