Old vs. NewRecently, I took a week-long training at the wonderful Cape Cod Institute on ACT- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Although I had heard of the model, I was not familiar with the paradigm and I was eager to learn something brand new that I could bring to my practice and my teaching. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and resonated with so much of the material, I was struck with the notion that much of what I was learning, I had already incorporated in my work with clients. There were definite differences in the language that was used to describe the treatment approaches and techniques. And the paradigmatic lens that the presenter looked through to assess and describe clients’ struggles was specific to the ACT model. But during the week I realized, more and more, that no one is really reinventing the wheel when it comes to the process of therapy. And then I realized that that was ok.

Although we focus on the uniqueness of each client, we also recognize the universality of clients’ issues and the manifestations of their struggles. Maybe that’s why it makes sense that there is a universality to our treatment approaches as well. No matter how we semantically spin what we do, isn’t it fair to say that all models encourage the foundation of a safe, trusting, and non-judgmental therapeutic alliance? Don’t we all, to varying degrees, help clients notice their thoughts, feelings and behaviors? Aren’t we all encouraging clients to “stand back” from entrenched cognitions and inner criticism so they can re-evaluate their validity and the extent to which those thoughts are helpful versus destructive? Don’t all paradigms embrace the notion of self-compassion and self-acceptance? Aren’t we all helping clients, in a variety of ways, tap into their own inner wisdom, creativity, and their resiliency? Don’t all models encourage clients to define personal goals that encourage growth and positive change? At the end of the day, aren’t we all trying to help clients to heal?

What I learned that week in Cape Cod is that once you tear away at the unique and new “packaging,” what’s inside the box is remarkably familiar. As I learned about ACT, I was re-learning concepts related to Internal Family Systems, Gestalt Therapy, Ericksonian Hypnosis, CBT, Mindfulness, Somatic Resourcing, Focusing, etc. Once I let go of my initial frustration (“Why aren’t I learning something BRAND NEW?) I discovered I liked the idea that “everything old is new again.” It allows for the compatible weaving together of “different” models, corroborates that we are all on the right track as clinicians, and reinforces the many ways in which we all experience the same struggles as human beings. And the notion that we are all in this together is ironically one of the core concepts of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy! It’s a model worth looking at and incorporating into your work.

What have your experiences been when you go to a workshop to learn a “new’” treatment paradigm?

9 thoughts on "Everything Old is New Again"

  1. Joyce McCauley says:

    Much the same as you Lisa! Sometimes a new way of looking at a familiar concept. Sometimes a refreshed feeling that I am on target in thinking about these familiar concepts.

    1. lisaferentz says:

      You are right, Joyce! We all need that validation that we are on the right track. Sometimes getting our work corroborated at a training is enough!

  2. Hi Lisa,
    It was great to have you say all that about your recent training experience – this is what I experience also as I do “new” trainings and I had the feeling that ACT was going to be a blending of many of the things we already do so have been on the fence about taking it. When you are the life long learner type (like I think we both are) you keep searching for things to add to your tool box. I always like the Wizard of Oz story when I think both about my own growth as a therapist and that of my clients. They search for their “hearts” and “brains” and all along realize they really had them and just needed someone to illuminate those qualities. Perhaps if you are a competent therapist you rely on your intuition and “inner wizard qualities” more and more to guide you to what is right for each client in that moment!

    Take care-

    1. lisaferentz says:

      Jan, I love the Wizard of Oz metaphor! I often tell my clients that ” they have been wearing the ruby slippers all along” when they continually look outside of themselves for the answers.

  3. Gail Guttman says:

    Having been a therapist over 30 years, I experienced the same thing when I went to the Cape Cod Institute to hear Richard Schwartz about Internal Family Systems. In fact, I have expressed to my colleagues and supervisees these thoughts after many trainings over the last years. It often seems that there is a repackaging of language, but as you said, the same basic concepts. I loved the way you weaved your experience into the universality of the therapeutic experience. As I have attended these workshops, I often get a new excitement about being a therapist. It’s nice to feel that way after all these years.
    However. the thing that troubles me at the workshops is the way in which some of the presenters criticize publicly other therapeutic models and claim their way is the best way. As a couples therapist, much of my work is about teaching couples to be respectful of each other’s differences, i.e., differentiated and connected. It would be great if our mentors/teachers knew how to create the same experience with their colleagues. I appreciate you for being a teacher who can be differentiated and connected. Thank you.

    1. lisaferentz says:

      Gail I really appreciate your insight about presenters needing to be more accepting and less judgmental of other models. Sometimes the best therapeutic approach is one that uses the strengths of many paradigms in ways that are most applicable to the uniqueness of each client!

  4. Helen Kauffman says:

    I also believe that by becoming therapists we are responding to our inner wisdom…call it holy spirit?

    Much like the “old souls” concept.
    so many Models that depict the different sides of a majestic building that is humanity…
    so many doors to use… To enter the sacred space that is there before us. We may recognize it as a coming home.
    Peace to all

  5. Bobbi says:

    That’s tough for me to71182#&;I&#821o;m a planner. I’ll plan lots of goals. The blog zenhabits.net has been helping me recently. I think the key is to focus really all your efforts onto one thing. Eventually you get some momentum on the actual doing instead of the planning.

    1. lisaferentz says:

      Bobbi, I really like your idea about getting focused on one goal, rather than feeling overwhelmed by a long list of them. And you’re right- when you feel some success and a sense of accomplishment, it sets you up to build on that and accomplish more!

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