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A Wise Man Seeks Counsel

Published Wednesday, April 26th, 2023 by Fi Team

Have you ever felt like it is easier to talk about your problems with a stranger? Perhaps you felt that you were listened to in a different way or you received some advice that you had never thought about before. Although it may seem strange to open up to a stranger (no pun intended), it is actually not an uncommon experience at all for people to go to someone whom they don’t really know for guidance.

You may have figured it out already, but guess what therapy is? Talking to a stranger! It is at first, at least, as you do develop a therapeutic relationship as therapy progresses. However, those first few sessions and even that initial effort to seek out a therapist is in fact seeking out a stranger for guidance. 

Now, we can ask ourselves why some people seem to be gravitated toward talking to a stranger. I am using the word “stranger” here for a bit of drama, but it is really about talking to someone who is not involved in the immediate innerworkings of your life and in the problem itself. 

A Wise Man Seeks Counsel

Our first step in figuring out a solution to a problem is usually to go to friends and family for help. This is an appropriate first step because your loved ones care about you, know you best, and have some insider information on what may be most helpful for you. These people are usually your major support systems in life, and it is only natural that we seek their guidance first.

A lot of the time, we don’t need to take any further action. Our family and friends are often able to provide guidance for our problems without us having to consult anyone else. For example, perhaps you may have received multiple job offers and are trying to decide which one to take. This is probably something you may consult your parents, siblings, partner(s), or friends about in order to talk it out with them and receive some feedback. They may know you well enough to be able to look at the different offers and provide an informed opinion on which job would be the best fit for you. 

However, there are also times in which there may be a lot of value in seeking counsel outside of our family unit. Most of the time, usually for the best intentions, our family and friends are emotionally invested in our lives (just as we usually are in theirs). While in some situations this emotional investment can help guide us, in other situations it can invite biased judgements or advice that cloud our decision making. 

I will use a really common example: dating someone whom your parents do not approve of. This can happen as a teenager, young adult, or adult. Perhaps this happened to you in the past or it is even happening right now (or perhaps you have been/are the parent in this situation!).  

If a dilemma were to occur in your relationship and you would typically seek guidance from a family member, you are more likely to encounter an emotional reaction due to their dislike of your partner and their love for you. These emotions very often change one’s feedback and perspective on a situation—this can lead to biased advice or even confrontation between you and your family. While this is an understandable process/reaction, it usually makes asking for advice from family or friends in these situations unhelpful.

Not only is it appropriate and helpful to consult with others on situations that might provoke bias and emotions within your family, but stepping outside of our family unit for guidance also expands our ability to understand a problem. We invite different backgrounds, perspectives, and approaches when we talk with new people. This can allow for an entirely new insight and/or method when dealing with a problem—it brings diversity into our ability to conceptualize and cope with different situations in life. 

Therapy is just one example of talking to a stranger, as therapists are professionals who are there to guide from a different perspective. This idea of talking to a stranger existed long before therapy even existed. For example, some religions have the concept of a confessional in which a person can go speak to a religious leader/guide face-to-face or behind some sort of private screen. A lot of the time, these people are strangers to one another; even if they aren’t, the guide is someone outside of the family unit that is able to provide a different outlook. 

So, while it is absolutely expected and sensible to initially look for guidance within your family unit, it is also wise to seek counsel outside of this unit in order to widen your scope and receive a different viewpoint. In essence, it sometimes makes sense to talk to a stranger. 

Article by: Kayleigh Sabo, M.S.

The Power of Your Mindset

Published Thursday, April 13th, 2023 by Fi Team

You may have heard of the well-known saying that talks about whether one sees a glass half full or half empty. It is said that the person who sees the glass half empty is more pessimistic whereas the person who sees the glass half full is more optimistic. While I don’t believe that a single viewpoint such as this completely determines whether one is a pessimist or an optimist (or whether one can be squarely put into one of those categories to begin with), it does bring up an important topic—the power of your mindset.

There are a lot of different ways that people can conceptualize using one’s mindset. Merriam-Webster defines “mindset” as “a mental attitude or inclination” (Merriam-Webster, n.d., Definition 1). Mindsets can be seen as general dispositions that influence emotions and behaviors. They can also be used specifically to manifest goals.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy has long looked at the role of automatic thoughts in a person’s mindset (Nakao et al., 2021). This approach believes that changing the thoughts can change the mindset and thus the emotions and behaviors that ensue from the mindset. For example, if your partner did not text you back all day, you could think, “See, I knew they didn’t really love me. They think it is a pain to have to answer me” or you could instead think “I know Tuesdays are their busy days, so they are probably swamped at work.”

One could easily imagine how the former thought could lead to an emotional rollercoaster of feeling unloved and potentially even the provoking of a fight with your partner when they get home from work. The latter thought is probably more likely to allow for a calmer approach or even a complete letting go of the lack of text to begin with.

I will give another example from my own life. Recently, I went to my best friend’s wedding in which I was a bridesmaid. It was a three-day ordeal that required a lot of involvement from the bridal party, and it was also something I was immensely looking forward to. The whole wedding went off without a hitch and was a great celebration.

Exactly a week later, I came down with the stomach flu. I was pretty sick and was unable to go visit my family the day I was hoping to because of being so ill. My partner of course said he was really sorry that I felt so bad and missed out on spending time with my family. My immediate response was, “Actually, I am just so thankful that I got sick after the wedding. I got so lucky I didn’t miss everything.”

Instead of wallowing in self-pity about the fact that I was seriously ill or that I missed out on something I wanted to do with my family, I was quite grateful that I got sick when I did and didn’t have to miss my best friend’s wedding because of it. This allowed the not-so-fun experience of being sick to stay within the physical realm—my mindset remained free of negative emotions and thoughts, and I wound up getting over being sick the next day and moved right along with life.

There is also a specific concept of a growth mindset which hinges on the belief that “one has the capacity to grow” (Tao et al., 2022, p. 2). Individuals with a growth mindset are basically flexible with their viewpoints and approaches and are more likely to put forth a solution-oriented mindset when working toward a goal because they have inherent belief in themselves.

A really common example of where this mindset comes in handy is at school or work. Focusing on the negative of failing a test or performing poorly at work, for example, is probably going to prevent you from doing better in the future. You’ll likely think the failure is representative of your capabilities as a student or employee; this leads to a negative interpretation of the event and of self as well.

However, if you have a foundational solution-oriented and growth-based mindset, I’m willing to bet you will be more likely to get back up, understand that you made a mistake, and then focus on figuring out a game plan on how to improve. You might even have a positive outlook on the situation and appreciate it as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than see it as a setback.  

I want to take a moment and also normalize and validate the experience of what I might call “being in a bad mood”. This is part of the human experience, and it is going to happen sometimes. However, a mood can be a temporary and even fleeting state. A mindset, however, is an underlying approach to life. Having this understanding and acceptance is a mindset in and of itself. A solution-oriented mindset allows you to give yourself grace during moments of upset, take a breath, and then think about how you’d like to respond to the situation instead.

The Power of Your Mindset

The fundamental appreciation for and use of the uniqueness and strengths of each client greatly influenced the field of psychotherapy as a whole. We already saw the presence of this thinking in Solution-Oriented Hypnosis. Solution-focused brief therapy—a specific therapy model—also stems from the idea that clients can initiate solutions in their life simply from the strengths they already have.

Perhaps it might be fun for you to play with this idea as well. Pay attention to the skills and resources that are unique to you that you might not have even noticed before. See where else in life you can apply them while keeping an open mindset about how they will work. They might not do anything at all, or they might do something cool that you didn’t expect. That is the fun and uniqueness of it.


Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Mindset. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved April 10, 2023,
from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mindset

Nakao, M., Shirotsuki, K., & Sugaya, N. (2021). Cognitive–behavioral therapy for management
of mental health and stress-related disorders: Recent advances in techniques and technologies. BioPsychoSocial Medicine, 15, Article 16. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13030-021-00219-w

Tao, W., Zhao, D., Yue, H., Horton, I., Tian, X., Xu, Z., & Sun, H. (2022). The influence of
growth mindset on the mental health and life events of college students. Frontiers in Psychology, 13, Article 821206. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.821206

Article by: Kayleigh Sabo, M.S.

Every client is unique

Published Wednesday, March 22nd, 2023 by Fi Team

Every client is unique—this philosophy is foundational to the practice of hypnosis and, really, to so many postmodern therapies. This attitude toward psychotherapy and people in general heavily originated from and was cultivated by a man who many consider to be the greatest hypnotist of all time: Milton Erickson.

Wilk (1985) addresses this unique viewpoint in his writing on Erickson:

“What is most fundamental in Ericksonian psychotherapy is the conviction that individuals already have the learnings, the know-how they need to solve their problems. The psychotherapist needs only to provide a context in which they can utilize that know-how” (p. 231)

Essentially, Erickson believed that nothing new needed to be introduced into therapy. The client already has the strengths and resources necessary to bring about change; the therapeutic relationship simply provides a new context for those strengths and resources to emerge.

Now, the fun part about this perspective/approach is that each client has different strengths and resources that can be called upon for use in therapy. This is where the uniqueness of each individual person comes in. Erickson even had a name for this uniqueness- and strength-based technique in therapy: utilization.

This aptly-named technique focuses on utilizing anything and everything that can be helpful for change to occur. In some cases, this might involve incorporating distractions going on during a hypnosis session. For example, if a door opens and closes in the background, the therapist might utilize this and say, “And as you visualize some doors closing and other new, exciting doors and opportunities opening...”

In many other cases, utilization involves utilizing the client’s internal, unique strengths and resources.

One of my favorite examples of utilizing a client’s strengths is a case that Bill O’Hanlon and Michael Martin (1992)—two students of Erickson and master hypnotists themselves—talk about in their book Solution-Oriented Hypnosis: An Ericksonian Approach. (Once again, even the name of this book itself highlights the use of client’s strengths and resources to help unfold solutions in therapy.)

A young boy had a problem with wetting the bet pretty consistently. Erickson met with the boy and didn’t even mention bed-wetting once during the session. Instead, he focused on the boy being a baseball player, which he had found out during their conversation.

Erickson then used a good bulk of the session to talk about the boy’s skills in baseball and how he needed fine muscle control in order to be good at the sport. Specifically, Erickson talked about the skill of positioning the glove in the exact right spot and then clamping one’s hand down at the exact right time in order to catch the ball. Erickson noted how this is a really automatic skill that good baseball players, like the boy, innately have. After other bits of conversation, the boy then went home and stopped wetting the bed.

This may seem like a mysterious way of getting change to happen (and it doesn’t always result in a complete end to a problem), but it is really about the uniqueness- and strength-based approach that Erickson used in therapy that allowed for new avenues of change with his clients. In this case, the boy transferred his skill of fine muscle control from baseball to holding his bladder. And there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach; Erickson wouldn’t immediately know if one way of utilization would make a difference or not. He would simply experiment with the various resources that his clients had and see which one stuck.

This underlying logic that forms the basis of Ericksonian hypnosis/therapy is present in other hypnotists’/therapists’ work as well. For example, Douglas Flemons—professor emeritus at Nova Southeastern University—discusses his use of utilization:

“In identifying and refining the characterization of clients’ skills and resources, I am looking for ways that the heart of localized mastery in one area can be abductively carried to and implemented with other, analogous, areas of challenging experience.” (2022, p. 107)

Again, all he is really talking about is identifying and harnessing strengths, skills, or resources from one area of a person’s life and then applying them to another area where that person is hoping for change.

Douglas even helped me embrace this approach during my own hypnosis session with him. My presenting problem was that I had a really hard time sleeping—I would tense up during the night and wake up physically tired the next day. While he guided me into trance, he mainly talked about my background as a yoga instructor and my ability (that I had told him about) to relax despite being an on-the-go person. He talked about this really nice skill I had to be able to be productive but still have the intuition to slow down. The next day after the session, I relaxed more while I slept and woke up feeling better.

Every client is unique

The fundamental appreciation for and use of the uniqueness and strengths of each client greatly influenced the field of psychotherapy as a whole. We already saw the presence of this thinking in Solution-Oriented Hypnosis. Solution-focused brief therapy—a specific therapy model—also stems from the idea that clients can initiate solutions in their life simply from the strengths they already have.

Perhaps it might be fun for you to play with this idea as well. Pay attention to the skills and resources that are unique to you that you might not have even noticed before. See where else in life you can apply them while keeping an open mindset about how they will work. They might not do anything at all, or they might do something cool that you didn’t expect. That is the fun and uniqueness of it.

Flemons, D. (2022). The heart and mind of hypnotherapy. W. W. Norton & Company.

O’Hanlon, W. H., & Martin, M. (1992). Solution-oriented hypnosis: An Ericksonian approach. W. W. Norton & Company.

Wilk, J. (1985). Ericksonian therapeutic patterns: A pattern which connects. In J. K. Zeig (Ed.), Ericksonian psychotherapy: Vol. 2. Clinical applications (pp. 210-233). Brunner/Mazel.

Article by: Kayleigh Sabo, M.S.