I was a psychotherapist for almost twenty years before I became interested in research. My interest in exploring therapy scientifically began in the ‘70s. This was a period when, on the West Coast where I worked, there was a great deal of energy, ferment, and excitement about finding new and better ways of providing treatments.
I had an opportunity to watch and meet with Fritz Perls, William Glasser as well as some of the pioneers of systemic therapy; Paul Watzlavick, Virginia Satir, Carl Whitaker and Salvador Minuchin. The encounter with these master therapists left me mulling over and over the question: What is it that makes all these so radically different therapies work? What kinds of client processes leads to change?
In essence, all of my research is a series of linked attempts to find answers this question. My starting point was a belief that all successful therapies start with a very special kind of relationship with their clients that this special connection opens the possibility of the client rising above his/her present world to discover new, wider horizons, fresh choices and resources that they did not know they had. I developed an instrument in my doctoral thesis to measure an aspect of the therapeutic relationship, the working alliance (Working Alliance Inventory) as a first step of applying a scientific lens to my search. Using this tool, I went on to look at different helping processes in a variety of contexts and has had some success in identifying some of the common processes I was searching for.
From there the road branched in a variety of directions, but always returning to the core puzzle: What makes therapy effective? My work has been a journey of discovery, each new insight leading to other, usually more complex questions. I think we have made some progress in understanding some of the ways therapies can “work.” I became convinced that, when therapy is effective, it is a thing of wonder, but not a mystery. I also know that all we researchers have learned, and can learn, will only uncover part of the story of therapy. But this search, though it can only reveal part of the tail, can help us to offer better service to clients, and provides a way to sort out what is useful from unjustified claims.
Personally I found the challenges of research exciting and ultimately satisfying; I am “passionately addicted” to this part of my vocation and feel it is a perfect compliment to my clinical practice.
You can view my current research CV by clicking on this link. If you are interested in the Working Alliance Inventory (WAI) use this link. Occasionally I post some of my presentations, research “musings,” and work-in-progress drafts on <this page>.