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BE THERE THEN: Using the Future as a Catalyst for Change Bill O’Hanlon, M.S., LMFT Possibilities Santa Fe, NM USA

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Presentation on theme: "BE THERE THEN: Using the Future as a Catalyst for Change Bill O’Hanlon, M.S., LMFT Possibilities Santa Fe, NM USA"— Presentation transcript:

1 BE THERE THEN: Using the Future as a Catalyst for Change Bill O’Hanlon, M.S., LMFT Possibilities Santa Fe, NM USA

2 BE THERE THEN For a free copy of these PowerPoint slides, visit: Click on FREE STUFF, then click on SLIDES Wait about a week for the slides to show up; meanwhile there are others up there you can have while you are waiting. All slides except for copyrighted material I do not own will be there (please support the artists/media producers by purchasing their materials)

3 BE THERE THEN 1 Most of our treatment approaches focus on the problematic past or troubled present

4 BE THERE THEN “All pasts are like poems; you can derive a thousand things, but you can’t live in them.” –John Fowles

5 Elspeth McAdam-Future Pull... A young girl I was working with had experienced abuse. She walked into my office as a very large girl with shaved hair, tattoos on her head, and I don't think she had showered in a week. I had been asked to see her because she was so angry. She clearly didn't want to come and see an expletive expletive shrink. She was very angry at being there. I just said to her, 'You've talked to everybody about your past. Let's talk about your dreams for the future.' And her whole face just lit up when she said her dream was to become a princess. In my mind I could not think of two more opposite visions–but I took her very seriously. I asked her about what the concept of princess meant for her.

6 Elspeth McAdam-Future Pull She started talking about being a people's princess who would do things for other people, who would be caring and generous and a beautiful ambassador. She described a princess who was slender and well dressed. Over the next few months, we started talking about what this princess would be doing. I discovered that, while this girl was 14 and hadn't been attending school for a long time, the princess was a social worker. I said, 'Okay it is now ten year's time and you have trained as a social worker. What university did you go to?' She mentioned one in the north of England. I asked, 'What did you read [study] there?' She said, 'I don't know, psychology and sociology and a few other things like that.' Then I said, 'Do you remember when you were 14? You'd been out of school for two or three years. Do you remember how you got back in school?'

7 Elspeth McAdam-Future Pull She said, 'I had this psychiatrist who helped me.' I said, 'How did she help you?' And she started talking about how we made a phone call to the school. I said, "Who spoke? Did you or her?' She replied, 'The psychiatrist spoke but she arranged a meeting for us to go to the school.' I said, 'Do you remember how you shook hands with the head teacher when you went in? And how you looked and what you wore?' We went into these minute details about what that particular meeting was like–looking from the future back. And she was able to describe the conversations we had had, how confident she had been, how well she had spoken, and the subjects she had talked about. I didn't say any more about it.

8 Elspeth McAdam-Future Pull About a month after this conversation she said to me, 'I think it's about time we went to the school, don't you? Can you ring and make an appointment?' I asked if she needed to talk about it anymore and she said no, that she knew how to behave. When we went into the school she was just brilliant. I first met that girl ten years ago. Now she is a qualified social worker. She fulfilled her dream–although she didn't go to the university she mentioned.

9 BE THERE THEN 2 Adolescents sometimes don’t conside the future (and think they might be immortal)


11 BE THERE THEN “I’ll be dead by the time I’m 18.”

12 BE THERE THEN 3 Many people get through difficulties by finding hope and a positive future

13 BE THERE THEN “There is a reason the the rearview mirror is smaller than the windhield.” –Sign on a church in Winnipeg

14 BE THERE THEN 4 Some people prefer a future orientation

15 Howard Lutnick, CEO Cantor Fitzgerald Lost his brother, his best friend and 658 of his employees in the 9/11 attacks We always thought we’d fall apart at some point. I’d tell people it was like surfing in front of a very large wave and as long as I kept going forward as fast as I possibly could, the wave would never get me. But if I ever stopped, and took a moment to look back...Whoosh, the wave would crash over me, and I’d get crushed. But if I kept moving forward, the wave would get smaller and smaller, and that’s what happened. (Fall 2006)

16 BE THERE THEN “ The future enters into us, in order to transform itself into us, long before it happens.” —Rainer Maria Rilke

17 BE THERE THEN 5 There is some research to support this future orientation and approach

18 Future-Orientation Research Participants in a study were asked to write down their ideal future, in which all had gone well and they had met their desired hopes and goals, for a few minutes on 4 consecutive days Control groups were asked to write about a traumatic event that had happened to them for those minutes on 4 days; another was asked to write about life goals as well as a trauma; another control group was asked to write about their plans for the day on those 4 days Results: The “future-oriented” group reported more subjective well-being after the experiment than the controls; the trauma and “future- oriented” groups both had less illness when followed up 5 months later King, L.A. (2001). “The health benefits of writing about life goals,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27:798-807.

19 FUTURE PULL: The Victor Frankl Strategy

20 FUTURE PULL METHODS 1 Find the longing and the dream

21 FUTURE PULL METHODS 2 Problems into preferences

22 Problems into Preferences Rephrase from what is unwanted to what is desired

23 Problems into Preferences Reflections: Not questions but restatements (with a twist)

24 Problems into Preferences Redirect from the past to the future

25 Problems into Preferences Suggest small increments instead of big leaps

26 Problems into Preferences Mention the presence of something rather than just the absence of the problem

27 FUTURE PULL METHODS 3 Positive expectancy talk

28 Positive expectancy Nonverbal and verbal methods of seeding a positive and hopeful future

29 Positive expectancy Verbal is easier to teach and speak about

30 Positive expectancy Talk Yet, so far Before After When How quickly?

31 FUTURE PULL METHODS 4 A letter from your future

32 Letter From Your Future Write a letter from your future self to your current self From five years from now Describe where you are, what you are doing, what you have gone through to get there, and so on Tell yourself the crucial things you realized or did to get there Give yourself some sage and compassionate advice from the future

33 Letter From Your Future Use these questions to guide their letter writing: What have you learned and gained perspective on since back in [fill in the present date/year]? What things were you worried or frightened about in those days that seem trivial or far away for you today? What problems seemed overwhelming or insurmountable in those days that you did eventually resolve or overcome? What sage advice would your future self give to that present self? What comfort or reassurance would your future self give to your present self? Who were you troubled by, frightened by or concerned with that now doesn’t matter as much?

34 Letter to Me (Brad Paisley) Due to copyright laws, songs, poems, video, audios and other copyrighted material cannot be distributed. Please support the artists by purchasing their material..

35 FUTURE PULL METHODS 5 Future without the problem

36 What is your sense of a future you would prefer (vs. problem-determined or problem-continued future)? What would you do or focus on or think in the near future if you were committed to or moving toward that future? Could you do any small part of that right now or in the near future?

37 Future Pull “The best thing about the future is that comes only one day at a time.” –Abraham Lincoln

38 How will you (or me or anyone else) know that treatment has been successful? How will we know that you no longer need help? What will your teacher, parent, friend, spouse, partner, psychiatrist, etc. see that will convince them things are better enough for you to stop treament?

39 The Miracle Question Say: “Imagine that as you were asleep tonight, a miracle occurred and the problem or concern that brought you to therapy was resolved.” Make certain that the client is experientially involved in the scenario. Ask: “When you first open your eyes, what the first thing you will notice that will let you know that this miracle has occurred?” Ask: “How would other people know the miracle had occurred? What would they notice that is different about you or what you are doing?” Keep tracking the changes through the day, the week, the month and so on.

40 Other Future Metaphors Crystal ball Time machine

41 Other Future Metaphors Rainbow bridge

42 If your problem disappeared, what would be different? In your daily actions? In your relationships? In your work? In your thinking? That others would notice? What aprt of that future without a problem could you start doing right away?

43 FUTURE PULL METHODS 6 Smallest signs of change


45 What is the first sign that you (or your parent, teacher, probation officer) would see that would let you know that things are going in the right direction?

46 Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Fanny McCullough Dear Fanny It is with deep grief that I learn of the death of your kind and brave Father; and, especially, that it is affecting your young heart beyond what is common in such cases. In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares. The older have learned to ever expect it. I am anxious to afford some alleviation of your present distress. Perfect relief is not possible, except with time. You can not now realize that you will ever feel better. Is this not so? And yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again. To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now. I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only believe it to feel better at once.

47 Acknowledgment and Possibility Transitioning between past, problem and possibilities Carl Rogers with a twist 3 methods Reflecting in the past tense Reflecting from total to partial Reflecting from truth/reality claims to validating perceptions

48 Future Pull "You have to go fetch the future. It's not coming towards you, it's running away." –Zulu proverb

49 Future Pull Methods 1. Future pull 2. Problems into preferences 3. Positive expectancy talk 4. A letter from your future 5. Future without the problem 6. Smallest signs

50 THANK YOU REMEMBER: You can get a free copy of these slides: Click FREE STUFF, then SLIDES You may share these with others, as long as you don’t profit from this activity

51 This Powerpoint presentation was created by Bill O’Hanlon ©2011. You have my permission to use it for non-commercial purposes (like sharing it with your colleagues or studying it yourself). If you want to use it in any commercial (money- making) activities, please contact me for permission and discussion.

52 Bill O’Hanlon’s info Websites: Email:

53 Bill O’Hanlon, M.S., LMFT Possibilities 223 N. Guadalupe #278 Santa Fe, NM 87501 USA

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