Ask people on Main Street America what comes to mind when they hear the word therapy. They may describe Freud, the classical analyst’s couch, with a free-associating patient spending years exploring the deepest recesses of early memories. However, they are just as likely — possibly more likely these days — to mention someone like Dr. Phil, who seems to uncover the long-simmering source of all of a person’s problems and offer sage advice, all within the course of a half hour. And that’s with commercial breaks.
The modern psychotherapeutic experience likely falls somewhere in between, and, with the limitations of insurance companies and the realities of today’s immediate-gratification mentality, much of the therapy administered today is brief. The average client, research shows, attends just five to eight sessions.
Psychotherapist and author Robert Taibbi has created a brief therapeutic approach designed for just that environment.
In Boot Camp Therapy: Brief, Action-Oriented Clinical Approaches to Anxiety, Anger, & Depression, Taibbi provides the framework and tools needed to adopt this intensive style. By concentrating on a rapid assessment followed by a targeted treatment plan that includes homework, the boot camp approach seeks to move individuals quickly toward their goals.
Written much like the therapy it describes, the book’s focused, action-oriented style is clear and easy to follow. Whether you are an experienced therapist or just starting out in your career, if you are considering focusing on a shortened therapeutic approach or just want to expand your current therapeutic repertoire, this book has something to offer.
Taibbi starts by asking what keeps a given client from being able to solve the problem on their own. “More often than not,” he writes, “it is more than a matter of skill,” as the client does possess the know-how. The issue is likely that their “emotions override their ability to use them.”
This gets at the core dynamic, namely the underlying coping skills that the client uses to approach the world. Many of these skills developed in childhood and, like old computer software, are now in need of an update. Taibbi centers on that process, arguing that “how you do anything is how you do everything.”
In his view, progress is based on immediate behavioral change rather than on the underlying emotions. “You and the client don’t need to spend time piecing together all the elements of the story, digging through the details of past events and facts, or wasting time in couple or family sessions figuring out whether it was really Tuesday or Wednesday,” Taibbi notes. “Instead of the what, you and the client only need to focus on the how — helping clients in the here-and-now to take steps to change their MO.”
To do this, Taibbi uses the Karpman drama triangle in his discussion of relationship dynamics, with individuals fluctuating between the roles of rescuer, victim, and persecutor. He contrasts this with an “adult” relationship where individuals step beyond the triangle to take responsibility for their own problems and actions. He then uses these core concepts as he outlines detailed treatment maps for anxiety, depression, and anger, noting that, in addition to being common complaints, these three problems “so easily morph one into the other.”
And Taibbi focuses on the needs of the therapist, anticipating the issues they may encounter in attempting to adopt a brief-treatment approach.
One important component of successful brief treatment is selecting appropriate clients: Not everyone is suited for this intensive, action-oriented approach. To that end, Taibbi provides guidelines for deciding who is most appropriate for the so-called Boot Camp method, as well as tips on how to best set up a client’s expectations, starting with the initial telephone call.
Taibbi details each step, including quick assessment, establishment of a treatment plan, and the process and content of the therapy sessions. He includes instruction in specific exercises such as the Emotional Freedom Technique, thought stopping, meditation, and letter writing. And he describes how to incorporate family members into therapy sessions.
The case examples Taibbi uses throughout the book make it interesting and highly readable. Finally, he ends with a chapter that focuses specifically on how to incorporate techniques into your everyday practice, summarizing key points and providing even more tips for applying the core concepts of this method.
“Brevity,” Shakespeare noted, “is the soul of wit.” In today’s world, brevity is also the reality of many psychotherapy practices. Approaching an individual’s problems with the Boot Camp principles gives structure to a shortened framework — and Taibbi’s well-done book may help you expedite progress with your clients.
Boot Camp Therapy: Brief, Action-Oriented Clinical Approaches to Anxiety, Anger, & Depression
W. W. Norton & Company, December, 2013
Hardcover, 216 pages