Lisa Mitchell

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Becoming Yourself in Life and in Therapy: What Yalom Teaches Us Once Again

Nov 14, 2017 | 4 comments

Teaching therapists about relationship

Aside from what my clients have taught me, I’ve learned more about being a therapist from Irv Yalom than from anyone else. The teaching stories in his books are told with a voice of deep respect and real love for his clients and for the process.  He keeps close tabs on his internal processes and often shows up from behind the analyst’s veil to self-disclose in a deeply vulnerable way.  Yalom has guided me, through his books, to invent therapy anew for each client and to be courageous in this act.

While his newest, and self-proclaimed last book is a memoir– not a book of therapy stories–it is indeed a touching act of self-disclosure.  In Becoming Myself, he does for us, as he does for his clients.  He makes himself real.  This is a gift he’s given us. We get to see inside his family history, his mind as he developed radical new ways of teaching young therapists, and to hear his few life regrets and thoughts on dying. Read More… »

The power of holding art in your hands.

Oct 27, 2016 | 8 comments

Hope Filled Postcard Art Exchanged

 

I got HOPE in the mail and I held it in my hands!

I signed up for Gretchen Miller’s Creative Deed Art Challenge thinking it was a fun idea to be a part of a postcard exchange.  The theme was HOPE which made it feel comfy and cozy.  I made three postcards, infused them with HOPE, and addressed them to Australia, Maryland, and Iowa.  It felt good.  I liked thinking about my hope-filled art cruising around the country and finally landing in someone’s appreciative hand.  I enjoyed following the Facebook images of the others’ who were creating postcards and gifting their hope to the world.  I thought to myself, “This exchange thing is wonderful.  I want to do more.”

Then I started receiving postcard gifts of my own in the mail.  Through the mail slot–real paper, real art, from real people popped through and landed on the floor with such grace and beauty.  To my delicious surprise, the very same people to whom I’d gifted a hope postcard had made and sent me one of their postcards.  We were now linked.  Joined in our endeavor to spread hopefilled art and in our appreciation of one another’s wish to connect in this way.  When I first received each one I traced the texture and line with my fingers and truly honored the handcraftedness of the postcard.  I have carried the three cards with me in my planner and feel buoyed by their presence in my daily schedule. Read More… »

What the Balinese do for anxiety.

Aug 18, 2016 | 7 comments

My 2 week writing retreat in Bali with Laura Davis was an adventure, a vacation, and a profound education. I’m certain I will have many things to share as my experience becomes more integrated. But one big take away from Bali cries out to be told, honored, and even implemented here in the States.

The Balinese practice Bali Hinduism which is a unique mix of Hinduism and Buddhism. They bring strong beliefs in animism and naturism to their daily practices and make it a priority to relate to all things and beings as one. The Balinese are stunningly beautiful people. Their faces aren’t pinched with worry. Their attention isn’t a mile ahead or on what’s next. They are engaged in the moment and their wrinkles are smile lines and crows’ feet mixed with the evidence of living in nature—fully, every day. Yes, the Balinese have struggles. I heard stories of domestic violence, gambling addiction, conflict between tradition and contemporary values, and inhumane treatment of the mentally ill. But, their daily offerings practice gives me ideas about what’s missing in our culture when it comes to coping with anxiety. Read More… »

3 cool truths about effective therapists

Jul 6, 2016 | 2 comments

blog-image-3-cool-truths

 

Here’s an email conversation I had with my assistant……

Tara:  There were irritating clicks again on the recording of your teaching call.  It’s pretty bad, did anyone complain?

Me:  Again?!!  That’s so awful.  We have to fix it. And, no, no one even mentioned it.  Isn’t that weird?

Tara:  Actually, your students are the nicest bunch I’ve ever worked with.  They are pleasant and appreciative and really easy to help.

Me: I absolutely love working with therapists for that very reason!  (In my thoughts, “Therapists are such beautiful people, I’m so fortunate to get to work with them.”)

Tara works with many different kinds of people, so her feedback is the bomb!

Not only are we pleasant and appreciative and really easy to help.  There some other super important things that make us such great helpers.

Here are 3 cool truths about effective therapists

1. Therapists are insatiable learners.

We are seekers and we strive to continually add to our tool box of skills in order to be effective with our clients.  Bill Doherty, (Psychotherapy Networker, May/June 2013) talks about the particular kind of learning that is necessary for us to keep getting better.  He says of the most admirable therapists, “They continually change and develop while holding onto the core of who they are as therapists. They’re interested in new models and new evidence, but not in serially reinventing themselves with each new fad.”

Continuing education has to hold our interest. We are hungry for education about important concepts, but we won’t be swayed to forget about what makes us unique as a therapist.  We love training.  We love to learn new approaches.  This is how we refresh ourselves and our work. Read More… »

My conversation with Irv Yalom and my letter of gratitude for his new book, Creatures of a Day.

Mar 29, 2015 | 4 comments

Creatures of a Day by Irving Yalom, My letter of gratitude for this fine book.Irv Yalom’s new book Creature of a Day has spurred all kinds of important and creative thoughts.  I read the book, attended his talk, and then called him up for a chat!

Here’s what transpired…..

Here’s the audio of our conversation where he tells me what he hates, gives me insight about his relationship to risk, and appreciates my own writing endeavors.


Here’s an open letter of gratitude that I’d like to share in hopes that you will be inspired to read Creatures of a Day.

Dear Irv,

This letter is a declaration of gratitude for your newly published book, Creatures of a Day, our recent phone conversation, and the artful legacy you’ve bestowed upon the field of psychotherapy. In the era of fast technology and mass production, your attention to relationship and the handcrafted nature of therapy is a life line.  In all of your 50 years as a psychotherapist, you didn’t sell out for clinical blueprints and formulaic approaches.  Instead, you opted to stay true to what you knew–the here and now, the importance of the therapeutic relationship, and your own internal thoughts and experiences as essential elements for your work with clients.  Creatures of a Day waves a flag and asks us to take notice.  It invites us back into the mystery of our work and reminds us to celebrate our humanness.  Your masterful story telling allows us to see you and your clients in action, mistakes and vulnerabilities included, and shares pivotal moments that will provoke thoughtful learning for generations of therapists.  So thank you for this. Read More… »

How to have a better relationship with risk. Because every session is an act of courage!

Jul 25, 2014 | 7 comments

How much risk can you stand?

Think about it.  If we were to quantify the amount of risk taking that happens in our offices every day we’d come up with an astoundingly large, heavy, perhaps unwieldy, measurement.  All that unknown.  All that vulnerability.  The stretching, the leaps of faith…it’s really gasp worthy.

Our clients are doing such brave things, and when you add that up, it’s a ton or more of risk—excavating their interior lives, facing the unfaceable, unveiling secrets they can’t even utter to themselves.  Really, our clients’ courage to risk what they do is breathtaking.

Plus, we’d  have to count our own risk taking.  Each and every session is a mystery adventure.  We don’t know where it’s going to start and we don’t know where it’s going to end.  And yet, we strap on our courage and jump in—hour after hour.

I like to think of us as painters.  We have our studio set up—office in order, complete with policies and ethical guidelines.  Our painting tools are in place—well learned theories and techniques at the ready.  We know when we are going to start and that approximately 50 minutes later we are going to stop.  We’ve done this act of “painting” hundreds and thousands of times before.

And yet, we have to face the blank canvas.  We have to find a starting point.  We have to begin the act of engaging in the creative process.  And no matter how many paintings or sessions we’ve done before, the one right in front of us represents another risk.  Another act of courage. Read More… »

8 lessons from the trail that apply to art, therapy…..and life.

Jun 27, 2014 | 9 comments

Mt. Tallac TrailWilfred Mitchell was a bull of a man. He was a psychologist and a professor and had the emotional intensity required to be good at this kind of work.  Many have described him as gruff and angry, and had the misfortune to be on the receiving end of his unrealistic expectations.  I knew him as Grampa Bill. To me he was a silver back gorilla who took all of his physical strength and melted it into tender and loving protection.

Grampa Bill was the one who taught me about hiking and white water rafting and the great outdoors.  As a teenager, on those amazing summertime adventures, I loved spending time with him.  I loved the mountain air and chili out of a can.  I have always said that Grampa Bill taught me to love nature, but only recently have I realized those trips taught me so much more about life and art and even therapy.

At the end of July, I’ll be climbing Mt. Whitney (the highest peak in the lower 48 states at 14, 505 ft. elevation) as a way of walking in my Grampa Bill’s footsteps.  (He impressed all of us by climbing Mt. Whitney in his 70’s.)  I’ve been training for this big climb, and the lessons I’m gleaning from the trail are invaluable.  Read More… »

A love letter to artful work…and you.

Feb 14, 2014 | 5 comments

 

heart 4 copyOn this 2014 Valentine’s Day, I am moved to declare my love for our profession and for each one of you who participates in this work with a whole heart. 

My friends say they like it when I get mushy–so here goes.

 

 

 I love you because:

You invite me to be the best human being possible.

You humble me.

You touch me–deeply–in endlessly surprising ways.

Your determination to make a difference is superhuman and seemingly fueled by an endless supply of compassion.

You help to create change and transformation that ripples through families in both subtle and monumental ways.

You inspire me to look for new ideas, in new layers, from new perspectives all day and all night. 

You continue to show me how resilient humans really are.

hearts heart2

 

You are a continually beautiful  reminder of the imperfection in our human condition. 

You work hard with your heart.

You ask me to keep my  heart open.

Every day you give me a reminder of what really matters.

This love thing is no joke…..this is a profession that requires us to have a huge capacity to love. 

Here’s to feeling the love, showing our love in many different ways, and to staying whole hearted in our love filled work.

heart3Happy Valentine’s Day!

Want to fall in love with your work even more?????  Check out this post about Therapeutic Use of Self.

Seeds of Gratitude Inspiration and Giveaway

Nov 27, 2013 | 10 comments

 

seeds of gratitude

I’m giving away one seed of gratitude from Generous Nature Pottery!

This week I have a special Thanksgiving invitation for you. 

This invitation is so important to me that I’m actually going to give away a prize for your participation. 

 I think it is a regular occurrence, that we as therapists end our work with clients saying and/or thinking, “It’s been a privilege working with you.”  Clients express gratitude for our help, we feel good about the work we’ve done.  It’s all part of the job……

And, then when we step back, reflect, and  really aim to express gratitude…when we start to acknowledge that  clients have profound effects on us...that our lives have been altered because of our relationships with them.  What can we find?  It is a virtual treasure trove.

So, today, I’m inviting you to reflect on the gifts that you’ve received from your clients.  Read More… »

creative communion as healing

Apr 18, 2013 | 2 comments

 

It’s 3 a.m.  We are bleary eyed; drunk on creative energy.  That new Ani Difranco song floats down from the upstairs studios where one of the senior art students must still be working.  Downstairs, we wind it down and pack away the clay in air tight bags.  Our unfinished sculptures get wrapped in wet plastic, mummified with promise of more work

I shelve my project where I can find room.  The drying shelves are packed full with works in progress.  A small library of floor to ceiling figures wait for their artist to return.  Some are abandoned now and brittle.  Bone white dancers and terra cotta trees stand dusty and still with expectation that someone will bring inspiration to fire and glaze them.

All day the metal ducting and high warehouse ceilings buzz with creative energy.  We work on the worn wooden slab tables, each enthralled by our own project and wrapped in the unified whir of art making. Read More… »

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