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Defining Coyote Psychotherapy

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Our therapy is decidedly narrative in the sense that we understand that humans and stories are interchangeable. We are the stories that live through us. We live through the stories we enact. Stories are the default mode of the human brain. We evolved to make story about the many people in our lives. Stories help us keep track of our many social relationships. They inform us about how to seek the good life and how to interpret the events of our life. Stories help us construct meaning in our lives and find a purpose to occupy our time. Stories are very important.

We also recognize the healing power of community. I have written before about the power of being with others when having an experience. Gene induction is so much more powerful when we are in the presence of others than when we are alone. This seems to cut across the animal kingdom, and is called the audience effect in biology. Other people give us our sense of meaning and purpose. They help us create shared stories, which we feel are greater than us (transpersonal). They give us opportunities to be altruistic, to share, to demonstrate caring for others, and to learn and be supported from others. Our preferred hypothesis about brain development is the social brain hypothesis in which social experience is required to connect the circuitry from its rudimentary origins.

But there's more. Coyote has a thing or two to say. Coyote teaches us the value of humor and fun. We want to enjoy each client. We want to have something positive to say about them, and to them. Coyote teaches us to find the humor in each encounter and to have fun in our work. Over time I will write more about narrative work, but it is decidedly fun. When we can represent each of the voices inside a person's head with a puppet, and when we can get the puppets talking to each, it's inevitably lots of fun, and also very helpful. We are breaking the conventional psychoanalytic mold (as it was taught when I trained in the 1870's) and are finding the humor in life and its vicissitudes.

At the psychiatry conference, we presented outcome data. If people can stick it out with us for at least six months, they usually improve (over 90%). That was much better than I experienced in community mental health work. When I worked there, I tracked my patients, and, on average, no one improved (of course, some did, and some got worse, but the net impact was zero). So, we are arguing that we appreciate and enjoy our clients, we have fun with them, and they get better. However, it takes more than six months for serious problems, and sometimes years. Nevertheless, the joy is there.

We will be exploring this ideas further in our workshop with Peter Blum in Stone Ridge, New York, called Finding Magic in a Muggle World. As is usual with our Coyote Institute events, no one will be turned away, regardless of ability to pay. Here are the instructions for how to find us on November 15 and 16: http://www.cometomama.org/upcoming-events/. I hope we will continue the dialogue about what works and what is pleasing in the psychotherapy of psychosis.

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Lewis Mehl-Madrona graduated from Stanford University School of Medicine and completed residencies in family medicine and in psychiatry at the University of Vermont. He is the author of Coyote Medicine, Coyote Healing, Coyote Wisdom, and (more...)
 
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