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I have recovered from the disease of Alcoholism. I believe there is only one person really,.. everybody. And that peace of mind is everything. -So treat your neighbor as you would treat yourself, because your neighbor IS yourself. I think most of recovery is what I would call common sense, but that learning to be ordinary is a true gift very few people acquire. My ambition is to accept everything unflinchingly, with compassion, and therefore be intrinsically comfortable in my own skin, no matter what. I am comfortable being uncomfortable and am willing to go to any lengths to improve my life. I believe the Big Book was divinely inspired, and is extraordinarily powerful. Unfortunately AA's best kept secret a lot of the time. (In my opinion). I just try to do what works, no matter what it is.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

No Sympathy and lots of questions: A flawless demonstration of how we might Sponsor others by Phillip Hodson

Phillip Hodson is a famous UK psychotherapist who amongst other things, spent many years advising complex mental health issues over the course of phoneins to prime UK radio stations many years ago. As far as I know he neither does phone ins, or even practices as a therapist anymore. He may have retired apart from media and writing projects.
Anyway. Back in the day, people would call in regularly who had been sexually abused, raped, had other !! hugely embarrassing personal issues, or delicate and complex mental health issues, and without fail he managed to consistently provide excellent therapeutic advice to callers, IN AN INCREDIBLY SHORT TIMEFRAME. Hugely !! impressive. I find this style of engagement and delivery !!!! particularly impressive and effective, which is why I mention it here.

A link to his archive audio clips of advice during phone in radio shows is here.

One thing that is noticeable about the way in which he deals with callers, is that (in my interpretation anyway) his communication is devoid of even the slightest flicker of sympathy. ..What I think of as a 'poor you' response.
Unless you have heard an extremely competent person give advice very accurately, it is hard to see how you can give advice without resorting to sympathy at some point. His example illustrates perfectly how if you are very competent, and address the issue accurately, and maintain a common sense and evenhanded, upbeat, measured response, that that approach is infinitely preferable to a "poor you" attitude from the advice giver. Which in my opinion reinforces the concept of victimhood on the person to whom you are talking, so can do more harm.

As with most things, this is better understood by listening to his archive sample phonecalls on this site, than to my explanation, which I doubt does it justice.
But having listened to how effectively he addresses these issues a lot in the past when he used to host regular radio phone-in slots, I have strived to emulate his style in so far as I refuse to give in to the temptation to veer off into "poor you" territory. Having listened to people like Philip, I understood that sympathy may in fact be very detrimental to people who are vulnerable and on the brink of falling apart emotionally. So providing a consistent evenhanded response is often far more settling, and reassuring to the person disclosing their personal issues.
So basically I think Philip is a !!!!! ]fantastic example of how to sponsor people effectively over the phone. Well in my opinion anyway. It is conclusive proof that it need not take much time to get to the point of even a !! very complex issue, and also that sympathy is redundant in many cases, even the most heartbreaking abuse histories.

I just thought I would share that as a reference, as I have always held Phillip's phone skills in high regard, and I had no idea that he had these audio clips online. I only just recently found them so I thought I would mention them here.
I might add, that what I admire here is his skilfulness, and not necessarily the context of therapy per se. I admire skilfulness in all its manifestations, and he is a very atypical psychotherapist who has in my opinion, acquired a ! very high level of skill, which is why he interests me.
I'm not sure how his delivery might be interpreted by people in the US, but I know that in the UK he is an extremely respected professional, and considered generally to be a wise human being with a high level of skill regardless of his paper qualifications as a therapist.

So what I'm saying is, if you SOUND like Philip when you talk to Sponsees, (provided you are reasonably accurately providing !!!!! relevant AA feedback), then in my opinion you have acquired a !! very high level of skill in regards to sponsoring people.
I'm not saying I think you ought to be able to KNOW all the things that he knows is a psychotherapist. (!) What I mean is that putting aside the qualifications of psychotherapist, and just focusing on the WAY in which he listens and talks to people, a HUGE amount can be learned.
For instance, he will frequently interrupt to ask questions in order to clarify things. There are some people in AA that would accuse you of being disinterested or that you weren't listening, if you did that, but again this example illustrates ! perfectly that in order to be competent very often you DO have to interrupt and ask questions in order to get the point quickly. Basically he has a very interventionist style, as opposed to just 'listening'. I have always preferred a highly interventionist style, I understand that this is not normally what people do in AA, because people often feel that their job is a sponsor is to merely listen. But examples like Philip Hodson demonstrate how effective an questioning, interventionist approach is.
Basically a lot of what he does are things which could be levelled as criticisms by (in my opinion) people who don't understand the most effective means of sponsoring people. Because his advice was on a radio show, he worked under !!!!! intense time pressure, and sponsoring is a uniquely difficult task for precisely the same reason. There is a huge amount of time pressure because sponsoring is done on on TOP of full-time work commitments and social obligations. We are not therapists who have !!! hours to spare to book people in, we are people who work full-time who therefore want to get to the point very !!!! quickly, to get to the issue quickly, and so this particular model of advice giving has !!! great uses regarding how to sponsor people, in my opinion anyway. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the way he speaks to people. Pure class. Really ! impressive skillfulness.

He is a great example of the maxim 'Sober not Somber' and 'we absolutely insist on enjoying life'. He does not allow himself to get dragged down to the despairing level of the caller. His energy does not become murky or entangled in the mire of the caller. He maintains a positive, proactive, outlook, and is one of a very rare breed who is intelligent enough to have learned how to make just about everything they know sound incredibly understandable and simple. Only very clever people who know their subject can do that. He's spot on. In my opinion. My aim would be to be as impartial and engaged without getting energetically murky, as he is, so that I can be as efficient at helping others as he is able to be. Why? Because I want to at least TRY to be of Maximum helpfulness. I am very grateful for his inspiring example provided on endless !! radio phone-ins years ago.

So there you go :) Better be off and get on with Sunday. Hope yours is a good one.

8 comments:

Syd said...

It is a good way to communicate: to not reinforce self pity but to point out that there are choices with how one decides to act, I do ask questions with sponsees. Thanks for sharing this.

johno said...

see you had a post brewing!! thank you for this, I will have a listen :)

happy bank holiday, hope you get some rest

Let Go, Let God said...

I think there are a lot of good points made in this post. I also think that asking questions causes me to look within rather than have someone else fix it for me.

Cheryl said...

Thankyou for the link to this archive; he sounds a wonderfully empathetic and kind man.

Phyllis said...

Interesting. I too ask questions.

Richard Carroll Sheehan said...

Lots of honest and useful info and attitude throughout this blog.

Thank you.

Willa said...

Hi, Irish! Still trudging the road - still reading your wonderful blog.

Can you write something about financial insecurity? Two years I thought the Promises were coming true for me. Right now after eight months of unemployment, I don't know if they'll ever come to fruition for me again. I pray, talk to my sponsor weekly, go to meetings, go to job networking meetings, look for jobs. Sometimes I am quite angry at God and everyone else.

If you have any smart words and ideas, I am definitely willing to read them and apply them. Thank you kindly.

phloll said...

Happy to report am still living and wanted to thank you for your ultra kind remarks. How nice to feel understood! In fact, it was the very pressure of the radio format that produced a lot of the insights - and the consciousness you had to fit in the news and weather as well as the ads (which had to be 'congruent' with the last few remarks before the break. Remember 'Ayds Slimming Biscuits'? They were trouble). I do once remember ignoring the half past the hour news altogether on the grounds it was identical to what we'd put out five minutes before... Phillip Hodson - www.philliphodson.co.uk