To get progress do you accentuate the positive or eliminate the negative?

“Anthony. What is it you want to achieve here?”

I had a fascinating conversation with a psychiatrist recently. While she was not focused on the creative professions, it seemed that many of her clients had similar issues to mine, and were stymied in their attempts to move forward. We found that we came at essentially the same challenges from diametrically opposite directions. The way we each framed the problem/solution was completely different.

She was interested in unearthing the root of whatever was holding them back so it could be fixed. Was it perhaps to do with the way they related with their mother in the early days out of the womb? She has published on the subject. For me: I am interested in finding what are the dreams and goals that will excite them and what motivators will propel them forward to those goals.

One of us is accentuating the positive and the other is eliminating the negative. Both techniques have their place – maybe even in tandem.

Since then I found myself talking to a clinical psychologist at a lakeside picnic in the oh-so-beautiful Adirondacks. This  person is an expert in something called cognitive behavioral therapy (known as CBT). I was rapt as she enthusiastically described her work with foster kids and the training she gives to inner city psychologists who are faced with helping some of the most difficult kids and their foster parents.

She asked me what I do, and I started talking about how I help creative professionals to re-frame themselves and their careers. I told her how I ask questions and probe for evidence of capabilities and unearth forgotten achievements in search of the new narrative that will energize and drive their work and goals going forward. She suddenly burst out “So what you are doing is cognitive behavioral therapy – that’s what it is!”