Sunday, November 18, 2012

Meet Andrew T. Austin, Therapist and Trainer

Andrew T. Austin is a therapist in the UK who has also developed several training programs for practitioners. His most recent project is an online training program regarding treatment for Post Traumatic Stress disorder.

1. What made you decide to put together an online training program about the treatment of PTSD?

Part of my motivation came from frustration at the repeated media stories that focused on PTSD. Invariably, when a new story is aired, an "expert" is wheeled out in front of the cameras who performs a lot of hand-wringing and talks about "raising awareness of the problem" and telling the viewers how serious the problem is, but they never tell anyone what to actually do about it. I suspect that the reason for this is that most mental health professionals don't really know what to do about it, but this view doesn't make me too popular with my psychology colleagues, but I fear it is true anyway. Therapy tends to consist of "getting the client to talk about their suffering" which from a clinical perspective doesn't seem to be a particularly efficient use of time. Having the client talking about their pain is what I call The Illusion of Treatment. It fills time, but nothing useful is actually occurring.

So whilst this online program will inevitably reach through the client group, what I am hoping is that it will reach though to clinicians who can learn some effective techniques for working with PTSD and lose their own helplessness when dealing with the problem.

2. What are the specific benefits of this training program being available online rather than happening in person?

The main benefit is accessibility. I live in a small seaside town on the south coast of England, and client inquiries for PTSD treatment and other problems tend to come in from all over the world. Because the techniques and methodology is easy to learn, it didn't seem necessary to have people traveling to see me when treatment could be explored remotely. Initially, I was doing sessions over Skype with clients, but then I thought: why not record the work and put it online? That way the work can be offered for a fraction of the price and available to more people.

3. Who have you helped with this online program (what types of practitioners, etc)?

I'm slowly beginning to change the way that change work clinicians practice. I should emphasize "change work" clinicians because a huge percentage of clinicians in the psychology field don't actually do anything to bring about change, but instead write reports (i.e. court reports, clinical assessments), work in research and so forth but don't actually do anything to bring about change in their patients' conditions.

Some do treatment of course, and this is mostly CBT. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a disparate collection of ideas and techniques that has formed over recent decades and tends to be trusted by psychologists and psychiatrists alike, even if this trust isn't necessarily shared by their patients. Slowly and steadily I'm hearing from more and more psychology and psychiatric professionals who are adopting my methods and find them more effective than CBT.

The area where I carry the most influence is that of private or alternative therapists--primarily NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) practitioners and hypnotherapists. Whilst I have written many critical articles and blog posts about this group of change work professionals, one thing they do tend to have in their favor is the willingness to trying out to techniques and ideas. It is just a bit unfortunate that this openness can lead to some alternative practitioners adopting weird and wacky ideas that don't seem to grounded in reality!

4. When and how did you transition from nursing work to your career as a therapist and trainer?

It was a gradual transition. I worked as a registered nurse from 1992 when I qualified, through to 2000 when I left nursing to work full time as an health advisor in industry, a career move that virtually doubled my income. In 1994-95 I did a year-long part-time course in hypnotherapy, and from that time continued doing different trainings, running my own experimental hypnosis group, and so on. I started seeing clients part time from the mid-1990s. It wasn't until around 2005 that I had enough of a reputation that I was able to quit paid work and work for myself full time.

I am often approached by people who have seen an advert and have decided that they want to give up their day job and become a hypnotherapist or whatever. Many people think this can be an overnight transition. Maybe it is, but certainly for me it was anything but that. As a wise man once said, "It takes ten years to become an overnight success."

My working life is so radically different these days compared to when I was nursing, with international travel to deliver training courses in the USA, India, Sweden, Poland, Turkey, and Hungary. The publication of my book, The Rainbow Machine, and the various DVDs that I have released and of course the development of the internet has facilitated the international reach of my work.

5. What helps keep you motivated in your career?

It helps that this is the thing that interests me the most. I've had many different jobs in my lifetime. As a nurse I worked in many different clinical areas ranging from A&E and neurosurgery, mental health housing, elderly care and so on. As a teenager, I experienced the soul-destroying experiences in unfulfilling employment, and more than once as a nurse I experienced that Monday-morning-feeling... every day of the week.

I really enjoy what I do today, even if the pay is much lower than my previous work. I have a simple philosophy: I'd rather be poor and happy than wealthy and stressed, and I think the enjoyment of what I do comes across in my work with people, and this helps tremendously when it comes to getting results. I have met many therapists and other clinicians who obsess about getting results--they quickly turn into dedicated martyrs, and they aren't that much fun to be around, less so if you have mental health problems. I firmly believe that enjoyment is the most important quality for any therapist.

Part of the enjoyment is meeting such a wide variety of people from different backgrounds and cultures, and of course, there is the aspect of being able to make a difference to people's suffering, something that motivates me to continually develop better strategies and methods for creating change.

Thanks, Andrew!

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