Creating a Life of Meaning and Compassion
Overcoming Resistance to Change

Presenters: Lisa Firestone, Ph.D.
Joyce Catlett, M.A.

Many individuals seek help from psychologists simply because they want more out of life. As clinicians, we want to help clients live a more fulfilling existence, a life free of imagined limitations. But what really prevents clients from fully reaching their goals? Why do clients, even when they know what they need to do to change their lives, stubbornly cling to self-destructive patterns and behaviors? This symposium explores these questions, and offers a therapeutic method that can add a new dimension to your practice.

Psychological defenses developed early in life are helpful at the time, but later act as impediments to significant progress in psychotherapy. The speakers will discuss the development of such defenses, show how they interfere in personal development, and describe how to help clients overcome these barriers through the application of an innovative cognitive/affective/behavioral methodology called Voice Therapy. Real-life examples will demonstrate principles that can help individuals overcome imagined limitations and create a life of meaning and compassion.

The symposium is based on a new book to be published by The American Psychological Association. The book, Creating a Life of Meaning and Compassion: The Wisdom of Psychotherapy, presents a conceptual model integrating psychodynamic, existential and family systems frameworks. The presenters will translate the theory into step-by-step procedures you can apply in your practice.

Topics include:

Two-Hour Workshop Schedule

First Hour

The first presenter will introduce a comprehensive model of mental health and human development. She will explain how defenses formed to deal with psychological pain early in life, and later reinforced by the awareness of death, originally functioned to protect the client from painful emotions. She will describe how these same defenses limit the lives of adults, keep them deadened to their experience, and disrupt their romantic lives and family relationships. These defenses need to be challenged if people are to reach their full potential as human beings. Lastly, she will discuss the basic principles of “the good life,” including altruism, generosity, the search for personal meaning, and the development of compassion for other human beings who face the same existential realities that we all face. She will illustrate her presentation with excerpts from the video documentary, Friendship, A Life of Meaning and Compassion. (Parr, 2002)


Second Hour

The second presenter will introduce a cognitive/affective/behavioral methodology for helping clients overcome barriers to their personal development. She will introduce the methodology of voice therapy and use videotape examples to illustrate the methodology. The presenter will also introduce homework exercises that can help clients identify how their defenses are operating to prevent them from achieving their goals in different areas of life. The exercises also help clients start to separate very destructive ways of seeing themselves and their world from a more compassionate, realistic point of view. As people begin to recognize how much power these negative thoughts are having on their behavior, they are able to gain more control and break with self-defeating lifestyles. The exercises also help individuals develop and implement steps toward their goals, and create for themselves a life of meaning and compassion.

Goals and Objectives

1. To provide clinicians with a theoretical perspective which can enhance their ability to help clients to change self-destructive behavior patterns;
2. To focus clinicians’ attention on issues related to helping clients develop more meaningful goal-directed lives based on their true desires and needs, and
3. To introduce clinicians to an innovative cognitive/affective/behavioral technique to facilitate clients changing self-destructive thoughts and beliefs and help them live free from imagined limitations

Post Test Questions

1. Based on this theoretical approach, clients apparent stubbornness to change self-destructive behavior patterns is based on the defensive function these behaviors serve for the client.
2. This approach is focused on the here and now, and the patient’s past is seen as irrelevant to their current problems.
3. This approach integrates psychodynamic, existential and family systems of frameworks.