Friday, May 27, 2016


My full time gig is as a professor of social work. I tend to teach a lot of the helping skills/practice courses, and have done so for 18 years now (gulp). When teaching helping oriented courses, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the vast amounts of theory, practice skills, and research you want students to absorb. I also have the added issue of the quarter system; ten weeks does not feel like a lot of time when teaching theory and skills in the same course.

So, I try to keep it simple, and really rely on my practice wisdom (to the degree that I posses any!) and the research to help guide my teaching.

One of the principles that I focus on is the power of placebo. Placebo, as you know, is what is used in intervention research instead of the actual intervention, and insures that the receipt of both the intervention and the "fake" treatment are not sure who is getting what.

Sometimes, I hear a student suggest that since an intervention is only somewhat more effective than placebo in the treatment of a psychosocial disorder, it must not be effective.

Yet, this assessment neglects to account for the important confluence of research on placebo, the "waiting room effect" and positive psychology.

Placebo, or the belief that you are getting treatment, can often be highly effective. Why? The belief that one can do something, or that something is going to change, activates something within us that leads to our growth and healing.

Hope? The expectancy for change? An activation of our internal resources that are released in service of growth?

Whatever it is, it is powerful. It is also why I write to former, prospective and clients frequently, even if they don't get back to me. It is not only a letter from "Rich", but "Rich the coach," and a reminder of the possibility of productive writing,  and a desire to grow and change. What I am suggesting is that hope, a focus on our strengths and capacities, and a sincere desire to transcend can go a long, long way.

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