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Talking it Better is a practical book about the everyday practice of counselling and psychotherapy, written by a practitioner for fellow practitioners. Using case studies based on his own clients, Elton carefully examines what helps and what hinders the process of change in the therapy room. At the heart of therapeutic work, he argues, is the development of effective mind skills. He explains how counsellors and therapists can borrow valuable ideas from the teachers of skills such as swimming, reading music or learning to drive. And he shows us that, when it comes to developing our mind skills, practice is often far more important than insight or theory. Marie-Anne wants to manage the sergeant major in her head who keeps telling her what to do. Calum wants to learn to hear what his partner is really saying, rather than what he fears she is. Isobel wants to stop rushing to help people and then resenting them because they take her for granted. These, and the many other characters in this book, were profoundly stuck until, through talking it better , each found a unique path taking them closer to the self they would prefer to be.
Part One: Starting to talk
1- Marie-Anne and her sergeant major
2 - Calum gets prickly
3 - Isobel is a helpful person
4 - Meeting the help-seeker
5 - Responding to the practitioner
Part Two: Pausing to reflect
6 - Issues with insight
7 - Plausible pessimism
8 - Transforming perception
9 - Fear of doing things differently
10 - Learning in relationship
Part three: Talking it better
11 - Rhona can’t quite begin
12 - Morven struggles with confidence
13 - Calum breaks out of old patterns
14 - Isobel’s ping
15 - Martyn and his hope-protector
16 - Jana and Lucy find each other impossible
17 - Isla is held back by shame
Part Four: Enough talk
18 - How much is enough?
19 - Enough to get by
20 - Finishing models
21 - Enough already
This is a beautifully written, accessible and inspiring book, that has a lot to offer to both novice and experienced counsellors and psychotherapists, and also to clients. Matthew Elton invites other practitioners to look over his shoulder to find out how another colleague works. The reader is introduced to an array of vividly-depicted individuals who are seeking assistance to deal with life difficulties that are typical in therapy clients, such as anxiety, depression, relationship difficulties, stress, and recovery from trauma. Elton’s approach is highly collaborative. He writes about how he seeks to facilitate shared reflection on what does and does not work for the person, with the aim of creating a bespoke approach that varies from one help-seeker to another. Although he acknowledges the theoretical influences and training that have shaped his practice, one of the most striking and impressive aspects of the book is the extent to which he has integrated these influences, alongside aspects of his personal life experience, into a personal style that both demystifies therapy and is highly authentic. I enjoyed reading this book, learned from it, and would recommend it to anyone – practitioner or help-seeker – who is interested in understanding how therapy can make a difference.
Julia McLeod, Lecturer in Counselling and Psychotherapy, Abertay University
I read this book avidly, riveted by the author’s creativity, the clarity of his presentation, and by the rich, compassionate case studies that weave through his writing from beginning to end. Informed by a range of psychological and learning theories, Matthew Elton generously and modestly shares his thoughts on what is possible to achieve through collaborative endeavour within a trusting relationship between help-seeker and practitioner. Beyond theory, he combines his breadth and depth of knowledge with his professional and personal experience to address how to help people bring themselves closer to becoming their ‘preferred selves’. Practitioners of differing approaches and levels of experience will find this book refreshingly practical. It encourages us to explore and experiment, to respectfully and sensitively work with long-established frames of reference (recognising the part played by our own), and to actively work through the ‘blocks’ that maintain our stuck patterns.
Phil Lapworth, counsellor, psychotherapist, supervisor and author of Tales from the Therapy Room and Listen Carefully
Here is an accessible and beautifully written account of how a psychotherapist understands and works with the people who seek his help. It is both rich in metaphor and eminently pragmatic. Matthew invites us to ‘look over his shoulder’ to see how he makes sense of and responds to a range of issues that his clients bring and that many helping practitioners will recognise from their own practice. I enjoyed this invitation and the unfolding stories, interwoven with distilled yet lightly held theoretical models and reflections, of helping people move from being stuck to finding their preferred ways of feeling, thinking and behaving. I also appreciate how, throughout the book, Matthew shares his impulses, dilemmas, options and choices at various points, mindfully demonstrating his ethical sensibilities. I never had the sense of being told how to do this work from a one-up expert position. Instead, I experienced a caring and skilled practitioner sharing his craft. What a gift!
Graeme Summers, coach, trainer and author and co-developer of co-creative transactional analysis. Co-creativity.com
In this engaging book, therapist Matthew Elton takes us on journeys with people who come to him for help, exploring the ‘internal blocks’ that get in the way of making changes in their lives. On one level, this is a book for therapists and counsellors. But it’s written with a lightness of touch that makes it accessible to someone who doesn’t know the first thing about psychotherapy or counselling. Indeed, it would be an excellent book for someone who thinks they might benefit from therapeutic help but is unsure of what it might involve or how it might help them. Fundamentally, it’s a book about the possibility of changing ourselves in ways that make us better equipped to deal with whatever the world throws at us. I really loved it.
Helen Beebee, Professor of Philosophy, University of Manchester