Saturday, July 26, 2008

An Open Letter to Edenbridge

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. ~Victor Hugo

I work as a psychologist for traders and portfolio managers in financial markets around the world. I'm currently writing my fifth book. All through the book's gestation, your music has been my companion and inspiration. In your work perhaps even more than mine, you don't always see the impact you have on others: the moments when someone finds in your efforts that which is noble and uplifting. My book would not be the same without you, and for that I'm grateful.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Brief Therapy and a Philosophy of Trader Coaching

My work in coaching professional traders has been shaped by my experience in the field of brief therapy, a collection of short-term techniques for accelerating change processes. Having taught brief therapy for many years to psychology interns and psychiatry residents--and having co-written a standard textbook in the field--I've been steeped in brief therapy as a philosophy, not just as a mode of helping. Here's how that philosophy impacts the actual process of working with traders:

* Seek Targeted Change - Change efforts are most likely to be effective if they are targeted to very specific changes in thought, feeling, and/or behavior;

* Stay Active - Change occurs from *doing* things differently, not just by talking to someone or by writing in a journal;

* More is Not Better - Brief therapists emphasize intermittent helping, leaving people on their own to practice and apply newly learned insights and skills, not encouraging dependence on a helper;

* Build on Strengths - People have many positive, adaptive qualities. Building on those reinforces health, confidence, and self-efficacy;

* Efficiency as Well as Efficacy - Brief therapy emphasizes time-effective methods for change, keeping the helping process affordable and not too burdensome;

* Strike While the Iron is Hot - Work on problems while they're occurring; changes are most likely to stick if they're rehearsed in realistic settings and situations;

In practice, this philosophy has me working very intensively with people for relatively short periods of time, using very hands-on techniques for altering problem patterns and applying those techniques to many situations. Weekly or monthly interactions are simply too infrequent to sustain the momentum of change; once progress has been made, then it can make sense to space meetings out over time to encourage the long-term internalization of the changes and guard against relapse.

To encourage this intensive interaction, I do not charge people for time spent on the phone or interacting by email (a far cry from the practice of coaches who run the meter at every possible opportunity); I want no barrier to regular contact. But once that contact leads to change, the goal is for the trader to sustain the process himself/herself, not meet for unlimited interactions with only a vague focus and agenda.

There is much in the brief therapy philosophy that traders can apply when they're acting as their own coaches. That will be the focus of my next post.