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What I Learned from the World's Greatest Therapy Consultant, Alex Vaz (Experiencing Scale Series)

Updated: Apr 2

1/4 I got weekly coaching from Alex Vaz. Here's what I learned on 02/03/23.

For about 11 months I got coaching from the world's best therapist coach - Alex Vaz [1].


Alex Vaz head shot

My time with Alex has fundamentally changed how I understand the change process. I still get lost in session, but it happens much less frequently.


This clarity about what's happening in therapy and why I'm getting stuck has been the greatest gift Alex has given me, and I'd like to pass it along to you.


Unfortunately Alex and I are no longer meeting. He's working full time with Sentio, an organization dedicated to revolutionizing how we train therapists. Since we stopped working together I've been re-watching recordings of my coaching sessions with Alex.


In our coaching sessions we covered three big ideas. The first of these big ideas was the "Experiencing Scale."

 

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2/4 My introduction to the Experiencing Scale

One of the things researchers have noticed is that some clients are more likely to change than others. When they studied the clients who are more likely to change they discovered that these clients often talked about their experience in ways that were internally focused, present tense, and specific. This is in contrast to clients who are externally focused, speak about the past or the future, or are vague.


In order to better understand this, researchers created the Experiencing Scale. This scale categorized clients statements on a 1-7 scale.


Experiencing scale

The big idea is that the lower the client is on the experiencing scale the more likely they are to change. When I was in coaching with Alex he told me the crucial line was between levels 3 and 4. The change part of therapy starts at level 4. Our job is to help clients get to level 4 as soon as possible.


But what do these levels actually look like?


Well, let's play a game. And through his game, together, we can find out.


3/4 Let's play an Experiencing Scale game.


Ready?


Let's go!


Watch this clip. 👇👇👇



Rank the client on the experience scale.👇👇👇 

* Make sure to click "See All Options"*


What level is this client speaking from?

  • He's a 1!

  • He's a 2!

  • He's a 3!

  • He's a 4!


Now watch this clip for the big reveal 👇👇👇



As you can tell, I had absolutely no idea. So Alex broke it down for me.



For me, this was crucial.


Client's don't have to be super articulate. They don't have to have the "right answer". They don't have to be saying something incredibly deep or profound or vulnerable. They just have to be trying to talk about their inner world in a way which is internal, specific and present focused, as opposed to eternally focused, vague and in the past.


That's it.


4/4 The Experiencing Scale brought me clarity.

For me, learning about the Experiencing Scale has been really clarifying. I thought, for a long time I just wasn't doing my model enough. If I was doing EFT I wasn't getting enough emotion in the room. If I was doing EMDR I wondered if I needed to be doing longer bilateral repetitions. If I was doing hypnosis I wondered if I needed a deeper trance.


But in reality, the client wasn't really focused internally on the present, they were storytelling about the past or ruminating on vague fears about the future. Now when I get stuck I check. I ask myself "are we in the present or past? Are we talking about something internal or external? Are we being specific or vague?"


This clarity makes it much less likely that I get chronically lost or stuck in session. And, I think, it's made me a better helper to my clients.


Which is what this whole thing is about anyway.


Best,


Jordan (the counselor)


-Fin-

Notes


[1] Alex Vaz is the co-author of literally dozens of books on deliberate practice, has written academic papers on therapeutic change, has trained with the best trainers in half a dozen different models, is now the Director of Training at Sentio, ran a popular YouTube series interviewing therapy experts, and at one point had some of the highest clinical outcomes of any therapist on record.

 

If you liked this post, consider reading this next. I think you'll like it ;) It's about the experiencing scale.

 

Jordan Harris, Ph.D., LMFT-S, LPC-S, received his Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Louisiana Monroe. He is a licensed professional counselor and a licensed marriage and family therapist in the state of Arkansas, USA. In his clinical work, he enjoys working with couples. He also runs a blog on deliberate practice for therapists and counselors at Jordanthecounselor.com.

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