Fit to go
Printing your own ticket out of the hourly therapy grind
By John Soderlund
A full-time psychotherapy practice can feel like a small cage. Private therapists are limited by the hours they can sell and the stamina they can maintain in the face of often emotionally exhausting work. It's not surprising that many such therapists wouldn't half mind a ticket out of the hourly therapy grind.
Katherine Levine didn't wait for her ticket.
She printed it herself.
Together with her husband, Katherine Levine, a Social Work Masters graduate provided short term foster care care to over 300 youngsters over a 14 year period. Levine says her foster children taught her about the need for staying emotionally fit.
In 1991, her book When Good Kids Do Bad Things was published. This parent education book grew out of her experience as a foster parent. But in 1995, what started out as a straightforward rethinking of her practice and her title has turned, for Katherine Levine, into a promising route out of an ordinary, income-limited job of a therapist.
Some years back Levine-evidently uninspired by the title psychotherapist-began calling herself an "emotional fitness trainer". But what some might consider a glib reframing of her therapeutic approach appears to have stuck in the right places. "When I re-named myself an Emotional Fitness Trainer (EFT), people began asking how they could become Emotional Fitness Trainers," she recounts.
And the move from selling one's time to selling one's ideas and title required a different mindset. Levine had her saleable idea but had to be careful not to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. So, how saleable are golden eggs in the therapy world?
"The primary difficulty has been time. I could sell the trademark and my curriculum relatively easily to a larger company or group, but then I would not be able to keep control. My vision is to sell the rights to use the trademark, to use my curriculum, to duplicate my handouts, and to sell various EFT products. Others could make money doing the training and I could make money on the licensing fees and sale of the products minus a commission to the EFTrainers," she explains. Already, she is training and licensing others to use her ideas. But she keeps a careful check on how it's done.
"Part of the licensing agreement is that the person will stick to my curriculum and use the handouts I suggest. Moreover, maintaining a license involves completion of quality assurance forms by those taking EFT courses. This helps me maintain some brand control, but EFT isn't like a recipe for cookies that has to be 100% faithfully followed.
" Realistically in following any curriculum, people always end up tweeking whatever they do. I also leave lots of room in the curriculum for using personal material. One of the first requirements for getting a license is to complete a Self-Care Course on your own. The second requirement is to teach that course to two other individuals and to a group of at least four people. This helps the trainer develop his or her own stories or spin."
So, what is EFT? "Physical fitness training improves physical health; Emotional Fitness Training improves emotional health. Emotional fitness is about managing feelings," says her web site.
But make no mistake, it's not therapy, Levine insists. If a licensed therapist is going to be an EFTrainer, he or she has to agree to refer clients needing therapy to another therapist and to use American Professional Credentialing Services OQ survey with the client to ensure therapy is indicated. If the client wishes to continue with the EFTrainer as a therapist, he or she is required to send EFT a notice to that effect.
"I think one of the ways I depart from therapy is that I do stress the need to have a life affirming philosophy-a philosophy that seeks to draw all people into the circle of love. No one can be emotionally fit if they are full of hatred, seeking revenge, or consumed with prejudice. That is a core EFT belief. No one can be an EFTrainer without holding to that belief and feeling able to hold others to that standard.
"I think therapists use many of the same strategies, but they do so in a context and a contract that says we have come together to treat a disease or a disorder. Certainly some of my strategies involve behavioural cognitive strategies, others involve meaning making, others self-soothing," she explains.
In substance, EFT is not far off from the "coaching" explosion of the past few years. But that's not something that worries Levine. "I think the current push toward coaching and training has developed because people want help dealing with life problems [They] need somewhere to turn to and at the same time don't want to see themselves as needing therapy or pathology-based support groups such as AA," she argues.
"What I value about the association [with coaching] is that idea that life is difficult and we all need a little coaching or training to become all we can be."
And, while the money is a clear benefit of Levine's ticket out of her daily job, she's clear about the need for more than just one winner for the concept to stay around for the long haul.
"What I don't want to be is someone who reaps all the profits or prices services out of the range of most people. I want EFT to provide a way for lots of people to do lots of good while making some money," she says.
Like any ticketholder, Levine has her critics. They come from both sides. "EFT is therapy, some say. Others say EFT isn't therapeutic enough to really make a difference or help people with problems."
The more important question, she argues, is whether EFT is helpful. She responds: "I think so, my clients think so and so do EFTrainers."
Katherine Levine's web site can be accessed at www.emotionalfitnesstraining.com.
John Soderlund is publishing editor of New Therapist magazine and a private psychotherapist and consultant.
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