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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2010
On Becoming a Better Therapist
( Barry Duncan, Psy.D. )

If you are interested in becoming a more effective therapist, this splendid book is a must read. It is written for therapists by a therapist - but not just any clinician or researcher touting another model or technique, or discussing how to sharpen your diagnostic skills. Dr. Duncan is a psychotherapist with thirty years and 17,000 hours of direct experience with clients, as well as a researcher, international trainer and consultant, and author of over one hundred professional articles and books on what works in therapy. Written for therapists of all disciplines, theoretical persuasions, and career levels, this book is Duncan's latest gem. Based extensively on 50 years of increasingly sophisticated psychotherapy outcome research, Duncan takes his message to another level by confronting the silent problems that have chronically plagued therapists - clients who do not progress, significant drop-out rates, a wide range of therapist variability, and therapist's inability to predict client deterioration. In this book, he offers an immediate clinical solution to these challenges by focusing on the two most important people to therapy outcome, the client and the therapist, while also proposing the systematic use of outcome measures to provide therapeutic direction toward improved results.

This book has six clinically useful chapters and each concludes with powerful client stories that were transformations in the author's development as a therapist. In chapter one, Duncan highlights key empirically supported guidelines which therapists can utilize to achieve better outcomes. Of note, is his proposal of a new common factor - client-directed feedback on the fit and benefit of services. He cites new research documenting feedback's significant impact on outcome and argues feedback can be a therapist's compass to successfully navigate a client's unique path to change - something he calls "practice-based evidence". Chapter two is a straightforward discussion on using feedback from clients to help therapists do better work. Duncan introduces his own compatible alliance and outcome measures that are reliable, valid, and feasible for use in real world settings. Chapter three tackles the reality that not all clients benefit from therapy. Duncan masterfully informs the reader how therapists can recapture clients who are not responding, or deteriorating, and move them towards progress. His perspective that therapy should not be used for the purpose of just sustaining or maintaining clients, as well as his view on "failing successfully", is especially enlightening. Chapter four explores the implications of a massive 15 year research study on psychotherapists from all over the world. Duncan integrates its findings with practice-based evidence and details concrete actions that will put therapists in the zone of doing their best work and enhance their development along multiple dimensions. In chapter five, the author offers the classic tale of The Wizard of Oz to stimulate the reader's own self reflection on one's identity as a therapist. He also reflects on his own identity and purports that therapy can be a discovery-oriented journey, anchored by feedback, to manage the uncertainty along the way. The chapter ending client story is a stunning tribute to such a process. Chapter six discusses a final step in taking one's development seriously, in which Duncan urges that therapists collect client feedback (e.g. notes, letters of appreciation) about their work together, as well as transformative cases that mark significant lessons in one's developmental growth. The author concludes the book with his own perspective on some major controversial issues facing our field and challenging our identity. His stimulating thoughts on managed care, evidence-based practice, psychotropic medicine, and the medical model encourage the reader to question the status quo.

On Becoming a Better Therapist is what we have come to expect from Dr. Duncan - a compelling and insightful book that displays his command of the psychotherapy outcome literature, while providing clinically useful ideas on how therapists can become even better. This engaging and perceptive book offers a simple message for therapists - form partnerships with clients, systematically monitor the fit and benefit of that collaboration, and invest in one's own growth and development. A therapist's unquestionable faith in client's own resources for healing, coupled with one's genuine desire to improve as a helper, is all that's needed to begin getting started down the path towards becoming a better therapist. This book eloquently outlines that path.

Reviewed By:
Brian DeSantis, Psy.D., ABPP
Director, Behavioral Health
Peak Vista Community Health Centers
Colorado Springs, Colorado
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2010
Dr. Barry Duncan's newest book, HOW TO BE A BETTER THERAPIST, definitely delivers on its title. With conviction, peer-reviewed research, passion for his mission, incredible real-life examples, and easy good humor, Duncan drives home the overriding principle that everything gets better when feedback is king!

Furthermore, Duncan's perspective and personal stories remind therapists why they became therapists in the first place! He calls to mind the courage it takes for the client/customer to reach out for help - and the duty every therapist has to provide the best that psychotherapy has to offer (and the "best" is always more than just the therapy technique du jour). Being a "better therapist" involves creating and maintaining a genuine client/counselor synergy that focuses on the client's strengths, interprets and highlights the client's roadmap to greater well-being, and sets up a trusting interplay of feedback to provide discipline and progress for the client, regardless of the challenges involved.

And the best news is that Duncan's beliefs and ideas come across without Duncan even having to extol his own argument. HIS behavior with HIS clients tells the story as persuasively as the research.

Simply stated, Duncan's new book is helpful, instructive, inspiring, and enjoyable. It is a GIFT to psychotherapists - and to the countless clients around the globe benefiting from Duncan's work.

Candis J. Carr, Ed.D.
Associate Executive Director
Family & Youth Counseling Agency, Inc.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2010
On Becoming a Better Therapist is unlike most therapy books I have read, even others of Barry's. This book really captured the way Barry thinks about the process of therapy and his identity as a therapist. As a reader, I was invited into the mind of a man who surely is a master of the trade. Barry talks from experience and the book is filled with personal examples to illustrate his perspectives. The way Barry looks at therapy makes me, a student therapist, excited for my future. There is hope for all therapists to grow and develop their effectiveness. This development is an ongoing journey; there is always more to learn. The more therapists embark on this journey to discover their potential and track their gains the more satisfaction they get out of their work (This certainly sounds like a win win to me). It is clear, that Barry is more passionate than ever about his work and that passion speaks through the book to the point of contagion.
Rather than touting specific techniques or the ingredients needed for given disorders, Barry encourages therapists to use all their knowledge, all of the techniques they have learned, all of their personal experience, and all that clients have taught them to take each new client to a place where he or she can begin the search for their own "ingredients" to help themselves. It is a partnership rather than consultative. And the process is unique to each person. This book demonstrates the variability of clients and the ways in which unconditional positive regard, an open mind and an imagination can incite change in even the most seeming hopeless conditions.
The importance of collecting client feedback and how to do it is made clear in this book. Barry is transparent with his audience, as he would be with his clients, in making them well aware of the extent of his personal interest in the tools available to track outcomes that he mentions in this book. This book could have been all about promoting these tools but it wasn't. Rather, Barry mentions the tools as one of the ways therapists can more easily be client centered and track the development of their effectiveness. The focus is instead on the therapist's overall growth.
I love the focus this book brings to the development of the therapist as a person and as an identity. This book frames a therapist's work as an interminable journey to keep learning: to become ever more open-minded and flexible in finding new ways to help clients. This journey is not only in the form of varied experiences and trainings but also in learning to work with clients to elicit their tools to mine the golden nuggets of their wisdom, experience and character- however deep they may be. As a new therapist, this is one of the more important books I have read because it addresses more than just techniques or theory it helps therapists to develop an integrated identity for a life-long journey toward professional happiness and helpfulness.

Gina Hamilton M.S. MFT
Recent MFT graduate
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 3, 2013
One of my professors assigned this book as the main text in my graduate course and I am grateful that he chose this book! This book is a great read for therapists-in-training who are looking for methods to grow as a clinician and become a more effective helper.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2013
This is not a bad book, and I won't criticize except to say I did not find it as compelling and well- written as other reviewers on this site. I think session by session feedback from clients is a good idea, and I appreciate the lit review and the sources on years of outcome research.
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on May 27, 2015
Wow, this guy lays it on the line and is very practical. I love his logic that doesn't give in to dogma, but only the facts. He has a heart to be a better therapist who doesn't allow ego to get in the way. I plan to follow this and double my effectiveness too.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2011
As a practitioner that has used Client Directed Outcome Informed therapy (CDOI) since 2003 it took me a while to buy and read this book. It was worth the price of admission. The essence of CDOI is included with the bonus of how to improve as a therapist. Dr. Duncan provides information about the process of change related to both clients and therapists.
Dr. Duncan addresses issues of the field clearly. He writes once again of quality of care, and how we as clinicians can address, systematically our desire to improve. During this era that includes the continued process of administrations judging clinical work by quality, quantity and timing of the paper work Dr. Duncan gives feasible means of addressing our deeper need to know we are helping clients and how we can improve the work we do in the process.
Much research is cited. It is comforting to have research as a base yet the book is easy to read, with the references providing sustenance not places where the reader has to understand Chi squared.
He ends the book with what he calls the Treasure Chest. This is a way to remind ourselves of successes. While bureaucracy can bludgeon a therapist we can take satisfaction from what Dr. Duncan calls the "privilege of making a difference". Highlight the successes, learn from the failures and continue to improve learning as you go with each client as a teacher. Systematic feedback from the client a key to CDOI and to Duncan's book.

Bill Frederick, LCSW, PC
Muncie, Indiana
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on May 27, 2013
This book came recommended by the college professor. It helps to assess if the work that a clinician is doing with their clients is effective. The only downfall are the progress worksheets, the scale is hard to read.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2014
Read for class
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