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The Tools: Transform Your Problems into Courage, Confidence, and Creativity Hardcover – May 29, 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 348 customer reviews

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A Letter from the Authors: What Is a Tool?
In conventional psychotherapy, we talk about “insights” or “causation” and we tend to believe that if we can uncover the deep-seated reasons behind someone’s problems, then the person will change automatically. This implies that awareness alone creates the forces that cause change. But real change, the kind of change patients in therapy cry out for, means changing your behavior, not just your attitude.

That requires much stronger forces. A tool is a technique or procedure that can generate a force that allows you to do the work of change. It is work that must be done in real time. When do we use a tool? In the present.

Conventional therapy tends to be passive and focuses on the past. It excavates a patient’s history, usually from childhood, brings it into the light of day and interprets it so as to strip it of its unconscious power. I have the greatest respect for the past. Memories, emotions, insights can all be very valuable. But my patients needed help and relief in the present and all the insights in the world weren’t going to be powerful enough to deliver that.

To control your actions you need something else: a specific procedure you can use systematically to combat a specific problem -- you need a tool.

There’s an obvious objection that arises here: Isn’t what you’re doing superficial? Sure, these tools of yours may help a patient change his or her behavior but you haven’t addressed the underlying reasons. Unless you do that they’re bound to go back to their (self-) destructive ways sooner or later.

There are two answers to this objection. The first involves a misunderstanding of how people change. Insight into the “reasons” for a problem isn’t the cause of change – it’s the result. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous have always known this. You don’t join AA and then sit around discussing why you drink too much over a few beers or vodka martinis. You join to stop drinking one day at a time. Only after that can you look into the roots of your addiction by “taking inventory.”

The second answer goes back to our original question about what a tool is. There has been a bias in psychotherapy implying that anything that is active and involves your will is superficial; as if the deepest part of human experience can only occur inside your head. The truth is the opposite; the deepest part of human experience happens when you interact with the world outside yourself. That means you need to go beyond thinking and into “doing”—and this is exactly what a tool makes possible.


“Transcendent . . . a rapid and streamlined method of self-improvement.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Barry Michels and Phil Stutz are profoundly talented guides to the inner workings of the psyche. The Tools is breakthrough material that ignites your own capacity to transform your life.”Marianne Williamson

“These tools are emotional game changers; they can help you work through conflicts, get happier, and feel a deep sense of purpose. As simple and practical as they are, they do nothing less than deliver you to your best and most powerful self.”—Kathy Freston, author of Quantum Wellness: A Spiritual Guide to Health and Happiness

"Every single thing I’ve written of any power or merit came through using the tools Barry taught me. Usually counterintuitive, sometimes dangerous, they only changed my life.”—Stephen Gaghan, Academy Award–winning writer of Traffic and writer/director of Syriana

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; First U. S. Edition First Printing edition (May 29, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067964444X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679644446
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (348 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #223,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By L. M. Keefer TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Stuck in a rut? Feel that life is passing you by? Do anxiety, worry or insecurity hang over like a dark cloud? Obsessing over past hurts and events so that forward movement seems difficult or impossible? If these seem familiar, they are identified as among the most common problems that clients bring to the authors of this book in their counseling practices.

Believing that traditional therapy is convoluted in focusing too extensively on exploring the causes of clients' problems, psychiatrist Phil Stutz has designed an innovative approach which he and psychotherapist and co-author Barry Michels use to help clients overcome problems by emphasizing solutions. They provide tools to their clients to work through these common problems. "The surest way to change behavior is with a tool," they state. Human beings have untapped powers that allow them to solve their own problems they believe. With a combined 60-plus years of working with clients, they have identified four fundamental problems their clients are challenged by. They have field-tested solutions with clients enabling them to develop capabilities and move foward.

These four fundamental problems which keep clients from living the life they want to live:

1) Pain avoidance (out of fear of rejection, failure, and negative consequences) to the extent that clients don't move forward or progress--clients are stuck in a comfort zone in which they aren't achieving their goals, life is passing them by.

2) Unrealistic belief that people will treat you fairly--when this doesn't happen, clients become enraged/hurt and replay the experience, refuse to move forward until wrong is rectified, obsess about the person or event, fantasize about revenge etc.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In their book, The Tools, Phil Stutz and Barry Michels introduce a novel method of psychotherapy. By combining elements of Jungian psychology with the kind of practical approach found in Ellis' Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, the authors present a series of exercises that they claim can harness the power of higher forces and affect radical, positive changes in their patients' lives. Per my assessment the exercises that they present are groundbreaking, but my guess is that there may be variable amounts of success for the average reader. I will try to explain what I mean by this below. Nevertheless, the book presents what appears to me to be an interesting, original,and possibly effective method of psychotherapy.

Before I begin, I have to admit that it is difficult to assess this book completely in such a short amount of time. I received the book from the Amazon Vine program for review three weeks ago. I am obligated to write a review, but you must realize that the exercises in the book take a fair amount of practice. I have noticed some positive changes that I will relate below, but I can't say at this point whether this will improve, stagnate, or decay over time. I will try to write an addendum later, if I see any differences over time. Additionally, I was a psych major in college, but I am certainly not a psychiatric professional. I do not have an advanced degree in psychiatry, so I can only give my opinions as a layperson. I think that this is appropriate as the book was written as a self-help manual for the general reader, but please take my comments in this light.


Phil Stutz invented The Tools when he was finished with his training as a psychiatrist.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Rating: 3.5 stars

If you look up the meaning of the idiom "get religion" in the third edition of the American Heritage College Dictionary, you will find out that it means, "to accept a higher power as a controlling influence for the good in one's life." Getting religion seems to be the underlying philosophy for Phil Stutz and Barry Michels' s "The Tools." As I read the book, I was pleased to see that two trained mental health professionals give a nod to spirituality. Yet, I was also somewhat amused at their efforts to re-brand some of the ideas behind the "tools" with catchy names when in fact they have roots reaching back into traditional religious, moral and ethical principles.

Unlike other self-help books, when you read "The Tools," it is understood that you have a problem. The authors do not dwell on the whys of what may be afflicting you. Instead, they identify four problems and give you five tools to help you move through each problem. Each tool is associated with a higher force and using the tools will eventually bring you in touch with "the Source" and your inner creator.

In spite of the New Age-like terms, some readers may feel a sense of familiarity with Stutz and Michels's tools, problems and higher forces. The Force of Forward Motion is encompassed in old concepts of determination, tenacity and persistence. The Higher Force of Outflow is forgiveness (we know forgiveness is a higher force: To err is human, to forgive divine, remember?). The authors' problem called "The Maze" is what we know as resentment. The Black Cloud is pessimism or if we wanted a more scientific name, generalized anxiety disorder. Their concept of "The Source" could easily be that of god and the inner creator is that of soul.
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