Category Archives: Therapy


One of the reasons I wanted this web-site to be about self help rather than psychiatry, psychology or therapy, is because much of what people actually have as problems and limitations is not covered in the textbooks.

This is slowly changing however.

Psychiatry is finding labels for more and more, whether by extending current labels, such as finding that “depression” which was previously a 1% diagnosis is now up to 17% of the population at some time in our lives, or by creating new terminology entirely such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD/ADD – otherwise known as Minimal Brain Disorder until they realized they couldn’t even find any brain problem at all, even a minimal one.)

However there are still gaps that the textbooks don’t yet cover, and I appreciate Paul Myers of for pointing one gap out to me.

Oh, and he also includes a cure with it as well.

Paul was talking about the problem of people taking themselves too seriously.

It’s pretty common. It’s usually worst in teenagers and the uptight elderly. [Editor’s note – Not exclusively confined to these groups however.]

It’s called the “self-importants.”

Fortunately, there’s a cure for this sad condition.

Go to K-Mart or Target or wherever, and look for the men’s clothing section. Find the rack with the weird boxers on it. The ones with monkeys are the best. [Editor’s note: substitute female equivalent garments as appropriate.]

Buy a few. They’re cheap. Wear them.

The next time you’re hit by an attack of the “self-importants,” just think to yourself: “I have monkeys in my pants.”

That’ll put a stop to the self-importants, you betcha.

At $4 a pair, it’s the cheapest therapy you’ll ever get.

When I wrote to Paul to get permission to use this he also gave me some extra details, perhaps because he knew my medical training would mean I required it…

Martin – It’s not a scientifically proven technique, but the anecdotal evidence is running at 100% so far. And the downside risk is pretty small. 😉

I look forward to seeing “self-importants” in a psychiatric textbook very soon. Along with recommended medication, and a much more expensive and lengthy course of treatment for it too.

Except of course, if this cure catches on. So go spread the word today!

-Dr Martin Russell

Waving A Magic Wand

I don’t often tell people I do hypnotherapy anymore.

Very few people distinguish between hypnosis and hypnotherapy ie hypnosis for a therapeutic purpose.

The explanation my first mentor used was that one was given Catholic approval by Pope Pius XII in 1956, and the other was not.

In casual conversations I got tired of the discussions about “Is that stuff you see on stage/TV real?” and “Can you make me cluck like a chicken / quack like a duck?”

[My current answers: “Almost always. Yes.” and “I’ve never met anybody who wasn’t already able to do that for themselves so I’ve never tried.”]

People who came in to see me would have all these magical ideas about what hypnosis was about. I didn’t mind the twirling fob watch, or “what if I do something I didn’t want to do” questions. The ones that bothered me were those that expected me to snap my fingers, put them to sleep, and have them wake up cured. The “wave a magic wand” idea.

A friend of mine was a counselor for many years and found a similar problem.

Fortunately he did a training class back in the 70s where they got him to make a magical wand out of a TV antennae and a coin. The coin was cut into the shape of a star and fixed to the top of the TV antennae, which was conveniently extendable for easy storage.

Since then every time a person came in wanting someone to “wave a magic wand so I can be cured” he would bring out his wand from his drawer and wave it around mysteriously with a few strange words and a tap.

Then he would ask them if they were cured.

When they said no, he would put the wand back in the drawer and say “Oh well, I suppose we’ll have to try something else then.”

He hasn’t been assaulted by anyone so far.

-Dr Martin Russell

EFT Is Bunkum? – Part 3

The “universal healing method” called Emotional Freedom Techniques, also known as EFT (see EFT Is Bunkum? – Part 1) is almost completely lacking any worthwhile scientific evidence.

It’s founder Gary Craig, offers only anecdotal evidence and sheer numbers of examples. A quick search on the internet reveals many people who have not found benefit from EFT, as well as many others who swear by it.

The credibility for EFT’s claims mostly comes from reliance on the Eastern idea of energy flows and meridians, but I believe this has nothing to do with EFT’s results at all (see EFT Is Bunkum? – Part 2)

But very little evidence is not no evidence. There is one study of merit.

It was published in 2003 in “The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice” from the work of two Canadian psychologists Wendy Waite and Mark Holder.

They were testing EFT on the problem where it has claimed the most clear-cut success – phobias.

This is a particularly impressive study because they didn’t simply test EFT vs nothing. Instead they set up 4 different arms to their experiment.

In one group they used EFT.

In a second group they had the subjects tap on 12 points on the person’s arm, chosen as a place where there is not meant to be any meridian points.

The third variation was the most impressive. In this group they had subjects do the same EFT tapping sequence, but rather than tap on their own bodies they had them tap on a doll instead!

The final group was a control group where they had the subjects fold a paper toy for the same length of time as the other variations.

They ended up with 119 people in this trial and they divided up the groups equally between men and women, and different types of phobia. Unfortunately the researchers say that this meant that they ended up with uneven numbers in each of the 4 arms of the experiment, but they do not give the data of exactly what this was.

So what were the results?

Firstly EFT did significantly reduce people’s levels of reported fear.

EFT worked.

But so did tapping on the arm, and tapping on a doll. And equally well.

The control paper folding exercise did not however significantly alter people’s fear.

So on this basis EFT is doing something, but so do other forms of tapping that have nothing to do with energy meridians. Critics may have been able to argue that people tapping on their arms had accidentally hit upon part of the body’s energy flow, but the similar response from tapping on a doll removes this as an explanation.

This study does not fit with EFT having anything to do with meridians, but it does fit with my analysis of EFT as a method for re-conditioning (probably what the researchers are refer to in their own analysis as “distraction”, but I think this it is more than that.)

As far as I am aware this study has not been repeated elsewhere to confirm its results. It stands alone; intriguing, seemingly ignored by the EFT community, and as yet unverified.

Attention Gary Craig – this study was published in 2003. It’s in Wikipedia. You must know about it, so where is your response?

[As Gary Craig points out in the comment below, I missed his public open-letter response on his main website. I now have the answer to my question here, so I can get on to other questions about EFT. Thanks Gary.]

For my reply to Gary’s comment below go here to EFT Is Bunkum? – Part 4.

-Dr Martin Russell

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Self Help Martial Arts

Solving people’s problems day in and day out can seem like a hard thing to do.

I met with a very successful woman a few weeks back who runs her own multi-million dollar company with many employees. She also has her own coaching practice where she has done telephone and personal coaching for hundreds of people.

She very clearly distinguishes between coaching, which is what she offers, versus counseling / therapy, which people often seem to expect in coaching, but is what she doesn’t do.

She told me how she couldn’t imagine dealing with the type of people I meet. Just too hard, too draining, to be able to keep being positive and inspired about life when continually meeting people who are stuck and in such a bad way in their lives.

Yet I enjoy meeting almost all the people who come to me in my counseling practice.

Personally I look back to a decade ago when I was working as a family medical doctor and I think of that work as so much less inspiring for me. I was doing 10-minute in-out medicine, in an office with doctors who did 5-minute medicine, competing with a clinic down the road that seemed to be doing 2-minute medicine.

These days I luxuriate in 50 minute long sessions that allow me to explore more and offer more too.

But the best part is meeting people who are motivated.

Yes the motivation is mostly desperation, but for my purposes that’s far better than the apathy and disinterest that most of my medical patients had.

I use the metaphor of martial arts in my self help work.

If you want to get someone flat on the ground you can either use brute strength, or you can use leverage. Best of all you can wait until they are coming at you with force. Then you just need enough finesse to redirect their momentum to where you want them to go.

Personally it’s more frustrating for me to hear “ordinary” people talking about their problems and issues. I sit there with a whole toolkit of options knowing that the moment I bring one of them out and offer it, there will most often be a polite curiosity and then either a change of subject or a raft of excuses/explanations about why it won’t work in their particular case. No momentum.

Henry David Thoreau said that most people live lives of quiet desperation.

What kind of life do you lead?

In my one-on-one work I prefer to wait until someone is unable to keep quiet any longer. My job is much easier when I wait for them to come to me.

If you have desperation in your life, you don’t have to find a psychiatric label for it, you can just embrace it and go with it.

Look for self help martial arts classes.

You can think of this blog as being such classes, and each of my products is a set of moves for a particular situation.

Some people are only ready to learn when they are in danger. Others learn self defense as a life skill ahead of time.

A fundamental set of self help moves I recommend people learn is here:

-Dr Martin Russell

Tied Up In A Mess

Some people come to me with a very specific problem to solve.

Maybe you have something very specific and clear-cut in your life that you would like solved.

Often people who come to me know exactly what is wrong, and they know what needs to happen for it to be fixed. Sometimes they even tell me what not to do if I really want to help them.

If only they could try harder or have more willpower then the change would happen.

Then we start chatting.

About 10 minutes before the end of the session I usually find them reeling from all the other things that have come up in the discussion.

I mean, have you ever had a piece of string and found a knot in it?

Recently my 6-year-old daughter has been doing some craft work with long pieces of wool and every time she puts down the wool and picks it up, there seems to be another knot.

She does her best to pull the wool straight, and when this doesn’t work she brings it to me. She shows me this tiny knot, sometimes with a few extra loops coming out of it, and she tells me she has it straighter than it was, but it just doesn’t seem to do that last bit.

On these occasions I would look at it, and I would slowly start to unpick the tiny knot, sometimes with my fingers, but often needing a knife point to loosen the tightly pulled strands.

My daughter would stand by watching, interested at the start, and then more and more bored, wanting me to hurry up, as I tediously loosened up each strand bit by bit.

One time with a particularly intricate set of knots and loops I ended up with a huge mass of wool loops in this floppy ball, and she looked horrified and walked off, just as I started to take one of the ends and weave it in and out of the open loops, and back into a single straight strand.

As if like magic I would hand back to her a single line of wool that was very like the bit with the small knot that she gave me, and nothing at all like the big mass of wool that I had been grappling with just moments before.

We might go kite-flying this weekend if there is enough wind, and I’m thinking I should start to teach her about untangling her own knots very soon. She has smaller fingers than I do, and patience is a good skill to learn.

What are the knots in your life?

What would happen if you stopped pulling them tighter?

If you’re not sure what to do instead of continuing to keep pulling, then for single knots there is this…

For multiple knots you may need this…

-Dr Martin Russell

Maths For Choosing A Therapist

A therapist can be a very personal choice, so it can seem a bit ridiculous to apply mathematics to such a situation.

But let me build up to it using a trivial choice: deciding where to fill up your car.

Let’s say that you will pass quite a few gas stations on your way going home, and you want to fill up your car for the cheapest price. You need to choose when to buy and when to drive on to the next one.

In this example we will assume that you don’t have a place that you already know is cheaper, and also that you can’t be bothered turning around and going back if you discover that the cheapest one was one you passed earlier.

When you drive by and see the price, how are you do choose what to do?

Do you just pick the first one you see and forget it? Do you wait for one that “seems” cheap? What if the later ones are all more expensive and you end up missing out on the better prices that came earlier?

What is the optimum strategy in such an uncertain situation?

It turns out that this has been tested mathematically, and the optimum strategy is fairly simple…

–> Drive past the first place and check the price, but don’t buy. Keep driving and turn in as soon as there is price cheaper than the first place.

This method works because it is very unlikely that the first place you go past will be the cheapest, but you also won’t wait too long and miss all the good prices.

So here’s a good use of this strategy…

Choosing A Therapist.

[This applies equally to professional help of any type from accountants and lawyers to naturopaths and dentists, and also to choosing self help books, videos, treatments, etc including the self help material you can purchase on this site.]

Most people who come to see me never really looked around before they settled on who they wanted to help them. They got a recommendation from their doctor or from a friend, or looked up on the internet. If you are happy to just accept their recommendation, or you will do a full treatment and move on to the next one if that one doesn’t work, then that’s fine, but to decide for yourself more quickly I suggest you do something different.

Assess the first person. Then search for someone better.

It’s not personal. It’s just playing the odds. Got back pain? Want to stop smoking? There are hundreds of choices available to you, and none of them work 100% of the time. The biggest risk is procrastinating and doing nothing.

Let me repeat: when you are in a new area and don’t yet have a comparison, then the first person you go to is mathematically UNlikely to be the best person for you.

Is this a lot of hunting? Yes it can be, and it’s certainly more than just taking the first option.

Is it worth the hunt? Well that depends on how important it is to you. Even if you hunt and find nothing better, then at least you know this when you go back.

Do you need to hunt forever? No. That’s the beauty of this strategy. You get started at the optimum time: when you know you are committing to the best decision you can make, as soon as possible.

Need help in any area and got too many choices?

Find a first option, sort out how to compare it to other options. Then keep searching and when you find better, get started on that one immediately.

-Dr Martin W. Russell

The Quicksand Guide To Professional Help

In a jungle clearing, a person is struggling, up to their waist in quicksand.

They cry out for help, but unfortunately only professional help is available…

Psychiatrist – “What you are in is called quicksand.”

Medical Practitioner – “Quicksand is a physical condition.”

The Freudian – “How old were you when you first played in a sand pit?”

Psychologist – “Let’s find the moment when your foot first touched the quicksand.”

Counselor – “You need to get out of the quicksand.”

Cognitive Behavioral Therapist – “What evidence do you have that you will die?”

Self Help Groups – “Look around, you’re not the only one. We’re under here too.”

Former Sufferer/Victim – “I found when I struggled I sank quicker.”

Hypnotist – “Use the Force, Luke”

Post-modern therapist – “You must realize this is a jungle.”

Rebirthing – “Want a different life?”

Chiropractor – “You would be further out of the sand if you stood up straighter.”

Existentialist/Logotherapist – “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.”

Creative Visualization – “See a house brick transforming into a helium balloon.”

Iridologist – “I can help you as long as you keep your eyes out of the sand.”

Reflexologist – “Please invert yourself so I can get to your feet.”

Tarot Reader – “Hmm. Goddess of Sand – never seen that one before.”

Astrologer – “Keep your head up today. Don’t let things get on top of you.”

Social Worker – “How are your kids and your finances?”

Evangelist – “What do you mean my laying on of hands pushed you down?”

Past-Life Regressionist – “Many of your friends preserved in the tar-pit with you are now in museums.”

Allopathic Practitioner – “Take 2 anti-sand tablets and see me tomorrow.”

Homeopath – “Here is some watered down glue.”


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Got your own suggestions for helpful professions?

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-Dr Martin W. Russell

Final Chance

This is the last post of the week.

On around Sunday or Monday, depending on your time zone, I will be sending out a 24-hour special offer.

This will only be sent to those of you who already have one of my products.

You have until midnight Sunday US Eastern Standard Time, to order and get sent this offer.

The final product this week is one that I’m not going to explain myself.

I’ll let others tell you about it…

“Your Self-Help Meeting gave me a new slant on some problems that so many of us grapple with. It’s not a rehash of the same old info we’ve heard before. I found your video both helpful and interesting. Right after listening to it, I recommended it to a friend.”

Gary Bridgemaster

“My wife and I are on our 7th play and plan to listen yet again.

We continue to discover new principals each time.

In a time when most medical professionals are happy to prescribe a “pill” and move on, your insight and skill at seeing to the root of a problem is no less than groundbreaking.

Thank you for your help.”

Denver Fields

” I have many interests, but self help — or personal development as I think of it — is one subject I’ve read the most about over the years.

I’ve devoured hundreds of books and audio programmes by the likes of Napoleon Hill, Steven Covey, Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer and many others.

‘Self Help Meeting’ … contains some quite provocative ideas (which have practical application) that I’ve never read or heard anywhere else.

Afterwards you may find yourself thinking and acting differently — and you may also stop ‘beating yourself up’ for things you’ve either done or think you shouldn’t do.”

Ed Rivis, UK

Here’s the page for you to check out Self Help ‘Meeting’ for yourself:

-Dr Martin W. Russell