Psychotherapy Blog


John Sommers-Flanagan, PhD

John Sommers-Flanagan is a clinical psychologist and professor of counselor education at the University of Montana. He is a long-time member of both the ACA and APA. He also serves as a mental health consultant with Trapper Creek Job Corps. John’s latest books, co-written with his wife Rita, are How to Listen so Parents will Talk and Talk so Parents will Listen (Wiley, 2011), Counseling and Psychotherapy Theories in Context and Practice (2nd ed.) (Wiley, 2012), Clinical Interviewing (4th ed) (Wiley, 2009), and Tough Kids, Cool Counseling (2nd ed.) (ACA, 2007). In his wild and precious spare time, John loves to run, dance, laugh, and produce home-made family music videos. You can access his personal blogsite at

A Short Piece on Disrespecting Teenagers

Posted by John Sommers-Flanagan, PhD on 6/27/14 - 12:00 PM
We have an American cultural norm to disrespect teenagers. For example, it’s probably common knowledge that teens are: Naturally difficult Not willing to listen to good common sense from adults Emotionally unstable Impulsively acting without thinking through consequences Wait, most of these are good descriptors of Bill O’Reilly. Isn’t he an adult? Seriously, most television shows, movies, and adult rhetoric tends toward dismissing and disrespecting teens. It’s not unusual for people to express sympathy to parents of teens. “It’s a hard time . . . I...

Listening as Meditation

Posted by John Sommers-Flanagan, PhD on 2/25/14 - 1:24 PM
In 1975, Herbert Benson of Harvard University wrote that to achieve a “relaxation response” you only need four ingredients. These included (a) a quiet place, (b) a comfortable position, (c) a mental device, and (d) a passive attitude. Benson’s relaxation response was, of course, roughly equivalent to the meditative mental state. His work presaged the mindfulness movement in psychotherapy. He identified a psychological place of exploration, discovery, and acceptance. His research linked the relaxation response to a variety of physiological...

Through the Anger Looking Glass

Posted by John Sommers-Flanagan, PhD on 3/14/13 - 12:33 PM
On this past Sunday’s broadcast of “Weekend Edition” on National Public Radio, the focus was on the 50th anniversary of Betty Freidan’s The Feminine Mystique. In this book Friedan raged against the status of women in the 1960s. Although millions of people have read this feminist manifesto, it seems very few presently understand how anger in general and Friedan’s anger in particular could be a source of insight, motivation, and personal and social transformation. Anger is an emotional state that has...

The Miraculous (or not) Efficacy of Solution-Focused Therapy

Posted by John Sommers-Flanagan, PhD on 6/6/12 - 10:48 PM
For years solution-focused therapy approaches have been all the rage; the popularity of this distinctively brief therapy method is unarguable. Beginning in the 1980s, solution-focused therapy hit the mainstream and many mental health providers (and third-party payers) continue to sing the praises of its brevity and effectiveness. For example, in a 2009 book chapter Sara Smock claimed, “. . . there are numerous studies, several reviews of the research, and a few meta-analyses completed that showcase [solution-focused therapy’s] effectiveness.” Solution-focused counseling...
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