Tag Archives: Massage

The Science of Us: Hank Green’s Crash Course in Anatomy and Physiology

As a professor, it’s probably not surprising that I like to learn. Even though I’ve completed a few degrees, I still try to make time to learn new things — daily. In fact, I’ve even shared these learning experiences. There was the Harvard University’s course on Justice with Professor Michael Sandel (I also went through one of his books chapter by chapter), there was my series on cognitive biases, there was MRUniversity’s course in economics, and before all of that, there was Crash Course.

This was probably one of the first video series that I came across that I felt like I actually learned (and remembered!) something 20 minutes after the video finished. I first went through John Green’s (the same John Green who wrote The Fault in Our Stars) crash course in world history. Later that year, John’s brother, Hank, did a crash course in ecology. John also did a crash course in literature. I didn’t realize it, but Hank also went on to do a crash course in psychology.

There are more crash courses than what I’ve just shared, but those are just a few to give you a taste. Anyway, the reason I’m writing today’s post is because I just learned that Hank is doing a crash course in anatomy and physiology.

Anatomy and physiology are two subjects that I’ve always wished that I spent more time with. In fact, they’re two subjects that I think we all should have spent some time with when we were younger. I used to have the idea that it seemed like a good idea if as part of our basic education, we learned anatomy and physiology and not as some form of “punishment” (as I understand some people don’t necessarily like these subjects), but because anatomy and physiology is/are us. Anatomy and physiology are the reason that you’re alive right now. This seems an appropriate reason to try and understand it.

More specifically, ‘anatomy is the study of the structure and relationships between body parts and physiology is the science of how those parts come together to function.’ Hank calls it, “The Science of Us.”

I’m not going into this expecting to remember every minute detail, but I am expecting that I will have a better understanding of how some of the parts of the body come together to function to make me, me! As an example, I was speaking with a massage therapist the other day and she told me that massage therapists often have to translate what their clients tell them. For instance, a client will often come in complaining that they want to work on their shoulder, while reaching for the area immediately adjacent to their neck. As it turns out, our shoulder is actually far closer to the place where our arm connects to our body. The place that this person was pointing to was, in fact, their neck.

Future Implications for Fishing: A Universal Therapeutic Skill, Part 4

In the first post of this series, we looked at the idea of fishing and metaskills. In the second post, we explored the idea of fishing in the context of individual therapy. In yesterday’s post, we looked at this idea of fishing in the context of couples’ therapy and group therapy. In today’s post, we’ll look at implications for future research and wrap up the paper.


Future Research

Mindfulness. Fishing can be a very important tool in the therapist’s toolbox. Since Mindell’s publication on fishing (1995), there has not been any research conducted about fishing. It is possible that what Mindell called fishing, some people call mindfulness. According to Krasner (2004), “Mindfulness-based interventions ask of the participants to consciously shift that locus of control internally . . . and apply wise attention . . . to the present moment” (p. 208). Mindfulness asks the client to be conscientious of one’s own processes and fishing is a way for the therapist to acknowledge these processes in the client. In mindfulness, the person sits with unhurried attention and notices what is happening inside them at that moment. In fishing, the therapist is sitting with unhurried attention in an effort to notice what is going on inside the client. Comparing and contrasting the mindfulness techniques to fishing could yield practical results for therapists who use either of the techniques. A study of like this could determine if it is more advantageous to be mindful solely on one’s own or if it is better when someone else (a therapist) is being mindful of one’s processes. In the next section, implications for future research on fishing within the field of transpersonal psychology are explored.

Transpersonal psychology. According to Mindell (1995), “At present there is no one unified system of techniques which all practitioners of transpersonal psychology employ” (p. 36). This can make it very difficult to categorize the techniques used by transpersonal psychologists who have a private practice of therapy. As stated by Hammer (1974), “Transpersonal psychotherapy concerns itself, ultimately, with helping consciousness transcend its identification with the various limiting and relative self-defined personal labels, concepts or images which comprise the apparent and illusional ego and awaken to itself” (p. 202). Given that there are conflicting viewpoints, it would be essential to conduct a study to discern the techniques that are the more effective techniques used in transpersonal psychotherapy. After having witnessed a transpersonal therapist conduct a psychodrama at a transpersonal graduate school where the technique of fishing was utilized, it would be appropriate to include fishing as one of the techniques in a study of transpersonal psychotherapy. There are many different techniques used in transpersonal psychotherapy, but it is possible that much of the techniques are derivatives of fishing. Transpersonal psychology is known for focusing on more than just the person. It includes what is beyond the person. Meaning, transpersonal psychotherapy includes the spirit in therapy. In order to be able to notice the spirit in the client, it is important for the therapist to sit with unhurried attention, much the same as a therapist using the metaskill of fishing would. In this section, there have been ties made between transpersonal psychology and fishing. In the next section, there are connections made between fishing and massage therapy.

Massage therapy. Up to this point, fishing has been referred to in the context of mainly talk therapy applications. If during therapy, the therapist notices an instance where the client’s words are not congruent with the client’s actions; this could be considered a fish. However, the concept of fishing could be applied to a discipline that is mainly a touching discipline. According to Moyer, Rounds, and Hannum (2004), “Massage therapy (MT), [is] the manual manipulation of soft tissue intended to promote health and well-being” (p. 3). Within massage therapy, the therapist does not necessarily have to speak to the client in order to administer the therapy. In most massage therapies, the client lays face down on the table, and the therapist massages their neck, shoulders, and back. It is conceivable that the therapist could go into a state of consciousness where their hands are not moving by their own will. In this state of consciousness, similar to unhurried attention, their hands could be ‘fishing’ on the client’s body. The therapist could be massaging the client in one area and have a sense to move to a specific part on the client’s body. This would be very similar to fishing. In moving to this new spot, the client’s body could give the therapist feedback telling them that this spot is a good spot to continue working with or a spot that they need to move stop working with immediately. In this section, there have been implications for how fishing could be researched further with the topics of mindfulness, transpersonal psychology, and massage therapy.


Initially, there was a description of metaskills and the fundamental metaskill of fishing. Within the comprehensive explanation of fishing, there were details on recognizing a fish and determining fish from non-fish by way of the feedback given from the client. There were explanations of individual therapy, couples’ therapy, and group therapy, which contained examples of how fishing is present in all three kinds of therapy. There were also areas for possible further research that tied fishing to mindfulness, transpersonal psychology, and massage therapy.


Aposhyan, S. (2004). Body-mind psychotherapy: Principles, techniques, and practical applications. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Bugental, J. (1987). The art of the psychotherapist. New York: W. W. Norton.

Carere-Comes, T. (2007). Bodily holding in the dialogic-dialectical approach. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 17(1), 93-110.

Doss, B. D., Thum, Y. M., Sevier, M., Atkins, D. C., & Christensen, A. (2005). Improving relationships: Mechanisms of change in couple therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73(4), 624-633.

Hammer, M. (1974). The essence of personal and transpersonal psychotherapy. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, and Practice, 11(3), 202-210.

Krasner, M. (2004). Mindfulness-based intervention: A coming of age? Families, Systems, & Health, 22(2), 207-212.

Mindell, A. (1995). Metaskills: The spiritual art of therapy. Tempe, Arizona: New Falcon Publications.

Moyer, C. A., Rounds, J., & Hannum, J. W. (2004). A meta-analysis of massage therapy research. Psychological Bulletin, 130(1), 3-18.

Oei, T. P. S., & Green, A. L. (2008). The satisfaction with therapy and therapist scale – revised (STTS-R) for group psychotherapy: Psychometric properties and confirmatory factor analysis. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 39(4), 435-442.

Yalom, I. D., & Leszcz, M. (2005). The theory and practice of group psychotherapy, fifth edition. New York: Basic Books.


If you liked this paper/series, you might want to check out some of the other papers/series I’ve posted.

Couples’ and Group Therapy: A Universal Therapeutic Skill, Part 3

In the first post of this series, we looked at the idea of fishing and metaskills. In the second post, we explored the idea of fishing in the context of individual therapy. In today’s post, we’ll look at this idea of fishing in the context of couples’ therapy and group therapy.


Couples’ therapy. In couples’ therapy, the therapist may help each person in the relationship hear what the other person is saying. It could be easy for the therapist to get lost in the words of what is being said to her or him during the therapy session. However, if the therapist is sitting with unhurried attention, while listening to what the couple is saying, the therapist will be much more likely to hear the fish. According to Doss, Thum, Sevier, Atkins, and Christensen (2005), “When couple therapies target specific aspects of the relationship, they are typically able to achieve the desired change” (p. 624). When the fish presents itself, the therapist must catch that fish in order to help facilitate and achieve a desired change within the relationship. Working with the fish in couples’ therapy can be trickier because the two people present may be bickering with each other. The therapist must remain centered within himself or herself to notice the fish when it presents itself. Even if the therapist misses the fish, the fish may present itself again in a different way (Mindell, 1995). With all of the possible commotion happening, the therapist could miss the fish that is presented, but because the fish will present itself again, it is not catastrophic if the therapist missed the first fish. So long as the therapist notices one of the fish and then follows it, the therapist will help to achieve the desired change.

An example of fishing in couples’ therapy could be the husband of the couple talking about his wife asking him to do chores around the house and during his speech about the chores, the husband has a somatic reaction. The therapist notices this somatic reaction and sees it as a fish, so the therapist follows it. As the therapist follows this fish, the therapist uncovers the root of the problem, which is really that the husband does not feel like his wife is listening to him. In following this fish, the therapist achieved a desired change for the couple because they wanted an improvement in their relationship. There have been examples of how fishing is present in individual therapy and couples’ therapy. In the next section, there will be examples of how fishing is present in group therapy.

Group therapy. Some people consider group therapy easier than couples’ therapy and some consider it more difficult. Two foundations to group therapy are universality and cohesiveness (Yalom & Leszcz, 2005). Universality is the principle that all human experiences are potentially shared. That is, it is highly unlikely that a single person’s experience is unique. Cohesiveness is when all of the members of the group feel a sense of belonging. Once the group has the sense of universality and cohesiveness to it, the therapist usually has an easier time conducting group therapy. It is possible for the therapist to use the technique of fishing during the opening stages of forming the group, even before the group therapist gets to what some might call therapy. Beginning stages of group therapy can be anxiety producing for some people and because of this, it is possible that they would show all kinds of ‘fish’ to the therapist. As the therapist is scanning the group, he or she may notice that one client is particularly troubled. Because of this, the therapist may want to pose a question to the troubled group member to see if this will lead anywhere. According to Mindell’s fish theory, the group member will then give the therapist feedback to let the therapist know if there is a fish.

This section has defined therapy and outlined some of the things that happen in therapy. There has been an explanation of individual therapy, couples’ therapy, and group therapy, along with examples of how fishing is present in all of the stated therapies. In the following section, there will be possibilities discussed for how research can be conducted on fishing in conjunction with mindfulness, transpersonal psychology, and massage therapy.


Check back tomorrow for some implications for future research and the conclusion.


Metaskills and Fishing: A Universal Therapeutic Skill, Part 1

I spent all day yesterday packing and preparing to move, which is what I’ll be doing for the next few days. I’ll be in transit (from one city to the next) for a little bit, so I thought this would be a good time to share another one of the papers I wrote. This one was for a class called: “Proseminar in Somatic Psychology.” In today’s post, we’ll look at the introduction and talk about ‘fishing’ in the context of metaskills.


This paper will give a brief summary of metaskills, followed by what is proposed to be the metaskill present during individual therapy, couples’ therapy, and group therapy – fishing. There will be examples of fishing in the three kinds of therapy to support this idea. There will also be implications for possible research of fishing as it relates to mindfulness, transpersonal psychology, and massage therapy. In the proceeding section, there will be an explanation of metaskills.


There are many different kinds of therapies and many different techniques of administering therapies. Some therapists find it more effective to use cognitive-behavioral therapies and some use emotion-focused therapies. No matter the kind of therapy administered, it is important that the therapist have the right skills. The universal skills present in therapy are what Mindell (1995) calls “metaskills.” Metaskills are the underlying feelings of a therapist and can be cultivated (Mindell, 1995). It is highly unlikely for a therapist to be devoid of feelings. Mindell (1995) wrote “Often these most significant beliefs and feelings are not clearly defined, yet strongly influence a therapist’s interactions” (p. 19). A therapist might not know that he or she has strong feelings about the way a person looks or talks, but these feelings can still influence the interaction between the therapist and the client. “The client feels these attitudes whether the therapist uses them consciously or not” (Mindell, 1995, p. 19). These feelings can potentially have a strong influence on the relationship between the client and the therapist. Even though the therapist is not consciously expressing the feelings he or she might have about the way their client looks or talks, the client may be able to sense these feelings. In sensing those feelings, the client may be less apt to share certain aspects of himself or herself with the therapist. Mindell (1995) stated “Metaskills are found in many therapeutic systems and in the work of individual therapists” (p. 21). When working in individual therapy, couples’ therapy, or group therapy, the metaskill used by the therapist is “fishing.”


One of the central metaskills is “fishing” (Mindell, 1995). Fishing is the fluctuation between “diffuse, unhurried attention” and “precise awareness” (Mindell, 1995, p. 112). It is very similar to how one would fish on a lake. The person fishing casts a line into the water and then uses ‘diffuse, unhurried attention’ to wait for a fish to bite the line. Once the fish has bitten the line, the person fishing uses a ‘precise awareness’ to reel in the fish. In therapy, the client may be rambling on about something that is not important to follow deeply, until the client reveals the ‘fish.’ The fish could be a somatic response, in that it is something displayed by the client’s body, or it could be something the client says. Mainly, the fish is something presented by the client that is incongruent with their current state of being. When the client reveals the fish, this is where the therapist must use the skill. One potential example of a fish could be the client talking about their grandmother who had recently died. As the client is talking more about their grandmother’s death, the therapist notices movement by the client’s body when they speak about death. It does not have to be a grandiose expression, but just a subtle twitch or movement that seems to contrast with the client’s way of being. The movement is not exaggerated, but quite subtle. The movement could be a slight tension in the client’s shoulders. Specifically, when the client mentions the word death, the therapist notices that the client’s shoulders tighten and rise up ever so slightly. At this point, the therapist could check the line to see if there is a fish. That is, the therapist might stop the client and ask them more about death, to see if what the therapist thought was a fish, really was a fish. Even if what the therapist thought to be a fish turns out not to be a fish, that is part of the metaskill of fishing. There are times when there might appear to be a fish, both on the lake and in therapy, and it is appropriate to check and see if there is a fish. In order to know if there is a fish on the end of the line, the therapist must listen to the feedback from the client. The client could give the therapist negative feedback, which is when the client’s responses to the therapist’s tests indicate that there is not a fish. The client could also give the therapist positive feedback, which is when the client’s responses to the therapist’s tests indicate that there is a fish. There has been a thorough explanation of fishing. In the following section, fishing will be tied to therapy.


Check back tomorrow for the next section: fishing as a therapeutic skill.