Chasing Cars on Horseback

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“If I’d have asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!’ ”  -Henry Ford

In the 1920’s and 30’s, the standard form of treatment was psychoanalytic in nature, consisting of four to five sessions per week for years at a time.  Psychological problems were seen as the result of intrapsychic conflicts and unconscious motivations with an unwavering emphasis on the past.

Let’s think about this for a moment.

What insights would people have been able to provide in 1930 if you asked what they wanted from your services?  What would you and I be able to brainstorm and offer our community if we were practicing?

My guess is we would not be entertaining thoughts of family therapy, ADHD treatment, or short-term cognitive therapy.  Online Psychotherapy?  The mere mention of it would be unintelligible and viewed as completely absurd.  Yet all these have come to pass and are in various stages of growth.

It’s difficult to see beyond the surface.  We look to grow our practice and expand our careers, but we may only be able to see a few feet in front.  We only see the “faster horse”.  The context of our lives provides a backdrop that rewards the obvious.

Public opinion is an even trickier and more dangerous factor to consider.  It makes perfect sense to seek out those we respect most, and it is considered wise to listen to what the community is saying they want and need.  But do they really know?  Consider the lesson offered by Henry Ford.  Progress and innovation rarely come from a place of knowing.  At some point we must look beyond the feedback, opinions and daunting criticisms.

Avoid the temptation to accept things at face value.  Use the advice and input you receive as inspiration to change, but don’t let it define your direction.  In the end, you must look inward and do the work you believe is worth doing.

If you choose not to, your “possibilities” will only reach out to the realm of what already exists.  And as others begin to stretch the boundaries, linear progressions will be broken.  A sudden “leap” in progress and innovation will occur.

That’s when you’ll find yourself chasing cars on horseback.



  1. Nancy Rhine  June 29, 2010

    What a great quote from Henry Ford, David! I have to try and remember that! And I think your points are well-taken. As an MFTI with many years of experience working first in the health field, also raising kids, then working for a decade plus as an internet executive, I have found that I feel best and am the most successful when I think creatively and outside the box of what is standard. I do tend to ask for feedback from mentors and friends, but my most valuable insight comes from my husband who always reminds me to embrace all of my experience and years of coming up with new ideas and bring that to this psychotherapy internship and practice. I try to hold on to that – not always easy for me to do tho’, I admit that! So thanks for your encouraging post!

  2. Brian Sullivan  June 29, 2010

    Amen, David. One of your best posts thus far. Great quote from Ford.

  3. David  June 29, 2010

    Thanks for the comments Nancy and Brian! I loved the quote the minute I came across it!


  4. Dan  June 30, 2010

    Inspiring as usual David – Thanks!

    There are so many opportunities out there for us to expand our work in a creative and therapeutic way – I’m glad that we have you and other’s like you to continue to encourage us, and to light the way!

  5. Don Little  June 30, 2010

    Great reference quote and a very good point you have made. However, when people in your profession think outside the box it carries with it great risks. Those risks are not taken by the profession but by the client. To often “new” ideas lead to very bad results and often the bad results do not show up until years down the road. If the automobile didn’t work it was at no risk to Henry Ford other than finacial. Counselors have a far greater responsibility to get their out of the box thinking correct the first time and if not correct at least not to make matters worse.
    You may not care what us lay people think but this is just my opinion.

  6. David Diana  June 30, 2010

    Dan – Thanks for the comment. There are a lot of fun and exciting ways to branch out for sure.

    Don – I couldn’t agree with you more. This is one of our profession’s biggest challenges – stretching ourselves while ensuring we are ethically sound in our efforts. Research efforts play a significant role in our professions progress, and this would speak to your point. But on the flip side…we often limit our options whether it be career wise or when we choose a service model. I want to be sure we feel empowered to offer unique opportunities to clients, to work hard at pursuing an area of interest, and to at least give attention to evolving phenomenon that si on the horizon and even take a leading role in testing and problem solving those services so they can become the best they can be. Online counseling is one of those areas that would be a great example. Eventually, people will identify the risk factors, develop standards and offer solutions that will grow that service. Glad to have you listening in Don, and we do care! After all, you represent our potential clients!

  7. Pam Dyson  June 30, 2010

    I work with children so my first contact is with the child’s parents. They come to me wanting advice, not necessarily treatment. So I provide them with the services they need. If parenting advice alone does not seem to be resolving their problems than I offer therapy as another option.

  8. Cheryl Mansson  July 5, 2010

    Having returned late last night from my first trip to Scandinavia, over morning tea, I was describing to my husband what took place within me besides what we did, what we saw, whom we met….
    A few hours later, David’s post is, what I said to my husband! Some call this synchronicity, for me it is just the way life is.
    Somehow leaving all, including my country, sets up renewal for me. This time, I now know to put into place for others to learn, what I call tracking of Self. Moving beyond, seeing self from what can be discovered by the mind in psychotherapy, in books including the DSM, in theories, methods, organizations, institutions…. And know and live your unique self. To me that is the best therapy, clearing up was prevents one from living the unique Self. Looking forward to teaching people how to track & mirror them Self.

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