Skip to main content

The Five W's

The Five W’s (who, why, what, when, and where) are generally used to gather objective information about a particular topic or situation. Though often utilized in the field of journalism, I find that these types of questions have significant therapeutic value in helping someone unpack or explore the implicit norms and expectations that have come to inform their relative existence. More often than not, I find that someone’s fixed ideas about how they are “supposed” to think, feel, or act is causing more distress than the thoughts, feelings, or actions that they are assigning as problematic. Using the Five W’s to explore socially constructed norms and expectations can highlight the idea that they were constructed in the first place and make space to deconstruct and change them to be more preferable for the individual.

Some examples

Who says you that you shouldn’t be angry about________________________?

What is preventing you from having a conversation about ___________________?

When is the right time to be sad and emotional? When is it an inappropriate time to be sad and emotional?

Where is a safe and comfortable place to have that thought or emotion? Can you create a space like that anywhere else?

Why do you feel the need to change __________________


Popular posts from this blog


Postmodern Perspectives . . .
I’m often slow to offer suggestion inside the therapy room because I feel it’s disempowering to a client to offer my solution options instead of helping them to grow and strengthen their own ideas. However, sometimes  I feel that the situation does require me to insert something directly into the conversation. A way to do this, that I have become comfortable with, is to present an idea from a second hand perspective. I then immediately switch to a line of questioning that prompts the client to explore that option from their own perspective, morphing it into their own. An example might be:
In my work with other folks, I have heard of     _________________ being tried in this scenario. How might _________________ look or play out in your situation? 
This approach keeps the client empowered to put their personal narrative into the suggested solution option. 

The Villainizing of Mood States

Postmodern Perspectives. . .

The Villainizingof Mood States

Why must we try and stop anxiety or make it go away? Part of what makes the anxious experience unpleasant is the socially constructed idea that we are not supposed to be anxious. Instead of stopping anxiety, another option might be to become its friend and comfortably exist in an anxious state.

The same could be said for anger. Why are we always trying to stop being angry? 

Part of the reason might be because certain mood states have been assigned a negative value by society and cast aside as villainous.
Sure, we will probably always have to concede to social norms regarding the management and control of behaviors that are driven by emotions. We can’t go around punching people in the face because we are angry (we’ll, we can but there will certainly be consequences for that). We can’t stay in our rooms for our entire lives because we are anxious (Well, we could if we won the lottery, like delivery food, and kept up with our Netflix…

Being Critical

Postmodern Perspectives . . . 
Being Critical 
One of my favorite aspects of a postmodern therapeutic philosophy is drawing into question social norms, expectations, and the larger power structures that construct these ideas. My process generally involves asking questions that open space for the client to be critical of norms and expectations in order to help them find a more preferable existence in, in relation to those ideas. As a therapist, I find myself very comfortable in a questioning and critical position, but where I find challenge is in being so in a professional context.
It seems to me that the practices and approaches of counseling/ psychotherapy/ psychology (whatever it’s called these days) and the power structures from which they come should be free game for the same kind of questioning and critique that I encourage my clients to engage in. And to be clear, I’m very comfortable questioning professional practices and approaches in my thoughts and in my personal writings and r…