Overcoming the Destructive Inner Voice: True Stories of Therapy and Transformation

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Robert W. Firestone, Ph. D.

Many people grapple with destructive thought processes or a “critical inner voice” that directs their behavior and, to varying degrees, limits their lives. Using deeply personal and very human stories based on his own clinical practice, noted psychologist Robert W. Firestone illustrates the struggles of his clients to give words to this “enemy within,” and in the process overcome its damaging influence. These revealing and captivating stories offer glimpses into the uniquely human relationship that develops in the therapeutic encounter and demonstrate the powerful impact that the experience has on both client and therapist.

Dr. Firestone is the originator of a therapeutic method called “Voice Therapy,” by which clients learn to identify the language of the defense system and eventually separate their own point of view from its harmful effects. Each story provides an intimate look into one person’s life, illuminates aspects of his or her “dark side,” and highlights an important insight into the therapeutic process.

This sensitively written book will evoke emotional responses in readers, and inspire them to take action to challenge the dictates of their own inner critic. Taken together, these stories underscore the distinctive merits and continuing relevance of the therapeutic process, especially in our distracted, technological world increasingly detached from feeling.

Now available on audio! 

2016, Prometheus Books

The Self Under Siege: A Therapeutic Model for Differentiation

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Robert W. Firestone, Ph. D.

Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., Joyce Catlett, M.A.

 

How much of our identity or ‘self’ is truly representative of our own wants, needs, and goals in life and how much does it reflect the desires and priorities of someone else? Are we following our own destiny or are we unconsciously repeating the lives of our parents, living according to their values, ideals, and beliefs? In this thought-provoking book, noted clinical psychologist Robert Firestone and his co-authors explore the struggle that all of us face in striving to retain a sense of ourselves as unique individuals. The self is under siege from several sources: primarily pain and rejection in the developmental years, problems in relationships, detrimental societal forces, and existential realities that affect all people.

Through numerous case studies and personal stories from men and women who participated in a 35-year observational study, the authors illustrate how Voice Therapy, a cognitive/affective/behavioral methodology pioneered by Firestone, is used to illicit, identify, and challenge the destructive inner voice and to change aversive behaviors based on its prescriptions. The theory they describe integrates the psychodynamic and existential approaches underlying Voice Therapy and is enriched by research findings in the neurosciences, attachment research, and terror management theory (TMT).

An important addition to the area of personality development theory, The Self under Siege offers a new perspective on differentiation and the battle to separate ourselves from the chains of the past. It provides psychotherapists and other mental health professionals with the tools needed to help clients differentiate from the dysfunctional attitudes and toxic personality traits of their parents, other family members, and harmful societal influences that have unconsciously dominated their lives. This book will have a special appeal to clients and, in fact, to any person interested in his/her own personal development.

2012, Routledge

Beyond Death Anxiety: Achieving Life-Affirming Death Awareness

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Robert W. Firestone, Ph. D.

Joyce Catlett, M.A.

 

Beyond Death Anxiety: Achieving Life-Affirming Death Awareness assists mental health practitioners in helping their clients learn to accept and face their mortality. They describe the many defenses of death anxiety, and suggest methods to cope directly with fears of death; an approach that, ironically, can lead to a greater appreciation of life.

This book examines the many destructive consequences of death anxiety, including introversion, depression, and withdrawal from life. Throughout the book, the authors demonstrate the importance of achieving what they call life-affirming death awareness.

Key topics include:

  • The dawning awareness of death and its impact on the developing child
  • Literal and symbolic defenses against death anxiety
  • Separation theory and “the fantasy bond”
  • Challenging the defenses that interfere with living fully
  • Microsuicide: the death of the spirit
  • Breaking with limiting religious dogma and cultural worldviews

With this book, mental health practitioners and their clients will be able to better understand death awareness, overcome the defenses against death anxiety, and ultimately lead richer, more fulfilling lives.

2009, Springer Publishing Company.

The Ethics of Interpersonal Relationships

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Robert W. Firestone, Ph. D.

Joyce Catlett, M.A.

 

This work is an attempt to explain the source of destructive behavior and how it manifests itself in personal relationships between couples, families and in the social arena. It presents a position that offers a hope of altering the destiny of humankind’s unethical behavior.

Contents
Part I: An Innovative Approach to Ethics
Part II: Coping with Unethical Ways of Living
Part IV: Destructive Lifestyles
Part V: Ethical and Unethical Societal Practices

‘Our inspiration for writing this book springs from a deep feeling for people and a grave concern that without a proper understanding of the reasons for their inhumanity in relation to one another and the development of a compassionate world view, it is likely that human beings may eventually destroy themselves and life on the planet. This work is an attempt to explain the source of destructive behavior and how it manifests itself in personal relationships between men, women, couples, and families, and in the social arena. We present a position that offers a hope of altering the destiny of humankind’s unethical behavior through better psychological understanding and education. Understanding the source of a person’s aggressiveness in defending the fantasy bond and learning to cope with the voice process have strong implications for child-rearing and better mental health practices. Identifying destructive behaviors and faulty programming in family life and society, developing insight into the relationship between defenses and aggressive responses, and offering a method to counteract destructive trends constitute a challenge to what many people consider to be humankind’s basically unethical nature.’

2009, Karnac Books.

Sex and Love in Intimate Relationships

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Robert W. Firestone, Ph. D.

Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., Joyce Catlett, M.A.

 

In this revolutionary work, Dr. Firestone develops the theory and underlying dynamics involved in disturbed family relationships and the “poisonous pedagogy” that characterizes generally accepted patterns of child-rearing. The author expands on the phenomenological descriptions of the traditional abuses of children previously offered by Alice Miller, R.D. Laing, James Garbarino, and others, and explains how well-intentioned parents unwittingly injure their children’s self-esteem and psychological functioning.

“I want to close with a personal plea to professionals and parents alike to consider their own humanity and the humanity of children, to give value to their own lives and their experiences in spite of painful existential issues. I hope that we can move beyond our limitations and reach out to children in a way that will spare them so much unnecessary suffering . . . this book is dedicated to parents: the lost children.” –Robert W. Firestone

1990, New York: Plenum Publishing/Insight Books
1999, Santa Barbara: The Glendon Association

Creating a Life of Meaning and Compassion: The Wisdom of Psychotherapy

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Robert W. Firestone, Ph. D.

Lisa Firestone, Ph.D. Joyce Catlett, M.A.

Preface by Daniel Siegel, M.D.

 

Creating a Life of Meaning and Compassion offers a compilation of therapeutic insights that are valuable in achieving a better way of living. It describes a unique experience in applied psychology whereby a group of individuals challenged a wide range of defensive behaviors and transformed their lives.

The authors indicate how these insights can be applied by therapists in clinical practice. This book is a comprehensive guide for helping professionals and other people who are interested in personal development, deepening friendships, sustaining intimacy in couple relationships, and developing healthy child-rearing practices. It points out the value of leading a life marked by adventure and recreation, transcendent goals, and spiritual exploration, and offers fresh views on the past, present, and future of psychotherapy.

2003, American Psychological Association (APA).

Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice

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Robert W. Firestone, Ph. D.

Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., Joyce Catlett, M.A.

 

Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice: A Revolutionary Program to Counter Negative Thoughts and Live Free From Imagined Limitations  offers means for dealing effectively with negative thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs that are barriers to one’s personal development, sabotage relationships, and interfere with career success.

This book provides insights gleaned from 25 years of investigations into the destructive thought process, or “critical inner voice.” It offers the general reader, as well as therapists, the means for dealing effectively with negative thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs that are barriers to one’s personal development, sabotage relationships, and interfere with career success.

The chapters outline methods that help individuals identify and counter the voice’s profound influence so they can live more fulfilling lives, develop their own ideals, values, and priorities, and embark on their own search for meaning in life.

Charles Bonner, Ph.D. comments about Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice: “Complex psychological phenomena are described in concrete and clear language. The authors offer numerous exercises to help the reader put the book’s ideas to immediate use, and they include guidelines for therapists who may want to use the book in their work with patients in psychotherapy.”

2002, Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc

Fear of Intimacy

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Robert W. Firestone, Ph. D.

Joyce Catlett, M.A.

 

In Fear of Intimacy, the authors bring almost 40 years of clinical experience to bear in challenging the usual ways of thinking about couples and families. They argue that relationships fail not for the commonly cited reasons, but because psychological defenses formed in childhood act as a barrier to closeness in adulthood. A wide range of cross-generational case studies and powerful personal accounts illustrate how the “fantasy bond,” a once-useful but now destructive form of self-parenting, jeopardizes meaningful attachments.

Written in clear, jargon-free language, Fear of Intimacy shows how therapists can help couples identify and overcome the messages of the “critical inner voice” that foster distortions of the self and loved ones. Related issues such as interpersonal ethics and the role of stereotyping are also discussed. The authors’ innovative approach will be of interest to therapists and couples alike.

Read a Book Review by Fred Branfman on Dr. Robert Firestone and Joyce Catlett’s Fear of Intimacy on Newsreview.com. Click here to read the review

1999, American Psychological Association.

Suicide and the Inner Voice: Risk Assessment, Treatment, and Case Management

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Robert W. Firestone, Ph. D.

 

In the United States, every 17 minutes a person acts on the resolve to terminate his or her existence.” Thus begins Robert W. Firestone’s exploration into the depths of the human problem of suicide. Suicide is a leading cause of death in our nation. What internal factors cause a person to end his or her life, and what are the familial and societal factors that may be making a destructive contribution? The answers to both questions are at the heart of Suicide and the Inner Voice.

Dr. Firestone believes that the key to understanding suicidal behavior comes from a knowledge of the destructive thought processes of those at risk and an awareness of their origins in early family interactions. He tells us that the negative events in our lives are not nearly as harmful as what we tell ourselves about them. From an understanding of how one begins a downward spiral of negative internal conversations, professionals can better assess risk and design treatment for depressed and suicidal patients.

Dr. Firestone provides the reader with this understanding first by building his book around the sound theoretical framework and psychotherapeutic methodology he and his colleagues developed. The theoretical framework offers a unique perspective not only on suicide, but also on other self-destructive, potentially life-threatening (micro suicidal) behaviors and lifestyles.

1997, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Combating Destructive Thought Processes: Voice Therapy and Separation Theory

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Robert W. Firestone, Ph. D.

 

What keeps people from living in ways that satisfy their individual needs and priorities? In this book, noted clinical psychologist Robert W. Firestone sets forth his theory — synthesizing psychodynamic and existential approaches to the psyche — underlying his voice therapy methodology. From childhood, Firestone maintains, humans are prevented from experiencing an individuated life by the pressures of society and destructive interactions within the family. The goal of Voice Therapy is to uncover the insidious forces — represented by internal messages called critical inner voices — which limit humans.

Firestone’s technique, grounded in clinical research, helps the client to reveal these voices quickly, recognize their source, and begin the path to a meaningful life. In addition to laying theoretical foundations, this book emphasizes the use of voice therapy in direct practice with couples, parents, and individuals and expands these theories to consider existential and social concerns such as death anxiety and ethnic conflict.

Therapists seeking to expand their techniques will find this book a unique advancement. Combating Destructive Thought Processes offers a methodology of interest to professionals in psychology, clinical psychology, counseling, social work, and developmental psychology.

 1996, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications

Compassionate Child-Rearing: An In-Depth Approach to Optimal Parenting

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Robert W. Firestone, Ph. D.

Forward by R.D. Laing, M.D.

 

In this revolutionary work, Dr. Firestone develops the theory and underlying dynamics involved in disturbed family relationships and the “poisonous pedagogy” that characterizes generally accepted patterns of child-rearing. The author expands on the phenomenological descriptions of the traditional abuses of children previously offered by Alice Miller, R.D. Laing, James Garbarino, and others, and explains how well-intentioned parents unwittingly injure their children’s self-esteem and psychological functioning.

“I want to close with a personal plea to professionals and parents alike to consider their own humanity and the humanity of children, to give value to their own lives and their experiences in spite of painful existential issues. I hope that we can move beyond our limitations and reach out to children in a way that will spare them so much unnecessary suffering . . . this book is dedicated to parents: the lost children.” –Robert W. Firestone

1990, New York: Plenum Publishing/Insight Books
1999, Santa Barbara: The Glendon Association

Psychological Defenses in Everyday Life

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Robert W. Firestone, Ph. D.

Joyce Catlett, M.A.

 

Psychological Defenses in Everyday Life is a rich resource that broadens personal understanding by examining the origins of childhood pain, subsequent defense formation, and the pervasiveness and destructiveness of resulting maladaptive, addictive behaviors in adults.

The authors point a way toward reversing the damaging process that keeps individuals from experiencing genuine satisfaction. The clarity and empathic tone of the book make it a valuable adjunct to psychotherapy. Many clinicians have recommended it to their patients to enhance their understanding of the defense system.

1989, New York: Human Sciences Press, Inc
2000, Santa Barbara: The Glendon Association

Voice Therapy: A Psychotherapeutic Approach to Self-Destructive Behavior

buy-with-amazon-imageRobert W. Firestone, Ph. D.

 

 

Voice Therapy: A Psychotherapeutic Approach to Self-Destructive Behavior is a thought-provoking work that provides clinicians with a detailed description of Voice Therapy, an innovative therapeutic procedure developed by Dr. Robert W. Firestone that can be used to elicit and bring to the foreground negative thought patterns antithetical to the self and cynical toward others (the critical inner voice). Compelling case histories illustrate the core defense and its effect on patients’ personality and behavior. The approach is unique in that it unifies cognitive, existential, and psychoanalytic frameworks and is a comprehensive theory of resistance to any form of psychotherapeutic intervention, personal progress, or development.

1988, New York: Human Sciences Press
2001, Santa Barbara: The Glendon Association

The Fantasy Bond: Structure of Psychological Defenses

buy-with-amazon-imageRobert W. Firestone, Ph. D.

Forward by R.D. Laing, M.D.

 

Based on 28 years of research into the problem of resistance, this book offers a consistently developed set of hypotheses centering around the concept of the “fantasy bond,” an illusion of connection originally formed with the mother and later with significant others in the individual’s environment. The book develops the concept of the core defense of the “fantasy bond” and describes the structure and organization of the overall defensive process.

The ideas set forth in this work constitute an important link between neo-psychoanalytic thought and existential views, especially those relating to individual and collective defenses against death anxiety.

1985, New York: Human Sciences Press/Insight Books
1999, Santa Barbara: The Glendon Association

Scales by Dr. Robert W. Firestone

FAST: Firestone Assessment of Self-Destructive Thoughts

order-now-buttonRobert W. Firestone, Ph. D.

Lisa Firestone, Ph.D.

Highlights:

  • Can be given in an interview format or paper-pencil format in 15 minutes.
  • Is designed for clients aged 16 or older
  • Can be administered and scored in less than 20 minutes.
  • Provides T scores for 11 levels of self-destructive thought, three composite scores (issues related to self-esteem, issues related to self-harm, and issues related to substance abuse), a total score, plus an additional sub scale of suicide risk based on 27 items found to be the strongest predictors of suicidality
  • Can be used as a preliminary screening device for new clients or to evaluate changes in self-destructive thoughts over time

Dr. Firestone discusses insights which lead to development of FAST assessment tool The Firestone Assessment of Self-destructive Thoughts (FAST), published by The Glendon Association, is based on the clinical theory of Robert Firestone. This approach, which integrates cognitive and psychodynamic concepts, assesses the levels of self-destructive thoughts a person is experiencing, along a specific Continuum of Negative Thought Patterns. Clinicians can learn valuable information about clients’ levels of functioning along this continuum. The continuum begins with self-critical thoughts of everyday life (Level 1), progresses to self-abusive thoughts and vicious self-accusations (Level 5), then on to those thoughts leading to addictive behavior or substance abuse (Level 6), and finally to injunctions to carry out a suicidal plan. (Level 11). The FAST consists of 84 items that clients endorse on a 5-point, Likert-type scale from “never” to “almost always.” They consist of self-destructive thoughts taken directly from clinical material derived from a longitudinal study of clients’ negative thought processes. The suicide risk sub scale provides a brief measure of a person’s suicidal potential. This instrument is useful as a screen for persons entering psychological treatment. FAST scores indicate areas in which the client is experiencing the greatest degree of distress. It will also serve as a brief pre-and post-therapy measure.

FASI: Firestone Assessment of Suicidal Intent

order-now-buttonRobert W. Firestone, Ph. D.

Lisa Firestone, Ph.D.

Most individuals at risk for committing suicide experience self-defeating and self-destructive thought processes that can be conceptualized as an internal dialogue or “voice.” The FASI is based on voice therapy theory, which is a comprehensive approach to psychopathology and corresponding model of mental health. It is a short efficient subscale derived from the larger instrument, the Firestone Assessment of Self-Destructive Thoughts (FAST). Whereas the FAST assesses a broad range of self-destructive thoughts, the FASI more specifically determines an individual’s suicidal risk.

Dr. Firestone discusses insights which lead to development of FAST assessment tool
One in five practicing clinical psychologists will lose a client to suicide, and the odds increase to one in two for psychiatrists. The signs and symptoms exhibited by a suicidal individual are diverse, and clinicians receive little training in how to deal effectively with these clients. Also, therapists often have difficulty empathizing with seriously suicidal clients.

The FASI yields significant information that helps a clinician establish whether or not the client is in imminent danger of self-harm and then decide upon the most suitable immediate action.

The FASI is a 27-item self-report questionnaire. Clients endorse the items on a 5-point Likert-type scale from never to most of the time. The scale incorporates a unique approach: instead of being asked to report symptoms, the client is asked to endorse how frequently he or she is experiencing various self-directed negative thoughts. This allows individuals to reflect on and report the contents of their negative thought process or “voice.” Items presented in this form bring to light elements of a self-destructive process that have been partially or completly unconscious.

Application:

  • Provides a prompt, easy-to-administer and thorough clinical assessment strategy for evaluating suicidal risk.
  • Allows quick assessment of client’s imminent danger of self-harm.
  • Aids the clinician in determining the most appropriate course of action for a client exhibiting a significant degree of self-destructive thoughts.

FAVT: Firestone Assessment of Violent Thoughts

order-now-buttonRobert W. Firestone, Ph. D.

Lisa Firestone, Ph.D.

Highlights:

  • Can be given in an interview format or paper-pencil format in 15 minutes
  • Is designed for adults, with the FAVT-A available for adolescents.
  • FAVT items are organized into five Levels (i.e., Paranoid/Suspicious, Persecuted Misfit, Self-Depreciating/Pseudo-Independent, Self-Aggrandizing, Overtly Aggressive) and two Theoretical Subscales (i.e., Instrumental/Proactive Violence, Hostile/Reactive Violence), which allow a better understanding of the individual in order to offer more targeted treatment.

The Firestone Assessment of Violent Thoughts (FAVT) was published in 2008 as a tool for predicting violent thoughts that may ultimately lead to violent behavior.  Data was gathered on more than 600 prisoners, parolees, and domestic violence perpetrators.  Glendon’s research indicates that the FAVT is capable of distinguishing between violent and nonviolent individuals.  Results of the pilot study showed that the FAVT was able to distinguish between adolescents with a history of violence and those without such a history.

The FAVT is a self-report assessment tool designed on the basic hypothesis that the thought processes that people experience strongly influence their behavior.  These cognitions and thought processes are referred to by the authors as the “voice” because they occur within the individual’s mind, as though another person were imparting information to him or her about himself or herself as well as other people.  These thoughts set the stage for individuals’ violent behavior and represent both static and dynamic risk factors of violence and aggression.

FAVT-A: Firestone Assessment of Violent Thoughts for Adolescents

order-now-buttonRobert W. Firestone, Ph. D.

Lisa Firestone, Ph.D.

The FAVT-A is designed to be a brief, efficient indicator of an individ­ual’s violence potential. Based on the adult version of the FAVT, this 35-item self-report assesses the underlying thoughts that predispose violent behavior in individuals ages 11-18 years. It can help you screen for violence potential, determine whether or not a verbal threat will lead to a violent act, plan clinical intervention, and monitor progress and outcomes.

The items on the FAVT-A are derived directly from clinical material gathered from violent individuals. The items represent thoughts these individuals experienced prior to committing violent acts. Because violent adolescents are able to recognize the exact content of their thoughts in the items, the FAVT-A taps directly into the cognitions of violent adolescents.

FAVT-A items are organized into four Levels (i.e., Paranoid/Suspicious, Persecuted Misfit, Self-Depreciating/Pseudo-Independent, Overtly Aggressive) and two Theoretical Subscales (i.e., Instrumental/Proactive Violence, Hostile/Reactive Violence). This structure enables you to gain a better understanding of the individual and, thus, to offer more targeted treatments.
The FAVT-A was standardized on a sample of 641 individuals that was well-matched to the U.S. population in terms of age, gender, race/ethnicity, and grade level.

In addition, demographic and FAVT-A data on two reference groups (i.e., Incarcerated, Probation) also were collected as part of the standardiza­tion process. These data provide you with valuable information for making level-of-care/restriction decisions and for identifying the appropriate intervention intensity.
Two validity scales (i.e., Inconsistency Scale, Negativity Scale) are included to assist you in determining whether the administration is valid.

Change score tables are provided across four different levels of significance for the four normative groups and for the two reference groups so that clinicians can easily find out if a significant change has occurred in an individual’s FAVT-A score over two administrations.

The FAVT-A assists with treatment planning and intervention by enabling you to tap into the cognitive system that drives the adolescent’s violent behavior. It provides you with direct information about the content and intensity of thoughts the adolescent is experiencing along with a clear picture of the adolescent’s perceptions of himself or herself, of others, and of his or her social world. The FAVT-A’s sound theoretical basis enables it to be integrated into many therapeutic approaches, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic/psychoanalytic therapy, and psychopharmacological treatment.