The Therapeutic “Aha!”: 10 Strategies for Getting Your Clients Unstuck by Courtney Armstrong, M.Ed. is too good to share with only therapists, so I decided to blog about it for my lay readers. First, I’m hoping that those who are in therapy will be intrigued enough to share this book’s ideas with their therapists (clients often mention psych or self-help books they’d like me to read in order to help them—and occasionally even buy the book for me!). Second, this book is so full of vital healing information, I thought that psychologically-minded readers might want to purchase it themselves.

The premise of the book is that we can reconsolidate—or clear—traumatic, unhappy, disturbing, or upsetting memories without spending years in therapy and do it in such a way that we are completely healed from them. I have been (minimally) trained by one of the therapists whose approach is seminal to Armstrong’s, Dr. Jon Connelly, and I find his ideas absolutely transformative in my clinical work. Armstrong has her roots in his Rapid Resolution method, but puts her own spin on it.

In her words: “As much as a person consciously desires to change a behavior, earlier emotional learning has the ability to override his or her conscious intentions. Even if a person practices a new behavior repeatedly, an old automatic pattern can still take over if its root is not fully identified and updated.” This is why you can’t reason yourself out of overeating, obsessing about weight, or being seduced into dieting. This is why you can’t shake your silly beliefs, no matter how much you try to reframe or ignore them.

Armstrong writes about the importance of play, in life and in therapy. This is a subject I too often write about, because more play makes for less mindless eating. She explains: “Neurochemically, playful activity stimulates dopaminergic pathways in the reward centers of the brain and is associated with the release of endogenous opioids and cannabinoids that reduce pain and make us feel good.” Although her book is not about eating, it has nuggets of information like this to remind us that when we play, we relax, a helpful reminder. More play, less stress and less eating to unwind. Including playfulness in therapy facilitates change.

Regarding asserting yourself, body movement is a simple and powerful strategy. Says Armstrong, “To coach a client toward a more powerful pose, encourage her to sit or stand with a broad, upright, open posture. This might include holding the head high, easing the shoulders back, and opening the chest…open, relaxed, expansive postures were associated [in studies] with confidence and power, whereas postures that are closed or contracted…are associated with feeling threatened or powerless.” Try using an open posture when telling a story of something horrible that happened to you or the next time you want to get your point across to someone. Try embracing a confident stance facing the mirror whenever you want to talk yourself out of a binge.

Armstrong talks about how some people get more anxious when trying to relax and, that for them, how important it is to discharge energy through movement. According to her (and it makes total sense to me), this is “because relaxing feels like they are leaving their bodies vulnerable to danger.” So, next time you’re anxious, rather than practice deep breathing, move your body for even five minutes to discharge the tension within you.

Want to learn more about rapid healing from trauma? Read The Therapeutic “Aha!” and visit For more information on the book, go to: and at