The Heroic Client / Edition 1

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $19.42
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 51%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (11) from $19.42   
  • New (5) from $23.68   
  • Used (6) from $19.42   


In this controversial book, psychologists Barry Duncan and Scott Miller, cofounders of the Institute for the Study of Therapeutic Change, challenge the traditional focus on diagnosis, "silver bullet" techniques, and magic pills, exposing them as empirically bankrupt practices that only diminish the role of clients and hasten therapy's extinction. Instead, they advocate for the long-ignored but most crucial factor in therapeutic success-the innate resources of the client. Based on extensive clinical research and case studies, The Heroic Client not only shows how to harness the client's powers of regeneration to make therapy effective, but also how to enlist the client as a partner to make therapy accountable. The Heroic Client inspires therapists to boldly rewrite the drama of therapy, recast clients in their rightful role as heroes and heroines of the therapeutic stage, and legitimize their services to third-party payers without the compromises of the medical model.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“… Great. Great. Great. Buy. Buy. Buy…one of the few works on therapy which I would attempt to salvage if shipwrecked on a desert island….” (Ipnosis, No.16, Winter 2004)
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787972400
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 3/5/2004
  • Edition description: Revised Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 292
  • Sales rank: 427,042
  • Product dimensions: 5.94 (w) x 8.96 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Barry L. Duncan is cofounder and codirector of the Institute for the Study of Therapeutic Change and in private practice in Coral Springs, Florida.

Scott D. Miller is cofounder and codirector of the Institute for the Study of Therapeutic Change, in Chicago, Illinois.

Jacqueline A. Sparks is assistant professor of marriage and family therapy, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, at the University of Rhode Island.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Foreword to the Revised Edition (Bruce E. Wampold).

Foreword to the First Edition (Larry E. Beutler).


1. Therapy at the Crossroads.

2. The Myth of the Medical Model.

3. Becoming Client Directed.

4. Becoming Outcome Informed with Lynn Johnson, Jeb Brown, and Morten Anker.

5 The Client’s Theory of Change with Susanne Coleman, Lisa Kelledy, and Steven Kopp.

6 The Myth of the Magic Pill with Grace Jackson, Roger P. Greenberg, and Karen Kinchin.

7 Planet Mental Health.

Epilogue: A Tale of Two Therapies.


I. A First-Person Account of Mental Health Services (Ronald Bassman).

II. Consumer/Survivor/Ex-Patient Resource Information (Ronald Bassman).

III. Five Questions About Psychotherapy.

IV. Outcome Rating Scale and Session Rating Scale; Experimental Versions for Children.


About the Authors.

Name Index.

Subject Index.

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

The Heroic Client

A Revolutionary Way to Improve Effectiveness Through Client-Directed, Outcome-Informed Therapy
By Barry L. Duncan Scott D. Miller Jacqueline A. Sparks

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7879-7240-1

Chapter One

Therapy at the Crossroads

The Challenges of the Twenty-First Century

... every man his greatest, and, as it were, his own executioner. -Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici

One day, the ancient fable by Aesop goes, the mighty oaks were complaining to the god Jupiter. "What good is it," they asked him bitterly, "to have come to this Earth, struggled to survive through harsh winters and strong fall winds, only to end up under the woodcutter's axe?" Jupiter would hear nothing of their complaints, however, and scolded them sternly. "Are you not responsible for your own misfortunes, as you yourselves provide the handles for those axes?" The sixth-century C.E. storyteller ends the tale with a moral: "It is the same for men: they absurdly reproach the gods for the misfortunes that they owe to no one but themselves" (Duriez, 1999, p. 1).

Though removed by some 2,600 years, the perilous situation of the oaks described in Aesop's fable is not unlike that of the field of therapy today. Indeed, changes in virtually every aspect of the profession over the last ten years have left mental health practitioners with much to feel uncertain and unhappy about. Where once therapists were the complete and total masters of theirdomain, their power to make even the smallest of decisions regarding clinical practice has dwindled to nearly nothing. A recent survey found that a staggering 80 percent of practitioners felt they had lost complete control over aspects of "care and treatment they as clinicians should control" (e.g., type and length of treatment, and so on; Rabasca, 1999, p. 11, emphasis added).

Of course, the loss of control does not mean there has been a corresponding decrease in the workload of the average mental health professional. Rather, in place of the responsibility therapists used to have are a host of activities implemented under the guise of improving effectiveness and efficiency. For example, where in the past a simple, single-page HCFA 1500 form would suffice, clinicians must now contend with preauthorization, lengthy intake and diagnostic forms, extensive treatment plans, medication evaluations, and external case management to qualify for an ever decreasing amount of reimbursement and funding for a continually shrinking number of sessions and services. The paperwork and phone calls these activities require make it difficult to imagine how they could ever save time, money, or increase the effectiveness of the provided services.

As far as income is concerned, the reality is that the average practitioner has watched the bottom line drop by as much as 50 percent over the last ten years (Rabasca, 1999)! Berman (1998), for example, found that the net income of doctoral-level psychologists in solo practice after taxes averaged $24,000-a salary that hardly seems to merit an average investment of six years of postgraduate education and a minimum of $30,000 in tuition costs (Norcross, Hanych, & Terranova, 1996). On the public side of things, case managers and other bachelor-level providers render more and more services, reducing the value and therefore salaries of master's-trained mental health professionals.

Furthermore, several studies have found that the field has twice as many practitioners as are needed to meet current demand for services (Brown, Dreis, & Nace, 1999). Indeed, since the mid-1980s there has been a whopping 275 percent increase in the number of mental health professionals (Hubble, Duncan, & Miller, 1999a). Consumers can now choose among psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, clinical nurse specialists, professional counselors, pastoral counselors, alcohol and drug addiction counselors, and a host of other providers advertising virtually indistinguishable services under different job titles and descriptions (Hubble et al., 1999a). The reality is, as former American Psychological Association (APA) president Nicholas Cummings (1986, p. 426) predicted, that nonmedical helping professionals have become "poorly paid and little respected employees of giant health care corporations."

In truth, those seeking mental health services have not fared any better than the professionals themselves. Consider a recent study that found that in spite of the dramatic increase in the number of practitioners between 1988 and 1998, actual mental health care benefits decreased by 54 percent during the same time period (Hay Group, 1999). This decrease, the research further shows, is not part of an across-the-board cut in general health care benefits. During the same period that outpatient mental health encounters fell by 10 percent, office visits to physicians increased by nearly a third. In addition, those seeking mental health services face a number of obstacles not present for health care in general (e.g., different limits, caps, deductions, etc.).

Moreover, most third-party payers now require the practitioner to provide information once deemed privileged and confidential before they will reimburse for mental health services (Johnson & Shaha, 1997; Sanchez & Turner, 2003). Unlike cost and numbers of visits, the impact of such obstacles is more difficult to assess. Nonetheless, in an exploratory study, Kremer and Gesten (1998) found that clients and potential clients showed less willingness to disclose when there was external oversight and reporting requirements than under standard confidentiality conditions.

Clearly, the future of mental health practice is uncertain. More troubling, however, like the mighty oaks in Aesop's cautionary tale, the field itself may be providing the very handle-not the ax head, mind you, but the handle-that delivers the cutting blows to the profession.


The greatest enemy of the truth is not the lie-deliberate, contrived, and dishonest-but the myth-persistent, pervasive, and unrealistic. -John F. Kennedy, Commencement Address, Yale University

Imagine a future in which the arbitrary distinction between mental and physical health has been obliterated; a future with a health care system so radically revamped that it addresses the needs of the whole person-medical, psychological, and relational. In this system of integrated care, mental health professionals collaborate regularly with M.D.'s, and clients are helped to feel that experiencing depression is no more a reflection on their character than is catching the flu. This new world will be ultraconvenient: people will be able to take care of all their health needs under one roof-a medical superstore of services. Therapists will have a world of information at their fingertips, merely opening a computer file to learn the patient's complete history of treatment, including familial predispositions, as well as compliance issues or other red flags.

Now imagine a future in which every medical, psychological, or relational intervention in a "patient's" life is a matter of quasi-public record, part of an integrated database. Here, therapy is tightly scripted, and only a limited number of approved treatments are eligible for reimbursement. In this brave new world, integrated care actually means a more thoroughly medicalized health care system into which therapy has been subsumed. Yes, counselors will work alongside medical doctors but as junior partners, following treatment plans taken directly from authorized, standardized manuals. Mental health services will be dispensed like a medication, an intervention that a presiding physician orders at the first sign of "mental illness" detected during a routine visit or perusal of an integrated database.

These are not two different systems; rather, they are polarized descriptions of the same future, one that draws nearer every day. Noted psychologist Charles Kiesler (2000)-who in the mid-1980s predicted that fledgling managed care organizations would dominate the U.S. health care industry-predicts that mental health services will soon be integrated into medical patient care and administered accordingly. The reason for this coming change, of course, is the tremendous pressure on health care administrators to reduce spiraling costs. Many health care prognosticators believe that the cost-cutting measures of managed care have already realized all possible benefits and only a total reconfiguration will bring the critical savings required (Strosahl, 2001). Integrated care is a product of this realization.

And it is not hard to see their point. Over the last four decades, studies have repeatedly shown that as many as 60 to 70 percent of physician visits stem from psychological distress or are at least exacerbated by psychological or behavioral factors. In addition, those diagnosed with mental "disorders" have traditionally overutilized general medical care and have incurred the highest medical costs (Tomiak, Berthelot, & Mustard, 1998). Combine these well-known facts with the rather extensive evidence that the delivery of psychological services offsets the cost of medical care (Sanchez & Turner, 2003)-and voilà, integrated care is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Cummings (2000) suggested that a mere 10 percent reduction in medical and surgical care resulting from behavioral care intervention would exceed the entire mental health care insurance budget! Bottom line: according to its supporters, integrated care increases collaboration, improves care, and makes psychotherapy more central to health care-and of course, saves insurance companies and public funders a ton of money.

What the proposed advantages obscure is the inevitability that, in the name of integration, psychotherapy will become ever more dominated by the assumptions and practices of the medical model; that much like an overpowered civilization in the sci-fi adventure Star Trek, we will be assimilated into the medical Borg. The mental health professional of the coming integrated care era, Kiesler (2000) predicts, will be a specialist in treating specific disorders with highly standardized, scientifically proven interventions. At issue here are not the advantages of greater collaboration with health care professionals or of bringing a psychological or systemic perspective to bear on medical conditions. Rather, at issue is whether we will lose our autonomy as a profession by becoming immersed in the powerful culture of biomedicine, breaking the already tenuous connection to our nonmedical, relational identity.

The resulting influx of potential mental health clients into the primary care setting will further promote the conceptualization of mental "disorders" as biologically based and increase current trends toward medication solutions. Indeed, a recent large national survey of primary care physicians revealed that antidepressants were the treatment of choice for depression 72 percent of the time, compared to only 38 percent for mental health referrals (Williams et al., 1999). This is a disturbing trend, especially given what is known about the relative merits of antidepressants (see Chapter Six). Parenthetically, physicians typically diagnose depression in a thirteen-minute visit in which they discuss with patients an average of six problems (Schappert, 1994).

In this nightmarish vision of the future, the woodcutter in the Aesop fable has already cut us down into fireplace-sized pieces, hauled us off, and neatly stacked us for consumption in the fires of the medical model of integrated care. And what is so bad about the medical model? Nothing when it is applied to medical conditions and nothing as one among many options to address the concerns that clients bring to our doorsteps. But as a privileged or mandated practice in mental health, it is a myth, "persistent, pervasive, and unrealistic." The medical model works with the following equation:




Consider the left side of the first equation: proper diagnosis and prescriptive intervention. A cursory review of professional publications and training offerings strongly suggests that the medical model of mental health already rules, that integrated care will only add icing to a cake of foregone conclusions. For example, of all the continuing education workshops to appear in a recent ad for the American Healthcare Institute (2003)-one of the nation's largest sponsors of training for therapists-nearly 90 percent were organized around a psychiatric diagnosis. Of these, 70 percent taught specific treatments for specific disorders as defined in the DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).As another example, consider that nearly two-thirds of the articles appearing in the prestigious Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology during 2002 were organized around a psychiatric diagnosis, and more than a quarter reported on specific treatments for specific DSM disorders. In fact, funding for studies not related to a specific DSM diagnosis dropped nearly 200 percent from the late 1980s to 1990 (Wolfe, 1993), and the trend continues. The bottom line: the medical model of mental health prevails and is so much a part of professional discourse that we do not notice its insidious influence.

Further, on a national level, mental health professional organizations, drug manufacturers, and hospital corporations design and support campaigns aimed at informing the public about the nature of psychiatric illness and benefits of professional treatment. National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Day is a good example. Advertising on radio, on TV, and in print lay out the signs and symptoms of these two "common colds" of mental health and then tell people where they can go to be evaluated and speak with a professional. At least one study found that more than 50 percent of those who are screened end up in some form of treatment-a considerable return on the investment of a single day (APA, 1998a)! In truth, diagnosis and psychopathology are now part of the American vernacular. Almost everyone knows, thanks to the Zoloft television ad and that cute happy face guy, that depression is a serious medical condition caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain.

Concurrently, evidence-based practice has become the buzz word du jour. They represent those treatments that have been shown, through randomized clinical trials, to be efficacious over placebo or no treatment (or in psychiatry's case, via research review and clinical consensus). Hardly a day goes by without some publication crossing therapists' desks announcing the latest in evidence-based fashion.


Excerpted from The Heroic Client by Barry L. Duncan Scott D. Miller Jacqueline A. Sparks Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 1 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2010

    A Break from the Traditional

    This book is great for people interested in the mental health field. It offers a fresh perspective on the client counselor relationship. The book is good at explaining how it is easy for therapists to get caught up in the theories or models for change while neglecting the most important aspect: the client. Through case examples it demonstrates that clients are the best at coming up with their own theory of change. The role of the therapist is to bring out the strengths of the clients and facilitate them through the changing process. The authors do not hide their opinion in this book and that is explained in the preface. If you are familiar with person centered therapy by Carl Rogers then I think you will like this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)