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The Tools: 5 Tools to Help You Find Courage, Creativity, and Willpower--and Inspire You to Live Life in Forward Motion

The Tools: 5 Tools to Help You Find Courage, Creativity, and Willpower--and Inspire You to Live Life in Forward Motion

4.1 28
by Phil Stutz

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A groundbreaking book about personal growth that presents a uniquely effective set of five tools that bring about dynamic change—as seen on Goop and The Dr. Oz Show
Change can begin right now.
The Tools is a dynamic, results-oriented


NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A groundbreaking book about personal growth that presents a uniquely effective set of five tools that bring about dynamic change—as seen on Goop and The Dr. Oz Show
Change can begin right now.
The Tools is a dynamic, results-oriented practice that defies the traditional approach to therapy. Instead of focusing on the past, this groundbreaking method aims to deliver relief from persistent problems and restore control—and hope—to users right away. Every day presents challenges—big and small—that the tools transform into opportunities to bring about bold and dramatic change in your life. These transformative techniques will teach you how to
GET UNSTUCK: Master the things you are avoiding and live in forward motion.
CONTROL ANGER: Free yourself from out-of-control rage and never-ending grudges.
EXPRESS YOURSELF: Learn the secret of true confidence and find your authentic voice.
COMBAT ANXIETY: Stop obsessive worrying and negative thinking.
FIND DISCIPLINE: Activate willpower and make the most of every minute.
For years, Phil Stutz and Barry Michels taught these tools to an exclusive patient base of high-powered executives and creative types. Now their revolutionary practice is available to anyone interested in realizing the full range of their potential. Stutz and Michels want to make your life exceptional—in its resiliency, its productivity, and its experience of real happiness.
Praise for The Tools
“This blew my mind more than anything else I’ve learned this year.”—Dr. Mehmet Oz
“Breakthrough material that ignites your own capacity to transform your life.”—Marianne Williamson

“A rapid and streamlined method of self-improvement.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“An ‘open secret’ in Hollywood . . . [Stutz and Michels] have developed a program designed to access the creative power of the unconscious.”The New Yorker
“These tools are emotional game changers. They do nothing less than deliver you to your best and most powerful self.”—Kathy Freston, author of Quantum Wellness
“Intensely gratifying.”Self

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

True therapy should be an ongoing process, but for its many critics, too often it is an endless, circular, retrospective drudge. To retune its healing capabilities, Phil Stutz and his mentor Barry Michels have devised an approach that uses problems that point and empower patients towards the future. Developed over years of professional experience, their unconscious-tapping tools have helped numerous prominent clients unlock their creativity and courage. In fact, as one former patient noted, Michels' talents are an "open secret" in Hollywood. Think of this book as an investment: In-person sessions with the authors runs $350 per hour. (P.S. Many readers will know the pair through their appearances in The New Yorker.)

From the Publisher
“This blew my mind more than anything else I’ve learned this year.”—Dr. Mehmet Oz
“Breakthrough material that ignites your own capacity to transform your life.”—Marianne Williamson
“A rapid and streamlined method of self-improvement.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“An ‘open secret’ in Hollywood . . . [Stutz and Michels] have developed a program designed to access the creative power of the unconscious.”The New Yorker
“These tools are emotional game changers. They do nothing less than deliver you to your best and most powerful self.”—Kathy Freston, author of Quantum Wellness
“Intensely gratifying.”Self
Library Journal
Frustrated with how long standard therapy takes—the complaint of plenty of patients, too—psychotherapist Michels turned to Stutz, a psychiatrist who had devised a set of tools aimed at bringing about quick, decisive change. The results have been good enough to bring the authors a New Yorker profile, and because their Los Angeles-based practices bring celebrity patients, testimonials are promised that will surely drive readership. With a 100,000-copy first printing.

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Random House Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt


Revelation of a New Way

Roberta was a new psychotherapy patient who made me feel completely ineffective within fifteen minutes of meeting her. She had come to me with a very specific goal: she wanted to stop obsessing about the idea that her boyfriend was cheating on her. “I go through his messages, grill him with questions; sometimes I even drive by his place to spy on him. I never find anything but I can’t stop myself.” I thought her problem was easily explained by the fact that her father had abruptly deserted the family when she was a child. Even now, in her mid-twenties, she was still terrified of abandonment. But before we could delve into that issue more deeply, she looked me in the eye and demanded, “Tell me how I can stop obsessing. Don’t waste my time and money on why I’m insecure—I already know.”

If Roberta came to see me today, I’d be thrilled that she knew exactly what she wanted, and I’d know exactly how to help her. But my meeting with her took place twenty-five years ago when I was a new psychotherapist. I felt the directness of her request shoot through me like an arrow. I had no response.

I didn’t blame myself. I had just spent two years devouring every current theory of psychotherapeutic practice. But the more information I digested, the more unsatisfied I became. The theories felt removed from the actual experience someone would have when he or she was in trouble and needed help. I felt in my gut that I hadn’t been taught a way to respond directly to what a patient like Roberta was asking for.

I wondered, Maybe I can’t pick up this ability from a book; maybe it can be learned only in face-to-face consultation with someone who’d been in the trenches. I had developed close ties to two of my supervisors—not only did they know me well, but they had many decades of clinical experience. Surely, they must have developed some way to meet these requests.

I described Roberta’s demand to them. Their response confirmed my worst fears. They had no solution. Worse, what seemed to me like a reasonable request, they saw as part of her problem. They used a lot of clinical terms: Roberta was “impulsive,” “resistant,” and “craved immediate gratification.” If I tried to meet her immediate needs, they warned me, she would actually become more demanding.

Unanimously, they advised me to guide her back to her childhood—there we would find what caused the obsession in the first place. I told them she already knew why she was obsessed. Their answer was that her father’s abandonment couldn’t be the real reason. “You have to go even deeper into her childhood.” I was fed up with this runaround: I’d heard it before—every time a patient made a direct request, the therapist would turn it back on the patient and tell him or her to “go deeper.” It was a shell game they used to hide the truth: when it came to immediate help, these therapists had very little to give to their patients. Not only was I disappointed, I had the sinking feeling that my supervisors were speaking for the entire psychotherapeutic profession—certainly I’d never heard anyone say anything else. I didn’t know where to turn.

Then I got lucky. A friend told me he’d met a psychiatrist who didn’t accept the system any more than I did. “This guy actually answers your questions—and I guarantee you’ve never heard these answers before.” He was giving a series of seminars, and I decided to go to the next one. That was where I met Dr. Phil Stutz, the coauthor of this book.

That seminar changed my practice—and my life.

Everything about the way Phil thought seemed completely new. More important, in my gut it felt like the truth. He was the first psychotherapist I’d met whose focus was on the solution, not the problem. He was absolutely confident that human beings possessed untapped forces that allowed them to solve their own problems. In fact, his view of problems was the opposite of what I’d been taught. He didn’t see them as handicapping the patient; he saw them as opportunities to enter this world of untapped potential.

I was skeptical at first. I’d heard about turning problems into opportunities before, but no one had ever explained exactly how to do this. Phil made it clear and concrete. You had to tap into hidden resources by means of certain powerful but simple techniques that anyone could use.

He called these techniques “tools.”

I walked out of that seminar so excited, I felt like I could fly. It wasn’t just that there were actual tools that could help people; it was something about Phil’s attitude. He was laying himself, his theories, and his tools out in the open. He didn’t demand that we accept what he was telling us; the only thing he insisted on was that we actually use his tools and come to our own conclusions about what they could do. He almost dared us to prove him wrong. He struck me as very brave or mad—possibly both. But in any case, the effect on me was catalyzing, like bursting out into the fresh air after the suffocating dogma of my more traditional colleagues. I saw even more clearly how much they hid behind an impenetrable wall of convoluted ideas, none of which they felt the need to test or experience for themselves.

I had learned only one tool at the seminar, but as soon as I left, I practiced it religiously. I couldn’t wait to give it to Roberta. I was sure it would help her more than delving deeper into her past. In our next session, I said, “Here’s something you can do the moment you start to obsess,” and I gave her the tool (I’ll present it later). To my amazement, she seized on it and started using it immediately. More amazingly, it helped. My colleagues had been wrong. Giving Roberta something that provided immediate help didn’t make her more demanding and immature; it inspired her to become an active, enthusiastic participant in her own therapy.

I’d gone from feeling useless to having a very positive impact on someone in a very short time. I found myself hungering for more—more information, more tools; a deeper understanding of how they worked. Was this just a grab bag of different techniques, or was it what I suspected—a whole new way of looking at human beings?

In an effort to get answers, I began to corner Phil at the end of each seminar and squeeze as much information as I could out of him. He was always cooperative—he seemed to like answering questions—but each answer led to another question. I felt I’d hit the mother lode of information, and I wanted to take home as much of it as possible. I was insatiable.

Which brought up another issue. What I was learning from Phil was so powerful that I wanted it to be the core of my work with patients. But there was no training program to apply to, no academic hurdles to jump over. That was stuff I was good at, but he seemed to have no interest in it, which made me feel insecure. How could I qualify to be trained? Would he even think of me as a candidate? Was I turning him off with my questions?

Not too long after I began giving the seminars, this intense young guy named Barry Michels began to show up. With some hesitation, he identified himself as a therapist, although, given the detailed way he questioned me, he sounded more like a lawyer. Whatever he was, he was really smart.

But that’s not why I answered his questions. I’ve never been impressed by intellect or credentials. What caught my attention was how enthusiastic he was; how he’d go home and use the tools himself. I didn’t know if I was imagining it, but I felt as though he’d been looking for something for a long time and had finally found it.

Then he asked me a question I’d never been asked before.

“I was wondering.?.?.?.?Who taught you this stuff?.?.?.?the tools and everything? My training program didn’t touch on anything remotely like it.”

“No one taught me.”

“You mean you came up with this yourself?”

I hesitated. “Yeah?.?.?.?well, not exactly.”

I didn’t know if I should tell him how I really got the information. But he seemed open-minded, so I decided to give it a try. It was a somewhat unusual story, that began with the very first patients I treated, and one in particular.

Tony was a young surgical resident at the hospital where I was a resident in psychiatry. Unlike a lot of the other surgeons, he wasn’t arrogant, in fact when I first saw him, cowering near the door of my office, he looked like a trapped rat. When I asked him what was wrong, he answered, “I’m afraid of a test I have to take.” He was shaking like the test was in ten minutes; but it wasn’t scheduled for another six months. All tests scared him—and this one was a big one. It was his board-certification exam in surgery.

I interpreted his history the way I’d been trained to. His father had made a fortune in dry cleaning but was a college dropout with deep feelings of inferiority. On the surface, he wanted his son to become a famous surgeon to gain a vicarious sense of success. But underneath, he was so insecure that he was threatened by the idea of his son surpassing him. Tony was unconsciously terrified to succeed for this reason: his father would see him as a rival and retaliate. Failing his exams was his way of keeping himself safe. At least that was what I’d been trained to believe.

When I gave this interpretation to Tony, he was skeptical. “That sounds like something out of a textbook. My father has never pushed me to do anything for his sake. I can’t blame my problem on him.” Still, it seemed to help at first; he looked and felt better. But as the day of the test drew closer, his anxiety returned. He wanted to postpone the exam. I assured him this was just his unconscious fear of his father. All he had to do was keep talking about it, and it would go away again. This was the traditional, time-tested approach to his problem. I was so confident that I guaranteed he’d pass his test.

I was wrong. He failed miserably.

We had one last session after that. He still looked like a trapped rat, but this time an angry trapped rat. His words echoed in my ears. “You didn’t give me a real way to conquer fear. Talking about my father every time was like fighting a gorilla with a water pistol. You failed me.”

My experience with Tony opened my eyes. I realized how helpless patients could feel facing a problem by themselves. What they needed were solutions that would give them the power to fight back. Theories and explanations couldn’t give that kind of power; they needed forces they could feel.

I had a series of other, less spectacular failures. In each case, a patient was in some state of suffering: depression, panic, obsessional rage, etc. They pleaded with me for a way to make their pain go away. I had no idea how to help them.

I was experienced at dealing with failure. I was addicted to basketball growing up and played with kids bigger and better than I was. (Actually, almost everybody was bigger than I was.) If I performed badly at basketball, I just practiced more. This was different. Once I lost faith in the way I’d been taught to do therapy, there was nothing to practice. It was as though someone took the ball away.

My supervisors were sincere and dedicated, but they attributed my doubts to inexperience. They told me most young therapists doubt themselves, but as time passes, they learn that therapy can only do so much. By accepting its limitations, they don’t feel as bad about themselves.

But those limitations were unacceptable to me.

I wouldn’t be satisfied until I could offer patients what they asked for: a way to help themselves now. I decided I would find a way to do this no matter where it took me. Looking back, I realize that this was the next step on a path that had started when I was a child.

When I was nine, my three-year-old brother died of a rare cancer. My parents, who had limited emotional resources, never recovered. A cloud of doom hung over them. This tragedy changed my role in the family. Their hope for the future became focused on me—as if I had a special power to make the doom go away. Each evening my father would come home from work, sit in his rocking chair, and worry.

He didn’t do it quietly.

I’d sit on the floor next to his chair, and he’d warn me that his business might go bankrupt any day (he called it “going busted”). He’d ask me stuff like “Could you make do with only one pair of pants?” Or “What if we all had to live in one room?” None of his fears were realistic; they were as close as he could come to admitting his terror that death would visit us again. Over the next few years, I realized my job was to reassure him. In effect, I became my father’s shrink.

I was twelve years old.

Not that I thought about it that way. I didn’t think at all. I was moved by an instinctive fear that if I didn’t accept this role, doom would overwhelm us. As unrealistic as that fear was, it felt absolutely real at the time. Being under that kind of pressure as a kid gave me strength when I grew up and got real patients. Unlike many of my peers, I wasn’t intimidated by their demands. I’d been in that role for almost twenty years.

But just because I was willing to address my patients’ pain didn’t mean I knew how. One thing I was sure of: I was on my own. There were no books I could read, no experts I could correspond with, no training programs I could apply to. All I had to go on was my instincts. I didn’t know it yet, but they were about to lead me to a whole new source of information.

My instincts led me into the present. That’s where my patients’ suffering was. Taking them back to their past was just a distraction; I didn’t want any more Tonys. The past has memories, emotions, and insights, all of which have value. But I was looking for something powerful enough to bring relief right now. To find it, I had to stay in the present.

What People are Saying About This

“Transcendent . . . a rapid and streamlined method of self-improvement.”—Publishers Weekly

“Barry Michels and Phil Stutz are profoundly talented guides to the inner workings of the psyche. The Tools is breakthrough material that ignites your own capacity to transform your life.”Marianne Williamson

“These tools are emotional game changers; they can help you work through conflicts, get happier, and feel a deep sense of purpose. As simple and practical as they are, they do nothing less than deliver you to your best and most powerful self.”—Kathy Freston, author of Quantum Wellness: A Spiritual Guide to Health and Happiness

"Every single thing I’ve written of any power or merit came through using the tools Barry taught me. Usually counterintuitive, sometimes dangerous, they only changed my life.”—Stephen Gaghan, Academy Award–winning writer of Traffic and writer/director of Syriana

Meet the Author

Phil Stutz graduated from City College in New York and received his MD from New York University. He worked as a prison psychiatrist on Rikers Island and then in private practice in New York before moving his practice to Los Angeles in 1982.
Barry Michels has a BA from Harvard, a law degree from University of California, Berkeley, and an MSW from the University of Southern California. He has been in private practice as a psychotherapist in Los Angeles since 1986.

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The Tools: Transform Your Problems into Courage, Confidence, and Creativity 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Doges More than 1 year ago
I was in talk therapy for three years, two times a week, with a great therapist. I learned every detail and nuance about how my past effected the decisions and choices I had made. I learned to recognize this complex relationship between past and present almost in real time. This often helped me make better choices, and I'm thankful for that. But something was always missing. I knew where I wanted to get to and what was holding me back. I simply couldn't make that leap. A character flaw of mine? Maybe. I think it might also be a flaw of talk therapy. It bonds the trauma of the past with the present. I needed to bond the present with the future. And then I was lucky enough to get to read The Tools. It explains how to do just what I needed. In a nutshell? -If you ever find yourself in a rut -If you, like me, have been in psychotherapy but still have bad habits that hold you back -If you are in a creative field, or want to be -If you ever feel uncomfortable speaking to people (one or a thousand) -If you wish you could make bolder moves with your life -If you have unhealthy relationships -If you worry about things to a point where it stifles you -If you want to get things done but somehow don't -If you know someone who fits any of the above ...then please buy 'The Tools' by Dr. Phil Stutz and Barry Michels. They are two therapists from LA who are brilliant. This is not a self-help book per se, but instead an answer to the part of talk therapy that doesn't actually change your life significantly enough and fast enough. (I've never picked up a 'self-help' book in my life...) Obviously, understanding your past is critical in knowing who you are. But the future is what you have to look forward to. 'The Tools' will help you make the most of it. The authors each had incredibly successful private practices treating some of the most successful people around. This book shares part of their unique, groundbreaking methods that have evolved over decades. For less than $15 you, or someone you love, risk finishing that project that's been laying dormant, having a healthier relationship, improving your confidence, and/or otherwise changing your life dramatically for the better. I just spent $30 on a T-shirt that didn't do any of that for me. Take a risk on this book: if you read it with an open mind your future might be more fulfilling than you ever dared think it could be.
sheileeb More than 1 year ago
GossettWS wrote a review on 6/8/12 of Dr. Stutz, not of the book itself, which is what many reviewers tend to do. He or she doesn't say if they tried out any of the tools - my guess would be no. My review is of the book. and in my opinion, it does what it says it will do. It presents the reader with tools to help them face the problems and challenges in their life. Yes, it does mention "higher power" - which could be "God", "The Universe", Guardian Angels, or even inspiration from out of the blue - which hits all of us, if we are truthful about it. I believe that one of the principles in this book - to look outside ourselves to the greater good of all humanity -is coming at us in a wave from various sources right now, (Chopra, Wayne Dyer, M. Scott Peck, Stephen Covey, to name just a few) and it must be embraced if we are to save our race. I have had experiences with talk therapy -even one who gave me similar tools. I believe the principles can help us, IF we are willing to give them a chance. It is a useful and pretty well-written TOOL.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Psychology meets spirituality in this book detailing a short, simple set of actions (tools) you can use to get yourself out of any rut you may be in, whether it's fear of success or helpless regurgitation of the past. The book makes reference to Source, which you can interpret in accordance with your own spiritual beliefs. I read this in 2 days and have already implemented the ideas. I haven't won a Nobel prize or an Oscar, but I am much more peaceful and hopeful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Tools in this book are real and work - period. I have experienced these tools without realizing it at different points in my life, and this book made me conscious of my ability to change my live rather than attributing my outcomes to chance. Since reading this book three months ago, I have used the tools to start my own business (which I have been avoiding but overcame using Reversal of Desire); stopped worrying about the judgement of others (see Active Love) and moved my life forward in every way imaginable after years being dormant. Look, this is just my experience that I wanted to share. You don't have to believe it. But, if you have tried everything else and are desperate to try anything to get you out of your rut, (like I was), you have nothing to lose. Use the tools on your problems (the hardest part is admitting that you have problems and have control over them) and just do it! You'll be amazed too!
dickquis More than 1 year ago
The Tools is the place to go for advice on solving problems. If you want to create a life better than the one you have now, give The Tools a read. Make notes, memorize the tools, visualize what you are meant to be and you’ll be on your way. You’ll work hard at developing your capacity to create but the outcome will be worth it. No false promises, no magic pills just great advice you can use immediately. As with any self help program you have to find the one(s) that you can relate too. You also have to know how you best acquire and retain knowledge; whether by writing, reading, listening or a combination of all three. Stutz and Michels are truly on the cutting edge of psychotherapy and have the experience, tools and courage to show you what you need to do to improve your life. Richard Quis, Co-author Thinking Anew: Harnessing the Power of Belief
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
it has helped me to overcome some of my fears and deal with problems at work and life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is definately not your usual self-help book. It is an enjoyable read and easy to digest. The book asks you to use certain tools in your life in order to make it better. These tools seen to be quite effective and practical. Which is ine of the things i admire in this book. The authorss try to be honeest and address a few things that most self-help books don't and don't make you just rely on wishful thinking by giving you psychological tools. The authors want you to put work in and they even offer you a tool that most self-helps book dont a way to keep using the tools and not take the book as just another book. Excited to start using these in my life definately recommend this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A truly excellent book; money well spent.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The authors' lucid style, including the case histories they offer as concrete examples, make this book highly readable. Many readers, I think, will find one or more of the "tools"--strategies for overcoming the ways in which many of us are our own worst enemies--useful to apply, and others will find ideas they can adapt and apply to self-understanding.
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sweetness95 More than 1 year ago
This book made me relize I could conqure the impossible. Its a must read for pushing forward when change is NOT and option. This book is very direct when examples where applied and very well worded, never missed a beat. I've learned that NOTHING simply NOTHING is IMPOSSIBLE.With Tools you'll go a long ways.
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Read the sample & now i want to know the tools! Theory seems pretty sound.
BdetteDA More than 1 year ago
Really sorry i wasted my money. If you believe in mysterious forces that impact our lives then maybe this will be helpful. But for me just trying to get through the first two chapters was difficult. The writing is not well done and I can't find anything to be impressed about. Higher powers aren't what I would call a "tool". Based on the title I thought it would have some practical tools, but it doesn't, its a little ridiculous really all this talk about higher forces (what the heck is that supposed to be? It's not made clear by the end of chapter two). If you believe in astrology or numerology or tarot cards this book is for you. If you want real tools, don't waste your money here.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Were at good guys. Hurry up