Beyond Therapy

Beyond Therapy

Igniting Life Focus Community Movements

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ISBN: 978-1-4128-6262-2
Pages: 222
Binding: Paperback
Publication Date: 09-14-2015
Also available as:
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In Beyond Therapy, Erving Polster examines the role of “life focus"in three of society’s most familiar activities: ordinary conversation, the arts, and religion. He shows the life focus movement to be an indivisible complement to just simply living. In proposing a paradigm shift from psychotherapy’s priority for changing people’s troubled lives into the complementary purpose of illuminating their lives, the author invites the participation of many people who do not seek remedial treatment for emotional or psychological problems.

Polster incorporates a broader scenario for enhancing attention through community groups, showing that the convergence of people’s minds on commonly important life themes creates enlightenment. This interlocked focus amplifies the ensuing conversational content and creates a meditation-like absorption. This kind of pointed focus, argues Polster, has the power to color the lives of the participants.

This work offers rationale and design for life focus community groups, and also creates a heightened identity for the life focus movement, providing other foundational ideas that help to unify diverse approaches. Mental health professionals will benefit from its wealth of specific exercises and instructions for program design. Polster provides leaders and group members with a well-rounded perspective on the basics of personal enlightenment and communal belonging.

Editorial Reviews

“With his usual enchanting prose, Erv Polster inspires clinicians to take our talents into our communities and establish a tradition that supports people to narrate their lives to each other in “life focus groups.” He has long encouraged such focused narrations as one of life’s finest riches. Now he gives us examples, ideas and suggestions to go along with his inspirational impetus.”

—Lynne Jacobs, Licensed Psychologist, Co-Founder of the Pacific Gestalt Institute

“With infectious optimism and soulful humanism, Dr. Erving Polster has shared his inspiring vision of the extraordinary things people can achieve through powerful social connections that encourage meaningful self-examination. Dr. Polster’s concept of “Life Focus Community” is rich with the potential to provide us with the support, insight, and personal growth to satisfy the need we all have to build our lives more thoughtfully and skillfully. Read this important book and join the growing community of those who are better people for having done so.”

—Michael D. Yapko, clinical psychologist and author of Depression is Contagious  

"He [Polster] challenges therapists to stretch beyond the therapy room and engage the community at large.  He shows how a lifetime of support, witness and sharing can be an anchor for sharing life experiences. Polster offers excellent suggestions of topics for a life focus group. . . . Polster’s illustrations and case examples of life solution group members’ experiences inspire us to think of undiscovered stories from our own lives with a new appreciation. He takes the best of what therapy brings to the client—attention, attunement, focus, and connectivity— and shows how these can be used in a larger community experience over the course of a lifetime." 

—Victoria Danzig, L.C.S.W., Voices

“Here is one [book] I should have read when I was doing my M.A. in Counseling Psychology. It develops good strategies for creating a life focus group, and would benefit mental health professionals, as well as those who work with people, such as teachers.”

—Jennifer A. Jilks, author of Living and Dying with Dignity

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Awards and News

Listen to an interview with Erving Polster about Beyond Therapy on the radio show "The Quantum Leap," hosted by Cathy Bilsky. (1 hr, 45 min)

Table of Contents


Section A. The Importance of Life Focus

1       What I Mean By Life Focus

2       The Drama of the Split Mind 

3       Life as Microcosm 

4       A Focus Revolution 

Section B. How Life Focus Groups Work

5       Life Focus Community: Design Ideas 

6       Artful Engagement 

7       Themes that Mark a Lifetime 

8       Communal Setting 

Section C. Social Implications of Life Focus

9       From the Supernatural to the Human: Part 1
10     From the Supernatural to the Human: Part 2
11     A Psychotherapeutic Morality
12     Dependable Identity 

13     Belonging and Indivisibility 

14     A Social Trust