Christian Moore – podcast transcript

This is the audio transcript of Coaching Through Chaos Podcast episode 13

featuring Dr. Colleen Mullen and  Christian Moore

0:00 introduction

3:08 Mullen: have you known someone who no matter what life throws at them they just seem to be able to roll with the punches? maybe you know someone who has overcome some big emotional obstacles  like the unexpected loss of a love one with grace. when someone bounces back from life's unexpected occurrences - we call that RESILIENCY.
My guest today is an expert in resiliency  CHRISTIAN MOORE  is a licensed clinical social worker who has dedicated his life's work to helping both kids and adults understand and increase their resiliency.
Christian is very open about the obstacles he has had to overcome in his life - the primary one was figuring out how to get the education he wanted while having whats considered a moderate to severe learning disability. Christian will tell you all about his struggle in our interview. I want to tell you why you should listen  and what Christian has to say and about his expertise.
3:59  Christian is a foremost authority on the subject of resiliency. He is the author of  THE RESILIENCE BREAKTHROUGH  - 27 TOOLS FOR TURNING ADVERSITY INTO ACTION.
This book is for adults who want to figure out their resilience strengths and learn how to build on them. The book can be used by individuals and even corporate organizations looking to build resiliency within their companies. But that's just for the adults.
4:22  If you've got kids you may have already heard of Christian's school based program. He is the founder of the WHY TRY program - Why Try brings resilience skills training to kids and teens all over the US and abroad. When i say you may have already heard of it, that's because it is in 22000 schools  across the US and the evidence based Why Try program is cited in textbooks as a formidable way to build resiliency skills.
4:48 But why do we need to be more resilient? According to the Mayo Clinic, a person who is resilient may be protected from various mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Resiliency can help offset factors that increase the risk of mental health conditions such as being bullied or having previous trauma. And if you have an existing mental health condition, being resilient can improve your ability to cope.
5:12 Resilience wont make your problems go away, but it will give you the ability to see past them, find enjoyment in life and better handle stress.
Being resilient doesn't make you not feel stress,adversity or trauma, and when these things do happen you will still have the normal responses like anger grief and pain. But if you're resilient you'll be able to continue functioning both physically and psychologically.
5:33 and when kids are more resilient they are more apt to get better grades, they deal with the drama of teenage life less dramatically, and they learn innate coping skills for stress management and problem solving.  now that's a fact that can make anybody want to take an inventory of their resilient strengths and build on them.
5:53  we're about to get into the interview with Christian. I want to say that for me it was a privilege to talk with him. He has been known to be booked up to 260 days a year for speaking engagements, and you'll understand why  when you hear the interview - he's quite dynamic.  But the Coaching Through Chaos podcast is his first podcast interview - i was thrilled to have him join me - he really is a dynamo in his energy and passion for what he is doing.

6:19   interlude

6:40  Mullen: Christian, you're a licensed clinical social worker, who founded to help teach kids and teens about resiliency, and you've written the wonderfully helpful book for adults called the resilience breakthrough - 27 tools for turning adversity into action.
Resiliency has been one of my favorite subjects to teach to my clients and students, so lets get right into this... How do you define resiliency?

 7:03 Moore: in the book, we define resilience as the ability to bounce back when you have every reason to shut down, but you fight on. Resilient people have both tapped and untapped  reserves, enabling them to overcome and thrive if they face the setbacks, challenges and fears of daily life. People often ask me when I'm out speaking - what do i mean by untapped reserves?   Growing up i had basically two talents: i could talk non stop and i could draw really good. So as a student, they sent  me to the principals office all the time for non stop speaking.  And in Maryland they have corporal punishment,  and they would literally beat me with a paddle for talking non stop, and now that i have focused on and dedicated my life to resilience,  I realize that the principal, instead of beating me with a paddle should have said "Hey, the skill to speak non stop could be something that could really increase your resilience as you get older" - you know the number one fear in this world is public speaking  - so he should have been celebrating my non stop speaking instead of beating me with a paddle ...

 8:05 Mullen:  right - so you started looking at your own ways of bouncing back at a young age. You have a personal story later on in life about how you came to learn that your lowest point could also be your best friend - and it has to do with your graduation story. Could you tell us that story and what you mean by making your lowest point your best friend ?

8:25 Moore: probably the best way to explain my graduation story is to start a little bit with my wife .  I met this beautiful girl and i thought "man, I'd love to marry her". But i had learning disabilities. When i was 28 years old I had never made over six dollars an hour - the average income for people with my background of moderate to severe learning disability is about $12,000 a year. And I thought "man, i love this girl so much, i had better break up with her"
I said: "Wendy, you need to marry someone who works in the high tech industry, that can make some good money- you know, i might be fun on a date but you do not want to marry me"
So I broke up with Wendy, and she came to me a couple of days later, and she said to me:
"Look Christian, i know you are learning disabled, dumb, lazy, rebellious, attitude problem"
She gave me all my labels and she literally proposed to me : "Christian, if you marry me, you never have to worry about employment, I'll support you, I'll take care of you for the rest of your life".
9:10  And I thought to myself: " I may be learning disabled but this homeboy ain't stupid - that's the woman for me ". And so I married her because I really did love her, not because I never had to work another day in my life.
Well she tells me to apply to the local community college, but i thought there's no way they're going to let me into this community college, because of my learning disabilities and my background....
9:29  So I applied to the local community college - and got ACCEPTED. And I'm jumping up and down on the couch and my wife says: "Christian, look, it's open enrollment, they let everybody in " ... (laughter)  ..
So I'm wondering why didn't they tell me that the real requirements to go to college is a GED or all D minuses - i had no clue what the real requirements were to go to college ...
9:48  So my wife worked two jobs, I worked two jobs,  she read all my papers, read all my textbooks to me, helping me with my papers. I'd hand write my papers and she would type them up. I came up with something called THE NO F GAME PLAN - I went to every class, sat in the front row, i did all the homework assignments, and i did enough extra credit to get a  D minus... I realized  you get just as much credit with a D or D- as you do with an A+.
And so i thought, I'll just go as far as i can through college. I was at a community college and then transferred to a university, i was working my way through the university and was doing this No F Gameplan trying to get through - but i couldn't graduate because i couldn't do the maths or foreign language.  And so i was about to give up, i was really frustrated but i kept hanging in there. I would study some 30 hours to pass the tests, i asked my peers in college how many hours they were studying - and they would study 3 to 5 hours. And I had gotten right up to the point where i could graduate and they approved for me to do so.  And then I get a phone call from the dean of the college of home and family sciences, who says to me " You cant graduate".
 10:54 He had my transcripts in front of him and was saying "There's is no way you should be on this college campus with your background and stuff." He basically told me I could not graduate, i was devastated..."

11:01  Mullen: yes pulling the rug out from underneath you right there ...

11:04  Moore: so I'm a grown man and my legs literally came out from underneath me - I remember hitting the floor and i was curled up in the fetal position crying - i could not believe that i had put in so much work, i had spent 60 thousand dollars - no one gave me a dollar for college, i had put all this work in and wasn't going to be able to graduate.
And what happened was, i said to the gentleman "can i please come to your office and talk to you" to which he agreed, but i had to go there right away.
And it's an emotional thing that took place, if you don't mind, its just two paragraphs out of my book ... and it will literally summarize what happened there.

11:40  Moore (reading):
I sat down across from him. He leaned over his desk and shouted "How did you pull this off ?" He then slammed his fist on the table, the condemning papers jumped with force. I took a deep breath... My extra credit hustle, i was just going to class every day, turning my homework in, doing all of the extra credit; my childhood grocery store exploits and my years of fighting for this degree had all prepared me for this moment of truth. I was not going back to the fetal position. I was not going back down. I was going to be resilient. I looked the Dean in the eye and said:12:18 "When I asked other students how many hours a day they studied for a test, they said three to five. Sir, I studied 20 hours for the same test. I did ten times more work than any other student in the history of this university. I am the hardest working student who has ever showed up on this college campus. I didn't miss one day of school. I didn't miss any homework assignments. I worked as hard as i possibly could. I learned everything there was to learn about my profession that I could possibly study. 12:45 If you let me graduate, I'm going to impact millions of lives ...I will make sure everybody has access to the kind of hope i discovered being here on this campus. Going to school has been like winning the Superbowl for me.  I know that I shouldn't have been accepted... but i was. And i deserve every credit. Sir, you can't stop me from getting this degree - I earned it "13:07 As I explained my dreams and goals to him, i began to see a visible change in the Deans demeanor. He leaned back in his chair, his face was more relaxed now. Wow - i wasn't expecting that...He said: " i can see that you are here under very unique circumstances..."He looked up  at the ceiling, then back at me:"Christian,you're going to graduate this week. Good luck in graduate school, son"
13:31  Moore: And that's how it shook out, it went from being one of the worst moments in my life to being one of the best moments - so i was able to graduate from college, with a 6th grade maths level and a 7th grade reading  and writing level.
Millions of kids go to college with mild to moderate learning disabilities, but less than 2 percent with moderate to severe learning disabilities get a degree, and 0.5 percent, not even 1% percent get a Masters degree. So statistically I had a better chance of playing the NBA and becoming Lebron James than having this interview with you right now Colleen

13:59  Mullen: Right - isn't it that something ! I know that you know that you were pulling from all sorts of resilient traits to even go to the Deans office that day. I just think its wonderful that you have that experience, and you've turned it into teaching everybody about resiliency....
Which leads me to ask you - if somebody is out there thinking "Yeah, but I'm not that strong" -
can they learn to stand up for themselves, can they learn to bounce back more easily ?
What's your belief on resiliency, can you teach this ?

14:28  Moore: It's interesting, in college, they told me you have resilience or you don't. You cant give someone a prescription for resilience. Now 16 years later, I beg to differ.
I believe that resilience is already inside all of us, its a human trait. For example what the sperm and egg have to overcome just for us to be born is resilience,  our life starts with resilience.  Over the past 16 years, we have taught resilience to thousands of students in all 50 states ....

15:01  Mullen: You really are making that impact that you told the Dean in your speech.

15:07  Moore: Yeah, for example you see people like Robert Downy Jr, who was arrested multiple times, somewhere learned how to be resilient - and become this great mega star. Oprah overcame abuse and impacted the world ..
Stanford professor Carol Deweck has illustrated through research that most people with a growth mindset can increase their capacity in any area. Its that effort effect. Further research on resilience shows most people have a capacity for resilience - so i have dedicated my life to pulling that resiliency out of them.

15:38  Mullen: and so much of resiliency is being able to turn pain into power - even the story of your graduation speaks of what you mention in the book  - which is trending now -
is Post Traumatic Growth .. so you talk specifically about turning pain into power - why do you think that is so important for moving forward in life.

15:55 Moore: again, the reality of life is, we are all going to have opposition and pain. And out of pain, emotions are born. I have become fascinated in how we can take our negative emotions and the energy from them as fuel to create productive outcomes.
For example, i was told many times that i couldn't go to college, that it wants an option for me because of my learning differences. I used that disrespect and rage as fuel to get a masters degree.. I had a professor who came to me in college and said "Christian, if you get a college degree, my degree is worth less"
16:27   I just found out that professor is going to be teaching this year out of a college textbook that my WhyTry program is in as evidence based social and emotional education...
So that became a fuel source for me, now he has to lecture ON MY THEORY..

16:38 Mullen: laughs

16:39  Moore: America is the greatest country in the world!!.  Another example just the other day, I travel a lot and i was in a restaurant, and i was being totally ignored by the waiter - getting horrible service. I literally live in restaurants, so I'm oversensitive sometimes to bad service - and i was feeling rage inside, i was feeling anger inside - i just started laughing, i thought to myself: :OK, Christian, how can you take this anger and rage and do something productive with it? And i decided that when he comes back i would increase my kindness- so i asked him about himself a little bit, he told me about his son who was going through a hard time - and the whole dynamic of the service changed.
So one thing I'm excited about now is when we have these negative emotions we can use them as a fuel source to create a productive outcome...

17:20  Mullen: absolutely...with this waiter you flipped the switch  - and that's something you detail in your book. I don't know if you want to walk us through all the four steps to flipping the switch, but can you talk about the concept behind it

17:33   Moore: When you flip the switch, you stop for a moment and you realize you can turn your pain into power. Flipping the Switch is an awareness that you have a choice on how you respond to a situation - its like putting on a new pair of glasses - you're seeing the issue from a little bit of a different perspective.
Let me give you one of my most recent situations where i had to flip the switch

17:53 Moore: a few weeks ago i was speaking in Texas, and about an hour away from giving my speech I'm driving into this town and i get a call from my son Cooper, and he says "Hey Dad!" ... and he is in crisis mode, "Mom just went to the hospital in an ambulance"
And I'm like "Oh my goodness.  What is going on ?" .. And I didn't respond well, I'm driving down the road, and the road is going blurry - I'm looking for a place to pull over but where i was driving there was no place to  pull over, and I'm doing everything i can just to keep my composure.. and my son cant really explain to me what's happening with mom, and so it's a highly stressful situation. And I pull into the place where I'm going to give the speech and there's an audience waiting for me to talk.
The person who was traveling with me said "Christian, there's no way you can the speech "
18:37 I replied: "Look, let me call and see if I can get on the next flight". I checked the next flight and it's the flight I'm already on, so there is nothing more that I can do. But the guy traveling with me is insistent  that i still don't have to give the speech.
18:48 I said: "You know what, I'm trying to teach millions of people how to flip the switch, this is a very emotional tough situation - I'm going to flip the switch right now and give the greatest speech I've ever given"  And I just tried to maximize that situation, I was feeling intense fear, knowing my wife was in the hospital I felt loneliness and all these emotions - and I just said OK, how can I use this as my best friend ?
19:11  And I'm excited about it, it has taken me 45 years to realize how to flip that switch. The first step of flipping the switch is just knowing you have a switch. For the first 35 years of my life,  I was like a puppet basically - if someone yelled at me or I dealt with a difficulty,  I would yell back, I would use the difficulty as a reason to hurt myself, hurt other people, give up...

19:32 Mullen: right, just react

19:33 Moore: yeah, and now that  i have realized i have this switch, it makes life really fun when you know you have it. We're teaching this switch from kindergarten to high school students, and a lot of adults don't even know they have this switch they can flip. So that's the first step, just the awareness you have this switch.
19:52 The second step of flipping the switch is you have to acknowledge, assess and accept  that you have a problem. My reality is I have learning differences, I have severe ADHD. I grew up in a home where both my parents had some mental health issues. That's the reality of my situation - so   today at 45 years old I say to myself how can i maximize my ADHD - how can I maximize this energy, how can i use the energy as my best friend.
20:18 For example now as a therapist when i diagnose a child with ADHD, I'll bring a cake into my office, I'll pass out party hats, those things that blow out and I'll say " Look, we're going to have a party !"  And the parents all look at me as if I'm crazy - why are we having a party ?
Because the first couple of years i was a therapist, the family would come in depressed, i would diagnose something and they would leave more depressed. No. No more. I'm not going to spend the next 30 years depressing youth and families - so I would literally bring this cake in, light the candles and say "You have one of the greatest gifts - people would kill to have this energy. I'm going to show you step by step how to use this energy as your best friend"
And I would show the parents data that the vast majority of CEOs and entrepreneurs have ADHD - they work hundred hour work weeks - so its just re-framing the ADHD.
21:01  But first you have to accept that there is a problem. The question is how do we use that problem as a fuel source to make better decisions ...

21:07 Mullen: I have to say I love the cake idea, i f I had ever seen anybody do that at all of the meetings over the years with kids - that's just brilliant - what an amazing re-frame.

21:19 Moore: I love it, the parents are literally walking out of my office with a hop in their step, their arm around their child because we've just explained how this can be their best friend.  Even if i diagnose a child with conduct disorder, I would even do that.
I had a kid in my office a few years ago who stole 3 cars and the police officer was saying this kid is a genius - they couldn't figure out how he did it in one hour. And so I re-framed it by saying: "Look, you're creative, you're bold, you're a risk taker". I broke out the cake and showed him how to take those same attributes he used to steal those cars to become a great entrepreneur one day - to make better decisions.
21:52 To be really frank with you i really haven't seen a situation that cannot be re-framed.

21:57 Mullen: I agree with you on that, and I'll just say I think your re-frames are brilliant

22:00 Moore: I appreciate that, thank you, thank you. 
The third step is to ask the flip the swithc question - and that question is just: How can I use this challenge to better my circumstances or create a productive outcome right now ?
And one thing i encourage people to do, when they're in a situation like this, is do the opposite of what other people would normally do in a similar situation.
As an example, a couple of years ago, when i was going through college, my wife had lost her job, I didn't have a job at the time, and we were pretty rock bottom financially.  What are we going to do ?  Wendy was applying to many different jobs, she'd go in  and come back out depressed and frustrated. In front of one business, i finally said to her after a couple of weeks "Look, lets just try something crazy, just go in there and tell them you'll work the first two weeks for free".   So she sits down and does just that, and it caught the employers attention, and he said " You really stood out, of all the people i interviewed"
And a couple of days later, she got the job.
So sometimes i think we've got to do something out of the box, where we really do the opposite of what people would normally do. I think being resilient we have to have humor, we have to shake things up and NOT TAKE OURSELVES SO SERIOUSLY.
23:16 And then the last step is: Pay attention to how you feel as you flip the switch. Now I almost have to give a warning with this, and I've heard this from thousands of people - that as they start to do these 4 steps, it becomes  very addictive. I'll see people in their 60s, they're just learning how to flip the switch and they're having so much fun. Now when I have a crisis or I have a challenge in my life, I literally get excited that I have an opportunity to approach this differently. And they ask "Why did it take me 60 years to learn how to flip the switch?"
23:45 I really believe resiliency is a major social justice issue, and in the 20 years it's going to become a bigger and bigger issue. Millions and millions of people will understand resiliency and where it comes from, and millions of people won't.  I really believe that resiliency is the great equalizer..It transcends socio-economic status, culture, race, the neighborhood you grew up in, age -  you know, all these different issues. It is the most powerful thing i have come across that  really levels the playing field.
24:11  One of the funnest things for me is I love sharing with kids who are growing up in the most difficult of circumstances - how to use the poverty, the divorce, the discrimination, the anger, the emotions that come from those issues - as the reason to turn in their homework, to stay in school, to make better decisions. We are literally showing kindergartners how to flip the switch. And then we're sharing this K through twelfth grade, we're even teaching this on death row. From the playpen to the State Pen, literally...

24:43 Mullen: wow, that brings us`right to the meat of it, so we  know what resiliency  is.  You've defined four sources of resilience:
= street resilience
= relational resilience
= resource resilience
= rock bottom resilience
Can you tell us a little bit about each one of these ?

25:00 Moore: So my goal in coming up with these four sources really was born out of frustration  - I had read hundreds of books on resilience, i studied the topic of resilience, and all i could usually come across was the attributes of resilience - like hard work, determination, perseverance. But i wanted to know where `was it born, where does  resiliency come from. So i started looking at thousands of people, at their lives and what role resiliency played in their life, and i noticed four common attributes kept popping out as i looked at highly resilient people.
25:29 The first thing that popped out was Relational Resilience - and all that means is your greatest motivation to not give up is the knowledge that others need you or depend on you. For example, i have two kids named Cooper and Carson, 8 and 12 year old boys - if i never got invited to speak again, i would go and work at four McDonald's to put food in these kids mouths. I'll do whatever it takes - my resilience is going to kick in because of my relationship with them. For a teacher it could be for their students. My business partner Hans is someone who has an incredible amount of relational resilience.  He makes good decisions, he is the CEO of our company, he has 5 kids ... Now me personally, I've had to really develop my relational resiliency because of my parents mental health issues I didn't really attach to my parents when i was a kid , so RR is something that I am constantly working at.
 I traveled 260 days a year as a speaker which i should never have been traveling that much, but one of the reasons i was able to do that is because I didn't understand the power of RR. 
26:31 So when i was coming up with this, i was comparing me and my business partner - Hans has an incredible amount of RR, but the next one, i realized he didn't have an ounce of Street Resilience. Well i got excited about it - oh my gosh - if i could teach Hans how to tap into Street Resilience, i could double his resilience. So for example, Street Resiliency is, you take the pain of social inequality, disrespect and mistakes and use it as fuel to propel you forward. And it can be any type of disrespect, it can be your ears are too big, your teeth aren't white enough - any type of disrespect or past mistake - there's so many people who feel disrespected, especially as i work in schools across this country, kids will often say to me: "I feel disrespected, I feel that people are judging me"  So I say : how do you take that and use it as a reason to become a greater human being. And  we have a lot of strategies to show them how to do that - a great example of Street Resilience is Nelson Mandela - we know the story of him being in the prison camp for 27 years - the same guy disrespected him, would verbally abuse him and stuff ... When he became the president of South Africa, the first ting he did was to invite that guy to his presidential inauguration - they became great friends - he was like because you disrespected me, I'm going to become a greater human being. So one day it hit me, that if i could develop my relational resilience, and i had street resiliency, i could increase my resilience. If my business partner, who had almost no street resiliency but had a lot of relational resiliency, then I could double his resilience.

28:00 Mullen: yeah, you can tap into and help build each others resilience

28:06 Moore: so the third place I believe resiliency comes from is Resource Resiliency - and that's where you recognize that your resilience can be increased by tapping into the resources available to you. For example, earlier i said i had two talents - i could talk non stop and i could draw really good. One of my contributions to mental health is i took everything in mental health and put it into picture form for kids, i took my art talent and maximized it.  You recognize that your resources include talents, relationships, physical assets, personality traits and work ethic. As I'm out on road speaking, i ran into a guy the other day who blew me out of the water, one of the greatest examples of resource resiliency I've ever seen is KYLE MAINERD, who was born with no arms, no legs except these little stubs. He recently put rubber balls on the end of his stubs and hiked to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. He just maximized the resources that he had. He wrestled in high school and college with no arms, no legs, he just maximized what he had. Helen Keller is  another great example of that.

29:08 Mullen: when you hear stories like that  ( Kyle Mainerd ) you just get a grand picture  of what resilience absolutely is - when you see someone who can take that life circumstance and turn it into such an accomplishment

29:27 Moore: when i was going to college, another example of resource resiliency, when my wife lost her job, we had no money coming in, our rent was 300 dollars. And i couldn't come up with this 300 dollars in a million years,  i remember going out to our car - one of my rock bottom moments - i went out to the car and  i sized it up and thought oh my gosh, we are going to have to move into this car. And i went back into the house and said to my wife: "I told you you should not have married me! I told you your life was going to be hell if you married me. And she got angry, left the house and I'm like "Man, what do i do about this?"
I thought, well, one of the resources i have, i can draw really well, i can paint, i love doing water color paintings - so i went to this place in my community called The River Bottoms - multi-million dollar homes, and i painted a beautiful watercolor of this great big house..And then i would knock on the door and say: "Hey, I'm a local artist in the area, i was admiring your house and I'd like to sell you this painting for 200 dollars. The woman of the house gasped at the painting and said : "Ive spent tens of thousands of dollars on artwork that i don't like as much as this - this is worth way more than 200 dollars, I'm going to give you 600 dollars for this painting."   And i remember floating off that door step, because i had the 300 dollars for the rent, and another 300 dollars left over, and  i know to this day if i never get invited to ever speak again or do what I'm doing - i can go paint rich peoples houses and be able to support my family. And that's just maximizing your resources to be resilient.
30:56 So my goal is, when I'm working with someone, i want them to tap into that relational resilience, i want them to tap into street resilience, that resource resilience.
And my last one is Rock Bottom Resilience.  And that's when you are at your lowest point, you believe in your ability to change your circumstances and combat hopelessness and fight on.
Now everybody has their own personal rock bottom. One of my goals as a therapist when i work with people is i figure out what their rock bottom moment is. And one of the first things i focus on is how they can take that rock bottom moment and use it as a nuclear fuel rod of energy to engage with life, to put more effort into what they're doing with their lives.
For example today, my son Carson, who is 8 years old, was crying all morning, was having a tough morning. He came and hugged me five times because he is getting braces today - and he doesn't want to get these braces - and that's his rock bottom moment - the first 8 years of his life.  I was just saying to him: "OK Carson, how can you use this ? Kids are going to tease you now, you're going to deal with these issues, but this is how you can respond to this". And just showing him how to take something negative and turn it into something positive.  And it hit me one day, i can learn more from a single mom living in a car with 3 kids than i f i studied these gurus.  I just became fascinated - what enables someone to put one foot in front of the other, when they have every reason to give up ?
32:13  Yeah, in the curriculum and in the book, we have 27`boosters we call them to help people access these four sources of resilience...

32:20 Mullen: The book, just to remind everybody, is THE RESILIENCE BREAKTRHOUGH - 27 tools for turning adversity into action.   And I want to really be able to talk about also. - so lets look at these boosters in each chapter on building the different residencies. Do you have two that maybe are your personal favorites ?

32:39 Moore: let me share this first one that I really love - i call it BE ILLOGICAL . This means when moving forward doesn't seem logical , you have  a million barriers in front of you, you do so anyway, this opens up potential unforeseen options so you go through the motions, you don't shut down when you basically have every reason to give up.
For example, it was illogical for me to go to college.I couldn't explain to people   who would ask me how i was going to get through - with only a 6th grade maths knowledge and 7th grade reading and writing level - :how are you going to graduate from college?
What i noticed what just by showing up, unforeseen options would happen. Professors took me under their wing, and opened up tremendous doors for me. Getting married, before i ever made a livable wage, before i ever made over 6 dollars per hour.  Being an entrepreneur, when i went to write this book, the resilience breakthrough, people said to me: "Christian, there's no way. Less than 2 percent of books get published,  you may be able to self publish, you're not going to get a book published".
And I just put in 110% of effort, i took over 3 and a half years to write this book, and I'm going to make sure we have something real that were going to be able to show people where resiliency really comes from.
33:45 I applied to one publisher and they published it, now I'm on a national level and GreenLeaf published the book, and that was one of the highlights of my life - so what I've learned is that just by showing up unbelievable things happen.

33:57 Mullen: absolutely - acting illogical, showing up - great traits to be able to do. I think your book publishing story is just amazing. It really is tough to get a book published.
Amazing that you come from the flip side of not even thinking college was something for you and here you are with a published book. That's certainly a story of resiliency right there.

34:20 Moore: i appreciate that. The next booster, and this falls under Rock Bottom resiliency, is something really simple but one of the most powerful things I've ever come across. I call this Discover the Power of a Future Promise.  You know, we all need something to look forward to, for example this morning just knowing i get to wake up and talk to Colleen Mullen and  be on this podcast Coaching Through Chaos, i was excited,  it gave me something to get `out of bed and look forward to. It can be something as simple as a great meal, you know, i 'm a foodie, i travel all the time. I'm always looking for something great to eat, that's probably why I'm in top physical condition...
a hug at the end of the day, a vacation, we all need ...

35:04 Mullen: something to look forward to ..

35:06 Moore: some type of hope, we all need that hope

35:08 Mullen: instilling hope is one of those great things for rock bottom resilience.

35:13 Moore: when i was a little boy, I'd come home from school and there wasn't a lot of food to eat in my house.  So I'd start punching holes in the wall, I was  so angry, I would open up the refrigerator five thousand times hoping something would appear in the refrigerator. After a couple of years of this, my  mum got pretty burned out, so every morning she would give me a couple of extra dollars, and she would say to me:
"Before you come home, I want you to go to Dairy Queen and get the foot long hot dog"
And literally, i call this foot long hot dog a  therapy, just knowing that it was there for me at the end of the day - I was going to walk to Dairy Queen and get this - it would literally help me get through school and through a lot of challenges, and so just having something out there for us is so important to look forward to.

35:53 Mullen: Right. That leads us right into the WhyTry program. Because you're talking about your stories of when you were a kid, you've referenced a lot of things throughout the interview today about  helping kids learn their resiliency. Now the book is for the adults, but WhyTry,org is for the kids.  Can  you tell us about how WhyTry came about - what it is and how a school or a  family would have it implemented.  Is it something for the schools or do people hire someone from WHyTRy to help them out.

36:23  Moore: absolutely. Basically how it started is i went to work as a school social worker at an alternative school. One day the school psychologist showed me that 80 percent of the kids i was working with were visual learners, but 100 percent of what i was doing counseling was verbal cognitive talk therapy. And so when i found out that most of these kids were visual learners i just started taking every thing in mental health and putting it into pictures for kids.  For example, if i was talking to a child about how to deal with peer pressure, getting out of a gang, stop doing drugs .. I would draw a picture - I'm from Maryland the crab state - so i would draw a picture of a bunch of crabs inside of a pot - and i would say to the child if i don't put a lid on this pot, why cant  the crabs get out of the pot ?  And the kids would look at the picture and say "Duh - the other crabs are reaching up and pulling them down"
So I would say "Hey, your friends you're skipping school with, you're` doing drugs with, you're fighting with ... all you're doing is you're pulling each other down and keeping each other in the pot. And then i would write different therapeutic questions written around the visual metaphor - what would your future be like if you got out of this pot? what would your future be like if you stayed in this pot?
37:22  And then we would reinforce these visual pictures with music that they listen to, from rap to pop music to rock to all different kinds of styles of music, so the child visually sees it, they hear it in music they listen to... and then we have discussion questions that tie into the music, and then we have hundreds of physical activities that reinforce it, and art activities. So whether the child is a visual learner, auditory learner, body kinesthetic learner - we just took evidence based mental health practice and started delivering it in a language that  was relevant to the child. Because relevance is such an important thing when working with kids that are struggling, and the purpose of these ten visual metaphors that we have, all reinforced with the music and the physical activities, is to teach the child how to be resilient and to give them the speicfic skills.
38:07 And so, what we  do is we go into a school district and we train everyone from the counselors to the teachers in how to deliver this curriculum to kids, and then , i Oslo spend a lot of time, I'll speak to parenting groups - we want the parents to have these skills, we want the kids to have these skills. The easiest way is just to contact WhyTRy and we do several hundred staff developments all across the country, we work in all 50 states. We do some international work now, from Australia to the UK, Canada.
38:37 Our goal is to just to put social and emotional education in a language that youth and families can really connect with.

38:41 Mullen: That's wonderful that you guys are having such reach now, and it is so needed. You mentioned` that it is research based - or evidence based as we say -  If someone is listening to this and they work in a school district and they know that this could be something that  could be helpful, tell us, what are the benefits that a school district, or that the families will see, for `kids who participate in the WHyTry program ?

39:02 Moore: There are a lot parents who will say to us: "We're talking to our kids all the time about their decisions having consequences, You just put it in a language they can understand "
The schools are worried about GPA and test scores, and one of  the reasons we are in 22, 000 schools is because we have been able to show that when you lower children's anxiety they thrive more academically.  By anxiety, right now i mean social anxiety which is as high as it's ever been - kids are worried about their shoes, their clothes, who is going to sit next to them, who just texted me, who didn't text me - and anxiety causes the brain to down shift which causes learning to be inhibited.
39:38 My main purpose was not to impact GPA and test scores, my main purpose was to help kids stay in school, learn how to have effective relationships and help them to thrive - so it has a huge impact on the school climate - it puts children in a position where they can focus on academics.

39:54 Mullen: Christian, i just want to say this has been fantastic, i think we do need to wrap up, so I'm going to repeat the book title: The Resiliency Breaktrough - 27 tools for turning adversity into action; and the program for the kids is
Thank you so much Christian Moore for your time ..

40:17 Moore: it was a blast talking to you, if some of your listeners want to get a hold of me  the easiest way is @Resilience_Guy -  we  would love to connect with you and I'll tell you  I admire the work you're doing , love the name Coaching Through Chaos, it's just so important ...

40:31  Mullen: thank you, i really appreciate that feedback ...

40:35 musical interlude // exit comments

43:20 FINIS

Bonnie Bergin – podcast audio transcript

This is the audio transcript of Coaching Through Chaos Podcast episode 11
featuring Dr. Colleen Mullen and Dr. Bonnie Bergin

0:00 introduction

2:18 Mullen: i had such fun interviewing today's guest. Dr Bonnie Bergin tells us the story of the birth of her life passion - training dogs to help people specifically our veterans, with physical or emotional struggles. shes the originator of the service dog. shes even developed a canine training academy, where a person can  earn a bachelors or even a masters of science degree in canine studies. I'm talking with Dr Bergin today  because of the non profit PAWS FOR PURPLE HEARTS program that she developed.  Paws for Purple Hearts has locations in both northern California and Virginia, and they have expansion plans. The mission of Paws for Purple Hearts is to connect veterans dealing with either physical or emotional difficulties that have developed out of their service to our country  with a service dog to help them live a better quality of life.
Let's listen as bonnie takes us from the birth of this idea all the way through to their plans for the future.

3:13 Mullen: Bonnie, in doing a little research for the interview, i found that you have an interesting claim to fame. you're actually the inventor of the concept of the service dog. can you tell us about your background and how you came to develop this

3:25 Bergin: yes, i want to start out by saying that i knew next to nothing about dog training.
it always seems amusing i think that people expect me to be this amazing dog trainer when i actually came up with the idea. My husband and I had a pet dog, and we took him everywhere and his name was  Socrates  so we were very much involved with dogs  we just didn't know anything about formal training.
so we went over to Australia and taught there for a year and then we went through several of the Asian countries - we flew into Kathmandu and went down through India and Pakistan, Afghanistan and through Iran and into turkey. We went to London, applied for a job and went back and taught in turkey for a year - so we had  quite a bit of experience in those countries and saw a lot of individuals with disabilities. But I didn't have any idea of the effect it was having on me, or the end result it would have as a result of having seen all of that.
4:23 i think two of my most memorable moments were watching someone using a donkey to balance on as they unloaded the pots and pans and sat on the street corner and sold them - so even though they were disabled - they were basically a part of the economic community in that country. Whereas in the United states we were institutionalizing a lot of individuals with physical disabilities. So i hadn't seen that in this country.
4:53 the other thing which was really astounding was , i was in a rooftop restaurant in turkey, right on the main drag in Ankara, and i saw a man literally laying flat on the ground on the sidewalk, but using his elbows to propel himself down the sidewalk. Later on i recognized that he was a quadriplegic but at the time i had no idea. And then he went across a 6 lane freeway - I'm sitting there in this rooftop restaurant watching this and just astounded and then he went all the way across - no car ran over him - and he dragged his body up the sidewalk and out of view. I was looking around and no-one in the restaurant besides myself was looking. It was such a common phenomenon in that country to watch people with disabilities out and about, making their way.
5:50  and so when i came back to this country, i had again, not really realized what i had seen in terms of its effect on me, but i went into a masters program because we had just passed the law that would mainstream people with disabilities into regular classrooms. And again i was a teacher and so i went into a masters program in special ed and early childhood education in order to prepare myself for this change in the educational classroom structure.
I just sat there and listened to the other people who knew a lot about people with disabilities and how to work with them. They were coming up with what they thought were great ideas of stainless steel on the walls to make the institution have less viral or bacterial problems. And to cook nutritious meals and all of that sounded - well the nutritious meals sounded sensible, the stainless steel was just horrifying to hear. Because of course  i was watching and living with and being part of communities in Asia where they had dirt. I mean the roads were dirt and the people with disabilities were involved in non clean environments, bu they were involved. They were out and about.

7:00  Mullen: right to see that they still wanted to sterilize their environment and feed them healthy, you wanted to see them be able to participate in the world

7:08 Bergin: exactly, that is well said. So, I was very shy, I didn't say anything ad then finally the instructor said "Well, does anyone have any other ideas"
and i thought i should mention what I saw in Asia, that they were not institutionalized and I raised my hand and started to say that, and basically I only got to say four words:
"In Asia, I saw ..."  and two of the students just yelled at me.
I was stunned because I had finally got the nerve to say something
and  they said: "don't you even mention Asia, in Asia they let their people with disabilities die. You shouldn't even bring it up"
I was shocked and sat back and got very quiet again, and thought about what could be done,
and what could be done To bring people with disabilities out of an environment where people like that -- they both worked in institutions -- weren't directing and telling and controlling the environment.   But rather where people had a chance to make up their own mind and do things for themselves.
8:09  I don't know why - I cant tell you why - I don't think that in situations like this people really know, but i just thought "DOGS!"  ... and again, without knowing how to train, without having any experience other than a pet dog ... "Dogs could do it. Dogs could help these people!".   I know i was correlating dogs to donkeys and burros because i actually had the thought that in our country they would never let someone with disability go down the street  leaning on a donkey.  But it was just one of those things and that was it for me, and then the rest of my life.

8:45 Mullen: and then what did you do, once you came up with dogs helping people? How did you --  I just wrote a letter last week for someone to have a therapy dog with them - so service dogs are now something that is part of our daily language  - we talk about them in regards to all sorts of helping of people -- so how did you develop this idea to make it what it is today.

9:10 Bergin: well it certainly wasn't easy because not only did i not know anything about training but i immediately went out to find people who trained dogs - I went to Guide Dogs which isn't far from here - and everyone told me that it couldn't be done.
"Don't do it, don't try to do it, its not good for the dog, its not good for the person with the disability, there's just no way it will work ..."
And of course, i was totally ignorant so i thought it would work.
Sometimes I guess that's what makes changes in society -  is you're so dumb .... (laughter)

9:41 Mullen: ... you just don't know better..

9:44 Bergin: exactly.. and i have to say this, the reason that they felt it wouldn't work was viable at that time in society, and at that particular point in time, peoples perspective of the dog. Now looking back i can see why they felt that way. Then of course i just thought "Nah, it CAN be done, I've just got to figure out how to do it".
Well, I was a teacher so i obviously didn't hit kids or use any aversive methods to make the kids in the classroom excited about the subject matter, I used very positive methods to encourage students to get involved in the material. At that time, though, dogs were being trained with choke chain jerks and a lot of aversive methods, and that's how dogs were controlled by trainers.

10:35 Mullen: so when people were saying that it shouldn't be done, its not good for the animals, it was because putting animals through that kind of training would be inhumane at that point (?)

10:43 Bergin: no, actually, I'm going to disagree with that, i think it was that they felt that the person with the disability would not have the physical ability to apply a choke-chain-jerk, or to use those aversive methods that control dogs - because they were physically disabled - how could they do it ?

11:03 Mullen: so thinking that was the to train the dogs, they just didn't think a disabled person would be able to train them

11:09 Bergin: ... AND control them

11:12 Mullen: so you started looking at a different way of training the dogs. it sounds like you headed to a more positive reinforcement model

11:17 Bergin: exactly. and that wasn't the common method at that time. I didn't give up - and don't ask me why - because i cant answer that. I went to disabled programs instead, that was my next move, so i called disabled services here in Santa Rosa, California and i asked the receptionist to connect me to someone as i wanted to talk to them about an idea i had.
And she, being a good receptionist, said " well, can you please give me more information?"
I told her what my idea was and what she said to me next was quite amazing, given that it changed the whole world in this arena...and she said " I'll do it ".
I met with her, her name is Kerry Kanous, she was 19 at the time, she was so physically disabled that if her head fell forward she didn't have the neck muscles to be able to lift her head back up on her shoulders - someone had to actually come along and pick her head back up. She used a power wheelchair, she couldn't lift anything over an ounce in either hand, she was extremely physically disabled. She obviously couldn't walk and had to be lifted in bed at night, she couldn't caretake herself at all.
12:32 None of this did I know anything about, I might add. But when i met her she was just a dynamo - an amazing woman. And we just started. I by chance had a litter of puppies at my home, ironically it was a lab-golden cross, so we started working with one of those puppies. I showed her what to do, I used teaching methods i was using teaching kids, I didn't use the methods that one would use to train a dog - I didn't know any better in other words -
and the dog came along beautifully and started to do the things that she needed.
She had asked me things like: 
13:08 when I'm sitting home alone, or I'm sitting at home and my attendant wants to go out and get groceries and its dark when she comes back, I've been sitting here in the dark because i can't turn the light on:  Can the dog be trained to turn the light on ?
And in my ignorance, I said "sure". And so we did it.
13:28 And she said: if i drop the remote for the TV, I have to call the attendant to come in and get it for me, and it's embarrassing. I don't want to have to keep asking people to do things for me. Is there a way the dog can pick it up, and give it back to me ?
And I said "sure". And so we trained the dog to do that.
13:49 Another thing she asked for - tugging open the refrigerator door to get her lunch out - she had a little table in front of her body on the power wheelchair so the dog could open the door, take out a paper bag with lunch in it, put it on that table and she had enough strength to open the paper bag and unwrap her sandwich and be able to eat - and that way, again, she didn't have to have somebody with her 24/7 and that was a big deal.
" I don't want someone with me 24/7, I want to have some independence, I want to have some opportunities to be by myself, and do things for myself"

14:26 Mullen: right, that's a huge deal

14:28 Bergin: ironically, all those things she was asking for, those are the same commands that people training service dogs all around the world now use

14:33 Mullen: that is just wonderful.  And then you developed - why i have you here today - PAWS FOR PURPLE HEARTS - and now you're using those service dogs to help our veterans. Can you tell us about Paws for Purple Hearts ?

14:51 Bergin: I created what's called 'the university' , we are actually accredited by the US department of education to teach associate, bachelors and master degrees. In that process, one of the programs we developed was sending trainers out -i did it myself for the first nine years - we would take the dogs out to the juvenile hall and have kids there train the dogs for service dogs. And it was just remarkable, it changed these kids. There were gang-bangers, two different major gangs and the kids would come in and work together training their individual dog.
In fact one of them wrote this little note on the door :" Leave your anger at the door "
because these kids just got so sold on the working with dogs. Well, when i stopped being that primary teacher and was  able to hire someone to do it, that individual correlated the idea of doing that with teaching returning veterans who had PTSD to train the dogs - thinking that would also give them that same therapeutic benefit.
15:52 And the whole staff got behind it and all worked really hard to bring Paws for Purple Hearts into fruition.  It's been going on now since 2006. The veterans are getting amazing therapy from the dogs.

16:06 Mullen: its an amazing concept and such good work that you're all doing and providing for the veterans. can you tell us what are the therapeutic benefits for your clients who utilize the service dogs.

16:15 Bergin: well, i can tell  you about Steve for example, he had returned from the war, he had befriended a couple of kids and then he went out on a tour of duty and came back, and at some point in this process saw those two kids being hung from a tree - because the kids had befriended the Americans. So when he was released from duty and he came home to his wife and one child, when the wife had a second child, all of that vision came back and just hit him. As you can imagine, the context, and so he started drinking and getting into trouble, he and his wife divorced, he spent some time in jail, his life just went  down the tubes. Not uncommon, i might add, for veterans with PTSD.

17:01  Mullen: right.

17:01 Bergin: and so when he got involved in the dog program, it was like the beginning of recovery. he started to warm up to the dogs - you cant not warm up to dogs (laughter). and he started to get back into life - because the isolation and the emotional numbness is what had hit him so very badly - working with the dogs and getting in touch with the dogs started to turn that around, to the point that it made such a huge difference. And he talks about it a lot, because it took him off illicit drugs, it took him off prescription drugs, it caused his whole life to turn around, it caused him to start to feel positive about things.
17:45 PPH - Paws for Purple Hearts - its a therapeutic program - we take the dogs in and the veterans with PTSD, the hospitalized veterans train the dogs as part of their therapy.But the dogs that get trained, that are successful, are placed only with veterans. So this whole feeling of being back in this buddy-buddy situation that war strengthens so strongly in terms  of the  military came back again. Because now they were training the dogs for a fellow veteran, and the sense of isolation, obviously, the dogs just don't let you go there.
18:18  The depression started to lift for him, but the sense of purpose - he speaks about that a lot, his sense of purpose came back.  His sleeping pattern improved, and this happens with almost everyone that's involved in this., they constantly say "when i start working with the dog" .
And we do this, as their training skills improve sufficiently, the hospitals actually let them take the dogs back to their room to sleep with them at night. The hospitals usually send a nurse in on a regular basis to check to see if these people are sleeping - because lack of sleep is  a huge issue with PTSD.  And what they find is that they go in their rooms, and every half hour that they walk in, the veteran is awake, all through  the night.
And then what they find when the veteran takes the dog with them - and the dog often sleeps in their bed with them - the nurses walk in and the veteran is asleep. The veterans frequently say "Well, the dog's got my back, and now I can sleep"

19:23 Mullen: they can rest more peacefully...

19:25 Bergin. yes.  And pain - decreased need for pain medication, legal or illegal, decreases significantly.
Service dogs have to be trained to go out in public. So they have to take the dog out in public, and when they do take the dog out in public, one of the biggest issues is they're not comfortable with people coming up to them. But there is a different sense of comfort when the4yve got a dog with them because people come up to talk about the dog.  They walk up and ask about the dog - and that veteran with PTSD is more willing and eager to talk about the dog. Because they have come to love the dog, they're very proud of the training they've been doing with the dog, they want to talk about the dog. It allows that person now to start to make contact with the public, something that they were not willing to do prior to that.  Some of these vets, even from Vietnam, are still living in a house refusing to go out the door, because of this horror they've experienced and this feeling of isolation.
20:33 We have kids come up to us, whose dad or mom have been through the program and they say "thank you for giving me my dad back, or my mom back" .
Women come in to us, wives who say " thank you for giving me my husband back"
Of course its not us that did it, it's the dog - and their relationship with the dog that did it.
The results are just outstanding.
This is not just our opinion, it's the clinical staff who come to us and tell us what they've seen and experienced, it's very real.

21:12 Mullen: it sounds like you have lots of real time hospital data from all of this, and the experiences that you've been through with all the clients.

21:21 interlude - - -

 22:03 Bergin: we had a gentleman who was not in our program, but who was being counseled and had very severe PTSD,  one day he just left his counselor and went running into the dog program office. He knew about it so he just went running in there and he crawled into the crate with a dog, because he was so in need of some way of taking away the pain that he was feeling. And then after that, he went in a few more times and got better. He started healing. Then he applied for a dog, he applied to get one as his service dog, and of course we're always happy to do that. By chance it was the same dog that was in the crate that he crawled into.
Now we didn't do that intentionally because we match dogs and people, but it just happened. When he came out to get the dog, he was still pretty severe, he was able to function, don't get me wrong, but he would come into the classroom and sit up against the wall - which is not again uncommon for someone with PTSD - the paranoia, back to the wall looking out to make sure nobody was behind him, and stuff like that.  So he gets this dog, and when this dog had come back to get readied to be placed, the dog had received some scent detection training - this is not uncommon because we want the dogs to have a variety of experiences and keep them enthused about their learning, you know having a lot of different activities to be involved in.
When the dog was placed with this individual, the individual had been put by the military into a national park, because he really wasn't social, he was still suffering from the effects of PTSD.
He was doing his job at the park and a couple got lost in the park, and everyone was out looking for the couple, they were really worried, they felt it was a dangerous situation. And they  couldn't find the couple so there was a really heightened concern for the lives of this couple. 
Going back to this gentleman, this veteran, his dog indicated something to him - and dogs and humans their relationship and their communication is awesome, just amazing when you really allow yourself to communicate back and forth with a dog - so he knew the dog was trying to tell him something. The dog took off and he followed it, and because the dog had this scent training, the dog found the couple! Can you imagine the joy that this veteran felt, and the pride in his dog, and the sense of purpose that came out of that exposure and experience,  that would again help the PTSD heal that much more.
I think it's just a beautiful story.

25:16 Mullen: it is indeed beautiful.. For Paws for Purple Hearts, can you tell me about who qualifies -is it any veteran or is only veterans with PTSD, how do you select who qualifies for the service dogs.

25:32 Bergin: Any veteran with mobility disabilities, amputation, etc or PTSD or any other form of combat related injury, qualify.  The real limitation is can they take care of the dog.
And so we do have in the application process, they do have to have part of the form filled out  by their medical doctor giving us the go ahead with this placement. So we don't put up the walls of this person does or does not qualify, but  we get the information from  the medical staff and people that they're involved with.

26:07 So basically anyone qualifies that we can feel confident will keep that dog safe and well fed. By that i don't mean "well fed" because that's the number one problem with the service dog, is obesity - because people tend to overfeed.   Well, its the number one problem with people with any pet dog, so ...

26:25 Mullen: its not just that population, right...  well, they love them so much and they want to feed them every time they want a little treat I suppose ....
You mentioned the university, that you have now with bachelors and masters program in training the service dogs, can you talk a little bit about the training. How long is the training of a service dog, what goes into it, and what is the cost of that ?

27:04 Bergin: We do not charge veterans for service dogs. Period.
So there's no fee, if they do come out there are different organizations that will pay for their flight out to get the dog if they don't live near a center, and will help house them.
We're very cutting edge, the newest information and research about how to train dogs, or how they think, or what their cognitive capabilities are, obviously is a big part of what we continue to work on, on a regular basis. But what we do do, and what we know is important, ironically comes from a study done by the military on a bio-sensor method. So what we start with, as soon as the puppies are whelped, we have them touched all over their body, so that not one single neuron in their brain sloughs off and dies, because it has been stimulated. So the veterans in the program actually do that - as soon as the puppies are whelped they start patting the puppies, and touching the puppies and making sure that the puppies are being stimulated physically.
28:11 And then when the puppies reach three and a half to four weeks,, depending on how they are developing, as soon as they start to get up on their legs and walk over to another puppy and engage it in a little play - then we know that they have reached that consciousness stage. They're not just still unconsciously trying to get food or sleep or warmth or whatever, but they are now conscious of each other.  And so we start training them, right then.
It's akin to early childhood education, only i would call it early puppy-hood education.
28:48 We actually start training them to sit, to down, to turn. Within the first four or five days they have 12 commands under their belts, and by that I'm talking about putting a treat in front of their nose and getting them to do it, but they're still doing the behavior. And then we stop putting the treat in front of their nose and show them that we have the treat, but we give them the command. Say we trained them at 4 weeks, at 5 weeks they will actually sit on command, literally.
29:19 And its so funny to watch them because you say the word SIT, and they look at you in your face, and then they look over at the treat that you've got in your hand and they look back at you in your face and then they put their butt on the ground.

29:31 Mullen: (laughing) ... they want to make sure ...

29:33 Bergin: they're very clear... Again, there is research that backs all this, so by the time they are 6 weeks they're retrieving, by the time they're 7 weeks they're tugging open little doors. By 7 weeks some of them are even turning on light switches. We have these teeny little light switches that they can actually go up to and turn on. They're very bright, and we want to make sure that the correct behaviors are embedded, so that these are the behaviors they will do when they are older.
30:06 And we only train them for 5 - 10 minutes a day, so we're not over training them. The rest of the time they're playing, and with their siblings and having a good time. But for that period of time, they do have to learn that when they're told to do something they have to obey.
We don't let them get into little fights with each other, we have a playground manager to stop the spats, so they don't learn to do that.
30:29  We use generally golden retrievers and labs, because first of all they're the best retrievers, and secondly because they are so well attuned to trying to please people. We don't use field trial stock or hunting stock, because we don't want predatory instincts - you know we don't want the dog to have a strong drive to chase a cat across a street or something like that. 
30:54 We found with our veterans with PTSD we have to be exceedingly cautious, and almost any veteran who has any kind of physical injury has some PTSD as well, but certainly some of them have no physical injury and are still stymied by some very significant PTSD.

31:14 Mullen: absolutely, when you say just the sleep, or going out in public, going grocery shopping for someone with severe combat based PTSD - being in public like that can be a monumental task. Very often i would think, you're providing service dogs to veterans that don't have some physical limitation, it's really the emotional stuff that comes with the PTSD.

31:35 Bergin: exactly... and they get challenged when they walk into a store, even when the dog has the little vest on that says they're a service dog, they still get challenged, which of course is the last thing we want to be happening, because were trying to invite these individuals - who have fought for our country and our lives - back into society and we don't want to make it more and more difficult for them.
But the truth is when they take their dog in, when they're working with their dog, what we have found is that the dog has to be very gentle, very sweet, non challenging. You would think that a strapping 200 pound guy with PTSD could handle a dog that's going to try to chase a cat - but what happens is, if they have a severe situation with PTSD, what you've got is them having to argue with this dog, or deal with a dog that is challenging them and it takes them emotionally back to the war.
So we have to make sure that we give them dogs that do not put them in that mindset.
And those dogs are generally very soft and sweet goldens and labs - and as I said, not all of them are like that so we have to be very careful in selecting and breeding for a very gentle dog. Ironically, that's the same dog that we would place with a quadriplegic who couldn't physically do anything for themselves but who needs the dog to turn light switches on and pick up things they drop and stuff like with Kerry originally.
33:05 So it needs to be a dog that's very willing to; and wanting to; work for that person and not have a bone of challenge in their body. Which of course is impossible but we decrease it as much as possible. And this is all with non aversive training methods, everything is positive, everything is encouraging, everything is building a desire to want to, and have a drive to work with and help people.
Its pretty exciting to see,  some dogs have a drive to do search and rescue because they have a really strong mental drive to do something. A service dog, if there's any drive at all, its just because they want to please the person. They want to be with that person and help that person.

33:49 Mullen: right, that's what you mentioned, so the retrieving and the pleasing. Wow, you guys are doing an amazing service to people and providing all that wonderful training. Lets talk about how Paws for Purple Hearts survives. You're a non-profit, so does that mean that you survive solely on the goodness of others and fundraising ?  Where does your funding come from ?

34:14 Bergin: that's where it comes from ... there's a lot of people who are really committed to our veterans that are really doing what they can to help, there are some foundations that have been generous enough to make some gifts to us. We do direct mail and certainly anybody that's interested in helping, if they send us their email address or their street address , we would be sending them the newsletter that comes out, but we would also be asking for a gift, and that's always hard to acknowledge. But we have to do that in order to get the funds to do the work we're doing, and certainly I believe the work were doing is absolutely critical.  The changes that i have seen are such that i certainly couldn't give it up.

34:56 Mullen: You're doing wonderful work that is so needed and so well received. I know you have a new supporter in myself and my husband after today... Does Paws for Purple Hearts have anything in development, and I think we missed talking about where you are located, I know you are in the Northern California location, can you talk about where else you are located and where you see Paws for Purple Hearts expanding to ?

35:32 Bergin: we're looking at, and we've had a lot of people come to us from VAs and also Department of Defense sites. We try to locate near, or on the grounds of hospitals, so that were able to be incorporated into the actual physical therapy programs with the veterans, which is something that we've been encouraged to do, and its been working really well.  Right now we've just opened in Virginia, and that site is working quite well I might add. We go down to Poplar Springs which is not a military hospital, but a lot of the military send their veterans with PTSD down there for treatment.  So we've been working there and we're up here in Menlo Park in California, but we're working really hard right now to open a program in San Diego, because of course there's a lot of veterans.
36:29 We want to serve both hospitalized and offsite veterans, and so were trying to open a facility ourselves instead of being on the hospital grounds, because when you're on the hospital grounds offsite veterans cant really come back and be a part of the program. So we're trying to find a location, we're looking at somewhere in the Escondido area possibly, another location that makes traveling to the VA and the DOD hospitals easy to reach.  But still because there's such a huge population of veterans that would be coming in and being able to use the services of the program as well - San Diego is really highest priority right now and were working really hard to make that happen.

37:09  Mullen: that is wonderful to hear, I am based out of San Diego and I imagine you would be so welcome down here  [ ... ]
That's getting us down to our last question for today, so how can people get involved, refer or donate to Paws for Purple Hearts, can you give us the website or the contact information ?

38:01 Bergin: the website is
and we are, by the way, licensed by the military Order of the Purple Heart, which is chartered by the United States Congress, so if anybody wants more trust in who we are and what we do beyond what we're saying, I do want to make that point.
The telephone number for the staff person here in northern California is 707-238-5110.
Usually we ask people to call directly to the National office and then they will get that person in touch with a regional center, if they're close to it.
The kinds of volunteer tasks that were looking for, certainly helping to raise money is always an issue, but when a litter of puppies are born, we do need people to come in and help touch and pat the puppies, because the hospitalized vets don't have that many hours in a day to do that. We certainly are hoping that offsite veterans will come in and do that, but the puppies do need to be touched ... The veterans are the only ones that do the actual training, but certainly the litters of puppies need to be touched.
39:14 When we're getting ready to have a graduation of course, we're asking volunteers to come in and help set up the site and bring cookies and coffee for people who attend the graduation and things like that. There's always tasks for volunteers to do...but money is critical, that's whats helping us move towards San Diego. My goal is to get San Diego open within the next couple of months... we're that close to moving forward.

39:45 Mullen: Well, I cant wait to see you down here then Dr Bonnie Bergin, with Paws for Purple Hearts, I just want to thank you so much. I know you've touched my heart today in listening to your stories about what you are doing, and I'm sure you're going to touch the hearts of many people listening. So thank you so much for your time ...

40:06 exit commentary

42:00 FINIS

Stewart Levine – Podcast Audio Transcript

This is the audio transcript of Coaching Through Chaos Podcast episode 10
featuring Dr. Colleen Mullen and Stewart Levine

0:00 introduction

3:32 Mullen: today we're talking about resolving conflict. were going to cover this topic in many ways over the course of this show as there's so many  tools and theories out there on the subject. and its so important. i mean who hasn't had a conflict with someone. or a conflict at your workplace where you really didn't know how to resolve it.
And resolving conflict in the workplace is even a money saver for you business owners out there. its thought that 25% of people with a conflict at work have taken time off - called in sick - in order to avoid that conflict. That adds up quickly.
4:04 My guest today helps both corporations and individuals learn to resolve conflict and get back  to life as normal as soon as possible. He is a former lawyer who found out early on in his career that he was better at resolving conflict than in fighting for his position.
He then left the law field  to teach people about conflict resolution full time. His first book - Getting to Resolution - came out  about 17 years ago and a second edition was released just a few years ago.
My guest today is author and expert Stewart Levine of
4:37 Stewart teaches people to create partnership and quickly resolve problems in the face of conflict. He will tell us about resolving conflict through collaboration. I know if you've ever tried to help someone resolve a conflict, you will appreciate his approach. I know I did.
Please welcome expert and author - Stewart Levine.

4:57 Mullen: Stewart, you've got a great story about how you figured out you were gifted at conflict resolution early in your legal career - can you share that story with us

5:05 Levine: sure colleen, as a second year law student working in a clinical program as part of my law school education, i was working for  Camden New Jersey Legal Services - who provided  legal services for poor people. They gave me 25 cases and said "here  you go Stewart this ought to keep you busy for the next 4 months". 
It was a semesters work , and at the end of that time i went back to the head of the program - actually , not at the end of that time (laughs) - after 3 weeks i went in to the head of the program and i said "Fred, I need some more cases".
And he looked at me like "what did you do with all the cases we gave you?"
I said "Well I've resolved them all"
"You did? How did you that?"
"Well, I read  through the files and I got a sense of what might be a fair resolution for both sides, and everybody said yes"
6:05 Now, i didn't know that i was supposed to be an advocate for one side.  I thought that my job was to be a problem solver. And the rest of the story goes, I spent the next ten years
learning how to be an advocate for one side and getting very very good at it; and then feeling that I couldn't continue trying and litigating cases anymore because it was so in-congruent with who I was and the perspective that i was born with.

6:30 Mullen: yes, if you're going to be a lawyer you have to know which side of the fence you're standing on. Now the books that you've written are they just for people dealing with the legal system or can anybody benefit from your books

6:41 Levine: most definitely not, they're actually for everybody in conflict of any kind. Much more of my work today is about organizations and  people in conflict far away from the legal system, because my whole thinking in this area is I would much rather teach people how to fish than to give them a fish every time they get hungry.
It's about giving people skills and tools that they can use to resolve conflict in most any context.

7:08 Mullen. great, and so now you spend your time focusing strictly on conflict resolution and teaching people how to do that through the model that you developed - is that right?

7:15  Levine:  yes, and actually, there's been a bit of a shift over time, I don't focus on the conflict part so much as i focus on the collaboration part. In a way when I created a subtitle for my first book - 17-18 years ago, and the second edition came out 3 or 4 years ago - the subtitle is "Turning Conflict Into Collaboration".  And where i focus now , because it's become in many ways such a big buzz-word, especially in the corporate and organizational world - collaboration is a critical skill. To be able to collaborate effectively, you have to  move through the inevitable conflicts that are going to come up.
So collaboration is the essential intervention, and education that I provide for organizations.
Because that's where we want to get people, back to that place of collaboration -back to that place of win-win alignment, back to that place where people are working at the business that they want to work at , whatever that happens to be - not be mired down in conflict and fighting with other people.

8:21 Mullen: right, sure, it will help everything including the business continue on more efficiently as well  if they have people working in collaboration.  Your model of conflict resolution appears to focus on a shift in thinking, mindset and perspective. Can you talk a bit about that ?

8:36 Levine: most of us are en-cultured, learn and influenced by what we see in the media. And the media loves a good argument, a wonderful term that I think aptly describes it is coined by a colleague and friend who said that we live in a media culture  ARGUETAINMENT ...

8:57 Mullen: that's an interesting one, yes

8:59 Levine: yeah, its pretty good. Its always about one side versus the other. Its all about opposition , its all about  creating that kind of drama. Wheres the conversation for resolution. Wheres the conversation that helps people understand each other - as opposed to the diatribe that goes on in media presentations ?
9:20 Just to elaborate on that, I was actually interviewed  a number of years ago by the trade publication for screen writers. And  the question that they were talking to me about was
whether or not you can have an effective screen play where you don't have bombastic conflict. Where you create drama inherent in whatever problem is going on, but you resolve it without the resort to the violence or battle.

9:45 Mullen: so they were asking would people watch something like that?

9:48 Levine: (laughter) yes, exactly.  or to be more succinct, can you have drama and resolution  without having combat and the answer is

9:58 Both: Of course you can (laughter)

10:03 Mullen: Right, and so when you talk about resolution , is that more about the collaboration you're talking about, because its not about one side winning or losing,
as it may have been back in the days of your legal career. How do you frame what resolution is to people when you go in to teach them about it.

10:19 Levine: so the mindset that people come into this with is  RIGHT-WRONG, WIN-LOSE, FAULT and BLAME.  Its the way most people learn or are en-cultured, those words are embedded in  people.  And when I talk about resolution , essentially to define it in a technical way,  there is no chatter. Meaning you're no longer thinking about the situation because it 's resolved. It's gone. It's cleansed.
In the medical world, when a disease process is resolved - its gone and there are no scars.
In our "legal process of resolving conflict", there are tons of scars because whats not healed is the emotional pain. And what I try and do, the aspiration I have, is that people will be resolved and have n agreement, and that agreement represents both a meeting of minds
(which is a term from the legal world) and also a meeting of hearts.
So their human energy is aligned again and they are back in action, as if the conflict was never present.

11:23 Mullen: its a really nice mindful perspective that you've got.
Now that we know what resolution is, in your book 'Getting to Resolution', you have the ten principles for resolutionary thinking, and the seven step guide for crafting a resolution.
Can you explain the basics of the model, do people follow it step by step? what should they expect when they go through the ten principles and the seven steps.

11:48 Levine: if you look at the model, the overall model of resolution, there are really only 3 action steps, the rest of them are touchstones. So let me talk about the touchstones first, and the first one that comes up as a critical one is what I call RESOLUTIONARY THINKING or THE ATTITUDE OF RESOLUTION.
12:07 And that's the mindset - think abundance - in other words its not you or them, it's YOU AND THEM. Think of full disclosure. Getting everything out on the table, leaving nothing left unsaid and not trying to hide anything.  Seeing the process as one of teaching and learning, teaching and learning.

12:29 Mullen: do you find that people are open to that, once you start talking to them about what the purpose of it is - do you think that they are more easily able to open up and do the full disclosure.

12:38 Levine: yeah, it makes sense..and in some sense, if you don't want to do that, I'm sorry but I don't want to play with you...OK ?  In many ways it's that simple. And other people wont want to play with you either. Its the emotionally intelligent thing to do if you want to continue to work with people. The only place that there is little resistance is in the context of a transactional situation where its kind of a one shot deal, as opposed to a relational situation that extends over time.
13:12  One of my writing partners, they guy I wrote 'Collaboration 2.0' with, he shared that his wife always says to him: "David, do you want to be right, or do you want to have a relationship?' (laughter)

13:23 Mullen: yes, i think I've heard that before. You have to think about what the purpose of the interaction is.

13:28 Levine: so the mindset is one of responsibility, conflict as opposed to differences. Differences turn into conflict when we get emotionally attached - OK? And so conflict lives inside of people as an emotional presence. It's not so much an argument about who gets the corner office, but someones own belief system that they wont shift.
Given the truth of that, you cant give conflict away for somebody else to resolve. You have to engage yourself - so taking responsibility is one of the principles of Resolutionary Thinking. I think that should provide enough of a flavor of the shift in mindset that needs to take place
14:14  Now, looking at the seven step model, like so many other phenomena, it is cyclical. You're in place of resolution and agreement today, but tomorrow something happens.
So this is an ongoing process of human interaction - especially human interaction when people are working together.
14:34 So, up there at about noon, or 12:00 on the clock, you've got resolution, everything is all in alignment. If you move over to about 01:30, conflict occurs. And conflict occurs  for any number of different reasons. Very often because of the essential human differences.
It comes from different perspectives, it comes from different communication styles, it comes from different perceptions, different meaning. And those things just show up when people are trying to work together.  So conflict happens when people are trying to work together o r have a marriage together.
15:11 Attitude of resolution or resolutionary thinking, that's at  about 3 o'clock. That's the mindset  you bring into the process.
At about 4:30 we have telling of stories, and that's kind of the first, what I'll call engagement phase, where people are actually going through  an interactive conversational process. They're each telling their stories, and i don't mean story as a pejorative, but i mean story as the way that people talk to themselves about the situation. So getting that up and out, provides a level of purging, provides a level of 'lets see what this looks like in the light, as opposed to in my mind'. And its often different when people are in conversation.
15:51  The next point, at about 6 o'clock, is like a touchstone. and it is what  I call PRELIMINARY VISION.  And preliminary vision happens when people listen to each other carefully, listen with a sense of fairness, listen with a sense of what are the needs and concerns of each person, and how might I take care of the others concerns.
Remember, abundance thinking says its not them or me,  it's them and me. So that's preliminary vision.
16:22 in situations where the conflict is not too white hot, you can sometimes resolve it at that place where someone makes a suggestion

16:28 Mullen: it sounds like, as you said, you can get resolution but I was thinking it also sounds like the beginning of the real engagement into that collaborative process.

16:37 Levine: you're absolutely right because the big mistake that people make is: conflict in their mind is so messy, in part because they don't have a good mental mode to follow, its just a bunch of messiness. And if you're coming at is as a battle, something to win or lose, it makes it even messier. That being said,  the big mistake that people make is that they want to get away from this so quickly, so they just reach an agreement on the surface, but they're really not resolved, they've got all this emotional stuff going on - and that will come back to bite you.
17:11 The next piece of engagement is a process called GETTING CURRENT AND COMPLETE.  Its a series of questions, very pointed questions, that in many ways force people to go deeper, and to actually share what really on their mind about this situation. And through that collaborative process, what happens is people usually realize that the other person  -or people - were really doing the best they could in a somewhat imperfect world.
And a level of shift takes over, where anger, resentment, hostility can turn into understanding and compassion.

17:47 Mullen: so a lot of movement can happen there.

17:48 Levine: a lot of forgiveness can happen, a lot of letting go can happen. Ive seen that so many times when that shift takes place. and then from there, the last element of the completion process is the question  "so whats the new era, where do you want to step into".
What do you want this relationship to look like in the future?
And that's when people can paint with a broad brush, it's also called an agreement in principle, because when people come to a broad brush agreement in principle, they tend to breathe a sigh of relief :  "Oh, the marriage will continue", "Oh, my employment will continue", "Oh, my membership in this team will continue", "My position will continue".
They  breathe a little sigh of relief, and from there, once they have that broad  brush agreement then they can build a very specific agreement - we re up around 10:30 on the clock.
18:41 One of my models is the AGREEMENT MODEL, how do you create a ten element model for agreement. what is our collaboration going to look like in the future. and when people get agreement over that, then  you're back in a place of resolution, where you have human alignment, when you have a shared vision, when you have an  agreed set of promises that people are going to take care of, when you have a means of resolving conflict in the future, when you have metrics  to measure whether or not you hit that vision.
Those, by the way, are all elements in the model for agreement.
19:18 People, you know, when they first get exposed to the ten elements of agreements for results, its like they've discovered sliced bread.

19:24 Mullen: right, its so many new skills and new ways of looking at how are they going to resolve a problem. As you said they can work through it for something that may have been pending, but now they have tools to move forward with.

19:37 Levine: right. Now, the thing that I want to point out which is critical, is that the last step  of the conflict resolution model, which is a DETAILED AGREEMENT, is also the best way to start off a brand new collaboration, it prevents so much conflict when you start off with a clear shared vision and agreement for what you're doing together. And although many people have an idea about what collaboration is, they never learned when they were very young, so what goes into a collaborative agreement. What do we need to talk about at the beginning.

20:11 Mullen: so starting at the beginning with this is what we want the end to look like, and how to get there.

20:16 Levine: yes, exactly. Elements of here is our share vision are the new agreement. Its amazing how well people can work together when they have that. The followup book to 'Getting to Resolution' is a book I wrote called 'The Book of Agreement - ten essential elements for getting the results you want.' 
And, in it, I have about 35 sample agreements that I prepared over time, in many different contexts, because this is something that just  crosses all aspects of personal and professional life.

20:46 Mullen: so someone can get that book and go to a certain section and find something on how an agreement would look for maybe a problem that they're dealing with

20:54 Levine: exactly (laughs).

20:56 Mullen: that sounds like a great resource

20:57 Levine: that was my intention. And its interesting, part of that comes from my legal background of all of these form books that lawyers use. And most lawyers agreements are what i call agreements for protection - what if this goes wrong and what if that goes wrong.
And I turn that upside down, and I say let's have agreements for results.
Lets focus on what we want to do together, and how are we going to maximize our chance of getting there.

21:25 Mullen: yes, what a great turn on things to have it force that way rather than worrying about all the things that could  go wrong and protecting yourself from that.
So Stewart, do you have a story that you could tell us about a situation that just on the surface looked destined for a big legal fight and how helping the people apply the principles helped them find their resolution

21:45 Levine: two stories come to mind.  One is, and i need to tell this one anonymously, I was recently working with two different teams part of a department of a state government. And the state government was introducing a new piece of software, and there was battling going on between these teams, and they couldn't seem to work together. Deadlines were approaching, the investment on the part of the state government was very significant, and these guys were right at the cornerstone of where collaboration was needed and they were at war for a number of reasons.  I was able to go in, educate, facilitate and come up with a new operating agreement going forward, and that worked.
22:33  The second story has got a lot more human interest, and this one I can talk about because it has been written up publicly. I was contacted by a non-profit adoption agency whose mission was to take kids that are considered un-adoptable and provide the necessary resources to get them up to speed. Bidet, mental, physical, emotional. They are involved in a federally funded partnership with the county of Sacramento, the adoption agency is called Sierra Kids - and it would seem like a natural partnership, I  had marriage and family counselors on both sides, and it would seem a great partnership where the state child welfare agency would supply these kids that they had deemed un-adoptable because they didn't have the resources. The adoption agency would both provide the resources to get the kids up to speed and then place them in permanent adoptive families.
23:29 Now, setting up the context, what's also true is that kids that are emancipated, meaning they are considered 18 or 19 depending upon the state and they don't have a permanent adoptive family but they are still in foster care - within two years 50 percent of those kids are 
drug addicts, homeless, dead or in jail.

23:49 Mullen: yes, those are horrible statistics for these kids, what they face in life.

23:54 Levine: so you would think that naturally these folks would be able to work together.
Nope - they couldn't.   And what we dug up was that about ten years before, the private adoption agency had disclosed some information about some kids to the media that the county people thought was a violation of law, and they felt that they couldn't be trusted.
 And so 'we cant work with those people ' was the mindset of the county people about the adoption agency - even though none of those people were no longer around or present.

24:25 Mullen: right, ten years and they've been holding on to that grudge that we cant trust them.

24:31 Levine: we were able to get to the bottom of what was going on, I did some teaching, I did some facilitating and we put a new agreement in place in terms of how they would operate, and in the first year following the intervention, 109 kids were placed in permanent adoptive homes.

24:49 Mullen: that's a wonderful story. It also goes to show that there's a lot of things that get passed down in companies about the culture, as you said, of who can interact with who; and who can trust who from one company to the next.
Looking at it from a fresh perspective can really bring results, as you just showed with all these kids who got adopted. Change can happen, resolution can happen and people just sometime need to be open to that and look at things from that, have that shift in their mindset as you were talking about to change their perspective and build that resolution in collaboration with each other.

25:27 Levine: it's interesting, you used the word culture.  A lot  of people want to have a culture change,  in [...] they want to change the culture in an organization, and this work has a direct application to that. And the way it is, is the following explanation, the following piece of logic.
So what does culture reflect? Culture in an organization reflects the relationships that are the organization. You know people working together, it's not the bricks and mortar, it's the way people engage, interface and work with each other.
i.e. at 4 in the morning you don't really have a hotel, the hotel is the sum and substance of the relationships among the staff, between the staff and guests.
So culture is reflected in relationships. Great - what are relationships a function of ?
26:15 Relationships are a function of spoken and unspoken agreements between people about how they will work together and treat each other. I say spoken and unspoken, explicit and implicit. And I also say, if you want to change a culture, make your agreements much more explicit - and you'll have a huge impact on the culture.

26:38 Mullen: that would make sense, you have a lot more trust going on if they're explicit.
 Stewart, this has been so much great information for everybody regarding getting to resolution as your book is called, why don't you tell us where people can find you, what kind of services you provide and the books that you have that they can order.

26:58 Levine: sure, my website is  You'll find my books there, you'll finds some videos there, you'll find some information about the work that's there. I work with couples, as a matter of fact I've just formed a new affiliation with an organization called - how you can do conscious divorce. It's interesting, I was selected to be one of their providers, and i come to find that my books are some of their source material for their philosophy and process and technology they put together for helping people move through divorce in a conscious fashion.

27:40 Mullen: it certainly makes sense that that would fit

27:43 Levine:  yes, you'll find the list of services for various kinds of organizations. and really most any situation involving conflict or collaboration, in most any size organization or government entity - my work has applicability.

27:59 Mullen: so companies can hire you, individuals or now even couples can hire you to help them..

28:04 Levine: yes, exactly, and the books are:
Getting to Resolution - Turning conflict into collaboration
The Book of Agreement - ten essential elements for getting the results you want,
a book called Collaboration 2.0 , that I co-wrote with David Coleman, who is an expert in technology and it's about how all of us are working virtually today and how we need to do it
in a more effective way
Those are available through my website...

28:39 Mullen: if you want to find out more about Stewart Levine's work, or hire him for speaking engagements, you can find him at
He is in the Alameda area of Northern California and you can reach him by calling his office 
at (510) 777-1166. I want to thank Stewart for sharing his skills with us today.

28:59  exit comments

30:00 FINIS


Contact email | twitter | @DrColleenMullen | @StewartLevine

Vahakn Matossian – Podcast Audio Transcript

This is the audio transcript of Coaching Through Chaos Podcast episode 09
featuring Dr. Colleen Mullen and  Vahakn Matossian

0:00 introduction

4:31 Mullen: As with many episodes of this show there will be weeks where the featured guest fits into a couple of categories. Today's guest is both a maker, inventor, musician and budding entrepreneur. I'm talking with VAHAKN MATOSSIAN, who alongside his father, ROLF GEHLHAAR, created the HUMAN INSTRUMENTS COMPANY.
4:52 They're a London based company who are ingeniously redesigning instruments like pianos and horns to help people with physical limitations. They're essentially taking a limitation and reducing it to an obstacle to overcome. What a cool way to broaden a person's perspective on their own life, this is going to be like nothing you can imagine and they are just getting started... 
5:14 You might ask though is there a market for instruments for people with physical limitations? Well yes, according to the CDC in the US the number of adults (2013) with any physical functioning difficulty is 35.2 million, that's 15 percent of our adult population... 
5:32 and in the UK, it's even higher, there are over 6.9 million disabled people of working age which represents 19 percent of their working population. 
5:44 You'll hear the full story during my interview with Vahakn, but the Human Instruments Company began when Rolf and Vahakn were helping out the British Para-orchestra by setting up their tech and sound support. The British Para-orchestra is the only one of its kind. It's the worlds first professional ensemble of disabled musicians. The mission of the British Para-orchestra is to shift the perceptions of disability and disabled people by creating a visible platform for gifted disabled musicians to perform and excel at the highest level. Rolf and Vahakn discovered a need as they were interacting with the orchestra. For as much as the orchestra was there to give opportunity to physically limited people, it was still forced to turn away people who wanted to join because there were no instruments they could physically use. They decided to change that. 

6:27 Mullen: Rolf is a composer, artist and musician and early creator of electronic and computer music. Vahakn is an artist and musician with BAs and MAs in product design. Together they have begun to open a door for people with physical limitations that wasn't even thought of before. 
6:43 Before we get into the interview, let me tell you about my experience of trying the Human Instruments' instrument. I met Vahakn at the recent Cyber Psychology Conference on the UCSD campus here in San Diego of June of this year. He was showing off a gadget that essentially looked like an oval shaped piece of plywood with some black lines painted on it and there was a motherboard at the top of it. He was interacting with the conference guests letting them try this gadget. He would have them put on headphones and blow into a tube while they moved their fingers around on the board. The participants appeared surprised by whatever they were hearing in the headphones. I was intrigued and wanted to find out what the gadget was and what the people were hearing. I introduced myself and Vahakn said "Do you want to try this piano?" 
7:27 I was immediately excited to try this plywood fashioned gadget that looked nothing like my favorite instrument, one which I know very intimately. I put on the headphones and blew into the tube as I had watched the other attendees do and immediately heard what I recognized as synthesized keyboard sounds. He then gave me a few minutes of instruction and told me about the breath sensitive instrument. Breathing out dictates the sound one way and inhaling dictates the sound another way. After a few minutes of fussing with it, I was able to see how this could literally breathe new life into someones creative world. It was a bit awkward, but so is learning any new instrument. This piano was particularly designed for someone with limited mobility and or strength in their hands. They're currently in development of a hands free horns instrument and at least one or two other redesigned instruments. 

8:17 Mullen: Bringing you this episode totally speaks to the heart of why I am doing this. You never know who you are going to meet in life and what new invention is around the next corner. As you may remember from episode 1, I grew up as a competitive pianist, for me I thought that a piano is a piano is a piano. And I'm not sure if I mentioned it before but my father was a paraplegic since he was 3 years old, due to polio. He was also a musician for a time. I saw how tremendously active a persons life can be despite their physical limitations and then on the flip side, I also saw how crushing it was when aspects of their life are not available to them. In my fathers case it was actually easier for him to pursue a career as an attorney with his limitations than as a trumpet player, though he kept his love of music throughout his life. 
9:03 And here comes Human Instruments with their refashioned instruments seeking specifically to create opportunity for people that have been overlooked. To Vahakn and Rolf -kudos and respect to you for your heart and creativity. Alright lets get into the interview, and take note - the short musical breaks today are brought to you by Vahakn playing on the Human Instruments piano.

9:24 music interlude 1  - - - 

10:09 Mullen: Vahakn can you tell me what the Human Instruments Company is all about?

10:14 Vahakn: Human Instruments is dedicated to providing accessible musical instruments. So we're basically aiming to make digital musical instrument interfaces that are as close as possible to the resolution and expression you would get from an orchestral instrument.

10:27 Mullen: and when you say accessible, what do you mean by that?

10:29 Vahakn: accessibility is the word used for objects, tools and advancements in technology which are for people that are disabled or have just different abilities, or maybe were born with a different body layout from maybe you or I.

10:42 Mullen: as I mentioned, my father was a paraplegic. I absolutely get that different people have different abilities - I actually didn't grow up thinking that he was disabled. So can you tell us how the company came to be and the motivation for it?

10:57 Vahakn: so I grew up as the son of a composer. My father is a contemporary composer who worked in electronic music and electronic sound and he also made sound installations - and they were interactive. And once upon a time, my mother demanded that the local school bring their kids down to one of his installations - they were a special needs school and so they brought them down and the kids went "berserk". And they saw a reaction that was quite something. From there he realized these instruments he was making, the tools he was making, were usable by many people. And I saw this growing up. 
11:34 Later on, we began working with the British Para-orchestra, based in London, all over England actually. They're made up of people of varied physical ability, some of them are hard of sight, some of them are hard of hearing, everyone has a different ability in some way and they're all professional musicians - that's what ties them together. It was started by a conductor called CHARLES HAZELWOOD, and we worked with them as tech support, as musical support setting up mixers, just being around helping out and enjoying the music they played in a big way. 
At the concerts, people would approach us afterwards and they would say "this is an amazing concert, what an incredible orchestra, it's so inspiring - I'd love to join, I'd love to play". 
And I would say "well what do you play ?" 
And they'd say " Well nothing, I can't play an instrument because, you know, I don't have one arm". 
Or maybe the chap was in a wheel chair and never had the chance to play the drums and wanted to.. Whatever it was, it was always a different reason. And I'd get that sinking feeling , like Why NOT - there are all these amazing tools and adaptations and prostheses for para-sports, para-Olympics, every city has got some sort of para-Olympic program, and where's the para-music? 
Which is one of Charles Hazelwood's main questions. And as a designer, and a maker, and the son of an inventor - I just had to ask that question - where are these tools? 

12:50 Mullen: So that became a hat that you put on - designing these instruments. Can you tell me a little bit about your background - how did you get into designing this - do you have a background in tech or a background in music? How did you get into this besides the love of what you were doing with the Para Orchestra? 

13:07 Vahakn: At school, I could be found in the art department and in the design department or the french room - so those were my subjects. I was always making or breaking whatever it was. Then I did a degree in Crafts and Materials, at Brighton University, and I was aiming at being a sculptor. And then I did another degree in Product Design at the Royal College of Arts. I was just obsessed with making, and I think a dissatisfaction with the things that surrounded me in the world. From that, I had a background in product design, but then as a young kid growing up, like I said the son of a composer, I was also very much into music. I've always been making music, and more recently these two things have collided, and that's the basis of Human Instruments, with the vision of my dad. 

13:48 Mullen: that's brilliant. it just came together in the right place at the right time with the right interest. As far as Human Instruments goes, the ideal user then is someone who lacks some physical ability and your instruments are being designed to help replace that ability, or give them access to something they didn't think that they could have? 

14:08 Vahakn: It started out as wanting to level the playing field for people that may not be able to use traditional instruments - and actually when you strip back the criteria of designing an object you don't talk about necessarily the person and their syndrome, or whatever they have, you just talk about how are we going to make musical note creation accessible in an expressive, controllable and repeatable way. And actually, disability flies straight out the window and all you're looking at is people that need to access note creation. So you really start with a blank slate. What that means is that, what we found through our experiments and designs, is if you nail the criteria and you create something that does what you aim to do, its interesting for anyone. 
For me, the instruments we're making, frustrating at first like any musical instrument, becomes more and more fun the more you play. And friends of mine who are musicians or people we've tested with find that its just a different way of creating notes - which throws up new themes, new ideas for creation. So yes, they are primarily aimed at people with different physical abilities, but in the end if you make something elegantly or if you fix the problem in an elegant way, you'll find that the spinoff is far reaching and the devices are useful to people who want to use the devices. And it's really that simple...
15:22 Mullen: yeah, and its amazing that you can be designing it for one thing and find other uses for it. And the more people I talk to that are in development of products, it seems to be that that happens - they find new ways to use their items. 
We're going to take a little break and come right back with Vahakn. 

15:39 musical interlude #2 - - -

16:42 Mullen: and we're back with Vahakn Matossian of Human Instruments based in London. 
In looking at the keyboard, its one octave on a piece of wood, looks like its just painted on there, and then there's some chords on little one inch squares painted on another board, with what looks like the insides of a computer sitting on top of it. And yet, when I touch them, it makes beautiful piano sounds. So - tell me - how on earth do you make that happen ? 

17:10 Vahakn: Well the device that you're staring at is like you said, two pieces of plywood, very smooth to the touch. And screen printed - the same way you would print a t-shirt- on each side are these two patterns that we have designed. The idea is that you can reach the whole octave with your hand span, or maybe, one finger and a small amount of movement. So with very little strength or dexterity, you can reach the whole keyboard. On the left hand, as you said, there are some other little squares and they allow you to play chords. So you can play a major chord, a minor chord, a seventh chord, a diminished chord, augmented chord, minor seventh - many combinations between these chord types. 

17:49 Mullen: Right, the musicians listening will understand those references. 

17:52 Vahakn: Yeah, for anyone else, it's all the scary chords, all the happy chords, all the jazzy chords and the ones that just clang. So you have a big palette to work from. There;s a mouthpiece with a tube, and this goes to a breath sensor. And so you have the expression of the breath as you would with a woodwind instrument, or a flute, or any breath controlled instrument. You can play as softly as you like the beginning of a note will rise, and then sharply stop if you stop blowing.Or you can attack it with a big puff. So that really gives the expression with very little lung power. And so combining these two sides, the keyboard with the root note - ie the note you start with in a chord - and then applying the chord structure from the shift keys on the left - you can then play chords and single notes. And there are these strips near the chord buttons and if yo roll your finger on these little strips it arpeggiates the chord up the keyboard as if you are running your fingers up the keyboard -within the chord structure and key of your chosen keys. It sounds really complicated but when you start playing it becomes very automatic. 

18:56 Mullen: Yes, I can see how someone would take to it after trying it out. I only tried it out once or twice and I have some experience playing so I can see how someone would take to it. And especially if they're learning it for the first time. I'm learning it and I'm complicated by the fact that I play the piano and I study it - my mind probably needs a bit more re-training than the person who is going to blow into the tube and use it. So tell us though about how it makes the sound ... and you're holding the tube of paint, tell me about that, because it looks like the keys are just painted on the piece of wood. 

19:25 Vahakn: That's right, so painted on the wood - screen printed - is a paint, which is an electric paint by a company called BARE CONDUCTIVE. And you paint it on as you would in any other normal painty way, and within a few minutes it dries, and it's conductive. Currently it's hooked up to the TOUCHBOARD, made by the same company. And what the touchboard does, is it allows you to write a small program, load it onto the board and when you've connected up your paint squares - or whatever paint shape you've chosen - to the board, it will trigger the board with a signal and your program does whatever you want to do with the signal. The board comes loaded with a little sound program which will just launch sounds as you hit the various keys. But we've written a custom program which sends MIDI data - which is the Musical Instrument Digital Interface data that all computers speak - it's the language they all speak - and it allows you to fire off notes and to have very precise control over notes created, played, the length of them, the characteristics of the notes. So really this device just sends MIDI data to the computer and then the computer takes the MIDI data and whatever program you;re running - We-re using LOGIC and MASSIVE - which is a synthesizer by Native Instruments - it's all commercially available, you don't have to customize anything - it works out of the box plug and play - and it means that people that already are composers can use their favorite tools without having to download new software or specific apps. 

20:49 Mullen: And I did hear the piano sound, and it sounded beautiful. Can it do like my home keyboard and play some other sounds? 

20:56 Vahakn: You can literally make it play any sound you want - so we have a range of sounds, different synthesizers, sub-basses, raspy things you might find in dance music, kalimba sounds or gamelan sounds from Asian territories, so really you can choose whatever you want - which is the aim - the player can choose what they want to play, not be forced into a corner of piano or not piano. 

21:19 Mullen: I see. My favorite is the strings setting on my keyboard, can you make a string sound on yours? 

21:23 Vahakn: We can give you a whole orchestra. 

21:27 musical interlude #3 - - -

22:17 Mullen: So that's the piano. When you look at it, it looks so simple - but it's really quite an advanced instrument that you've created. Do you have other instruments in development ? 

22:26 Vahakn: We've got three running in parallel.This one, and then there's the DOOSERPHONE, which was a prototype made for a gentleman called Clarence Adoo, and he was a trumpeter, a very good one - he played with the greats - and he suffered a car accident which left him unable to use his limbs. About fifteen years ago, my father Rolf Gehlhaar was contracted to develop an instrument for him - a head mounted instrument. And he developed an interface which uses the head mouse, which is commercially available, so Clarence could control a mouse pointer with his head and with his breath pressure as the click, and he developed an interface to let Clarence make music. Now it was indeed an interface, not an instrument, although it had characteristics and you could control a great many things with it, it wasn't a true instrument where Clarence could play melodies all day long in the style that he wished to. So this was really a challenge and another starting point for us. 

23:18 Mullen: It sounds like you're starting to develop an instrument that can be used to replace the trumpet that Clarence can no longer play. 

23:25 Vahakn: well, as Clarence had an amazing musical mind, he could imagine melodies on a keyboard, and tell you what the notes were and play them without trying them out. So we developed a small kind of digital xylophone which was close to the face, and he played with a small mouthpiece and a little baton, and it used breath pressure and so it was one of the stepping stones to this device that we see here. So there's that one which were going to release open source, where you'll be able to buy the hardware online very cheap and download the software, and even the 3D printing file, you'll be able to get for free. So people can make it in their fablabs or find somewhere where they can have the tools to build one themselves. 
24:03 The device we are currently working on now which is the heart of Human Instruments, which is codenamed TYPHOON right now, is mouthpiece, which will register the persons head position in space and allow them to play notes using their head position, breath, and various different characteristics of the mouth. So the idea is we're making a hands free musical instrument controller, which will have a couple of modes - and the modes are really crucial. One is to control any computer of any kind, and the other mode is a dedicated musical mode. So it essentially mimics how a composer would have a score in front of them on which to write their notes, but also a keyboard with which to reference, play and hear. So this device will allow someone to do that without using their arms or hands. 

24:49 Mullen: So just with the movement of their head and their breath... that sounds quite advanced. and I can see, as you said, it's the heart of the company right now. The implications are tremendous, not only for people who want to be musical, but for the person who just doesn't know that they could be creative because they don't have the use of their limbs right now. So this just opens up that door to give them such an opportunity to still live a creative life. I think it's fantastic. 

25:22 Vahakn: as mentioned, the aim is really to give someone the opportunity to have a profession in music should they so wish. And were just sticking as close as we can to that aim and the idea is to develop tools which allow that. That's really the two criteria, that's what we're trying to do. 

25:39 Mullen: Alright Vahakn, I can imagine that there's all sorts of ways to collaborate with your company - whether its musical apps or composing music specific to the instruments - how would you see collaboration happen and do you welcome that within the company ? 

25:52 Vahakn: yeah, we absolutely welcome collaboration from all corners: support, affiliation, if someones part of an organization they think resonates with what we're up to, or some of the ideas they think are useful, or they'd like to critique what we're up to, make things better, put them in concert, find us a musician, a programmer that's particularly gifted that is interested. Really, it's all about collaboration, building the family, and finding people that are very interested in this. The possibilities of these devices, and the creativity possible is far reaching, and so - absolutely, contact us - Get in Touch. 

26:27 Dr.Mullen: Wonderful. What's your website ? 

26:34 Vahakn: The website is and we have all of our work and some amazing links to other people working in a similar area right there. 

26:46 Mullen: and there's some really interesting videos of their work in action on the website, so I would encourage you to check them out. Well thank you Vahakn Matossian with Human Instruments. 

27:00 exit comments

28:18 musical interlude #4 - - -

30:00 FINIS
 Contact email                     | twitter | @DrColleenMullen               | @vahakn

Dr Mark Wiederhold – Audio Transcript

Dr Mark Wiederhold podcast transcript

This is the audio transcript of Coaching Through Chaos Podcast episode 01.

0:00 introduction

4:42 Mullen: I was so thrilled to have this interview with Dr Wiederhold, the Virtual Reality Medical Center  has been around for over 20 years. They started out treating general phobias, like fear of flying, or fear of public speaking, but over the past decade they ventured out into helping treat our wounded warriors with PTSD. They have a home base here in San Diego but they have locations also in Los Angeles,  China and Brussels. Their work with the wounded warriors is already approved in some of the VA hospitals across the country.
My interview there took on a life that I didn't event expect, I showed up for what I thought was going to be a twenty minute interview, and it turned into an almost 3 hour experience. I couldn't possibly fit all of the information that I got into this episode so you can find an article on my entire experience - along with some pictures - at
Just look for the CoachingThroughChaos podcast page.

5:47 Mullen: we're going to take a short break but when we come back, Dr Wiederhold will get  right into answering the question of what does  the Virtual Reality Medical Center do, and what the heck is virtual reality therapy ?

6:03 music interlude - - -

6:20 Mullen: thank you Dr Wiederhold for being here

6:22 Wiederhold:  my pleasure and thank you for your interest . We've been treating patients with Virtual Reality therapy for over 20 years. We first started treating patients with simple phobias - for example fear of flying, fear of driving and fear of public speaking. You may be interested to know that fear of public speaking  is the most serious phobia that people have, and studies have shown that people are more afraid of giving a speech than dying.

6:51 Mullen: yes, as a therapist I have heard that over time...

6:52 Wiederhold: and if you think about that, they are very serious disorders because if a person or an executive has a fear of flying or cant drive to their next meeting, or cant deliver a bored presentation, that can affect their job quite seriously.  so we've been able to develop virtual reality therapy, which is a 360 degree computer simulation which is a substitute for what we call exposure therapy in the real world.
7:19now the way this works there's really two main parts of it - the first part is exposing the patient usually in a head mounted display in which they're fully immersed or present in for example, a virtual airplane. Or they may be in front of a virtual podium in front of a virtual audience.   The second part is we record their physiological signals - for example their breathing rate, their heart rate, their skin temperature - with non invasive sensors, in real time.
7:51 and so what were able to do is  use a technique called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - and this type of therapy which uses the exposure model by the way, has been recommended  by the National Institutes of Health as well as the Institute of Medicine.
So it's been used for well over 40 years...

8:11  Mullen: I've been using that myself, but I've been limited in that we don't have  360 degree exposure for our clients in the therapy room.

8:20 Wiederhold: and I'm glad you brought that up because  virtual reality is just a tool and it's not a substitute for good clinical skills. Having said that, there are many advantages of virtual reality therapy.
For example, in the old days , do you remember there was a time when you could actually walk your relatives to the ramp of the plane...

8:39  Mullen: absolutely, yes

8:40 Wiederhold: well, you can't really do that now - and so its almost impossible for a therapist to go with their patient to the airport. There's inconvenience, and the other main issue is that it could be embarrassing for the patient . And if we think about anxiety disorders, the biggest problem we have with patients who have anxiety or phobia, is they often are reluctant to come to therapy...
9:02 and the last thing they want to do is be in front of a large number of people and for example they might have an embarrassing episode on the plane, so one of the major advantages of Virtual Reality therapy is it can be done in the comfort and privacy of the therapist's office.

9:16 Mullen:  I've been treating people with phobias and trauma for years, I can only take them so far, and for people that don't know what those sessions look like, its a lot of imagination work. we can talk  to the client, get them visualizing in their mind, what the situation is that they're fearful of.  And I've treated a lot of people for fear of flying, however it can take several sessions to several months of sessions and lots of imagination homework in between where they're bringing up images of their fearful events.  So it sounds to me that the advantage would be that the person instead of us sitting there and imaging what its like, you're going to put glasses on them and bring up a scene and they're going to actually experience being in the plane.

10:04 Wiederhold: and that's exactly what we try and do, what we do is called suspension of disbelief - and the more immersed or present the patient is - meaning the more they feel they're on a real airplane the better they're going to do in therapy.
And I'm glad you mentioned some of the limitations of imaginal therapy,  although certainly, certain patients do very well with imaginal therapy. However the scientific literature shows that only about  15 percent of  people are good imaginers.
For the other group it's a little more difficult. The other nice thing about  virtual reality therapy is , as you mentioned before, avoidance is a major issue with patients with anxiety and phobias. with the virtual reality its pretty much in you face. you really cant get away from it and you really need to confront it.
10:54 and although that sounds confrontational it is very important for the patients to face their fears. now let me make what we consider an important distinction in our work here, in that we don't use the technique called flooding.
we think flooding is a little bit counter productive, and what we do, because were monitoring their physiological responses we can control what I call the dosage of reality exposure. so for certain patients we have to be  a little more gradual in our exposure response. however it needs to be compelling enough that they have a level of arousal. And this is really the key to exposure therapy - is having the appropriate level of arousal.  We want them to be engaged, we want their brain to do the work to overcome their fear, to build new network pathways. However, we don't want to cause a panic attack. Were very concerned about that - and because we use this gradual approach with the monitoring - and that's combined with building specific skill sets of cognitive therapy - our drop-off rate is less than 2 %.

12:02 Mullen: that's an amazing statistic. can you tell us a little bit about how you got into doing virtual reality therapy? To me it sounds like that's the way of the future but you've been this now for over 20 years . So tell us about how it has morphed over time, if you could.

12:21 Wiederhold: the original virtual reality equipment required supercomputers - 20 years ago a major breakthrough occurred with the development of advanced graphic card technology - whereby  the VR environment could be viewed on a desktop computer -  the processors were powerful enough, you could actually afford a computer  to do that .
Twenty years ago I was part of a group that started the medicine meets virtual reality program - which was primarily a group of surgeons that were using VR therapy for surgical planning and surgical imaging. One of the guests at the program  was JARON LANIER, who was one of the pioneers of Virtual Reality, and he actually talked about virtual kitchens... twenty years ago, people planned their new kitchens using VR.
13:08 And so, actually, Dr Brenda Wiederhold is the person who came up with the first idea to try  to use it as an adjunct for phobias. And it's one of these stories where you never really know how things turn out. Part of it was luck that we chose phobias because the ability  to use a virtual exposure for phobias turned out to be one of the most effective uses of the therapy.
Now in our clinic, our success rates can be over 90%, for example.
If you finish the program for fear of flying our results are greater than 90%.
What that means means though is it doesn't work for everybody. 
And were very clear about that  - it doesn't work for all patients, you have to come for all your sessions, you need to do the homework, and its a lot of work to do the therapy, it really is. The patient has to do a lot of work and the Virtual Reality Therapy process also requires some extra effort by the therapist.

14:07 Mullen: I was going to ask if you can explain what a session may look like, because I assume you're not just putting glasses on a person and turning on the stimulus, with the physiological monitors attached. I assume there is a therapist in the room. Can you talk about how the therapist would interact in a virtual reality session.

14:24 Wiederhold: sure, when the patient first comes they have a full and complete assessment  and during the first session  - which takes about an hour and a half to two hours - there is no VR.
That's the standard assessment and intake as all clinicians need to do.
In the second session the patient is introduced to the physiological monitoring and what we do is called a PHYSIOLOGICAL STRESS PROFILE. So we actually give them a stressor in this case a maths stressor - subtracting 7 from 100  - which gets most people pretty agitated

14:56 Mullen: I think I can feel my own anxiety getting raised just thinking about it

15:00 Wiederhold: exactly right - and so - we allow them to not only experience what stress is but to view it on the screen with the physiology.  And then we spend time teaching them to do abdominal breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, so we give them a set of skills that they can use to control their anxiety or arousal. This is very empowering for patients.  And when they then learn this skill and they're comfortable doing it, we then will  proceed with the first Virtual Reality session.

15:30 Mullen: So it's a gradual building of skills and then the exposure comes - just for people who are listening who are thinking gosh what would that look like .  So that's  been really helpful to hear what would happen.
I think it's a good time to take a little break - and we'll come back and you can tell us how the virtual reality therapy is being used to treat our wounded warriors.

15:52 interlude

16:19 Mullen: we're back with Dr Wiederhold of the Virtual Reality Medical Center in San Diego, and we're going to now move into the segment that we're really here about - how the  Virtual Reality Medical Center has turned the work that they've done for years with phobias into treating our combat veterans.

16:37 Wiederhold:  thank you so much.   In the course of treating the phobias, we also started treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in people that had suffered serious motor vehicle accidents - and we've treated probably 100 patients who have PTSD for MVA, and that really was one of the links that allowed us to look at the possibility of using the tool for treating PTSD in our veterans. Now there's a main difference between simple phobias and PTSD  - PTSD  is a much more complex disorder, there are multiple problems, for example,  we have a lot of co-morbid conditions  - in one of the studies that we did half of the veterans also met the criteria for traumatic brain injury as well as PTSD

17:23 Mullen: right, which is another very serious co-occurrence, as you mentioned.

17:27 Wiederhold: other issues have to do with suicide, substance abuse, family disorder,  family violence - it is serious business taking care of people with trauma . The way we started this - we had funding from the Office of Naval Research to do a study at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego . That study allowed us to transition our technology and develop virtual reality exposure therapy for our veterans. We also used the physiological monitoring. We did several studies at the Navy and found overall, using the Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy with monitoring of physiology, we had about 80% overall success rate.

18:10 Mullen: that's again another tremendous statistic

18:13 Wiederhold: in addition ,we found a very low dropout rate - what really made me most excited about this therapy is that a lot of the younger members and younger veterans - because they go through a lot of computer type training - and some of them do play video games -  now let me be clear : virtual reality therapy is not a video game, its  not meant to be a video game. However, this population of patients has a lot  of familiarity with the techniques and the tools  and a lot of them found it   frankly enjoyable, they found it easy to transition.
and what we learned, we stopped calling this a therapy session  -
18:55 we actually called it re-training.  because one of  the problems with helping people seek treatment is avoiding the stigma. and so we would just say - why don't you come on and you can do another hop .

19:07 Mullen: and what's a hop ?

19:09 Wiederhold: a hop is essentially going out on a mission - and so we had retired military and active duty  military that were treating the patients - they were able to establish a critical rapport with them and  a level of trust - and that's so important as you know . But they were able to effectively use the tool to expose them to the issues and the cues that are causing the PTSD, causing their nightmares, causing their anxiety and allowed a lot of them to overcome. 
19:40 Now the results of the study, in terms of how do you know its working - well of all the patients that completed the program, with 80% success, we had all of them either return to active duty stations, return to full time employment or they're able to go back and be in school full time and perform well.

20:00  Mullen: fantastic, so you've got these people who were dealing with some really severe traumatic symptoms now getting back into their normal life, or re-entering life in a normal way  where they were otherwise feeling that they could not do that

20:14 Wiederhold: exactly. And as I said before, it doesn't work for everyone, we have to be very clear. In addition , some of the people that we treated they'd tell us - and we'll be the first to admit it - they still have some anxiety and they still have some discomfort, however its not at the level where it  interferes with their ability to enjoy their life or enjoy their family

20:35 Mullen: and that's one of the key ways of knowing you've treated someone successfully - is that their symptoms, although they may not be totally gone, or totally gone forever - the quality of the life that they're living is vastly improved.

20:48 Wiederhold: exactly correct. and that was really one of our end points. now were continuing to do additional studies using virtual reality - and were also fore example we were able to deploy several of our virtual reality systems to Iraq and Afghanistan. and one of the active duty navy  physicians took one of our systems to Fallujah and he was able to treat a number of patients in theater

21:11 Mullen:  I actually didn't know that part of it when I did my research on your clinic.  I know as a clinician the earlier you can treat a trauma the better the response to treatment.
and i also want to point out something you mentioned about the drop out rate - one of the biggest issues of getting our combat veterans help has been a concern about difficulty in joining and retaining them in therapy - so you've got this mode of treatment that seems to have a really strong hold on retaining them and helping them for the long term

21:43 Wiederhold: exactly.  The results of the small study for treating in theater were 86% success, so it was higher than our normal rate.
Now the reason this is important is it also allows us to look at some next steps - and one of the things we've been doing for  a number of years is called STRESS INOCULATION TRAINING  where  we actually take some of these skills that are similar - but they're not exactly the same - to treating PTSD and we allow the patients to be exposed to stressful stimuli before deployment  - and that's called stress inoculation training. We've been doing that for 10 years

22:27 Mullen: OK ... so getting them ready for what they might experience ...

22:30 Wiederhold: exactly - our hope really is to be able to prevent PTSD or possibly mitigate the serious types of effects that we're seeing.

22:40 Mullen: wouldn't that be amazing to do ... can you tell us a little bit about, or is there a particular success story you can tell us about? Everything you're presenting gives us such hope, or at least its speaking of hope to me, for this population.  Can you tell us a little bit or give an example of one of  your clients; talk about the symptoms they might have had when they came in and presented for the treatment  - and what their quality of life looked like at the end of treatment.

23:06 Wiederhold: yes, typically with patients - one of the biggest problems they have is with sleep disorders - they have invasive nightmares. They have difficulty being in crowded situations, for example a lot of times going to the mall or a crowded street scene - they're not able to do that.  And often they report panic attacks, anxiety, again I'll mention substance abuse and  those types of issues.
After the therapy, they learn the skills to control their breathing, to control  their heart rate, to control their muscle tension - and it helps them to relax. It also helps them to realise that they're not in Iraq anymore - they're back in the US. And they  can then use these skills to effectively mitigate  the effects of the stress of PTSD.
23:52 I remember a particular case of a young man who was a navy corpsman and he had particular problems with images that he encountered.   PTSD in medical corps
is actually much more serious than PTSD in our standard population. The reason is that medical personnel in addition to treating severely injured wounded members , they're also  exposed to the stress of warfare. For example, the Army medics, they're taught to shoot back first - as the first thing they do when they go to treat the wounded - so they're really getting it from both sides. Their level of PTSD is higher than the general military population.
But we were able to reduce the levels of nightmares and the intrusive thoughts that the person was having.
24:38 It is important to realize though that this person also told us that he still does have some problems. So he's not completely over it, but the key is that he is able to live a normal life. He's able to enjoy his family members, he's able to work and to be a productive member.

24:55 Mullen: fantastic - so , I still have so much I want to ask you, but I think we're going to have to keep it a little bit short - so I assume that  the people can come back if they need to, if their symptoms resurface, you can do some extra treatment . I'm getting a nod and an endorsement of yes, they can ...
Can you tell us where the treatment protocols are moving to, are you expanding the population that you  can treat as far  as  wounded warriors go - can  you tell us a little bit about that ?

25:21  Wiederhold: yes, we are. We've just opened up  another office in Coronado, here  in California . What we're trying do now  is migrate our therapy sessions to involve more treatment in the home and in the community. And we're able to do that now because a lot of the virtual reality hardware is being priced much more competitively - to the point where we can actually give the patient  a virtual reality set they can use in the home.

25:46 Mullen: so they can do their homework with the actual equipment at home

25:49 Wiederhold:  exactly. Which should be much more effective.

25:52 Mullen: Can our wounded warriors get that treatment funded from their VA benefits, or do they have to pay for this themselves?

26:01 Wiederhold: a number of Veterans Hospitals do have the virtual reality equipment, it's not available at all the VA hospitals but a lot of them do have it.

26:10 Mullen: fantastic. is there anything else that you would like us to know before we wrap up our interview ?

26:14 Wiederhold: I'd like to say a word of thanks to our patients, one of the reasons our success rates are so high is because our patients tell us what works and what doesn't work.
and were grateful. And I'm inspired that people who have had such horrendous experiences are still able to think about helping others. It is the most rewarding thing I've ever done.

26:35 Mullen: so you get rewarded and inspired every day with the patients that you're treating and I'm sure that you learn a lot from them as they're learning from you.

26:44 Wiederhold: exactly

26:45 Mullen: well I know I've learned a lot from you today and I want to thank you for your dedication to this population, and I want  to thank you for giving me this interview

26:56 music interlude - - -

27:13 Mullen: exit statements

30:00 end