An Interview with Dr. Carlos Canales:
|Today I’m interviewing Dr. Carlos Canales. Dr. Canales is a licensed Clinical Psychologist, Certified Group Psychotherapist, and Somatic Experiencing Practitioner in private practice. Dr. Canales has been facilitating a variety of psychotherapist groups for almost two decades, including a training group for psychotherapists. He currently serves on the board for the Iowa Psychological Foundation (IPF) board and a clinical member of the American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA), where he has also been awarded Fellowship (FAGPA) for outstanding professional competence and leadership capacities.
We talk here about the importance of belonging and mattering, the drawbacks of individualism, minority isolation, groups as uniquely therapeutic, the benefits and challenges of cofacilitating, group therapists who have been influential to Dr. Canales, and Dr. Canales’ movement towards his own integrative approach.
The following resources were mentioned in the interview:
- American Group Psychotherapy Association
- Irvin Yalom: The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy
- S.H. Foulkes
- Louis Ormont
- Haim Weinberg & Martha Gilmore
- Scott Rutan, Walter N. Stone, Joseph J. Shay: Psychodynamic Group Psychotherapy
- Richard M. Billow: Resistance, Rebellion, and Refusal in Groups
- Jerome Gans: Difficult Topics in Group Psychotherapy: My Journey from Shame to Courage
Ryan: Well, we met several years ago at a Somatic Experiencing training, which is a training for therapists interested in working with trauma. And one of the ways that we connected is through our mutual interest in group work.
Dr. Canales: Yes.
Ryan: And you were already certified as a group therapist at that point, is that right?
Dr. Canales: Yes.
Ryan: Okay. So, you’ve been doing this for about how long, as a group therapist?
Dr. Canales: Well, I’ve been doing groups since 1999 or 1998. I was working for a small psychiatric hospital in Chattanooga and there were two people who did groups. One was fired. They did something inappropriate with a client. And the other one was retiring. And so the CEO said – speaking to a room of, I don’t know, twenty to thirty social workers, “Okay. We need two people to run groups. Who’s going to run them?” No hands. Couldn’t believe it. Well, I needed a job. I was a student still at college. And I raised my hand and I said, “I’ll do it.” He said, “Well, you start Monday.” And I said, “Could I have a month? I need to know what to do.”
And I spent a month reading Yalom’s book, The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy. I attended every group I could. And since then, I probably have done a lot of damage until I got formal training in groups in 2007. So I practiced group for a while – doing domestic violence groups, anger management groups, just different kinds of groups. And then I got to know the association, the American Group Psychotherapy Association. So, I got my certification in 2010 or 2011. But by then I had done many, many groups. And since then I’ve done many, many groups. I have five groups in my practice right now.
Ryan: Okay. Well, I’d love to hear a little bit more about those groups. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about who you tend to serve in those groups and the types of groups that they are.
Dr. Canales: When I started at a private hospital, there were groups for inpatient folks. And they divided them into the alcohol and drug groups and the psych ward groups, people who had depression all the way to schizophrenia, which was just a challenge. People were actively psychotic, and we were running group. And since then, I’ve done groups for teens. I’ve done domestic violence groups and anger management groups. And I very much enjoyed every kind of formation because when you join a group, no matter what, first of all, we’re born into a group, which is a family not of our choosing. And we begin to play a role and they play a role, and we learn relationships in that group. We learn how to get close, how to not get close. And then we go from group to group – our neighborhood, our first grade class, the place where we work now.
And so what I learned is that the multiplicity of selves that we have becomes alive according to the environment that we’re in. And so I become fascinated as to why do I, as a therapist, feel what I feel in a group initially when the group becomes cohesive? Why do I feel more resourced in a group? So, I think I do groups because of me, because I live better in the company of others.
Ryan: I see. So that’s a general feeling – that when you run groups, you actually end up feeling more resourced than you might if you were working with somebody one-on-one?
Dr. Canales: Absolutely. I just happen to have done a workshop a couple of hours ago, and I did a demonstration group. And it turns out that the people who volunteered and were online, some had supervised others. So, supervisor and supervisee or ex-relationships were present there. And they were naming the power dynamics, and the anxiety of now sharing a common platform. And at some point, one guy said, “I think I’m the only one who doesn’t know anybody.” And suddenly four or five people oriented to being warmer, or including him, or taking care of him. Like four or five people – immediately. And this idea of power differentials went out the window – all because there was one guy who just didn’t have such a power differential. In individual therapy, we couldn’t come up with that kind of treatment.
And so the possibility of altruism, which is so health-inducing, generosity, and other feelings that are just fully human – envy, jealousy, competition, ambition, it can only happen when there are siblings to rival against – towards or with – peer collaboration. So I love that about groups. It’s infinitely complex. I worked at UC Davis for seven years and I just had an infinite amount of clients. Students are coming in, and students are between eighteen and twenty-five, always between eighteen and twenty-five. The prime of their life. They will never look as good as they do at that point. You are aging, but they’re not aging! And so they come together. And so I did, for example, a group for Latinas for five years. I did a graduate group for five years, a men’s group for five years, a group for a student advisors for five years. So, I worked there for seven years, but I think by year two, I realized, “I don’t have to work to get my groups filled.” And it really gave me a chance to do so many groups and satisfy my curiosity about those various formations and using of resources.
And I’ve learned in private practice, it’s a lot harder to get people to – because everybody wants the individual attention. And you actually have to sell group therapy. But once they are in group, like if somebody stays in group for two years in a weekly group, we’re almost looking at a relationship to our cohort that might equal that of partnership. People feel that expanded, that their reality can be understood by others, that they don’t have one person or two people. They have this unit of support and understanding for them. And that to me is like massively valuable. It’s massively valuable as a therapist as well. Because it’s not just a client who sees me this way. There is a multiplicity of points of view about me. [S.H.] Foulkes spoke about group as walking into a hall filled with mirrors, that every person holds a mirror reflecting a different take on me. And that’s helpful to compose a much clearer and expanded version of me.
Ryan: Before the interview, before we hopped on the call, I was thinking about in the Somatic Experiencing training, we have this really wonderful opportunity to go through a demonstration in front of the rest of the group, where the techniques are being demonstrated for the students. And not only do they get the benefit of the trauma-related interventions offered to them by the trainer, but they also have these opportunities to look out into the audience and actually have a corrective emotional experience, in terms of being seen in that healing process. In fact, in my advanced year – not the training that we did together in San Diego, but I had gone to Colorado for the first module – I participated in a demo and I had that experience of having very powerful work happen with a trainer, but then the trainer asking me to look out among the students while it was happening. And it was such a different experience than had that happened in a one-on-one setting.
Dr. Canales: Good for you.
Ryan: And so, I’m wanting to make the comparison to group work where we’re being seen throughout in a way that is just so unique. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Dr. Canales: So that’s an idea … I mean, we all live in society. And there are different sizes of groups, by the way. A small group is thought to go between zero and twenty participants. And a medium group goes from twenty to forty. And a large group is when you cannot see the faces of all that are connecting with you. And there are therapists who specialize in running groups with two-hundred people. The intention then, is less so to be intrapsychically curative, even though you feel raw emotions. It’s to actually mimic your relationship to society where you just get to hear these scattered voices and you feel primal feelings inside.
But in Somatic Experiencing and in those demonstrations, there is so much energy and intentionality from the audience so that it would go well for the trainer. Like, “you’re going to blow our minds with something that you’re going to do. I can’t wait to see it. And so I’m paying attention and wishing you well. I want to soak it up.” And then for the person who volunteers, which is always a courageous person, there’s the wish that “your life will go well, that we’re discovering something about you, typically something vulnerable. And boy, thank you for doing this.” And that spirit builds a certain platform of support, really.
And I think this is why people become faculty. Who doesn’t benefit from having people paying attention to them? “I want to learn from you!” Tremendous power in that – motivational power, approval, information, validation. And so, no matter what, if I were to turn around and look at my neighborhood and I see that I matter, man, I’d probably live different. But most of us just drive to our homes and we are unaware of that energy from our neighbors. And also, we don’t give it to our neighbors, whatever we are. We just work automatically.
So, the fact that somebody, for example, in any of my groups, which are mixed adult groups, different age brackets. But I’m actually playing with combining people in their thirties with people in their sixties. And I find that richer too. Before I wasn’t doing that, I was just putting people in their thirties generally together, people in their twenties. “Well, they haven’t had kids yet so what do they know about life? They probably shouldn’t hang around with the people in their forties.” But little did I know. It’s a way that our mind constructs categories. But it’s so helpful for a kid to hang around with their grandpa. It’s so helpful for both of them. They get to see a wider spectrum of life.
But anyways, I run these mixed adult groups. And when somebody misses a session – they were busy or they were on vacation or whatever – and to come back and say, “What did I miss?” And the people in the group are like, “Well, we’re not telling you. You weren’t here.” Or, “You missed something big, but we missed you.” Again, you feel that intentionality, as you were talking about, that “I matter to these people. I’m someone.” Often, they were negative. “Sometimes you remind me too much of my mother or remind me of my sister that I don’t get along with.” But that has power. People learn that it’s not just a negative transference, but that you matter in a way to this person. People learn that we’re always relating with our own template, our own psychology,
Ryan: Right. A sense that I actually impact other people. Whereas much of the time, before entering group, there can be a sense of not really mattering and just feeling very isolated.
Dr. Canales: Yeah. And sometimes I have control of that kind of impact and sometimes I don’t. My intention can be one thing and the impact can be another, because the other person holds me in that box.
Ryan: I was aware as you were talking about the unique feature of being able to do a demonstration in a training environment – and being in that group and the warmth and support that you feel – that that may not be the experience that group members actually have, especially in the early stages of groups. So, it takes a lot of work to build the group culture to a point where they’re actually experiencing one another as supportive in that way. And the container actually feels tight enough to let themselves be seen in those vulnerable places.
Dr. Canales: Yeah. I think any therapy that is not experienced it’s just theoretical. Any training or webinar or whatever, you have to have a taste for what’s happening. People who come to my webinars or whatever, they learn something theoretical. But the best part is the people who volunteer in the group, they have the experience, and the people who didn’t volunteer get jealous. Like, “they know each other more now.” That’s good. That’s really good. And so that’s one aspect. For example, that it happens in a demonstration – I’m sure that people who watched your work when you volunteered, they said, “Oh, I wish I had been brave enough to be part of that healing process with that healer.”
Ryan: I felt more popular in the hours that followed that demonstration than I ever had in my life.
Dr. Canales: Yeah. And so now you live with a new you. I don’t how many chances we have to be rock stars, but there you were.
Ryan: So, tell me, in the groups that you’ve run – I’m sure that you’ve done this in a lot of different ways. But I wonder, are you generally working with another facilitator or do you like to go at it alone?
Dr. Canales: That’s a really good question. When I was at UC Davis, the counseling center was a training center. So, we had interns and post-docs and so they would assign people. And since I was running five groups, I was generally assigned three co-leaders. Well, there is a clear imbalance in that. They are so impressed. “This is your group. I’m just coming in for a semester or a year. So I’m just temporary here. And I’m also being evaluated. So you’re the guy who’s teaching me something.” And so that creates a bit of an imbalance. And it also limits me because whatever I did, I’m trying to make sure you’re included, you feel free enough to speak your mind. We haven’t worked it out that our modalities of treatment match. We just have to force them to match. So I didn’t find those as rewarding.
And now that I’m in private practice, I’ve been pursued to become a supervisor for people who have temporary licenses or need hours before they’re licensed. And I’ve invited them to learn about groups. And I invited them to also become co-facilitators. And I found that the same dynamic was present, that I was their main supervisor. And so they’ve learned quite a bit, but I didn’t enjoy it as much. And so now, for the past two years or so, I’ve been looking for someone who wants to play with me. And I reached out to a couple of people and reached out to a lady in Texas that I respect so much, because she works so differently than me. And I said, “Hey, would you run a group with me because I would like to learn more about partnership? Because I’d have to adapt to what you’re doing.”
I’ve had opportunities to do trainings and workshops and conferences with another group therapist. But even though we teach together, we separate to run our demo groups. We haven’t done it together yet, but she’s agreed to do the next one together. Who cares if not everybody in the conference gets an experience in group? We’ll pursue what we want.
So far I have to tell you, I’ve done probably twenty groups with a supervisee. And, every time I found challenges with that. I think it might be much better that a supervisee does it with another supervisee that they co-lead. They might not know what they’re doing as much, and I can supervise that. But at least in the clinical moments, they’re on equal footing.
Ryan: Right. And the same for you: as you now go forward with this colleague from Texas, you’re on equal footing.
Dr. Canales: Equal footing. But I am minorly curious in my own development – like, with any kind of dance partner, who’s going to lead? I’m going to let you lead. Or I’m going to become rigid and I may go my own way. I’m now more interested because I feel familiar enough with running groups and the intimacies that are able to be lived there. And I really want to play with the complexity of having a co-facilitator. It’s just cool.
Ryan: Yes. And you named that you have somewhat different styles. And in my experience, that can be wonderful in the sense that you can complement one another. But sometimes it can also create confusion in a moment in group when you’re not quite sure where the other person is heading. And it’s very difficult to attune sometimes when your theoretical orientation or your approach to doing group work is different. And I remember, actually, when we spoke at the training back in 2018, one of the things I was asking for your feedback around was – well, I think maybe I was more complaining that I wasn’t getting enough opportunities after group to debrief with my co-therapist. And you said, “Oh, you’ve got to make room for that.” Because you don’t have the opportunity while group is actually running. To some extent, you can talk out loud with the other facilitator in front of the group members, but the real moments of starting to sync up more and more come through debriefing and building more of a shared understanding.
Dr. Canales: Yeah. And now I’m actually much more interested in those missed moments. I hope even that the group would notice. Because we can model how real relationships get stuck, and they’re frustrating. And so we don’t want to go too far with that, but it’s good to know difference. I think maturity is encountering difference and being able to respect and appreciate two takes. Not necessarily to have a winner or whatever, just that we come to life from different angles and different paths. Why wouldn’t we potentially have some friction, but also intimacy in that friction? Or just let something develop as a process. I’m really attracted to all of that. And I think the more important part in this modality is finding somebody who is as interested as you on that matter.
Ryan: Well said. It’s striking me as we’re talking about this that this is not just a clinical pursuit for you, but it seems like it’s embedded within a philosophy, almost, about how we live our lives and that you’re always holding that frame as you do your work with group members – what does this mean in the context of our lives?
Dr. Canales: Yeah. If we asked the average clinician, why did they become clinicians? They would probably say something like, “Well, I wanted to really help people.” Some version of that. “I care.” If we go a little deeper, we go, “I care because in my family-of-origin there were some things that were fairly neglected” or “I was in the role of caregiving growing up” or perhaps “one of my parents was in that role and I thought that was cool. That was the way to be.” Then if we go even farther, I think clinicians are very neglected people to a degree. They’re lonely. They’re hungry for emotional intimacy. And we get into the work and we’re able to provide that in abundance. And I think it satisfies about forty-five percent of our own need.
Ryan: Forty-five percent?
Dr. Canales: Yes, forty-five percent, to be accurate. I think for a lot of us think that’s pretty good. Most people walk around without these precious moments of closeness. I go, “how can I create that in my actual living?” And so I think another twenty percent happens when you do the work, and then you join an organization where that’s the spirit of the organization. And so then you go to these conferences and, oh my gosh, you’re with people like you. You belong more, and you gratify that more. And I think the ultimate step is to live it, to create that in your own life. And it’s not easy, because the quality of attention that you develop as a professional, it’s specific to that, and it’s more rare in everyday moments.
I’ve been trying to create a men’s group, for example, from people that I consider like me or better in my community. And I bump into enormous resistance. Like one guy said, “I don’t want to meet and talk. If I want to meet, we’re going to do some kind of activity. Let’s go hunting. Let’s go hiking. Let’s go fishing.” But relating, that’s too intimate. And I was like, “wow, but you’re one of those outliers who is super cool.” I was blown away by the various answers. Like somebody else was like, “This is probably going to be really good for me, but I don’t want to give it that kind of importance.”
So you find how we limit ourselves from living. And all those statements that they’ve said are resistances to intimacy that I also have. And as long as we know what we’re doing, “oh, I feel safer to not expose my insecurities, my awkwardness, my something. Or, as long as I have my kids to take care of, and work to attend to, or some other kind of urgency, that should be really the reason why we get together. Oh, it’s a holiday. Let’s do that. Versus a basic need to be trusting and trusted.
Ryan: Well, it strikes me that so much of this is the larger influence of our culture. And you being someone that identifies as bicultural, I imagine it allows you maybe to tap that perspective at least in a different way than maybe somebody that you meet who grew up in Iowa.
Dr. Canales: Yeah. I think this is another reason why I enter groups. I used to wake up, going to school – people in Peru, where I grew up, they just don’t move that much. So I would say of the eighty-some people that graduated in my high school class, I probably started first grade with eighty-two – so I would get out of my house and walk a block and bump into somebody where I agreed to meet somebody. And then we would walk a few more blocks and meet many more people. And by the time we were two or three blocks away from my school, I was in a pack of about thirty people. And it was like rotating in visitations, all the time. And people would know if somebody was sick or absent. We would know before getting to the actual class. And we may even know in the back of our minds as to why – did they get in trouble? Or whatever. Like we would know. We would hold each other in mind.
And so I think cultures that are less focused on individuality and where it favors – you know, we’d walk sixteen or eighteen blocks to get to school. So that was all helpful – but I live in Iowa. People going to school, you have to ride in your own car. And so the individuality, this idea that “I’m on my own” and “I’ll meet you there,” I think it orients me to those two different experiences. And also just my own value is that my friends, suppose, from Somatic Experiencing will meet my friends from group therapy. And that’s my idea of heaven, that all my friends would be, finally, in one place. To a degree, unbeknownst to you, you’re facilitating that.
Ryan: You were posing the question before, or at least proposing some ideas as to why some people become therapists, some people choose to go in this direction. What was it for you, would you say? You talked a little bit about what motivated your involvement in group, but how about the profession in general?
Dr. Canales: I think deep down, my parents were lovely people, but they weren’t very psychologically-minded. We grew up in a third world country and at the time I was born, there was a guerilla war, a communist movement that wanted to get started. So I grew up in a war environment, a red zone. And so survival was very important for my parents. So much so that they actually left the state where the rest of the family was. They escaped and they went to a different state and we started living. And so they weren’t that psychologically-minded.
And I would now call it curiosity. At the time, I would just call it some anxiety, but I’d be wrestling with, “why do I feel this way?” And I think my parents couldn’t answer such questions or they would try to simplify it. And then I had the fortune and also misfortune of coming to the States at sixteen, by myself, without knowing English. And it’s a very fortunate thing because not very many – for the next ten or fifteen years, only two or three people from my high school left the country, their own country. So, I felt so lucky to be able to see something different. And yet to be removed mid- to later adolescence where your buddies, where your cohort is the most important thing, it’s traumatic. By fifteen or sixteen, you have a predictability of the world and it got flipped.
And I came to Iowa, actually, a very rural place, which was a good thing, because I think if I would’ve gone to a big city, I would’ve gotten lost. And so this helped me learn English. There weren’t many Latinos. But in having a better understanding of why people suffer, why does separation naturally lead to pain, or why does disconnection leads to pain? I wanted to resolve that. What are sources of suffering that we can count on? And I’ve never been able to match what I felt in Peru. The kind of security that mountains – I grew up in the Andes – that mountains provide for me, like ecologically. Talk about your nervous system resting.
Or a kind of social company. When I went to my first Latino conference in San Antonio – I was presenting on group therapy, actually, the treatment of shame – and I’m in my hotel on the escalator, and I hear Spanish. And I go like, “something is not right!” This is my professional self. I had never been in a conference where the great majority were Latinos. We’re usually less than one percent in any conference. I could’ve started crying going down that elevator. There were probably like two-hundred people or Latino therapists nationally. And it was like a majority of black hair. And again, I was like, “oh no, my worlds are colliding!” And so it was, it was a personally very moving thing, within that conference and presenting there. It really shocked my system.
So I think this idea of belonging, of having a group or being supported by your environment has become a very, very important theme in my life as a participant wanting to support those minorities. I do a training called the pain of minorities, which is basically this idea of being disconnected, from being oppressed, from the majority. And so I think I was motivated by multiple reasons. But I think my own suffering and lack of company, psychologically, and my own development crossing cultures.
Ryan: There’s a uniqueness to that kind of isolation.
Dr. Canales: Yeah. So I still work at it. Because you have to live with who you are in the environment, where you are. And so in California, I think I suffered a bit less because it was thirty percent Latinos and so many more people like me. Between three percent and four percent were documented folks and maybe two more percent were undocumented folks. So quite a change.
Ryan: Coming back to the group therapy context itself, what has been most challenging for you? You’re talking a lot about your inspirations and the ways that it feeds you. And I wonder what’s been hard about it?
Dr. Canales: Well, I think anybody who wants to run a group in their private practice suffers from not being chosen. “Here, I have something good to offer you guys. Let’s get together in a group and talk about it.” And nobody signs up. And what’s more, therapists are trained to be protective or guardians of their clients: “nobody can treat this person as good as I can. I got this. This is my client.” And so they also feel as though if they share a client with a group therapist, “that might be in the best interest of the client, but what if I lose my client? What if I lose my income? What if they like group or they talk about me?” So I think that the attachment style of other therapists can also get in the way – the fears. And so you have to learn to develop trust and trust with those who have referred to you. It’s been a chronic pain.
I think you have to learn to sell yourself and to sell what you do and to have people experience it. And then once you get to a certain standard and other people start referring to you, you have to live it for a bit. You establish yourself. I would say with individual therapy, I got to a place where I felt comfortable with what I was doing. And with group, even now after twenty years, there are times in which I’m like, “what just happened? How could this have happened?” One of the things that would never happen in an individual with therapy is this experience of being scapegoated, where suppose the group doesn’t want to feel a particular something. And there is a quiet member and what if we put it on him or her, and then suddenly there is so much heat on one person and the group rejects this person.
Ryan: Sometimes that person is the leader!
Dr. Canales: Yeah, that’s right! And so it’s learning the infinite possibilities of growth, the complexity of group, the richness of group. It’s something to really appreciate and honor and respect. And so I like that, but it’s also a major challenge. I never really feel fully secure. I never know what’s going to happen. It’s not in my hands.
I added a group member to one of my groups recently and he identified himself as a pastor. “Hi, my name is so-and-so and I’m a pastor.” And three people immediately said, “I don’t trust you. I want you to leave. This is my group. And you’re going to judge me. I know it.” There was very little he could do. He just stayed quiet and fairly shut down. It’s the first session and this kind of reaction, I couldn’t have predicted it. So part of what I like about group is how experiential and spontaneous it is and that people feel safe enough … because I think it’d be much harder to say this in society even though they think it.
Ryan: Right. They’re thrilled just to have a laboratory where they can say some things that normally they wouldn’t be able to. Much of the time those dynamics too are not being made explicit. So the feelings are there, but group members aren’t talking about that with each other. That’s part of our job, of course. But I noticed a lot in the four years that I ran groups, that there was a way in which the facilitator and I noticed – Yalom would call it subgrouping – where there were these alliances that would form. And it wasn’t always easy to catch. Sometimes we would notice it maybe a month or two after it had formed and developed and we’d have to clean up the mess later on.
Dr. Canales: Yeah, people subgroup all the time. They meet outside. They talk on the elevator. They go out for coffee and there’s a subgroup inside of group and outside of group. We’re always subgrouping and liking and not liking, going up and down that way.
You asked about who my influences have been: Yalom, of course, was a massive presence. I read all of his books with the exception of Inpatient Group Psychotherapy during grad school. I would read him to go to sleep. I felt really cared for by him. Exquisite writer. And I got to work for him at the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference. So I got to meet him. So I think that’s the highlight of who’s influenced me. Some people I read like Louis Ormont, for example. Tremendous. But I’ve never met him. He died before.
But then I’ve developed relationships with people in the [American Group Psychotherapy] Association that have national and international presence. And what I like about that Association is that you really can develop personal relationships, work on committees or whatever. And those relationships, you get to visit with them the more. So, Haim Weinberg and Martha Gilmore, for example, they’re Sacramento therapists. And Haim has written six, seven books, etc. So, in my relationship with him, we were both part of the board of the Northern California Group Psychotherapy Society. So, we would drive two hours to the board meeting in San Francisco and two hours back over the course of three years. So I got to know Heim intimately. I attended his sixtieth birthday. So suddenly I’m part of this – that is just beyond me.
Yalom came with his bible of group therapy and, simultaneously, there is the Psychodynamic Group Psychotherapy – Scott Rutan, Walter Stone, and now Joseph Shea, he teaches at Harvard. And I have relationships with these three men that – especially Walter – what an opportunity to not only meet the author, but hang out with the author, be part of their groups. If they’re doing a workshop, I would volunteer to be in their demos. So I tasted their cuisine. And so that’s been phenomenal. I would name Richard Billow who has written wonderful books, different ways of doing groups than Yalom. These are all people that do it differently.
Walter Stone is a self-psychologist, for example. Scott Rutan is more in attachment and object-relations. Richard Billow is probably more Kleinian in his approach. And he wrote a wonderful book called Resistance, Rebellion, Refusal: The Three Rs of the Work. Fabulous. And I’ll make it public – I’m actually in his training group. So for two years I’ve been experiencing it personally. Because I will never work like him, actually. I work how I work and he works differently, and he helps me see my blind spots and my lack of freedom in many areas. And so he’s been a major influence. Stewart Aledort – major influence. So I think over the years I picked up on so many giants. Jerry Gans – wonderful books on shame.
Ryan: At this stage, I imagine your approach is very integrative, given how much exposure you’ve had to so many different kinds of therapists. You’re not just feeding on one in particular.
Dr. Canales: Yeah. I think I hold a paradox. I wish I was integrated, but I think I’m more Carlos. What’s left is me. Because I think everyone has contributed something, but I had to do something with that something. And I think perhaps seven, eight years ago, I was still, “Who am I? Who am I?” Now I’ve decided that I want to be me. And sometimes I do trainings and I invite people to come to my trainings. Like I invited Joann Polly from Chicago to observe the training that I did today and the demo that I did today. So that she can tell me: who am I? Because I’m doing my thing and I don’t just fit into any box like so.
And I’m actually developing my own thought. The American Group Psychotherapy Association, in their annual conference, there’s these two days where national leaders expose their work. And it’s an achievement to lead a group nationally. Because they could give you between ten to twenty individuals that you’ll carry for two days to prove your theory. So it’s a bad-ass thing to do. So I’m heading there. And so I’m an attachment therapist. I’m a Somatic Experiencing therapist. But those are safe things. Attachment theory is well-established. Somatic Experiencing is well-established.
Ryan: It’s different to have your own thing and be putting it out there in front of –
Dr. Canales: That’s, right. So who do I want to develop into? Well, in my life every three to five years, I wake up to something that I didn’t know before. That’s the kind of group I want to run in those Institutes. I’m going to have to come up with a better name than Wake Up Therapy, but it’s like, how can we facilitate – because when you sleep, you’re not in control of when you wake up – but how can we facilitate that kind of like …ah, me? I’m interested in that right now.
Ryan: Well, we’re crossing over to 2:30 and I really want to be respectful of your time. I want to say just how much I appreciate your heartfulness and your competence and your willingness to talk today.
Dr. Canales: Well, it’s really good to connect with you. Whatever enterprise you’re doing, both with podcasts, with your clinical practice, with Somatic Experiencing, with group work, just look at the richness of our profession. We’re so lucky. So more power to us and let’s stay in touch.