In 2006, Phil Stutz was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Now when the tremors begin, the 65-year-old Los Angeles-based psychiatrist reaches for the Tools.
It has helped him adapt to the reality of living with the neurodegenerative disease. “When I’m nervous, that’s when I tremor the most. So using the Tools gives me something to do.” He reminds himself that the diagnosis is not bad luck. “That keeps me out of the victim mode.”
The Tools, once only divulged to the Hollywood movers and shakers who paid for therapy, are about to be published on May 29 in a self-help book that has already been sold in 34 countries. Stutz and psychotherapist Barry Michels, 58, who created the Tools and wrote the book, are holding a series of workshops in New York, hoping the evangelic reception their brand of therapy has received on the West Coast will spread east.
Part of the appeal is their celebrity clientele, which includes more than a dozen Academy Award winners, not to mention writers, entertainment lawyers, agents and directors. They treat creative, high-powered people, but they are very protective and won’t dish names. They say they are “wildly unimpressed” by the star power of their clients.
They often see an influx of patients before Hollywood events like the Academy Awards. Their advice to celebrities is to be realistic. “I try to nullify the event,” says Stutz. “I want them going into the event knowing that even if they win, their life isn’t going to change. One, because they are usually going to lose. Two, if they win, that’s when the real danger comes in, because they think their life is going to change and nothing will.”
The main point is celebrities are no different from the rest of us. “You don’t know how many times I’ve received phone calls after a review for a movie comes out. They’ll get 14 reviews and if one is bad they’ll call me crying,” says Stutz. There are three “laws” that apply to everyone: uncertainty, pain and a need for endless work. “We’re credible when it comes to this,” he adds.
And they are also fully booked, seemingly forever.
“I know, not from them but from others, that they have turned down people you would never imagine,” says their editor, Julie Grau, senior vice-president and publisher of the Random House imprint Spiegel & Grau. “Let’s just say these people are not used to hearing the word, ‘No.’ ”
The Tools addresses the most common patient complaint, which is that change takes too long. People want to know how to solve problems, adds Michels. “There’s a kind of impatience with analyses. People are desperate for solutions.”
The therapy, designed to provide immediate relief from psychic pain, is based on five principles: the Reversal of Desire, which advises you to face pain straight on; Active Love, which suggests using your anger to move forward instead of rehashing it; Inner Authority, the tool you need to embrace your insecurities; Grateful Flow, to deal with anxiety and worry; and Jeopardy, the tool that ensures you’ll use the other four. Unlike The Secret—the 2006 bestselling self-help book with more than 20 million copies in print—The Tools is more active than passive. Instead of sitting down and putting out good thoughts in hopes the universe will return them, embracers of the Tools use them day and night. It’s not just an attitude adjustment, say the authors. Real change requires you to change your behaviour. “People tend to feel victimized. But the Tools are a bigger part of our philosophy on life,” they write. Patients are told to imagine the worst and feel the disappointment, so if it does happen, it won’t hurt so much.
Therapy, says Michels, is unlike any other kind of medicine. “This isn’t like taking an antibiotic and then never going back to the doctor. In therapy the more you give them, the more they want. Their souls are hungry for this.”
The book is timely, in part because of the economy. “People want quicker results and want to spend less time and money,” says Stutz. “More than anything they want a sense of hope.”