"And Yet?"

Many years ago I wrote a short article titled  "The Best One-Word Question in Psychotherapy".  In that article I described the responses my Atlanta counseling clients give when I simply pose one question to them: "...and?"  At the time I called it "the most elegant question possible" for opening up new lines of discussion that are often otherwise overlooked.  My goal today is to share a few more of my thoughts about using variations of the simple word "...and" to promote useful conversation in therapy.

As I've previously written, another way I use the word "and" is to repeatedly ask ".....and then what?"  I find that continuing to ask this question helps a person to really think through outcomes and consequenes.  As I wrote in that posting, this line of exploration can be especially useful in relapse prevention.

It's generally not helpful to respond with "but..." immediately after someone makes a statement you disagree with.  When Atlanta couples to come me for counseling I make sure they don't fall into a "battle of the buts" by encouraging them to replace the word "but" with "and" whenever possible.   No matter how strongly you disagree with someone, you can almost always make a supportive or empathetic comment to maintain a sense of connection and to help the discussion lead to something positive even if you don't fully agree with each other.  (I write more about the value of using supportive and empathetic language in my article "Get SET for Effective Communication".)

The related phrase I want to share today is that sometimes I find it useful to introduce the phrase "...and yet?"  to help clients uncover mixed feelings and consider all sides of an issue.  I find it to be a gentle way to explore ambivalence that accompanies major life choices.  (The idea that a single action can have outcomes that we may consider either positive or negative is the heart of the famous story about the poor farmer and the lost horse.)

Sometimes I will alternate between asking "...and?" along with "...and yet?"  to explore whatever conversation emerges.  Rocking gently back and forth between these two simple questions can lead to lots of possible conversations about the relative merits of any position, decision or course of action.

Skillful and sometimes even playful use of these and other variations of simple words such as "and" can deepen the quality of discussion in a therapeutic setting where even a slight shift in perspective can have lasting positive benefits.  If you are looking to better understand and enjoy your behavors, feelings, motivations, insight and motivation then I hope you will contact me to schedule an appointment or find some other source of assistance to help you toward a brighter future.


Bill Herring LCSW, CSAT is an Atlanta counselor and psychotherapist.  He specializes in helping people heal from the ravages of chronically problematic sexual behavior patterns such as repeated infidelity, inappropriate use of pornography, risky sexual behavior and sex or porn addiction.