Adrian Holmes

Adrian Holmes is a professional counsellor who has worked in practice with Jane for a number of years. In addition to therapeutic work with individuals and families, he also runs professional development training for practitioners in the human services sector and this is where the inspiration for this book has come from. Adrian has a Masters degrees in counselling and, like Jane, believes that the most effective catalyst to change is through conversations. This has led Adrian to his role as the Managing Director of a child and family counselling service in Brisbane called SKATTLE (Supporting Kids & Teens Through Life-changing Experiences). When not counselling, writing and training, Adrian loves running along the water near his Brisbane bayside home, especially with his two small children in the running pram.


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Have you ever found yourself stuck for words when people come to you with their problems?

Have you ever found yourself avoiding conversations because they just feel too big?

Have you ever thought ‘if only I had that conversation ages ago, this problem wouldn’t be so bad’?

Have you ever thought about leaving your job to work in a coffee shop because life would be ‘so much easier’?

Thanks for picking up this first edition of Tools for Hard Conversations. The intention of this book is simple—to offer practical tools that can assist you to be an effective and confident facilitator of change, whether you work as a counsellor, teacher, community leader, or any of the many and varied roles that sit within the Human Services sector.

Throughout our years of working with people struggling with problems, we have identified the skills and knowledge people have used to stand strong through this struggle. We have identified and road tested the best tools available to support people to achieve positive change in their lives; to emerge stronger on the other side of whatever problems affect them. We do this from a perspective that does not rely on a medical approach of assessment, labeling and treatment, but sees a person as whole; in the context of their environment; as experts in their own lives.

Sadly, we have found ours to be a unique model of practice. In the current problem-focused culture, credit is given predominantly to therapeutic models that reduce people’s lives to mental illness diagnoses, and place any possibility for hope and change in the hands of ‘experts’.


More sadly still, the primary source of these diagnoses, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM), continues to dominate in what academic critic Karl Tomm, back in 1990, described as an “orientation towards inadequacies, rather than an orientation towards solutions”.

This dominance continues so strongly in the Western world that post-structuralist therapists like ourselves expect Tomm’s prediction of a new diagnosis—“DSM syndrome—a spiritual psychosis characterized by a compulsive desire to objectify persons and to label them according to predetermined psychiatric categories”—to feature in a future addition of the DSM!

What was originally a playful prediction aimed at highlighting the over-reliance on mental health diagnosis, is unfortunately looking more and more like an accurate representation of the current mental health service climate.

We believe that users of the DSM and human service workers, heavily influenced by the medical-model, are simply looking for tangible tools to guide practice, and can’t find anything better. Over years of training and talking with people in the human service field, we know that the vast majority of workers want to be facilitating positive outcomes with the people they see, but often lack the equipment to do so outside those of the traditional medical-model. In this spirit, we have developed a suite of effective tools to assist workers to enable change without diminishing people’s lives with a label or rigid treatment model. We have refined and road tested these tools with the express intention of positioning people as the primary expert in their own life.

Our goal is to have them walk away stronger from each therapeutic conversation. In this book we will go through, in detail, a conversational map enabling this goal. We will break the map down to show how each part works with the use of case examples and real life stories. We really hope you enjoy the journey as much as we have enjoyed putting these ideas together. Happy reading!

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