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David Diana
Aug 17, 2010

Chasing Cars on Horseback

“If I’d have asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!’ ” -Henry Ford

In the 1920’s and 30’s, the standard form of treatment was psychoanalytic in nature, consisting of four to five sessions per week for years at a time. Psychological problems were seen as the result of intrapsychic conflicts and unconscious motivations with an unwavering emphasis on the past.

Let’s think about this for a moment.

What insights would people have been able to provide in 1930 if you asked what they wanted from your services? What would you and I be able to brainstorm and offer our community if we were practicing?

My guess is we would not be entertaining thoughts of family therapy, ADHD treatment, or short-term cognitive therapy. Online Psychotherapy? The mere mention of it would be unintelligible and viewed as completely absurd. Yet all these have come to pass and are in various stages of growth.

It’s difficult to see beyond the surface. We look to grow our practice and expand our careers, but we may only be able to see a few feet in front. We only see the “faster horse”. The context of our lives provides a backdrop that rewards the obvious.

Public opinion is an even trickier and more dangerous factor to consider. It makes perfect sense to seek out those we respect most, and it is considered wise to listen to what the community is saying they want and need. But do they really know? Consider the lesson offered by Henry Ford. Progress and innovation rarely come from a place of knowing. At some point we must look beyond the feedback, opinions and daunting criticisms.

Avoid the temptation to accept things at face value. Use the advice and input you receive as inspiration to change, but don’t let it define your direction. In the end, you must look inward and do the work you believe is worth doing.

If you choose not to, your “possibilities” will only reach out to the realm of what already exists. And as others begin to stretch the boundaries, linear progressions will be broken. A sudden “leap” in progress and innovation will occur.

That’s when you’ll find yourself chasing cars on horseback.

David P. Diana is a counselor, author, and a director for a behavioral healthcare organization. He writes a weekly blog on sales and marketing for counselors and provides seminars and trainings(

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