Getting Back to Normal: Bill O’Hanlon

“Getting Back to Normal: The Great Depression Recovery Toolkit” is a 4-part series, aimed at helping the millions of Americans who have been laid-off and are struggling to keep their heads above water both financially and emotionally.  The goal of this toolkit is to help you get back to normal quickly as possible.

Part 1:  Mental

Build a Healthy Mindset and the Confidence You Need

About the conversation…

Read an excerpt from our conversation below, then be sure to listen to the full “Getting Back to Normal” Bill O’Hanlon Interview to build a healthy mindset and regain the confidence you need for success.


Robert:  Looking at the future can be very, very difficult for a lot of people when they’re unemployed and in a ditch. And so, let’s say I was your client, and I come to you, and I’ve been laid off (maybe it’s been a year and half), and I’ve tried everything, and I tell you, “Bill, you know what? I’ve tried everything. I’m at the end. I’m pretty hopeless. I don’t think that my future is going to be better than my past. And I’m really, really depressed about that insight, that what I once had was great, and I just don’t see myself having this better future. How can you help me Bill?”

Bill:  Well, you know, you and I have this shared interest in an approach to therapy called solution-oriented therapy, and it’s approach focuses on people’s strengths and abilities, but it also has a future orientation (as we were talking earlier), and one of the simple things I would do is say, “Let’s imagine you’ve got a job. I know it seems unrealistic now and it may never happen, but let’s imagine you’ve got a job. What else would change in your life?” And they’d say, “Well, I’d probably be feeling happier. I’d be looking people in the eyes. I’d be going out and exercising and running again, because I’ve been too depressed to run.” And they’d give me a list of all the things that would happen once they got a job. You know, and not just financial things but emotional things and relational things (that’s mostly where we’re focusing on). I’d say, “Is there any part of that you can start to do voluntarily right away?” So, just getting them out of that rut of right now of not having a job, plus away from all the emotional, psychological, relational things that aren’t going well that are part of being discouraged about not having a job. We want to get you, keep you in that mode so you’re not dipping so deeply into that rut of depression or discouragement that you don’t take care of yourself in other ways. What would you be doing if you had a job? Well, I’d be getting dressed every day. I’d be getting out of bed by eight o’clock in the morning, or seven o’clock in the morning, or whatever, I’d get out of bed. I just want to bring some of that positive future into the present in a realistic way, not in again a psychotically optimistic way.

Robert:  That is a fantastic exercise. And so, if someone’s not working with you (which I wish everyone could), but if they don’t have that luxury, how can they do this by themselves? What techniques can they use?

Bill:  You know, number one, do some of the things we talked about. One of the things that solution-oriented therapy focuses on is looking at your strengths. What are you good at? Some people are artistically creative, some people have great ability to connect with other people. Go with your strengths, as there’s been some research on that. The more you recognize and use your strengths, the better. So, you can do a little on your own, or you can use your friends, again, your social connections to help you get a perspective, or get moving, or get out of your rut, or feel a little better, or feel a little more hope. But if you get so discouraged, it’s a good idea to go get some professional help. You know, there are clinics that will do it for reduced fees or sliding scales. There are some clinics that are associated with universities that sometimes do it for $5 or $10 per sessions. You can go to self-help groups. You can go to, you know, job support groups. Get yourself out of that rut. Go get some professional help, or some self-help, and read a book. Go to the library, and get out some books, and start to fill your mind with things like Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, which is a little different. And, you know, the reason research is called Brain Plasticity. That is, you can change your brain at any time, that’s the good news. The bad news is, if you get into the groove of thinking in a certain way, behaving in a certain way, and interacting in a certain way, it’s easy to stay stuck in that groove. It takes a little effort to jump out of the groove and shift your gears to get into a more positive frame of mind or more forward moving kind of actions.