'I am not here to be the Mr. Fix-it.'

Times staff writer

After Roy Ford decided in high school civics class in 1929 that he wanted to help people in trouble, he went to divinity school at Yale and became a Methodist minister. Forty-one years later, he left annoying administrative work behind and entered a profession that didn't exist in his boyhood. The 76-year-old Vistan is now a licensed marriage and family therapist who doesn't miss the pulpit--he is filling a 30-hour work week allowed under Social Security rules with clients and training to update his expertise in new techniques. He bypassed the grief experienced by many of his clients after retirement, but he can directly identify with many family problems--he raised six children in two marriages. He was interviewed by Times staff writer Nancy Reed and photographed by staff photographer Don Bartletti.

Here was a client who was having trouble making some decisions about his professional career, so among the other things that I did in the hypnotherapy process, I told a story about a trip I had taken. I didn't put it as if it was mine; I said I knew a man who did.

We use metaphors a lot in hypnotherapy--it relaxes a person so they can get in touch with a part of themselves by virtue of a tale or a story you tell when they are under a trance.

We were on a hiking trip in the Sierra, and we were going along this stream that was a very small trickle. At the beginning we had the impression that we had to get across this stream somewhere down the line. The farther we went, the heavier this stream got, the more and more turbulent, and more rocks the more difficulties. This person is anxious about how is he going to cross the stream.

When this guy got down to where it seemed utterly impossible to get across the stream, there was a beautiful bridge.

A lot of stories come from personal experience. You have to be careful because you never know what they (the clients) are going to do with it.

I went through a marital break myself as a minister, which was, if you will pardon the expression, a helluva experience. This is 30 some years ago, at a time when ministers didn't do that. I feel as if part of my contribution to people is their seeing what I am and how I have managed to make decisions and choose values.

That doesn't mean that everything I deal with comes out in storybook fashion. It just means that we looked at something square in the face and then decided one way or another.

One basic assumption I have is that whoever comes in here has the resources within themselves to remedy whatever the problem is. They start out with a sense of dependency and tell me what I have to do. We move away from that very fast.

I do not intend to do more than 50% of the work. I am not here to be the Mr. Fix-it.

I often help them move back to a time in the past where something important has happened. And sometimes we use strategies to confuse the conscious mind to let the unconscious mind do its job.

The unconscious mind knows more about us than the conscious mind will ever know.

The picture of the married couple in my office began with a girl who came in. She had grown up in a family that was very stressful and her father had left when she was 5 years old. She was sitting on the curb when he drove away, and this was an impression she had carried with her into her 20s.

She was very much in love with a guy who couldn't seem to make up his mind that he wanted to be married. So over a period of months, we worked with her strictly in terms of building her self-esteem, and formed ways to help her cope with her feelings apart from him.

Finally there was a breakthrough for both of them. I shared in the officiating at their wedding.

I don't seem to take client problems home with me; I don't lose any sleep. I do spend time when I am working in the yard, however, working through therapy strategies, and metaphors.

It's exciting. I enjoy my work. That's where my health is, I am sure of it.

Retired people sometimes just stay home and do nothing. This to me is a workshop.

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