The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist
APR 2005, Sec. II
Adding two more "jumpstarting" concepts, the Stress Doc illustrates a dynamic
exercise along with "D & D" strategies and methods for energizing and exciting
program participants. This motivational methodology may just transform the
entire learning context into a synergistic experience: individual parts begin
evolving into a dynamic and cohesive community.
Jumpstarting and Energizing Your Presentation and Your Audience: Part II
Part I of "Jumpstarting and Energizing Your Presentation and Your Audience"
(Stress Doc Newsletter, MAR05) illustrated the first four of ten strategic
concepts, tools and techniques for energizing and exciting the
performance-learning experience. These were:
1. Quickly Capture People's Attention
2. Change the Temperature of Your Warm-up Exercise
3. Create Some Uncertainty, If Not Anxiety
4. Deliver Key Concepts and Applied Tools in Compact Learning Bites
Part II illustrates my signature exercise, an exercise that transforms
individuals into a team and, ultimately, teams into a sharing and learning
community. Here are the next two tools and techniques, beginning with an
overview of my acclaimed interactive exercise:
5. A Multifaceted Crown Jewel-Team Building Exercise
For me, a crown jewel exercise has several critical characteristics:
a) it is based on real workplace issues, e.g. sources of workplace stress,
barriers to team building, challenges to providing good customer service, etc.,
yet it feels safe to share,
b) is high task and high touch, i.e., allows for goal-oriented problem solving
and safe emotional sharing
c) builds in a variety of experiential and expressive learning modalities that
stimulate e.g., analytic and metaphoric cognitive processing, verbal and visual
expression, and serious thought as well as hearty laughter,
d) allows for a division of labor, that is, different personalities and skill
levels can find ways to contribute; encourages both individual initiative and
e) appreciates how diversity of group composition and input often facilitates
greater understanding of other colleagues' world view; values the contribution
of multi-organizational and multicultural viewpoints to a broader or "big
picture" perspective and more creative problem-solving, and
f) is FUN!
And though this exercise is moderately risk-taking, as detailed in Part I of
this series, previous didactic and experiential sharing and learning have forged
participant readiness to engage with the "crown jewel." This foundation of
readiness is based on two key pillars:
a) the groups have already successfully negotiated a warm-up exercise that
involves a lower level of risk-taking and intimate yet safe sharing and
b) immediately preceding the exercise, people should be in a somewhat
uncomfortable or slightly anxious state. My provocative stimulus is taking the
audience through "The Four Stages of Burnout" in enough detail that people are
starting to think, "Oh, oh…he's talking about me." (In fact, with regularity,
during a break or after a program, in response to "the Erosive Spiral" people
come up and accuse me of "lookin' in their window." Again, participants now
have a heightened motivation to throw themselves into the exercise for tension
relief and for a greater sense of control. Little do they realize that they
will be experiencing and gaining a lot more.
The "D & D" Crown Jewel
My signature interactive experience is a Discussion & Drawing Exercise. Key
structural and operational aspects of this D & D Exercise are:
1) Group Composition. The audience is divided into groups of four-six
participants. Especially when working with the "in-house" staff of an
organization, groups are comprised of participants high in diversity: people
from different departments or divisions, demographic diversity, varying levels
of experience and seniority, mixing management and employees, etc.
2) Group Task. The groups are given up to ten minutes to discuss "the
causes or contributing factors to stress and conflict in everyday operations."
A volunteer recorder lists key decision items. The second stage of the exercise
involves challenging the participants to come up with a group picture that pulls
together the various stress perspectives. The goal is to produce a unified
theme - a stress logos, a storyboard, a Dilbert-like cartoon within ten
minutes. An integrated example is provided, e.g., people are in a boat that has
sprung a leak and is listing. While trying to navigate uncharted seas, the
sharks are circling the craft. Safe harbor is way off in the distance, if not
off the drawing paper. (Each group has large flipchart paper and a set of
broad-tipped colored markers.) Military and civilian personnel of the US Navy
produced the seafaring image. These folks were understandably worried about the
possibility of a base downsizing.
3) Cognitive-Emotional Impact. Both stress relief and some increase of
tension is achieved through the initial group sharing. Groups capture the
breadth, if not the depth, of the workplace stressors. At the same time, group
members discover that they are not alone. In fact, misery doesn't just love
company"…Research shows it loves "miserable company!"
And the drawing segment especially allows for catharsis and creativity. By
drawing out anxiety and frustration through vivid, exaggerated and absurd
imagery, the serious and scary is turned into the humorous and the ridiculous.
People can step back and, at least momentarily, place things in both a more
universal and less daunting perspective. At least, and not insignificantly
people feel "we are all in the same boat." And often there's the fun of
drawing a task master authority or outrageously unreasonable customer with
"devils horns and tail brandishing a whip." Not surprisingly the room is filled
with bursts of energy and paroxysms of laughter.
While psychiatrist Ernst Kris noted that, "What was once feared and is now
mastered is laughed at," I believe my inversion is more salient to understanding
the impact of the group drawing: "What was once feared and is now laughed at is
no longer a master!"
6. Transition from Small Group Consciousness to Sense of Community
Now I lead the group in a series of activities that transform the self-contained
teams and the amorphous collective. Individuals and groups interact with the
audience as a whole in a variety of ways:
1) Show and Tell. Depending on audience on size and time available:
a) each team will hold up and describe their designs; this works well with
audiences of less than one hundred or
b )the ballroom or auditorium is turned into an art gallery and participants
walk around examining the various group pictures. Actually, I often have
smaller groups do the walk-around for the change of pace movement and informal
participant interaction. Again, the energy and enthusiasm levels are palpable.
If time permits, a handful of groups will describe their pictures. This is very
valuable as the group presenters share "inside information" from a perspective
and in a professional language and jargon that truly speaks to fellow
attendees. The audience often erupts in knowing laughter.
2) Post-Exercise Analysis. This phase begins with the questions: "Was
this exercise useful? Was it enjoyable? And if so, why?" Invariably the
audience captures most if not all of my opening characteristics for a "Crown
Jewel Exercise." The most frequent comment is: "I'm not alone or "We're all in
this together." A close second is: "We worked as a team." Participants nod in
agreement when I speculate that, "No one person had all the answers." When
someone threw out an idea or image, people could build upon it. There was room
for contribution in different areas - some tossed ideas; some tossed or drew out
verbal images. And whoever was willing could do the actual drawing. (While I
encourage everyone to pick up a colored marker, at the thought of drawing some
adults metamorphose into Munch's popular image "The Scream.")
I usually comment on the surprising energy and laughter as people grappled with
real and often upsetting issues of stress and conflict. Why should this be? A
key observation: being able to safely express frustration in an out-"rage"-ous
manner contributes to the comedic catharsis. However, the activity is not
simply entertaining. In a relatively short period of time, the group has: a)
shared task-relevant ideas and related emotions, b) overcome confusion or
hesitancy about transforming ideas into images, c) completed a meaningful and
challenging task, thereby generating stress-relieving and satisfying successful
closure, and d) enjoyed both viewing others' creations and having their work
recognized by the entire audience.
And another critical point: in this high pressured, "do more with less" age,
management shows real wisdom when it allows employees to blow off some steam.
Management is saying: "I want to hear (and see) what you really are thinking
and feeling." The actual result is less trashing and more trust-building."
3) From Diversity to Harmony. The value of forming diverse groups is
quite transparent. First, the groups reflect the actual diversity in the
organization. While some folks are made to move outside their comfort zone, the
upside is that interpersonal cliques or departmental silos are temporarily
disbanded. Through discussion and drawing people literally see a more varied
and bigger picture; group members are not alone and their plight is usually not
unique. And most important, they can share meaningful concerns and ideas and
can work productively and playfully with these now relatively "intimate
Perhaps we've come up with a new survival slogan: Personally, we all know the
value of "R & R" – "Rest and Recreation" – in dealing with stress. For teams,
departments, divisions and, even, entire organizations, perhaps D & D is an
analogous therapeutic: A Stress Doc "Discussion & Drawing" Exercise generates
"healing and harmonizing" laughter and energy within the various diverse teams
and throughout the collective audience. In fact, the entire "half hour" process
has two overriding yet unspoken goals: fostering the transition from aggression
to cohesion and evolving from a small group consciousness to a sense of "we're
all in this together" community.
And once actual problems are identified in a "safe to share" climate,
organizational teams are in a position to generate real and robust
problem-solving strategies. And Part III will identify exercises to generate
such strategies. This section will provide additional energizing principles.
And finally, this concluding segment will list tools and techniques for closing
your program with playful and philosophical fireworks. Until then, of course…Practice
Successful Programs [References on Request]
1) CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2005 Conference.
Two 90 minute Managing Anger and Dealing with Difficult People (or When Going
Postal or Doing a Soprano Is Not an Option) for 350 and 250 attendees
2) VA Medical Center, Northport, Long Island. 90 minute Stress and Team
Building Presentation for 40 staffl social workers in honor of Social work
3) RESOLVE Conference. Practice Safe Stress Keynote for attendees going
through infertility treatment and/or the adoption process.
4) Society for Professional Journalists Regional Conference. Practice Safe
5) Hospice Network of Maryland. Keynote for allied health professionals.
Here’s a testimonial received on 4/14.
My Home Health Aides attended the inservice for The Hospice Network at Witzke's
Funeral Home in Columbia, MD on 4/13/05. They thoroughly enjoyed your segment.
They would like for me to bring you to our organization. Can I get some
information about the types of inservices you offer and your rates.
Terri Taylor, RN
St. Agnes Home Care
Consultation-Counseling-Coaching Service from the Stress Doc ™
Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, the "Stress Doc," is an uncommon psychotherapist-coach
with nearly 30 years experience. Why the distinct perspective? In addition to
being an acclaimed Keynote Speaker and Workshop Leader, Mark is also an
Executive/Management Consultant, Organizational Development/Team Building
Expert, and Critical Incident Specialist (with 25 years experience as a
consultant and coach, including a stint as a Stress & Violence Prevention
Consultant for the US Postal Service).
Much information can also be obtained from his multi-award-winning website --
The Stress Doc is also the author of two books: Practice Safe Stress:
Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout & Depression and The
Four Faces of Anger: Transforming Anger, Rage, and Conflict Into Inspiring
Attitude and Behavior. The Doc runs a weekly "Shrink Rap ™ and Group Chat"
as AOL's "Online Psychohumorist" ™.
Expansion of Service: In-Office, Phone or Online
The Doc's areas of expertise as a consultant, counselor and speaker include:
+ Stress and Burnout and Rebuilding the Fire
+ Anger Management and Managing Difficult People
+ Growing from Loss, Grief and Depression
+ Couple Counseling and Family Issues
+ Career/Life/Relationship Transition
+ Conflict Resolution and Team Building
+ Executive and Management Coaching
+ Organizational Downsizing and Change
+ Time Management and Personal Organization
+ Motivation and High Performance/Anxiety Issues
Flexibility in length and availability for coaching-consultation sessions; day
and evening times. Fee to be determined during the first contact/consultation.
The first phone or online contact/consultation (up to 15 minutes) is free.
information, call 202-232-8662
or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Organizational Clients have included:
Corporations: Dupont Corporation, SAP--Human Capital Forum/ASUGS, Celebrity
Cruise Lines, America Online, Kelley School of Business/Indiana University, Day
and Zimmerman, Tellabs, Computer Sciences Corporation, SkyLink: The Airline
Ticket Center, Biography Magazine, US Pharmacopeia, Skadden Arps (Intl law
Firm), Patton Boggs (Intl Law Firm), LTS, Blackbaud, Georgetown University
Associations/Conferences: CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2005, Human Resources
Association--Natl. Capital Area, Society of Human Resource Management, Business
Owners and Managers Assn Intl, Airplane Owners and Pilots Association,
Association of Legal Administrators, International Personnel Management Assn,
Association of Insurance & Financial Advisors, American College of Physicians,
National Wildlife Federation, Defense Research Institute, American Industrial
Government Agencies: Australian Embassy, Centers for Disease Control,
Health & Human Services--Div. of Acquisition Management, DOD/Population Health
and Health Promotion, Department of Justice, National Institutes of Health,
National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (including National
Weather Service), Army Corps of Engineers, Naval Sea Systems Command, Department
of Commerce, US Postal Service
2. Stress Doc Books:
Make check to: Mark Gorkin
1616 18th Street, NW #312
Wash, DC 20009
a) Really Hot: The Paperback Version of Practice Safe Stress:
Practicing Safe Stress: Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout, &
Depression; Stress Doc Enterprises
Published: 2004; Pages: 372
Price: $20 + $4.95 priority shipping in US; $3.95 in Metro, DC area; $7 in
Mexico and Canada; other international destinations to be determined
Or, download: The Stress Doc's Store Front: www.stressdoc.com
Ebook Price: $15
Practice Safe Stress tackles the "Toxic-Traumatic Trio" -- stress, burnout, and
depression. Learn practical and playful, inspiring and insightful strategies
for transforming these toxins into life-affirming energy, creative focus, and
goal-achievement. Bringing a personal, professional, and organizational
perspective, the book is alive with imaginative language and memorable "how to"
§ Understanding the "Four Stages of Burnout," the "Erosive Spiral"
§ Rebuilding your fire and developing "Natural SPEED"
§ Achieving liberation through "Emancipation Procrastination"
§ Reducing conflict as a healing or motivational "psychohumorist" ™
There are satirical essays on "lean-and-MEAN" managers and on mismanaged
downsizings. Learn to "laugh in the face of layoffs" and ponder the possibility
of "Van Gogh, Prozac, and Creativity." The Stress Doc also shares his his own
trials, errors, and triumphs in battling the "Toxic Trio."
Safe Stress provides many discrete "Top Ten" lists and "strategic tips" essays
useful as educational/informational handouts. To quote the Internet Newsroom:
Your Guide to the World of Electronic Factgathering: "The most outstanding
feature…is his 'psychohumor' essays. Always witty, thought-provoking, and
helpful." With this easy-to-follow, fast-paced, and fun health and wellness
guide, you'll return often to Practice Safe Stress.
b) The Four Faces of Anger: Model and Method
Transforming Anger, Rage and Conflict Into Inspiring Attitude and Behavior
The "Four Faces of Anger" presents an elegantly simple yet intellectually
powerful model that will challenge your beliefs about anger -- both regarding
its range of emotion and its potential for positive communication. The book is
a dynamic blend of popular psychohumor articles, essays, case examples and short
vignettes, as well as Stress Doc Q & As and even "Shrink Rap" ™ lyrics. You
will gain ideas and tools, skills and techniques for personal control, playful
intervention and conflict mastery. Learn to:
Ø Identify self-defeating styles of anger and violence-prone personalities
Ø Transform hostility and rage into assertion and passion
Ø Confront directly or disarm outrageously critics and (passive) aggressors
Ø Bust the guilt not burst a gut
Ø Prevent emails from becoming e-missiles
And finally, his years as a multimedia psychotherapist and as a Stress and
Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service yield a survival and
spiritual mantra at the heart of the "Four Faces of Anger":
Seek the higher power of Stress Doc humor…May the Farce Be With You!
Published: 2004; Pages: 114
Paperback: $23.95 (includes shipping and handling)
c) Paper Book -- Truly on the Cutting Edge
From Stress Brakes and Shrink Rap to Safe Stress and Cool Moon Cats:
The Wit and Wisdom of the Stress Doc, Stress Doc Enterprises, 1995
A 90 page compilation of my former syndicated radio essays, pioneering songs in
the field of psychologically humorous rap music -- "Shrink Rap" Productions - a
creative visualization poem and other humorous lyrics/poems. "Stress Brake"
radio essays are short (300 words), fast-paced and witty, covering such topics
as stress, burnout, anger and conflict resolution, time management, creativity,
men's and women's issues, romantic relationships, codependency, etc. (They make
excellent fillers for newsletters.)
Price: $20 (which covers priority postage and handling)
To purchase books and/or tape, make check payable to: Mark Gorkin
Send check to:
Stress Doc Enterprises
1616 18th Street, NW #312
Washington, DC 20009-2542
Questions? Call 202-232-8662 or email email@example.com
3. Chat Group:
Stop by my AOL/Digital City Shrink Rap (TM) and Group Chat DC Debate Tuesdays,
9:30-11pm EST DC Support Chat (Alas, only for AOL members.)
Mark Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a psychotherapist, an acclaimed
Keynote and Kickoff Speaker (including with Celebrity Cruise Lines), and an
OD/Team Building Consultant. Mark is the author of Practice Safe Stress:
Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout & Depression and of
The Four Faces of Anger: Transforming Anger, Rage, and Conflict Into Inspiring
Attitude and Behavior. Also, the Doc is America Online's "Motivational
Psychohumorist" ™ running his weekly "Shrink Rap ™ and Group Chat." See his
award winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" --
www.stressdoc.com (recently cited as a workplace resource by National Public
Radio (NPR). Email for his monthly newsletter showcased on List-a-Day.com. For
more info on the Doc's speaking and training programs and products, email
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-232-8662.
(c) Mark Gorkin 2005
Shrink Rap Productions