One of the best instructors I had in grad school was the first person to say the phrase “when you see hoofprints look for horses, when you don’t find horses, look for zebras.” The importance of this did not strike me until I was deeper into practicing as a psychologist.

I have a lot of people come into my office at various stages of explaining what is happening with them. Some people will say “I don’t know” straight away, whereas others have created a complex narrative. But we can have a tendency in our search for explanations to latch onto things that we read online or heard about on a TV show that have very little probability of being accurate. That is looking for zebras before horses.

One Comment to
When You See Hoofprints

Before posting, please read our blog moderation guidelines. The comments below begin with the oldest comments first. Click on the last comments page to jump to the most recent comments.

  1. This is so true and I have tried to make this point so many times in the past with others in the field where I worked. With a slight change in terminology, look for the intrinsic problem do not deal with extrinsic problems If you deal with the factual or main problem the rest should follow to fall into place.

Join the Conversation!

Before posting, please read our blog moderation guidelines.

Post a Comment:


(Required, will be published)

(Required, but will not be published)

(Optional)

Recent Comments
  • Truth: With many of you women out there being so Damn picky and playing hard to get is the reason why there are so...
  • Emily: Michael – I keep reading your article. I changed my phone alarm to positive statements. I’m...
  • Jamarie: I just wanted to respond on your post, Milly. Not sure you will get this and that the post was all the way...
  • broken wife: I have been married to a schzi-bipolar husband for 32 years. Not sure how much longer this will work.I...
  • Lee G.: Ladies, I’m so sorry to hear how many of you are suffering with this. I was diagnosed about 10 years...
Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter


Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code