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.

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When You See Hoofprints

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  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.

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