The choice of the appropriate use of words, gestures and intonations for each patient was central to Havens’s clinical work.  He wrote, lectured and conducted interviews with clinicians present in order to teach the importance of these varied approaches to as many caregivers as possible.


Havens never read his lectures. They were worked out in long-hand and then he jotted down notes to prompt him. Having somewhat of a photographic memory the notes never covered more than an index card or two sides of a page even for a forty-minute speech.

LLH Lectures
Notes for 45 minute Sullivan speech NYC 1995

Above all, he believed that there was nothing more deadly and non-conducive to learning than to read a speech.

Havens made it look effortless because he knew his topic so well, but in fact he was anxious before each lecture, a state many actors report produces the best performance. A life long theatergoer he often commented, “I am comforted recalling what Lillian Hellman said she felt like before going on stage.”



Havens listened to the patient’s background presentation just to get an idea of what was puzzling the therapist and to think about where he would sit so as to not make the person feel uncomfortable as they spoke to him.

Quote from LLH on Interviewing techniques

The idea that we can understand others by asking them questions about themselves and observing their responses is both persistent and naïve.