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Are you guilty of the "magic in the middle" syndrome?

March 11, 2013
by Terry Axelrod
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When talking about your work out in the broader community, are you guilty of the "magic in the middle" syndrome? It's easy to fall prey to this, especially if you've been working in the field awhile. You may not realize that, to someone in another walk of life, your work in behavioral healthcare is truly remarkable. The fact that your organization knows how to be effective with individuals who present with such challenging problems is still kind of a mystery for most "outsiders." What does happen in the middle? What does your group actually do for people that changes their lives?

What do I mean by "magic in the middle"?

When telling what we call an Essential Story, about how your work impacts the life of one individual or family, we say that story needs to have three parts:

  • The Before: What was this (anonymous) individual's life like before they came into your program? Describe in enough detail that we get the full picture: age, physical demeanor, etc. Paint the picture as graphically as possible. We weren't there to see them so you need to tell us more.
  • The Intervention: What three specific things did your organization do to help this individual? How did that skilled treatment make a difference? Did you provide ongoing counseling, or coordinate referrals to be sure the person didn't fall through the cracks after they left you? Include a quote from one of your staff members about what it was like working with this person.
  • The After: What is life like now for this person? Job, family, health? Even if the change is less than you would have desired, explain what it took for the person to come this far. Now he has a job, a productive life, is able to be a father again, etc.

It's so easy to talk about the before and after. I see so many groups skipping over the middle, as if that transformation happened magically.

 Just be sure to convey in specific terms what your organization did in the middle to cause that result. In the process, you will give outsiders a glimpse into the expertise of your staff and educate them on the challenges you face daily.


Terry Axelrod

CEO, Benevon

Terry Axelrod


Terry Axelrod is founder and CEO of Benevon. She has more than thirty years of experience in the...

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