Helping Couples in Therapy Explore Childhood Wounds

shutterstock_93721399-copy[1]It’s my first session with Jeff and Miranda, and the room is thick with silence. “Honestly, I don’t know why I’m here,” Miranda spits out. “He’s cheated on me since we started dating 25 years ago.” Jeff shares his story of basically raising himself, since his father walked out on the family when Jeff was 2. Miranda tells of growing up in a violent home with a father whose rage had turned on her mother, and a mother who’d turned it right back on her daughter. Soon I understand that I sit before two people who’ve been deeply wounded from childhood. Can I avoid doing further damage to their precarious relationship? Do I tell Miranda to run for the hills? What if Miranda takes a leap of faith and decides to trust Jeff once more—and he betrays her yet again?

Going Beyond Mindfulness with Internal Family Systems

ripple_effect[1]A perennial quandary in psychotherapy, as well as spirituality, is whether the goal is to help people come to accept the inevitable pain of the human condition with more equanimity or to actually transform and heal the pain, shame, or terror, so that it’s no longer a problem. The goal of the therapeutic approach that I use, Internal Family Systems (IFS), is to build on the important first step of separating from and accepting self-destructive impulses, and then take a second step of helping clients transform them.


Helping Therapy Clients Cope with the New Realities of Death

56926-Flickering_Candle_Light_Vol_1_No_3[1]The increasing ability of modern medicine to arrest or slow terminal illness means that never before has death been such an extended process for so many. But as a culture, we’re only just beginning to face the deep ambivalence that reality creates for both patient and family. Just as important as conversations between patients, their families, and doctors about practical and medical end-of-life issues is the general conversation we all need to have about what the emotional experience of slow dying is really like, for both the ones doing it and those who must stand vigil.


The Problem with Psychopharmacology’s Biomedical Model

drweil_1305224748_15[1]I want you to consider the possibility that the basic assumptions of mainstream psychiatric medicine are obsolete and no longer serve us well. Those assumptions constitute the biomedical model of mental health and dominate the whole field. This leaves no room within its framework for the social, psychological, and behavioral dimensions of illness. Our health or lack of it is the result of biochemical interactions and genetics, dietary choices, exercise patterns, sleep habits, hopes, fears, families, friends, jobs, hobbies, cultures, ecosystems, and more.

VIDEO: How to Manage the Biggest Threat to Happiness for Remarried Boomers

Patricia Papernow on Helping Partners Deal with the Corrosive Power of Stepfamilies Successfully combining families as part of remarriage is always challenging. And when they are recently remarried boomers, the happy couple can be blindsided by the resistance of otherwise …

In Therapy, a Rare Moment of Self-Disclosure

hand-in-hand[1]The first time I saw Michael, I could barely distinguish his form as human. A series of weights, counterweights, pulleys, and IV feeds and a ventilator were strapped to an immobile figure beneath tightly wound bandages and casts. A young man in his 20s, Michael had been the sole survivor of a plane crash. I’d already conducted many inpatient evaluations of people who’d sustained grave injuries to their brains and bodies. But the sight of Michael was unlike anything I’d witnessed before, as was his question that left me confronting everything I’d come to believe about therapist self-disclosure.

Positive Psychology: Does It Really Work?

happiness2[1]Happy or positive people seem to be more successful at work. They’re more likely to get a second interview while job hunting, get positive evaluations from superiors, resist burnout, and advance up the career ladder. There are scores of studies showing that happy or optimistic people are likely to be healthier than those who are sour-tempered and pessimistic. But most of these studies—the basis of positive psychology—only establish correlations and tell us nothing about causality: Are people healthy because they’re happy or happy because they’re healthy?


Removing Stigma in the Aftermath of Sexual Abuse

childhoodtrauma[1]Certainly we have advanced to the point that the right things are being said about sexual abuse—that it’s common and harmful, and that it’s never the child’s fault. Funding in the trauma field has been secured, research conducted, studies and books published, treatment centers established, and public awareness raised through sex-education programs and campaigns in the media. But is any of it translating into actual progress for victims? Do they feel that they’re being helped, that they’re understood and their needs are being served effectively?

Helping Men in Therapy Engage in Loving Relationships

arms-crossed1[1]The reason men can talk about feelings and relationship patterns in consultation rooms, but are unlikely to keep doing it at home is simple: emotional talk tends to produce more physiological arousal in men—they experience it more stressfully. For men to engage in the hard work of change, the rewards have to be automatic and visceral, independent of the artificial environment of the therapist’s office and vague therapeutic concepts. If you listen long enough to men talking about what it means to love, you’ll notice that loving is inextricably linked, for many men, to some form of protection. If men can’t feel successful at protecting, they can’t fully love.

VIDEO: When One Partner Wants Out

Bill Doherty on an Alternative to Couples Therapy for the Mixed-Agenda Couple In at least 30 percent of couples who come to therapy, partners enter the consulting room with different agendas—one wants a divorce, the other wants to save the …

How Self-Compassion Makes Us Stronger, Happier, and More Generous

c20ad4d76fe97759aa27a0c99bff6710_1429531576[1]Most people don’t have any problem with seeing compassion as a thoroughly commendable quality. But we seem less sure about self-compassion. For many, it carries the whiff of all those other bad “self” terms: self-pity, self-serving, self-indulgent, self-centered, just plain selfish. But there’s now an impressive and growing body of research demonstrating that relating to ourselves in a kind, friendly manner is essential for emotional wellbeing. More pointedly, research proves false many of the common myths about self-compassion that keep us trapped in the prison of relentless self-criticism.


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