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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.
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 …
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.
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?
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?
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.
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 …
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.
During the mid-1980s, Vincent Felitti, founder of Kaiser Permanente’s Department of Preventive Medicine, began directing a new obesity-treatment program. But within a year or two, Felitti and his colleagues began having a very unusual problem. Virtually none of the patients were fat as children. They’d gained their weight abruptly, usually in response to a difficult life event. But the shocking news was that the interviews revealed an unsettling pattern of childhood sexual abuse, trauma, family suicides, brutality, and other evidence of severely dysfunctional family relationships.
Clients struggling with compulsive or binge eating often seek therapy because they’re aware that their overeating may have an emotional component. But the idea that people overeat to soothe or avoid painful emotions, while often true, is only part of the story. Dieting—intentional self-deprivation—sets in motion automatic physiological and psychological factors that actually trigger overeating. In fact, there’s growing evidence that diets make us fat! And not only does dieting make people fatter: it affects psychological health.