psychotherapy

Helping Therapy Clients Learn Habits for Happiness

o-HAPPINESS-facebook[1]For her 2009 book, The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving dozens of techniques and notions that purport to make people happier. More recently, Rubin explored the nature of habit and challenges some basic psychotherapy principles to propose that, rather than awareness and insight, many people just need more external motivation to make the changes they need in their lives. In the following conversation, she focuses on what she considers limitations of psychotherapy as a road map for change.

 

Helping Your Therapy Clients Find a Direction for Happiness

Author Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving dozens of techniques and notions that purport to make people happier. Her 2009 book, The Happiness Project, spent two years on the New York Times bestseller list. More recently, Rubin decided to tackle another element of happiness: how to change habits that don’t serve you well and how to develop habits that help you achieve your goals. She proposes that, rather than awareness and insight, many people just need more external motivation to make the changes they need in their lives. In the following conversation, she focuses on what she considers limitations of psychotherapy as a road map for change.

Finding Comfort in the Financial Crisis

o-FINANCIAL-CRISIS-facebook[1]In late 2008, a breathtaking realignment of our wealth occurred, and with it, our consciousness. This magical fairy tale that had somehow become reality started fading back into make believe. Just when we thought we were going to live happily ever after with no twists or turns in the golden road that lay before us, the carriage turned into a pumpkin. Yet, even as we fear the future and regret our stupidity and pine for our losses, can’t we also simultaneously detect a strange and perverse comfort in the notion that maybe this wrenching course correction we’re experiencing is sending us back to a place we’re more at ease in?

Couples Therapy for Moving Past Affairs

ID-10074157[1]For several years, I’ve been contacting couples I’ve treated to find out more about the long-term impact of the infidelity that brought them to therapy. With those couples who’ve remained together in the intervening years, I offered a free, follow-up interview to discuss how they regard the infidelity retrospectively, and how they integrated the experience into the ongoing narrative of their relationship. Specificities notwithstanding, I identified three basic patterns in the way couples reorganize themselves after an infidelity—they never really get past the affair, they pull themselves up by the bootstraps and let it go, or they leave it far behind.

Treating Asperger’s Syndrome in the Therapy Room

what-is-aspergers-syndrome[1]Adults with Asperger’s syndrome (AS) often behave as if they were confused actors walking onto a stage and being the only ones who don’t know the lines or the plot. Worse still, their ability to fake it—to just pick up the emotional tenor of others—is severely limited by their concrete, inflexible thinking style. People with AS aren’t able to shift their attention easily or adapt to changing circumstances. Unexpected departures from routine can throw them into complete catatonia. Such was the case with one of my clients, Steven. He’d recently flunked out of college, didn’t have a single friend, had no plans for the future, and seemed to have no sense of urgency or concern about his life.

Confronting Alzheimer’s Disease in the Therapy Room

fractured___a_portrait_of_alzheimer_s_2fe5a2a4c4c9f1819892261e9c88b68b[1]The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 5.2 million Americans affected by dementia are over the age 65, which makes the vast majority members of what’s called the traditionalist generation. Understanding this generation’s entrenched values and how they can affect their coping and your intervention can facilitate better outcomes. It’s important never to underestimate how validating and normalizing the caretaker’s experience—especially the underlying embarrassment, guilt, and sense of helplessness—can foster resilience and inspire hope.

A Guide for Female Clinicians Treating Men in Therapy

263961700-psychology-psychiatrist-psychologist-examination-room[1]When I started my clinical training, I wondered about the impact of men’s discomfort with emotional expression (and women’s ignorance of this discomfort) on how male clients experienced therapy with female therapists. From many years of attention to men’s language, attitudes, and needs, I’ve developed a specific approach to working with male clients. For female clinicians, one of the side benefits of working with men is that it can help us understand the other men in our own lives. Both genders win when we learn more about men.

Creating a Safe Space for Men in Therapy

kh-pp-group-therapy-men[1]I have been running therapeutic men’s groups—we call them “friendship labs”—for the past 18 years. We’ve found that groups are particularly appealing for men who experience traditional individual or couples approaches as being too alien or off-putting. There’s something comforting about being part of a group of guys dealing with similar issues, who are there to ask for and give support to each other. This seems to echo Henry Ford’s praise for close male relationships: “My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.”

Using EFT to Reach Shutdown Therapy Clients

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Probably no aspect of couples work is more critical, or more difficult, for therapists than engaging a distant, emotionally shutdown partner. Since the feelings being avoided are often regarded as terrifying, humiliating, and deeply threatening, doing this work is a delicate therapeutic balancing act. It requires moving forward with both gentleness and persistence, without being deflected by clients’ profound unwillingness to become engaged. Slowness and softness are key—creating a pace and tone in the therapy room that establishes safety and enables clients to take the risks of engaging with emotions they’ve long avoided.

The Therapist’s Guide to Coaching Clients Through Open Relationships

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For gay men, open relationships aren’t unusual, but the arrangements vary. But just because something is common doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. When a couple in a troubled relationship considers opening up the relationship as a way to fix their problems, an alarm sounds for me, and I often discourage them from doing so. But partners who are basically healthy as individuals and stable as a couple may benefit from an open relationship. Even in our highly sexualized society, alternative arrangements such as open relationships may seem alien and intimidating to many people, but as therapists, our challenge is to be less prudish and frightened by potentially negative outcomes.

tears in baby eyes embraced motherOne of the strongest articles of faith among psychotherapists is the intuitively attractive proposition that the security of early attachments to parents has a profound influence on adult mental health. Even clinicians who aren’t particularly loyal to attachment theory accept the general proposition that the quality of infants’ emotional experiences with their caretakers affects their vulnerability to psychological disorders as adults. However, when I examine the evidence for this belief as a research psychologist, rather than as a clinical practitioner, a different, less clear-cut picture emerges.

Posted on by Jerome Kagan | 3 Comments

Fixing Climate Change Through Grassroots Efforts

Capture1We live in a culture of denial, especially about the grim reality of climate change. Sure, we want to savor the occasional shrimp cocktail without having to brood about ruined mangroves, but we can’t solve a problem we can’t face. What pulled me out of my despair was the desire to get to work. A few years ago, I invited a group of people to my house to discuss what we could do to stop TransCanada from shipping tar-sand sludge through our state via the Keystone XL pipeline. We called ourselves The Coalition.