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Helping clients directly taste the kind of spontaneity, freedom, and untethered happiness that’s often left behind in early childhood, while not in itself offering an instant cure, can become a powerful beacon illuminating the path toward healing. As a result, I’ve developed ways of helping clients access intense memories of positive childhood experiences that can jump-start the therapy process.
When clients get immersed in their problems, they often suffer from a kind of tunnel vision, focused on a small range of experiences, with their bad feelings taking center stage. When therapy goes wrong, it’s typically because we’ve entered our clients’ trances with them, joining them in their myopic misery. Once caught in such a trance, we need to break the spell, broaden our vision, and open ourselves to new possibilities. Here are three ways to do it.
The labels we use to describe clients’ behaviors have important therapeutic implications. Sometimes using the word addiction and explaining its neurological basis can help clients focus on the consequences of their behavior and carefully plan how to change their self-destructive patterns. But how do we parse the tenuous line between addiction and habit? First, we must recognize that habit is part of addiction.
Rather than being triggered by fear, shame, or insecurity, some people do hurtful things with impunity and entitlement to gratify their own needs and wishes. In marriage, they’re engaging in the form of relationship with which they’re most familiar, one that, in fact, they prefer. The key to grasping the roots of this “inner game” is to understand the brain’s ability to map another person’s mind—what I call “mind-mapping. Marriage is inconceivable without some degree of mind-mapping: you need it to understand wants and desires. Of course, it comes in handy if you want to be a good liar, manipulator, or adulterer.
While treatment review has always been a part of insurance reimbursement, therapists in the last few years have reported an increase in such phone calls from insurance companies. But what’s the health plan looking for when reviewing for medical necessity? What does the language of medical necessity sound like, and how can you learn to speak it fluently? Here are a few tips.
How many times have you surprised yourself by jumping at the scary part of a movie? It isn’t enough to be a kind, supportive guide on clients’ journeys. We have to be a provocative guide, creating experiences that trigger their curiosity and desire to know more. Human behavior and motivation are driven mostly by the emotional brain—the brain centers that mediate “primitive” emotions and instincts and respond to sensory-rich experiences, not intellectual insights.
In spite of what’s clearly a massive social shift in the way we now enter and exit the domain of death, we still really don’t know how to talk about it. We haven’t yet begun to have the difficult, honest conversations—person to person, family member to family member, doctor to patient, therapist to client—that would help us better understand what to expect of this harsh landscape, and how to pick our way through it. As therapists, we’re uniquely well-placed to engage people in this emerging conversation and bring this topic into the light of shared experience.
One day while in session, I felt not only overworked and undernourished, but potentially unhelpful, or even damaging, to the people I wanted to help. The dominant advice was simple: do more self-care. Unfortunately, the suggestions, which I’ve since come to call macro self-care, usually seem to require substantial commitments of time, effort, and often money. But micro self-care is available at all times, on demand. Here’s an array of brief tools that are simple, free, and doable.
On top of losing faith in a secure future, mothers and fathers deal with everyday dilemmas that make a joke of traditional rules and childrearing practices. Unfortunately, many therapists still seem to believe that reliable solutions to the problems families face can be readily found in standard evidence-based protocols. But mental health workers underestimate the importance of having people discuss ordinary concerns on their own turf—in churches, synagogues, and community centers. There’s nothing like understanding that you’re not alone to raise the spirits and strengthen the spine.
However we may resist the idea, we’re in the therapy business, and the reality is that our initial contact with clients represents the same challenge faced by salespeople seeking to turn shoppers into satisfied customers. What good, responsible salespeople know is that their job isn’t to make people buy things they don’t need, but to assess people’s needs and show them the match with what they have to offer. But how do you do it? Here are some steps to help you make a good sales pitch.
A growing body of research indicates that when we don’t feel effective in our work, burnout is likely to follow. But through a process called Focusing partnerships, a two-therapist encounter emphasizes the clinician’s issues, especially those that are still fuzzy or half-formed, not yet able to be verbalized. It lets us dive beneath our cognitive brain into our embodied knowing and to find what’s actually troubling us, and to use that knowledge to recover our zest for our work and our lives.