VIDEO: Getting Through to Inner City Youth

In its coverage of Ferguson and Baltimore, the media fixed on lurid images of violence and destruction without providing much context for understanding the conditions of daily life that could possibly spark such explosive rage. As someone who’s spent much of his career working with traumatized kids whose lives have been shaped by poverty and violence, psychologist Ken Hardy understands what fuels that rage. In this video, psychologist Ken shares how to connect with these kids in a way that validates their experience.

Psychotherapy and the Issue of Race

qweqOver the past year, we’ve all watched the racially charged demonstrations erupt in cities across the country, often without grasping the raw underlying emotions that spark them in the first place. As a therapist with over 40 years of experience working with inner-city youth, psychologist Ken Hardy has devoted himself to listening to the untold stories that underlie these eruptions of violence and destruction. In the following excerpt from his article, “The View from Black America,” Ken takes a penetrating look at what it means to grow up black in America today. As part of this special blog, we’re offering you access to Ken’s powerful article. Please join this conversation about race in America and let us know what you think our field should be adding to it.

Blending Psychotherapy and Community Activism

tn_1200_9436f460d26c457dd1145be513691dd0.jpgWho has time to change the world when we already have our hands full trying to make a living and get through the obstacle course of a normal work week? It’s not impossible. I now spend several months each year working in remote regions of Nepal, helping lower-caste girls, who are at the greatest risk of being forced into early marriage or trafficked into sex slavery, by making it possible for them to attend school. It’s when I’m here that I feel most alive, and at least for the few months after I return, I feel a new clarity and focus about what’s most important.

The Secret to Helping Agitated Couples Reel in Emotional Arousal

39045-Long-HugWhen clients are emotionally worked up, caught in fight-flight-freeze mode, all their hard-earned skills in empathic listening and responsible (and responsive) speaking go out the window. Nothing therapeutic is going to happen until they feel calm enough and safe enough to reengage with each other. But by teaching behavior that helps clients’ brains release oxytocin, a naturally occurring hormone which stimulates feelings of bonding and trust, and reduces fear and anxiety, we can create potent catalysts of psycho-physiological change.

Confronting Western Definitions of Sexuality and Intimacy

4488-feet-in-bedToday, sexuality still seems to be a territory as private and filled with fear as ever it was. We haven’t advanced far in our ability to talk of our own sexuality one with another. Part of what makes sexuality scary is that it’s a realm all its own: one in which the rational and the measured are overwhelmed and subsumed. It’s where we meet ourselves most directly, without filters, without verbiage, and, if we go far enough, without fixed roles. It’s where we meet ourselves with and through the Other, a partner as fluid we are.

Helping Therapy Clients Cope with the Reality of Death

Love and Loss (Angled)For 17 years, managing responses to death has become part of my work, whether originally my intention or not. I’ve aspired to helping families hang tough through medical crisis, but now spend some of my time hanging crepe. I’ve now accepted the variety of ways people react to their dying. All of these ways of facing death are utterly ordinary and human. Throughout it all, I’ve learned that as difficult and awkward as confronting death can be, this work also gives me a richer sense of my client, the cast of characters in their world, and the drama of their life.

Challenging the Stereotype of the Paralyzed Trauma Victim

RecoveryIn Jim Rendon’s new book, Upside: The New Science of Post-Traumatic Growth, he challenges an all-too-common stereotype: that most trauma survivors remain forever stuck in place, embittered, broken in core ways. As psychotherapists know, the emotional (and sometimes physical) damage may sometimes be so vast and entrenched that repair comes slowly, if at all. But as therapists also know, this isn’t always the case. Many trauma victims have managed to make life go on—and even thrive.

A Brain Science Strategy for Overwriting Traumatic Memories we clinicians have learned in recent years about the intricacies of the brain’s implicit memory systems has certainly helped us better recognize the linkage between distressing or traumatic experiences and many of the previously puzzling symptoms clients bring to our offices. But now brain science is beginning to offer more specific and powerful guidance about clinical methods that can help free clients from the emotional distress and problematic behaviors triggered by disturbing implicit memories.

Fine-Tuning Your Therapy Approach for Male Clients

flexing-kidThe field of counseling and psychotherapy hasn’t done a particularly good job of creating a user-friendly environment for male clients. The problem begins with a lack of awareness about the profound impact of shame. Most men will do whatever it takes to prove their manhood. Furthermore, there’s a mismatch between the relational style of many men and the touchy-feely atmosphere of most counseling and psychotherapy. As therapists, we have two choices: shoehorn men into a process that’s traditionally been more user-friendly for females, or reshape what we do and how we present it to better reach male clients.

Therapy Lessons from Men’s Relationship with Sports

Men Playing Indoor BasketballI understand and relate to the passion that many men have for sports. At the same time, I’m aware of a counternarrative held by many of my psychotherapist colleagues: sports breeds competition, which causes decreased empathy, which foments injustice. Still, there’s so much more here: rich drama, with which to understand the strivings, insecurities, and identities of many of our male clients. Sports can teach us about trust, relationships, teamwork, and our power to regulate feelings.

VIDEO: Moving Forward When Treatment Seems to Make a Problem Worse

Chris Germer on shifting the focus from fixing a problem to embracing it with compassion What someone resists persists. It’s a paradoxical dynamic that you’ve probably seen in the course of your own clinical work. A hyper-focus on anxiety can …

The View From Black America

qweqMany poor, young, black people see themselves as trapped behind a wall-less prison with no exits. They know all too well that their daily experience—whether it’s going to lousy schools, succumbing to drug use and abuse, or being the victims of crime and lack of employment prospects—doesn’t matter unless it disrupts the lives of the white mainstream.