Author Archives: Psychotherapy Networker

By Rich Simon Not so many years ago, few respectable therapists would have incorporated anything like “mindfulness” or a so-called “mind-body” approach into their practice. Such words were redolent of New Agey, airy-fairy gobbledegook, not at all appropriate for the serious business of psychotherapy. The body was indeed a very useful physical means for conveying the mind to therapy, but once in session, everything below the neck might as well spend the next hour in Timbuktu for all its relevance to the therapeutic process. Read more

Mind/Body: NP0039 – Session 2

Do you feel that yoga might be beneficial to your clients’ mental well-being? Join Amy Weintraub as she takes you beyond basic mindfulness practices to discover how to incorporate yoga into your practice and into your life.

After the session, please let us know what you think. If you ever have any technical questions or issues, please feel free to email

Amy Weintraub Demonstrates How Easily It’s Done.

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Clients to ConsumersBy Rich Simon These days, many noble and once well-remunerated occupations—like journalism and magazine publishing—seem in danger of declining into economic irrelevancy. And, not to unduly shock anybody reading this, the financial prospects of therapists aren’t looking too hot now, either. Not only are we told there are way too many of us—600,000 mental health professionals nationwide—for the population to sustain, but managed care has done its best to shrivel whatever pittance we used to be able to count on for our services. Read more

Mind/Body: NP0039 – Session 1

Do you want to enhance your clinical effectiveness? Do you feel that the body and the mind are treated as separate entities when they should be treated as a whole? Join Rubin Naiman as he helps to widen your perspective as a therapist and helps you to bridge the mind-body rift.

After the session, please let us know what you think. If you ever have any technical questions or issues, please feel free to email

By Rich Simon Therapists have always loved stories about dramatic in-session breakthroughs, those rare times when clients unexpectedly experience what seem like epiphanies—sudden insights about themselves and their lives, after which nothing will ever be the same for them. This kind of transformative moment can make the slow, painful slog of therapy feel worthwhile, and it’s a welcome counterbalance to the frustrations of a difficult, underpaid, underappreciated vocation. As a teary-eyed, beaming client waves a grateful good-bye, “That,” we can say, “is why we do therapy!”… Or so the fantasy goes. Read more

Rubin Naiman On Trusting The Body’s Innate Capacity To Heal

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Explore with renowned clinician Dan Siegel how applying the latest advances in the neuroscience of child development to clinical practice can have practical implications for parents and families. You’ll discover how therapists can help parents raise calmer, happier children by teaching kids to think and listen before reacting, shifting their emotional states through physical activities, and paying attention to their left brain story-telling.

You’ll gain a broader perspective on the social context of parent-child relationships today with Ron Taffel. He’ll explain how clinicians can help parents reassert their authority by creating effective “I mean it” moments with their kids and teens and other practical strategies for parents.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of working individually with a child in therapy as opposed to working with the family at large? When is it effective to involve parents and other family members in treatment? Explore with Martha Straus the best ways to work with postmodern families in therapy.

Explore the distinct challenges to attachment and intimacy that the stepfamily structure often creates. Patricia Papernow, who’s worked as a trainer, consultant, and therapist with stepfamily relationships, will cover practical strategies for helping clients form healthy stepfamily relationships.

Bullying has fallen more and more into the media spotlight lately. Is it that kids are becoming more aggressive? Or are we just paying more attention to this phenomenon? Is it the new forums available for these kinds of behavior—21st-century technologies that can make it easier to kids to bully? How can therapists, parents, and schools help the child who’s being bullied? Learn with Stan Davis, the co-leader of the Youth Voice Research Project, about how to focus on resilience in the child who’s being bullied and to help strengthen their support communities, in addition to working to stop the bullying behaviors.

Teach parents a new way to praise and encourage their children while getting them to comply and overcome difficulties by shifting the focus from “problems” to helping kids gain meaningful new skills. In this approach, parents will take on the role of guides and cheerleaders and children will gain confidence in themselves. Ben Furman, psychiatrist and trainer of solution-focused psychotherapy, will explore this method and take you through case studies.

Explore the effects that overprotective parenting can have on children with Michael Ungar, director of the Resilience Research Center and author of 11 books for therapists and children. Discover how parents can best offer children opportunities to experience risk and responsibility while ensuring their safety and give them boundaries without suffocating them, increasing their anxiety, or reinforcing their need for rebellion.

Consider the enormous psychological and cultural impact of today’s digital technologies on children, adolescents, parents, and society in this enlightening address with renowned MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle. You’ll discover that our smartphones, laptops, tablets, social media sites, and other electronic gadgets have a deeper impact on us as individuals, families, and society at large than we might have previously realized.

After the session, please let us know what you think. If you ever have any technical questions or issues, please feel free to email

The Doctor Is In. . . Your Phone

By Lee Coleman

Currently, there are between 100 and 150 smartphone apps designed to supplement—and occasionally even replace—face-to-face psychotherapy. In fact, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service maintains a library of approved smartphone apps for a variety of physical and mental health concerns. In this country, the United States Department of Defense has assisted in creating several apps designed specifically to help service members track anxiety and depressive symptoms related to military deployment. Given this trend in technology and the high-level support it’s receiving, it’s increasingly important for therapists to understand what mental health-related apps are available in the world and how they might enhance, or in some cases undermine, therapy.

The Optimism app, for example, can help clients become more active participants in their treatment, particularly if some form of self-monitoring is involved. Created by an Australian company, Optimism allows clients to track information related to emotional well-being, such as mood, symptom severity, medication compliance, and hours of sleep. The app generates charts and reports to monitor progress over time, and there’s even a desktop interface that allows clinicians to collect and view their clients’ data. The app started out as a desktop software package six years ago and now averages about 10,000 downloads a month as a smartphone app, according to its developer, James Bishop. Over 80 percent of surveyed Optimism users report using it in conjunction with visits to a mental health professional for a specific mental health issue, usually a mood disorder. For clinicians doing therapy that involves mood charting, supplementary apps like this one can boost compliance by providing a convenient alternative to paper charts.

Numerous apps also offer a form of life coaching and other services traditionally provided through face-to-face psychotherapy. Unstuck, for instance, designed by SYPartners, has had more than half a million downloads since its launch in December 2011. Geared toward people struggling to make difficult life decisions, the app helps users navigate factors that may be interfering with the decision-making process and gives specific advice for developing new perspectives. For example, someone who’s taking on too many tasks alone can indicate that they’re feeling like a “lone leader” and get advice on how to start working more collaboratively.

A related app, MoodKit, was developed by two clinical psychologists to help people use traditional cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques in their daily lives. Among other features, it encourages mood-elevating activities, helps users change self-defeating thought patterns, charts daily moods, and records journal entries to increase a sense of well-being. It can certainly be used to augment professional treatment, but users don’t need to be in therapy to take advantage of what it offers.

These apps and others like them are easy to use and may be promising pathways to increased treatment compliance for that reason alone. However, they’re a long way from being a silver bullet for curing people’s mental woes. As psychiatrist Andrew Gerber of Columbia University notes, “We are built as human beings to figure out our place in the world, to construct a narrative in the context of a relationship that gives meaning to our lives. . . . I would be wary of treatments that don’t allow for that.”

But even as psychiatrists like Gerber contemplate the creation of apps that could undercut the therapeutic relationship, researchers around the world are testing their effectiveness in treating clinical problems. Cognitive bias modification (CBM), for example, involves the use of a game-like app that trains users to respond to distressing stimuli in new ways, which may have applications for people struggling with anxieties and phobias. For example, socially anxious individuals might play a game in which they’re trained to pay more attention to an image of a neutral face than a hostile one. Although the idea is promising, psychology professor Richard McNally of Harvard, whose research team conducted a 2012 study of CBM, notes that people who used the CBM smartphone app became less anxious, but so did the control group whose members played a nontherapeutic game. In other words, the placebo effect might be responsible for at least some of the positive outcome.

So while many jobs these days are being made obsolete by advancing technology, that doesn’t appear to be the case in the therapy field as of now. Rather than fearing these apps as competitors, savvy therapists will want to explore their potential as clinical assistants. After all, as intelligent and intuitive as Apple claims its iPhone personal assistant Siri to be, she’s certainly not ready for licensure.

–Lee Coleman


Therapy Apps: Benedict Carey. “The Therapist May See You Anytime, Anywhere.” New York Times, 24 December 2012.;

Peter Reuell. “A Therapist at Your Fingertips.” Harvard Gazette, 13 March 2012.

Yoga in the Therapy Room

By Amy Weintraub

Centering the uncentered client

Q: I’ve taken yoga classes for several years and know there are many physical, mental, and emotional benefits associated with the practice. How can I use yoga techniques to enhance my work as a therapist?

A:You can offer your clients many yoga-based practices to help them focus, relax, and access their feelings more readily during the session, as well as self-regulate at home. As you may know, the physical postures, known as asanas, are only one aspect of traditional yoga practice. A variety of no-mat yoga practices and rituals can help quiet mental chatter, reduce bodily tension, and promote a heightened awareness of oneself and one’s surroundings. All these techniques are perfectly suited to the consultation room.

The work of therapy can’t begin in earnest if the client’s mind is racing or fogged by depression at the beginning of the session, or if tension is so great that bodily awareness is lost. Offering a simple yoga practice as a portal into the session can enable your client to experience a shift in attentiveness and mood. Having moved into a state of heightened awareness, she or he may then be able to bring newfound clarity of mind to the issues looming throughout the session.

Carol, a woman in her mid-forties with a history of trauma and bulimia, was referred to me for yoga therapy by her psychotherapist. She entered our first session in a highly agitated state. Her shoulders were tight and drawn up toward her ears, and her breathing was rapid and shallow. She was fairly new to yoga and nervous about our work together. After two rounds of a tense-and-release exercise and a brief check-in, I guided Carol in these simple, yoga-based practices: mudra, the use of a hand gesture; pranayama, a simple yoga breath; bhavana, locating an image of sanctuary or peace; mantra, a soothing universal tone; and kriya, a cleansing breath. This series of practices, which took under two minutes, respected Carol’s revved-up state while helping her self-regulate.

Tense and release. To begin, I said to Carol in a calm voice, “Take a moment to tighten as many muscles as you can. Draw the shoulders up to the ears, squinch up your face, make fists with your hands, and sustain your breath. Compress all the getting-here-on-time anxieties and all the judgments you have into a little ball, and place it at the back of your neck. Squeeze the ball, and then let it roll down your back as you let the breath go. Beautiful! Let’s do that again. Inhale and tighten as many muscles as you can. Squeeze whatever is keeping your heart and mind from being completely open. Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. Now, let it all go . . . beautiful!

Carol was visibly more relaxed after this exercise. Although her breath remained shallow, her face was softer and her eyes more focused.

The use of image. At this point, Carol agreed to try a simple practice we could do in our chairs to bring her current state of mind into balance. I asked her to think of a soothing image. “It could be a place,” I prompted, “real or imagined, where you’re relaxed and at ease. Or maybe,” I said, “a face comes to mind that makes you feel peaceful. It could be a human friend, a precious four-legged friend, or even a deity.”

Carol closed her eyes. After a few moments, I asked her to raise her finger if she’d found an image. When she’d located an image and had opened her eyes, I asked if she’d feel comfortable sharing her image with me. She said she saw her favorite beach in Hawaii. (If your clients can’t find an image, you can ask them to simply think the word peace.)

Notice that as I guided Carol in forming an image, I didn’t use the word safe, as this might have triggered Carol’s mind to think of the opposite, putting her back in a position of fear and anxiety. I also didn’t suggest a specific image, but guided her to create her own. That way, she felt ownership of the image, and her sense of self-efficacy and empowerment was bolstered.

Arm movement, breath, and mudra. Because her breath was shallow and in her upper chest, I didn’t ask Carol to breathe deeply at this stage, since that might have been too difficult. Instead, I chose a breath practice to work with the short breaths she was already taking. I call this practice Stair Step, but it’s actually an ancient technique known in Sanskrit as Anuloma Krama. I demonstrated how to open her arms wide to the sides, raise them up over her head, and then interlace her fingers with her index fingers extended toward the ceiling. This hand position is a mudra.

Mudras engage many nerve endings that activate various regions of the brain. In addition, by asking her to raise her arms over her head, I helped her increase body sensation and body awareness, which is important because many trauma survivors feel unsafe in their bodies. They often say they feel as though they live from the neck up. At the end of the exercise, you’ll see how, through my cuing, I made use of her heightened body awareness to allow her to reoccupy her body safely without ever having to use the word safe.

As we began the practice, I invited Carol to close her eyes or, if that didn’t feel comfortable, to lower her gaze to the floor. I kept my eyes open, so I could see how she was breathing. As a clinician, you want to keep your eyes open while leading a practice, unless your client requests otherwise, so you can monitor the effect of the practice.

As she was lifting her arms, I instructed her to inhale little sips of breath through the nostrils, as though she were climbing a mountain with her breath. When she arrived at the top of the mountain, I cued her to pause and imagine the beautiful scene on the beach in Hawaii she’d chosen as her image—sky, waves, sand, everything. After just a heartbeat or two, I guided her to lower her arms to the side, knowing that from this final position, she’d let her breath out slowly on her own. “Beautiful,” I said.

Adding the mantra. We practiced the Stair Step exercise twice, and then I told Carol that we’d add the mantra so-hum, a soothing sound that I explained means “I am that” in Sanskrit. From my intake form, I already knew that Carol’s religious beliefs wouldn’t be in conflict with a simple, nondeity mantra in Sanskrit. Had this been otherwise, we might have used shalom, amen, or soob-hahn-all-ah to meet her religious beliefs as a Jew, a Christian, or a Muslim, respectively.

We practiced the Stair Step exercise three more times with the mantra. Using the sound helped her slow her breathing even more. Research has shown that mantras are effective because an extended exhalation stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, relaxing the body. In addition, a soothing sound like so-hum or om deactivates the limbic brain, which is often hyperaroused in individuals with a history of trauma.

Body sensing. As we finished the practice, I invited Carol to sit with her eyes closed and observe the sensations in her arms, palms, and fingertips. “Sense deeply into your palms,” I said. “The mind is a time traveler, but the body is always present. Sensing that feeling in the palms is like having a window into the present moment.”

Notice that I didn’t ask her to feel the sensation in her body in a global way. A client with a history of trauma similar to Carol’s may carry a belief that it isn’t safe to live in her body, or that she’ll be overwhelmed with emotion if she lets herself feel her body. But when we’re specific in our cues to feel sensations in the palms or fingertips, for example—places where there are a lot of nerve endings—we give the client the gift of reoccupying the body in a manner that feels safe.

When we finished these simple exercises, I could see that Carol’s belly was expanding as she inhaled, meaning she was naturally breathing more deeply. Her exhalations came slowly, and her eye contact was steady as well. She said she felt relaxed and a little excited about how easy it had seemed to shift her mood. I told her that the image of the beach in Hawaii was on the altar of her heart, and that she could go back to it any time she felt stressed. She could add the Stair Step breath and the brief pause, for no more than four counts, at the top of the mountain. Since she liked the so-hum mantra, I invited her to use that whenever she felt agitated.

At this point, we rose to move to the yoga mat. However, if Carol were your client, you could begin the work of talk therapy with greater clarity and a deeper sense of connection between the two of you.

Amy Weintraub is the founder of the LifeForce Yoga Healing Institute, which offers trainings in the clinical application of yoga. She’s the author of Yoga Skills for Therapists and Yoga for Depression. Contact:

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