|Mindfulness Men in Therapy Challenging Cases Couples The Future of Psychotherapy Mary Jo Barrett Diets Mind/Body Clinical Mastery William Doherty Trauma Clinical Excellence CE Comments Future of Psychotherapy Community of Excellence Attachment Theory David Schnarch Wendy Behary Linda Bacon Gender Issues Anxiety Symposium 2012 Great Attachment Debate Alan Sroufe Brain Science Attachment Narcissistic Clients Couples Therapy Ethics Etienne Wenger|
|Beyond the Consulting Room - Page 4|
Discover Your Passion and Connect It to the Larger Picture
The reason we therapists are so well situated to be change agents is that we hear real stories of personal pain in a troubled world. We don't get our material secondhand from newspapers and academic research articles. So the first step of getting involved is to ask yourself which clinical issues in your practice grab your interest most and then start seeing the personal problems you treat within their larger social context—what C. Wright Mills called the public dimensions of personal discontents.
For example, the problem of "over-indulgent parenting" can be viewed strictly as a matter of personal habits and parenting skills, or as part of a larger social issue—in this case, a generation of educated but anxious parents worried about their children's success in a competitive world. Depression in an immigrant African community is more than a clinical problem. It's connected to the perennial challenges of immigration and the enduring impact of war and trauma—events that the community can't speak about. Eating disorders and self-image problems among young women go beyond DSM diagnostic categories into the social fabric of modern commercial societies.
As you think about the issues raised in your practice, here's an axiom to remember: all clinical problems treated by therapists are thoroughly interconnected with larger public issues—all of them. But the public dimensions of psychological problems and the civic action that could be appropriate to take don't appear in our treatment manuals.
My own first foray into community activism emerged from my concern that we're turning middle-class childhood into a rat race of overscheduling and overachievement, and that parents have come to see themselves as service providers to their children. I saw this disturbing development in my practice and everywhere in my local community. The desire to get involved came when I began to see this problem as not just a particular family's issue, but as organically connected to larger social forces (the invasion of competitive, market-driven individualism) and to community institutions (the sports leagues and ballet schools that have increasingly taken over children's lives). Once we look outside our windows, it's easy to see how the problems we treat in our offices are integrally connected to broader community issues.