Helping Couples Let Go with Dignity
In today’s changing world, therapists need a new road map for helping couples end unions with their dignity intact, their sanity whole, and in a greater spirit of cooperation and good will.
Confronting our Definitions of Wealth in the Therapy Room
The current economic crisis may be no more than a rather large bump in the golden road of endlessly self-renewing American prosperity. Still, it's hard not to have a sense of foreboding that, this time, things really are different. Perhaps this is a good time to revisit some of our basic assumptions about wealth---what it means to us as Americans, how it defines us as a people, how it influences the way we think about ourselves, about freedom, success, and happiness, about what we really want from life, and what the American Dream really means to us.
How Adding Brain Science to Therapy Normalizes Living with Asperger's
Adults with Asperger's syndrome 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. One of my initial goals in therapy is to help them realize the role their brain plays in their everyday practical and social understanding. Then, we embark on a step-by-step process of skill training, life planning, and helping clients integrate their unusual and obsessive talents into a productive life.
What Neuroscience and Attachment Teach Us About Healing Stress in the Body
The more we learn about the brain, the more apparent it becomes that, if we're to guide people in the process of change, we need to pay at least as much attention to the body and nervous system---theirs and ours---as to words, emotions, and meaning-making---which, until recently, have been the major focus of therapy. Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, a body-centered talk-therapy approach, allows us to navigate tumultuous transferential relationships and therapeutic impasses in creative, satisfying, and often moving ways.
Dick Schwartz on Achieving Awareness and Healing with IFS Therapy
A perennial quandary in psychotherapy, as well as spirituality, is whether the goal is to help people come to accept the inevitable pain of the human condition with more equanimity or to actually transform and heal the pain, shame, or terror, so that it’s no longer a problem. The goal of the therapeutic approach that I use, Internal Family Systems (IFS), is to build on the important first step of separating from and accepting self-destructive impulses, and then take a second step of helping clients transform them.
With New Medical Advances, Navigating the Landscape of Protracted Dying
The increasing ability of modern medicine to arrest or slow terminal illness means that never before has death been such an extended process for so many. But as a culture, we’re only just beginning to face the deep ambivalence that reality creates for both patient and family. Just as important as conversations between patients, their families, and doctors about practical and medical end-of-life issues is the general conversation we all need to have about what the emotional experience of slow dying is really like, for both the ones doing it and those who must stand vigil.
Andrew Weil Paints a Broader Picture of Emotional Wellness
I want you to consider the possibility that the basic assumptions of mainstream psychiatric medicine are obsolete and no longer serve us well. Those assumptions constitute the biomedical model of mental health and dominate the whole field. This leaves no room within its framework for the social, psychological, and behavioral dimensions of illness. Our health or lack of it is the result of biochemical interactions and genetics, dietary choices, exercise patterns, sleep habits, hopes, fears, families, friends, jobs, hobbies, cultures, ecosystems, and more.
Taking a Critical Look at Martin Seligman's Pursuit of Happiness
Happy or positive people seem to be more successful at work. They're more likely to get a second interview while job hunting, get positive evaluations from superiors, resist burnout, and advance up the career ladder. There are scores of studies showing that happy or optimistic people are likely to be healthier than those who are sour-tempered and pessimistic. But most of these studies---the basis of positive psychology---only establish correlations and tell us nothing about causality: Are people healthy because they're happy or happy because they're healthy?
Therapy's Ongoing Duty to Help Victims Eliminate Shame and Self-Blame
Certainly we have advanced to the point that the right things are being said about sexual abuse---that it's common and harmful, and that it's never the child's fault. Funding in the trauma field has been secured, research conducted, studies and books published, treatment centers established, and public awareness raised through sex-education programs and campaigns in the media. But is any of it translating into actual progress for victims? Do they feel that they're being helped, that they're understood and their needs are being served effectively?
How One Study Exposed the Connection Between Early Life Abuse and Weight Gain
During the mid-1980s, Vincent Felitti, founder of Kaiser Permanente's Department of Preventive Medicine, began directing a new obesity-treatment program. But within a year or two, Felitti and his colleagues began having a very unusual problem. Virtually none of the patients were fat as children. They'd gained their weight abruptly, usually in response to a difficult life event. But the shocking news was that the interviews revealed an unsettling pattern of childhood sexual abuse, trauma, family suicides, brutality, and other evidence of severely dysfunctional family relationships.
Steering the Way We Form Relationships in the Digital Age
The Internet has become the world's largest, and arguably most important, social thoroughfare. It intersects with millions---no, billions---of streets, alleyways, and self-contained villages where you can find, meet, and work with just about anyone on the planet. The problem is, many of us feel slightly out of synch, even as we commit increasing stretches of our time to the Internet.
Moving Beyond Mindfulness by Embracing Our Suffering
With the rapid proliferation of new therapies for every possible difficulty in life, it often seems that we’re trying to do the impossible---eliminate basic human suffering. But suffering doesn’t seem to go away, no matter how many therapies or self-help strategies we employ. When we’re overwhelmed with intense and disturbing emotions, such as shame, just noticing what’s happening is often not enough. We need to embrace ourselves. Self-compassion allows us to do this. It means treating ourselves with the same kindness and understanding with which we’d want to treat someone we truly love.
Dick Schwartz Offers an IFS Approach to Self-Compassion
When you think of yourself as being psychosocially monolithic, instead of comprising a range of different parts, having self-compassion seems simple: you just relate to the self you happen to identify with at the moment with warmth, rather than harshness. But once you recognize that you’ve got many selves in there, things become more complicated, and it becomes crucial to recognize that there are levels of self-compassion, some of which need much more effort, awareness, and emotional resilience than others.
How Being Calm and Collected Gets Us Connected
In this brief video clip, child psychologist and Symposium 2016
presenter Martha Straus discusses the benefit of using co-regulation with a young client in trouble.
Martha Strauss on the Merits of Enduring Connection with Our Adult Children
Just a generation ago, the child-rearing contract was clearly designed to last for about 18 years. By the time we'd finished high school, it was more than reasonable for our parents to assume that we'd move out and one way or another start to stand on our own two unsubsidized feet. But today, growing numbers of the emerging adults (and parents) I treat are trying to stay deeply connected, rather than separate from each other. These days, I'm working to support them, rather than to challenge their dependence.
David Burns on the Paradox of Resistance
According to expert David Burns
, author of When Panic Attacks
, the biggest barrier to treating anxiety successfully is recognizing how clients covertly hold onto their symptoms, even when it causes them enormous distress. In this video
, David explains how he addresses outcome and process resistance in a way that quickly leads to meaningful and lasting change.
Why Not Disclosing in the Aftermath of an Affair Could Save Marriages
I was born overseas and practice therapy in the United States. Since the early days of my life in America, I've felt a sense of cultural dissonance with colleagues and friends about how infidelity is approached here, both in the culture and in the therapy profession. Many American therapists proclaim total honesty as the ideal for all marriages and the unearthing of the secrecy and lies at the heart of infidelity as a primary therapeutic consideration. Maybe it's time for a two-way exchange, so that we can learn from the wisdom of other cultures when it comes to disclosure about an affair.
James Gordon on Healing without Antidepressants
Depression is not a disease, so the promise of antidepressants as a cure just doesn’t hold water. That’s the assessment of James Gordon, M.D. and he should know. Jim is the author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey out of Depression.
Gretchen Rubin on the Power of External Motivation
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.
Zindel Segal on Helping Clients Take The First Step
What’s happening when a client suffering from symptoms of depression is willing to follow the therapist’s voice with eyes closed? According to Zindel Segal—expert on mood disorders—that simple act is a commitment to choicefulness and a first step towards shifting the perceptions that make depression so hard to shake.
Coping with the Switch from Poverty to Wealth and Back
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?
Esther Perel on Redefining Marriage After an Affair
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.
Therapy Tools for Helping Clients with AS Improve Social Skills
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.
Bridging the Gender Gap in the Consulting Room
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.
Rick Hanson on 5 Simple Steps to Use Right Away
Our brains are very good at learning from the negative—that's what helped our distant ancestors learn what to avoid of they wanted to stay alive. But it interferes with our lives today when we react to stressful situations as if they were life and death. They're usually not.In this brief clip, Rick Hanson, author of Buddha's Brain and Hardwiring Happiness, walks us through surprisingly simple steps that can shift our memory systems to internalize positive experiences and states with equal efficiency.
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