Why Are We Still so Tongue-Tied?
If you’re like most couples therapists, you know how to help partners communicate more clearly, handle conflict with less uproar, and connect more emphatically. But 50 years after the so-called sexual revolution, many therapists are still unsure about how and when to talk about sexual issues. In our obsession with pop sexuality, we’ve vastly overestimated the power of sexual acts while vastly underestimating the feelings associated with them.
Encompassing the Big & the Small
The promise of the community mental health movement of the 1960s, providing high-quality psychological and social services to poor families, remains unfullled. But today, two professionals bring together both a grasp of broader social issues and a store of practical clinical wisdom to offer complementary perspectives on how to best help poor communities.
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 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.
Why is Daniel Amen's Method for Treating Psychiatric Disorders So Controversial?
Psychiatrist Daniel Amen argues that a brain-imaging method called SPECT is an invaluable tool for understanding and treating psychiatric disorders. SPECT has been used in a huge number of research studies on almost every conceivable psychiatric and neurological condition, as well as some nonpsychiatric studies. So what is it about Amen and his mission to get therapists to use brain imaging, and SPECT in particular, as an aid to diagnosis and treatment that makes him such a lightning rod?
How One Woman Brought Feminist Insight into Clinical Practice
Marianne Walters didn't invent a brilliant new therapeutic paradigm, publish a large and magisterial body of research, or establish her own unique school of clinical practice. Yet Walters probably had as great an impact on the overall clinical zeitgeist of family therapy as any of the master theory-builders and gurus. Along with her three comrades in arms---Betty Carter, Peggy Papp, and Olga Silverstein---she formed The Women's Project in Family Therapy in 1977, once called "the first, biggest, longest-running feminist road show." It was a combination feminist think tank and SWAT team, which, in public workshops all over the country, challenged the underlying sexism in some of the most basic notions of family therapy.
Is Today's Therapy Losing Out to Science and Psychopharmacology?
The bad news was made official in 2010, though everybody in the head-shrink business had long suspected as much: psychotherapy was in decline, or even in freefall. You might think this trend represents people’s preferences for the quick fix of a pill, rather than a slog through talk therapy, but you’d be wrong: surveys have consistently shown that depressed and/or anxious people and their families would rather talk to a real, live, human therapist than fill a prescription. So in what appears to be the twilight of the psychopharm gods, why aren’t therapy practitioners rising up, throwing off their chains, and reconquering lost mental health territory?
Do Our Old Ways Fit the New Times?
While the number of people in psychotherapy keeps declining, surveys reveal that potential clients would still rather talk to a therapist than fill a prescription. So what’s going on? We asked six of the field’s most outspoken leaders to offer their views.
Martin Seligman Injects Thinking Positively into the Therapy World
How did Martin Seligman come to be known as the "father" of something called positive psychology, a movement that could change the face of psychotherapy as we know it? With his scientific study of what makes people happy and good, Seligman overturned therapy's culture of victimology, obsessed with the study of what's wrong with people---with their emotional lives, their relationships, their physical brains, and why they fail and feel bad. If people could be taught to feel bad, Seligman supposed, perhaps they could also be taught to feel good.
How Bessel van der Kolk Pioneered a New Trauma Therapy
Bessel Van der Kolk first became aware of the world of trauma in 1978, when he decided to go work for the Veterans Administration, not to study PTSD (it hadn't been recognized yet as a formal diagnosis), but to get the government benefits to pay for his own psychoanalysis. While there, he discovered the reality of PTSD---and the beginnings of a stunning, nationwide phenomenon. Since then, the trauma field has gone from obscurity to become one of the most innovative and supported specialties in mental health. Trauma researchers have set off an explosion of knowledge about psychobiology and the interaction of body and mind. And van der Kolk, as much as anyone else in the field, has defined the current framework for understanding trauma.