Author Archives: Psychotherapy Networker

Meds: Myths and Realities: NP0035 – Bonus Session

As a therapist do you feel like using medication is a one-stop cure-all in the profession? Join Frank Anderson as he shows therapists how to use psychopharmacology in conjunction with therapy by working with clients to recognize their own symptoms, feelings, and biases.

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

Meds: Myths and Realities: NP0035 – Session 5

What do you do when medications are no longer working for your client? What factors lead you to this conclusion? Join Steven Dubovsky as he explores these issues and helps you to create tools you can use in your practice.

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

Frank Anderson On The Process That Gets A Client’s Body On Board

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Welcome to our “Who’s Afraid of Couples Therapy?” This exciting series, back by popular demand, is based on our November/December 2011 issue on this topic and will explore the challenges of couples work.

What are the most effective strategies in working with couples? How can therapists structure therapy—particularly in the early sessions—so that couples leave with a sense of hope, rather than frustration? Can working with individuals who have serious issues in their relationships actually be detrimental to them? Find out the answers to these questions and much more. In this first session with expert couples therapists Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson, the creators of the Developmental Model of Couples Therapy, you’ll find out why clinicians often avoid working with couples and how you can better prepare yourself for couples therapy work.

How can therapists most effectively work with emotion in the consulting room—particularly when it comes to couples therapy? Learn with internationally known couples therapist Hedy Schleifer how to help create a nourishing connection between partners, define a role as therapist-as-guide, and much more. Schleifer, who’s pioneered the training of Imago Relationship therapists internationally, will go into how to use this theory in practice and how to best work with emotions.

What happens when partners in couples therapy have two different agendas in mind? Hear from expert William Doherty on this little spoken about topic. Learn how Discernment Counseling, an approach that helps couples clarify their feelings about the next step in their relationship, can help both clients and therapists.

Is it possible to rebuild trust and intimacy in a couple’s relationship after a partner has had an affair? How can therapists help? Hear from Esther Perel, author of the international bestseller Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence, on how to help couples after an infidelity and the role that cultural perspectives have in this emotional situation.

Explore this classic dynamic of couples therapy—an angry woman and a withdrawn man—that’s often confusing for therapists, with couples therapist Jette Simon. Learn more about what’s behind the feelings of anger and the behavior of withdrawing, and how clinicians can more effectively work with shame and fear of disconnection.

Hear an unconventional perspective on couples therapy from David Schnarch, who believes that the best way to help couples is to challenge partners to change their individual behaviors and attitudes. Schnarch’s direct, upfront approach to helping clients will illustrate a different viewpoint on effective couples therapy.

Join Marty Klein, a marriage and family therapist and certified sex therapist, us for a candid discussion about the assumptions that both clients and therapists often share that can get in the way of improving couples’ sexual relationships.

Discover with Kathryn Rheem how to respond effectively when clients express strong feelings in session. Based on Emotionally Focused Therapy, you’ll explore attunement and how to use your own emotions to help clients move beyond attachment injuries.

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

Meds: Myths and Realities: NP0035 – Session 4

Is psychopharmacology a ‘go-to’ in your practice? Join Robert Hedaya as he discusses how to treat the bodily systems that underlay many mental health issues while avoiding medication.

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

Bill Doherty On An Approach For Unaligned Relationships

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Tough CustomersBy Rich Simon As therapists, many of us practice in two different worlds. In the first, we see polite, well-behaved, articulate clients with solid values. They engage fully in therapy, talk cogently about their problems, listen attentively to our responses, make reasonably good-faith efforts to follow our suggestions, and sooner or later get better. No wonder we genuinely like these people! Read more

Meds: Myths and Realities: NP0035 – Session 3

Do you feel like you could be a more effective therapist with your younger clients? Do you find it hard to determine when interventions–psychological and pharmacological–might be needed? Join Ron Taffel and learn to identify key diagnostic signs that indicate medications could be helpful when dealing with depression, anxiety, AD/HD, and affective disorders.

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

Casey Truffo On Doing The Work You Love And Making It Pay

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Peer Supervision Groups that Work

By Eleanor Counselman

Three steps that make a difference

Q: I’d like to organize a peer supervision group, but I’ve heard their failure rate is high. What do you recommend?

A: Peer supervision groups provide a welcome respite from the isolation of private practice and an informal, nonevaluative setting after years of formal supervision, particularly for young therapists. They offer valuable guidance on difficult cases and tough ethical dilemmas to therapists at any level of experience. And they’re free! However, as you note, many of them fail. In my experience, careful attention to the initial contract and the ongoing group process can make a huge difference in helping them sustain their membership and thrive.

Though they’re often called peer supervision groups, it would be more accurate to call them peer consultation groups. Members don’t have direct supervisory responsibility for one another’s cases: they simply offer suggestions, which members can accept or reject. They typically have four to six members who have approximately the same level of professional experience or share a specific area of interest. Members meet on a regular, usually biweekly, basis.

Group consultation, with or without a leader, offers advantages over individual consultation. It includes the possibility of multiple perspectives on the same problem and the reduction of clinicians’ shame about confusions and mistakes as they share similar stories about their struggles with difficult cases. Another benefit is peer interaction, which develops one’s professional sense of self. The hall-of-mirrors effect—seeing yourself as others see you—which is so potent in therapy groups, is a major component of the supervision group experience.

Nevertheless, despite the many benefits, it’s challenging to start and maintain a consultation group, particularly if it’s a leaderless one. They can fail to thrive or suffer from “task drift,” moving them away from discussing clinical material and into a form of therapy. It can be difficult to integrate new members and maintain clarity about the group’s own process. Presenting cases in supervision in any format poses obvious risks to one’s self-esteem, and group dynamics add additional risks: issues of power, competition, exposure, and shame can lead members to drop out. It’s especially challenging to manage group dynamics in leaderless groups, as it’s usually the leader’s role to remain aware of what’s happening within the group, and without a leader in charge, shame or fear of being judged may silence members.

The most successful leaderless groups seem to be those in which the group members find a balance between a focus on cognitive and emotional issues—talking about cases and about the feelings that arise when seeing clients—while consciously managing the functions that a designated leader would serve. These include protecting the group contract, setting and maintaining appropriate norms, and handling gatekeeping matters, such as bringing in new members.

A crucial component of maintaining an atmosphere of group safety is regular, dependable member attendance. Without this, a group will never feel like a place to take risks. Members need to be willing to bring up concerns about irregular attendance because, just as in a therapy group, member lateness and absences can indicate issues that need exploring. Chronic irregular attendance can be demoralizing and cause a group to fail. When it comes to group safety and cohesion, Woody Allen was right: 90 percent of supervision group success is about showing up.

A significant issue in any supervision group is shame and the reluctance to expose oneself. To make supervision groups feel safer, therapist David Altfeld developed a model of group consultation in which all group members simply share their emotional reactions and associations to a situation being discussed, instead of one person presenting a specific case issue and everyone else giving advice as resident “experts.” This procedure levels the playing field by not allowing members to compete for the best case analysis. It leaves room for highlighting emotional issues, countertransference reactions, and parallel process. Making everyone vulnerable in this manner avoids opportunities for excessive criticism (or its counterpart, excessive niceness) and encourages emotional sharing.

Another group consultation model, developed by Irish therapist Bobby Moore, focuses only on minimal case information, such as a patient’s age, length of time in therapy, and perhaps a little demographic information. Then the presenter talks about his or her thoughts, fantasies, feelings, and associations about the patient and the therapy. Group members then share their associations. Following that, the initial presenter is invited to share any further associations. Only at this point does the presenter give the facts of the case and the clinical dilemma. Finally, the group thinks together about what’s been discussed and what it indicates about the case. For those interested in the power of the collective unconscious, this is a fascinating process to experience.

To succeed, a consultation group must feel safe and useful to its members. Here are a few simple principles to follow:

Clarify the group structure. The group needs to agree on the frequency and length of meetings, which is best accomplished with a predictable schedule. The group needs to agree on its task and focus: is this group for any clinical issue or just for couples, or trauma, or group therapy? How much time will the group spend on “schmoozing,” and will there be one or more than one case presented each time? What will be the presentation format? While most groups use verbal presentation, some groups are now using videoclips—which makes the discussion much livelier.

Agree on membership issues. How many members will the group have, and how will new members be integrated? Once a group has formed, I believe that decisions about adding more members should be a group decision. While it may be tempting to accept a request from someone who wants to join the group, a total of six members seems to be the maximum number for each member to have enough opportunities for presentations.

Attend to the group process and dynamics. While groups should build in a “schmooze” or “check-in” time, there needs to be an agreed-upon limit to the socializing, so that the group doesn’t become a therapy group or a coffee klatch. Without a leader, the members themselves must monitor the group’s procedures and raise any important issues. Some groups do this ad hoc; others schedule a regular review meeting to evaluate how things are going.

Leaderless peer supervision groups can help clinicians at any stage further clinical learning and combat professional isolation. They’re likeliest to succeed when the group members have a clear working agreement, maintain regular attendance, and create an environment in which both emotional and cognitive learning occurs.

Eleanor Counselman, Ed.D., is a past president of the Northeastern Society for Group Psychotherapy and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She’s published numerous articles on psychotherapy and has a private practice in Belmont, Massachusetts.