Point of View


Emotional First Aid: Looking Beyond the DSM

January/February 2014


Everyone knows that a twisted ankle requires elevation and a bag of frozen peas, minor cuts and scrapes get bandages and Neosporin ointment, and colds get chicken soup, cough drops, and tissues. But what’s the common remedy for rejection, rumination, or low self-esteem?

As psychotherapists, we proudly use our expertise in evidence-based methods in the treatment of severe anxiety, depression, and relationship angst, but we rarely talk about standard protocols for everyday emotional problems that aren’t listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and that most people experience but typically don’t consult a therapist about. Ask 10 practitioners how they address loneliness, for example, and you’ll likely get 10 wildly different responses.

Manhattan psychologist Guy Winch felt an instruction manual for the emotional bumps and bruises of life was long overdue. In his book Emotional First Aid, he compiles current research and theory to provide suggestions for handling familiar issues like loneliness, loss, guilt, and a sense of failure. In the interview below, he shares his thoughts on emotional first aid.

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RH: Why do you think our training as psychotherapists mostly ignores everyday issues like rejection and loneliness?

Winch: We tend to focus on the illness, because if it’s not…

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