Case Study


Case Study

How to Find the “Can” in “Can’t”

By Donald Altman

May/June 2020


Our ability to identify even the slightest dangers and threats has been a key to our survival as a species, but in modern life this sensitivity comes with a downside: we’re experts at focusing on negative things, including those that are unlikely to occur. Like a mother who continually imagines horrific traumas befalling her young son in even the most unthreatening of situations, this proclivity can take a toll on our well-being.

In fact, an epidemic-worthy number of 40 million Americans deal with diagnosable anxiety-related issues every year, and over 25 million struggle with clinical depression. What’s perhaps more alarming—and yes, I’m focusing on the negative here—is the susceptibility of younger and younger age groups to experience extreme worry, often entrenching them in a cycle of negative thinking.

Of course, we wouldn’t want to take away our precious ability to keep ourselves safe by detecting potential problems. After all, if you can’t identify a problem, how can you hope to overcome it? But many of our clients need to redirect or tame this ability so it doesn’t drag them into out-of-control anxiety and rumination. Over the years, like many practitioners, I’ve put together an extensive clinical toolbox to help my clients do this. But I’ve also found that we often have to get creative in how we apply…

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