I was working with a couple terrorized by demons of severe trauma experienced as children, re-inflicted on each other. They lashed out at each other trying to cause as much pain on the other as they felt themselves.
And I dove in head first with barely a safety line in tow.Read More
This is another long post highlighting a precious moment in therapy when two amazing little boys learn to apologize and mend their relationship.Read More
I've learned so many different types of therapies over the past 20 years and continue to take from everything I’ve ever learned. In a series of posts, I'm going to share what I've personally learned about therapy and becoming a therapist. I hope these posts help future therapists embrace their own journeys and help patients feel more informed and empowered to seek good and smart therapists rather than good and smart therapies that fit their needs in their current moment.Read More
More and more, I’m realizing that the essence of the work I do is creating an inviting space between people to be vulnerable and explore their inner worlds and those of other people with compassionate curiosity. I do this in my individual work and in my family work. I think this co-created space is the fertile ground in which psychological growth occurs. Here’s an example of how a young boy, his mother, and I created this space together. When done well, this strategy invites amazing insights from children that you would never see coming otherwise.Read More
This long vignette is meant to try to articulate what I do as a therapist that I really value but that is often lost in our current world of parent management training, behavioral therapy, and evidence-based treatments. I'm happy to respond to comments or questions.Read More
SEEING is perceiving with the eyes. True seeing brackets preconceived notions and biases so things are seen as they really are.Read More
See my patient's amazing video about childhood trauma.Read More
It's so hard to deal with anger (speaking personally for myself). Here's how I try to work with it in therapy.Read More
I know someone who always feels like ending her life. I told her that I admired the way she lived, which is a ridiculous thing to say. Why would anyone admire someone who is always at baseline suicidal? I tried to unpack what I meant by it and this is what came out:Read More
I led a training for a group of dedicated people who work with the most difficult adolescents in the city--the teens who run, cut, spit, and fight.Read More
Snippet of a therapy session with an awesome mom rooting for her child overwhelmed by anxiety.Read More
It's like you hold up a mirror and I really don’t want to look into it because I think I am so ugly, but deep inside I wish I were cute and pretty (she tears up). But, you keep holding up the mirror and show me that I just have some dirt on my face and you help me brush it off. Then I begin to realize that maybe I’m not so ugly...Read More
Everyday I'm grateful for the chance to share my patients' journeys to overcoming so much and claiming their lives as their own, free from history and fear. This time the work has been put down on paper in the form of a memoir that documents one person's entire history of abuse and recovery. He was so afraid and ashamed to share it, yet it was one of the most powerful acts of healing he could have ever experienced, and it has touched the life of others in a way that he could never have imagined. Talk about turning tragedy into triumph.
The last part of the book includes scenes from our sessions together, which is always hard, like listening to and disliking your voice when you hear it played back. But, I take a step back from this self-consciousness and stand in amazement and pride at what we accomplished in the journey of our work together.
I feel it would be too self-promotional to tell everyone to go out and buy the book (like saying, "Look how great I am," which I'm clearly not), so suffice it to say that I think it could be an inspirational read for anyone who has lost hope or doesn't believe that things can ever get better.
I also have to qualify with a trigger warning: the first few chapters go into detail about childhood abuse and can be hard to get through. It was for me at least.
Today a man,
who just months ago
whether he wanted family therapy
(at least with me)
then only wanted to work on problem solving,
then only wanted to intellectualize,
about missing his father,
grieved the imminent loss of his favorite uncle,
and shared how he suffers
a desperate longing
with his teen-age son
(who can't make sessions
because of other commitments).
And his wife and daughter
leaned into his pain
with tears in their eyes,
not problem solving,
And I too honestly
like listening to Adele
or singing Karaoke :-)
And I reassured the father
that this new man
will draw his son
is wont to do.
a brief snippet of supervision on how to talk to an angry then remorseful patientRead More
This is how I tried to teach my interns how to sit in the mystery of therapy.Read More
Wow, I just watched a video by The School of Life that captures 80% of what I have taken so long to learn in my journey to become what I feel is a good therapist: a good listener. I've never heard anyone else articulate the essential ingredients of good listening so concisely and so in line with the things I've had to learn on my own through hundreds of hours of practice. I'm embedding the video at the bottom.
Here is a summary of the key points:
- Encourage people to elaborate their point, instead of responding with your own story, because most people don't know quite what they are trying to say and need to talk it out to pinpoint it; and keep the speaker's history in mind as you listen to new information and connect it all, so they make new insights and feel deeply heard.
- Urge clarification about why someone feels a certain way to help them understand their own life themes and values and definitely don't move to reassurance and advice giving too quickly.
- Don't moralize and judge; instead, respond with small sounds of sympathy and reassurance. Realize that we are all weak and vulnerable in some way. Warm to vulnerability, instead of rejecting it.
- Separate disagreement with hostility. Invite or at least allow for disagreement in the relationship to show that people don't always have to agree to remain in relationship with each other. (This one isn't as often used as a therapist but sometimes it does happen).
In my thinking, I've been summarizing good listening as Compassionate Curiosity, a nonjudgmental empathic desire to keep learning more and more about a person that can only happen through explicit intention, bracketing of judgement and willingness to identify the hidden virtues and values behind embarrassing and shameful emotions that block true exploration. So very similar!
Should a therapist cry with their patients?Read More
In my own work nowadays, I'm constantly aware of how much my heart aches with each person I see.Read More