Today's Touching Family Moment

Today a man,
who just months ago
was unsure
whether he wanted family therapy
(at least with me)
then only wanted to work on problem solving,
then only wanted to intellectualize,

finally cried
about missing his father,
grieved the imminent loss of his favorite uncle,
and shared how he suffers
a desperate longing
to connect
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 talking,
not problem solving,
only conveying
love
and gratitude.

And I too honestly
felt moved
like listening to Adele
or singing Karaoke :-) 

And I reassured the father
that this new man
will draw his son
inexorably
like love
is wont to do.

 

Being a Good Listener, the Key to Being a Good Therapist

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: 

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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! 

Cardozo Lecture Video Remastered

Ok, I wasted the weekend editing the Cardozo lecture so people can actually see the video and my talk at the same time. And I shrank it down to 35 minutes! I hope you enjoy it. I think it's kinda funny yet educational. After this talk, the NYC Dept of Education asked me to helped them improve youth development and school safety. 

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Plaque of Appreciation

I received this plaque of appreciation while giving a keynote for a conference on runaway and homeless youth for the NYC Department of Youth & Community Development. It's more valuable to me than my diplomas. Those mark the development of my tools. This is what I've done with my tools: helping my dear city take care of its own staff and in turn take care of our children and families. What a blessing!

Protecting Children's Worlds

Today, a mother shared memories of being one of those little children who dallied walking to and fro from school, dreaming up fantastic elaborate worlds of little fairies hiding under blades of grass, building cities in piles of sidewalk snow. She was punished by her teachers for being so late, and now she worries that her own child will lose that precious imagination if labeled ADHD and medicated.

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New Mental Health Clinic in Flushing!

I kinda helped open up a new mental health clinic in Flushing, NY. It's run by Korean Community Services of NY. I was brought onto the board to help them create it. We had our ribbon ceremony on Monday. The ceremony was covered by NY1 and The Korea Times.  The new clinic is on the 2nd floor of this building in the picture. It's not the Head 2 Toe Spa, though it makes me think: that's not a bad business idea... therapy and pedicure all at once. 

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Dealing with Angry Ghosts in Psychotherapy

Though many therapists are trained to believe that they need to suppress or control feelings of anger, I think it is incredibly important to use them in therapy because they often reveal important patterns in the patient’s life--ghosts of relationships past. When these feelings go unexamined, they can harm the patient because they can slip out in hurtful ways. But, when examined, they can be some of the most healing moments in therapy.

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Two weeks in my life working in the world of juvenile detention

This post describes some heart warming events that happened when I visited a juvenile detention center last week. 

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