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
Four stories of sexual assault crash on top of each other, like a four-car pile up.Read More
Listen to a podcast about my work on a Korean radio show. I answer questions about historical trauma and its impact on the Korean psyche and child-rearing.Read More
Watch a new commercial for the Child Psychiatry division at Mount Sinai Health System that features the work of my Center.Read More
So, my trauma-recovered patient continues "wondering" around NYC, snapping pictures of its beauty. This particular scene is quite metaphoric. That red emergency rescue ladder is a remnant of a winter just passed, where a fissured frozen pond portends drowning and death. But, this day welcomes the first warm weekend of Spring. And for the first time in his life, he allows himself to soak in its life-renewing promise, holding hands with his expectant wife. His dog deeply wise in her playfulness frolicks ahead. ...We should drape the ladder with garlands of new Spring buds.
This is a redo of a training video on using compassion to motivate others.Read More
I work with a group of advocates who champion the cause of encouraging adoption of transition age youth. They go around the city talking to youth about holding on to the hope for unconditional family love and commitment, and they recruit parents to fulfill those dreams.
They hurt today when one young man in the audience despaired, “fuck family!”Read More
, a patient of mine comes out from under the dense fog of childhood traumaRead More
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.Read More
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!
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.Read More
I spent the day at a conference with panels and panels of renowned experts examining the nature of psychotherapy. These people have devoted their careers to understanding the process through which psychotherapy works. Yet, the discussion was leaving me bored and uninspired.Read More
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.