I will use this page from time to time to offer thoughts, vignettes and ideas that come to mind during the course of my own growth and what I have learned as I deepen my engagement in my profession. Please feel free to scroll through to see if a subject catches your interest.
Some Thoughts about Disorders
This is an era when you can go to internet resources and look at the same information that I do to have an idea of what they might be experiencing. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-5th Edition (DSM-5) offers an incredibly extensive list of what are labeled as maladaptive behaviors, or disorders.
This is a disease model which uses classifications and titles that have been created to justify payment to mental health providers who must use these descriptions to guarantee getting paid by insurance companies.
I could go into more detail about this arrangement, but the main point I want to make is my discomfort about the term disorder. People create ways to deal with the world that are usually based on decisions that are informed by their early experience as children. At the time, these ways of coping make sense and help people to make it through difficult times. These methods, however, do not stand the test of time, which can leave you feeling isolated and confused. But they are not disorders; they are ways of dealing with your world that do not allow new and better information to be incorporated into your understanding, and can get in the way of adult growth. My goal in working with you, in a large part, is to get away from looking for pathology and enter into a forgiving and accepting space that will give you room to heal and renew your spirit.
Grief and Bereavement
Grief and bereavement can take many forms. Most of us are familiar, sadly, with losing someone special to us, but sometimes there are forces at work that can leave you asking questions about how you are reacting to a loss. Losing someone in your life with whom you had a complicated or difficult relationship can be more frustrating than losing someone with whom you had a special bond. Some people, like friends, sometimes find that there are others who do not understand how meaningful a friendship was to them. Losing a parent early in life can set up a different reaction than losing a parent in the “normal” way, when there is a natural end.
Grief is not limited to dealing with the physical death of another person. There can be divorce, estrangement, or displacement. Losing your mobility, sight or hearing is reason to grieve, or losing your job.
In the end, it can be helpful to look at these experiences through the lens of eventual reconciliation with yourself and the grief. Having lost several people in my own life, including a wife, and working in hospice care positions me well with regard to helping you work through a difficult time.
Sexual Trauma Repair
There are too many women who have had to deal with some form of sexual trauma in their lives, and many are having the courage to talk about it.
It is understandable that the first therapist of choice for women who are starting to open up about this experience be another woman, especially someone who might have firsthand knowledge of her own of such injury.
At some point, however, it might be useful to talk to a male therapist who can offer the opportunity to do what I have referred to as “gender repair”, to develop a relationship with a man who is familiar with the boundaries needed for a woman to more fully recover from emotional and physical injury, as well as the anger and sense of betrayal that can be the inevitable result of such a violation. In no way do I insist that this has to be part of a woman’s recovery; I would never see someone that felt mandated to see me, but it could be an effective option for a woman who wants to work through feelings specifically related to men.
As a segue related to the last reflection, there has been a lot of conversation with regard to the attitudes and behaviors of men towards women. What I have found is that, as a result, a lot of men are trying to understand what is going on and struggling with feelings of anger, confusion and fear. I have worked on this issue for myself and have learned a lot about, not just how to think about my behavior, but where my reactions come from in certain situations.
What I have mainly learned is the importance of being able to talk about these feelings and doing the work to become the sort of man that is respectful of others and himself. The #MeToo movement is not going to go away; nor should it. It actually has opened up the opportunity for men to know themselves better and to create adult alliances with the women in their lives. For men who choose relationships with women, it can also deepen those relationships. This is the positive aspect of the present conversation.
Thriving vs. Surviving
There are some biases that I have, or own, that are different from some of my colleagues. Many people have have had difficult experiences where surviving was the best they could hope for. I invite the people that I work with to go beyond surviving to thriving.
This can feel like a challenging prospect. We are talking about a life defined by more than survival. The journey is in the creation of a whole life, without the emphasis on an event or events in the past. This can be strenuous work, but liberating. I am not talking about creating amnesia, but moving beyond history to a present where what happened is just one aspect of an otherwise full life.
I am a cisgender White male married to a cisgender White female. By saying that, I am offering three descriptors that help you know more about me. This is becoming a world where the limitations of relationships, both with others and ourselves, are being reconsidered and expanding. I offer a setting where I would like to believe that those who identify in ways that have been described as “non-conforming” can be open and work through the challenges that they encounter as they develop their best sense of themselves. I do not presume to be fully “woke”, but I am open to discovery and am willing to learn as I go. My goal is to have everyone feel welcome in my office. My pronouns are he, him and his.
The Importance of Family Work
More and more, I am aware of how context is so important with regard to working with and truly caring about my clients. As a result, I am striving to bring more of my client’s world into the room. I like to work with couples and am finding it even more helpful to bring in other family members, if not the whole crew, or anyone else who is important to the client.
This orientation is my way of speaking to a recent understanding of liberation based healing, which is a concept and orientation that is decades old. It conforms with my attitude towards disorders, mentioned above, since it can be a client’s environment that is toxic, not necessarily the client. Many times I have seen the “light” go on in a client’s eyes when they understand that they are dealing in an old way with a problem, but that they need something from the people around them to find the way out. Many families have a familiar dance that they haven’t considered closely with an eye towards reconsideration and reconciliation; such work can help all of them lead more loving lives.
Long Term vs. Short Term Psychotherapy
There are many modalities of treatment available today. CPT, EMDR, EFT and DBT are available, as well as others. I have no prejudice towards any of these orientations. What is important is what works for you.
I have looked at all of these at one time or another and decided some time ago that I would stay with what feels best to me. As a result, I am a traditional psychotherapist. I believe that it took time for my clients to become who they are and it will probably take some time for them to become who they want to be. I have been in my own therapy for some years and I have learned that, as things become revealed, there are other issues that await discovery.
No one is a prisoner to this process. I have worked with many people who decided that they have done all that they want to do and have moved on, usually with my good wishes. For those who choose to stay, they have the opportunity to find out more about themselves, and they and I get to know what it is like to grow together.
Black Lives Matter
I am a product of an education and profession that has a long history of working to create equity in this society. While I truly believe that all lives matter, this is an era in which the struggles of African Americans must be addressed. While I do not emphasize race in my practice, I will not avoid subjects or issues in which race is an issue. Again, my goal is that everyone with whom I work find my office as a place where they can be honest with me and with themselves. As a White, or European American, person I owe it to myself and my clients who have been marginalized to continue to expand my awareness of their experience.
I also believe that it is important for White people to have a place where they can talk about the effect that issues around race have on them. My hope is to invite everyone to let themselves embrace the humanity of others as well as their own.