News: Adolescent Depression, Insomnia, Benefits of Anxiety, and more…

Here’s a roundup of news in the areas of mental health and marriage that struck me this month. 1. Adolescent Mental Health When Father Leaves Researchers following kids who were about 12 when their fathers left the family found that these children, five years later found that at first the children suffered from depression and anxiety. By nine months later, the depression lifted but not the stress. Interestingly, the teens also worried about their mothers even though they were still living with them. There were various theories floated as to why these particular feelings were taking hold of the children at these points in time. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/304176.php 2. How Loss of Sleep Disturbs Our Ability to Regulate Our Emotions.   If you have noticed yourself over-reacting when you haven’t had enough sleep, it’s not just “your emotions”; there’s a biochemical reason for that and researchers have pinned it down. The study had people take tests first after a good night’s sleep and second, after deprivation. The fascinating finding was that sleep deprivation caused people to perceive emotionally neutral images in a negative way. In another test, subjects were distracted by both neutral and negative images when they lost a night’s sleep but people with a good night’s sleep were only distracted by negative images. The lead researcher stated that poor sleep: “can lead to biased cognitive processing and poor judgment as well as anxiety.” http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/303921.php 3. How to Improve Mental Health in 2016 The author gathered information from a number of studies and found the following surprising suggestions: a. The Mediterranean Diet improves a sense of well-being and improves cognitive...

What’s Wrong With Anger Management?

      Let’s say you were an alcoholic. Would it be better to be what the people in AA programs often call a “dry drunk,” i.e., someone who isn’t drinking but is white-knuckling it the whole time, or, on the other hand, someone who actually doesn’t even think about taking a drink?   The second person, if offered, could take it or leave it. I enjoy coffee, and am sure to have a cup every morning, but if someone offered it to me in the middle of the day, I might say, “No, thanks” because it just didn’t appeal to me at that moment. You see where I’m going? – The dry drunk wants that drink sooooo badly. The other person is not attached to his or her drink. The drink is pleasant at the right time and not of interest at other times. That “not attachment” is the ideal place for anger. It is useful at times and not at all of interest at other times. Times Anger Is Useful Anger at oneself may be useful. If you did something wrong, it is better to be really upset with yourself over it than to gloss over it as if it wasn’t important. Of course, there is another aspect of anger which is that there is an endpoint to even useful anger. Sometimes, enough is enough. We are not supposed to wallow in self-flagellation. Anger at another could also be useful. You love your child so much, that in your eyes he could do no wrong. But he just did wrong. You may have to work yourself up just a...

What’s the Difference Between Therapy and Coaching?

Therapists are struggling to help people but the internet — and your neighborhood — have become filled with coaches extolling the benefits of *not* being therapists. Really, the argument is as silly as trying to convince everyone that the only ice cream that tickles the taste buds is chocolate. Some people prefer vanilla, some chocolate, and luckily there are probably around a hundred other flavors to accommodate aficionados. Everyone can get to choose. So here is a quick and painless run-down of the different approaches to helping people. First of all, there is no such thing as “a” kind of therapy. There are probably hundreds of therapy approaches — like ice cream flavors — and it is important to know one  approach from the other. After all, you are a consumer (or you could become one.) You might want to take a look at my article, What You Need to Know About the Different Therapy Approaches and my video, Marriage-Friendly Therapy, or some oldies but goodies on this site on the subject of a holistic approach to therapy. One notes that holistic therapy is More Than Behavior, More Than Feelings; the other wonders why therapists should look at peoples’ deficits rather than their strengths in A Different Way of Viewing Problems. If you’re not in the mood to read all that, suffice it to say that all psychotherapy is not talk-talk-talk. You’d be thinking of psychoanalysis, if that’s what you thought it was. Freud, the inventor of psychoanalysis, believed people need to talk to discover their real feelings at the core of their problems. And I have known people...

How the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual (DSM) Came to Be

Michael is a neatnick. This is not bad. He keeps everything in order, can find whatever he needs, feels free of debris, and thinks more clearly because of it. His wife, Marcie, is a bit more, shall we say, free. She is not bound by rules of where to put things, how to think, or when to do what. This may not be bad, either. She is an artist and has exhibited at major galleries across the nation. She does have a bit of challenge getting supper for the kids on time so Michael and Marcie have worked out that they would prepare it the night before and have it ready to pop into the oven the next day. Frequently, he will leave a piece of paper on the pan of food in the fridge saying something like, “put in oven at 5:30.” Michael finds his wife’s messiness a bit challenging but he fell in love with her free spirit, something that was not present in the house in which he grew up. He is proud of her national acclaim. And he doesn’t mind the income it brings in either. Marcie is delighted to have a husband that appreciates her creativity and who keeps some order in their lives. She grew up with one overburdened parent in the house and an absent one. She cannot remember family meals, so she was drawn to someone who represented stability and home. This is a healthy couple. They enjoy each other’s uniqueness. What’s bad about diagnostic labeling in your marriage Not every couple who is attracted to their opposite continues to appreciate...

What You Need to Know about Psychotherapy Approaches

On December 2, 2012, I spoke at a parenting conference to a pretty good-sized audience given that it was only a month after Hurricane Sandy devastated the area. After the panel of therapists was finished with small breakout sessions, a sampling of them met for a Q & A from the audience. I was one of them. The audience had some good questions. I was more interested in hearing how my fellow therapists were answering those questions than in giving my own answers. However, a question arose to which I could not resist responding. The questioner wanted to know how to decide which type of psychotherapy approach to use in therapy for his child. I explained that family therapy, as opposed to psychology, operates on the principle that people are not sick and don’t have “diseases.” Therefore, taking his child to a family therapist would have the advantage of not placing a stigma on the child or the family. Furthermore, I was ready to add that he and his wife would be given effective tools to use with their child. No sooner had the first words left my mouth then the moderator, a psychiatrist, cut me off. Standing at the podium and speaking with passion, he told the story of a person who went to family therapy without success because that person had an undiagnosed medical condition. “So,” he concluded, “it is better to go to a psychologist or medical professional.” Until that moment, I had no idea that other psychotherapists felt threatened by family therapists. Talk about a learning experience! It now seems to me that giving readers...

Hurricane Sandy Snags a Therapist

Yaaay! We moved into our new place – finally after three months – and that is why I am a day late posting my new blog entry. Here is the story I wrote last week that led up to Monday’s move… One of my grandsons is sitting three inches from me on the couch reading from his first grade reader. His mother, an excellent mother – not because she is my daughter, but because she really is – is listening and following intently, managing to not lose her focus while patting the head of the two-year old who wants a little attention, too. It’s an honor to be here, listening to the learning and soaking in the earnestness of these beautiful children doing their homework. An honor, and yet, now that we have finally, finally, after three months found an apartment, I will be so happy to leave and not wake up to my four-month old granddaughter crying desperately in the middle of the night. So I am posting my blog from my own experience of having been unexpectedly rendered homeless by Hurricane Sandy on October 29, 2012. It’s going to be a little different type of post because being a Marriage & Family Therapist does not render me immune from the cauldron that is a family. A cauldron under pressure. The first six weeks went really, really well. It was my son-in-law that phoned the day before the storm was to hit, insisting that we come stay with them for the duration. He knew my husband is handicapped and didn’t want him to be placed in danger should...

What Is Missing In How We Treat Mental Illness

I’m angry. I am so angry that I need to get it out before I can reach out with love and tears to the families of murdered children. I am angry because I have been saying for years that our country is going about its handling of mental illness in the wrong way. I have just written an article at GoodTherapy.org on that very topic. The new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders will be coming out in the spring, DSM-5, and, as the reviewers for GoodTherapy said about my article: “They’ve had five versions, and nearly 20 years since the last one, to get Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders right. And they’ve failed miserably.” Why Adam Lanza Killed If you are not up for reading a heavily-researched article on the history of the DSM and why it is junk, here is the synopsis: Labeling people with diagnoses and then pushing pills at them is NOT, I repeat NOT the answer to helping people with emotional difficulties. Adam Lanza did NOT kill people, including his own mother, because he had Asperger’s Syndrome. Like all the other mass murderers, he killed people because a. he was in terrible, unbearable pain b. he wanted the world to “know” the degree of pain he was in by giving us that same degree of pain. Adam Lanza needed something far more potent than pills. The pharmaceutical industry has been pushing pills and I have been patiently trying to explain why that is not the answer. In short, pills are incapable of taking away the degree of pain that some people,...

Self Esteem, Selfishness and Selflessness

Okay, here’s a question: Do you put yourself first or others first? Here’s another question: What is the right thing to do regarding the first question? Third question: Who told you that? Where did that message come from? And the final question: Where does self-esteem come in? Does putting yourself first demonstrate self-esteem? How about if you put others first? Is This Selfish? David walked into the house hungry. He’d had an incredibly difficult day. Things did not go well with the partners in his new business. They didn’t believe his year-end predictions and they wanted more data than he could give them. He was really annoyed about that, angry actually. He was in a huff as he walked in. “Hi,” Doris said as he came in. No matter how challenging it was, she always tried to be pleasant. But she didn’t get a reciprocal greeting. “Where’s dinner?” was all David said. We don’t need more information than this to say that it appears that David is selfish or self-centered. He seems to put himself first, but more than that, his wife wasn’t on the list at all. Well, I shouldn’t say that. David has learned that in order to get some of the things he wants he must attend to others – to a point. So there might be a time when he gives a gift or a “Hello.” That logic still filters events through “Me” as the operator: If it’s in my interest, then I will cater to others. This approach keeps the behavior in the category of “selfish.” Is there a time when this is right?...

How to Get A Good Night Sleep

This was not new for him. It was 3 AM and Herb was wide awake. Forget the fact that he’d just gone to bed at midnight and that he was bone tired. His brain went into action: But what did Gloria mean? What if she really wants out of the relationship? But no, that can’t be because of what Brian said she said…… And on and on. His anxiety was in full control. A worrying mind flits from one branch of a decision tree down another. Every branch is visited and new ones sprout as the worrier looks. Each branch must be examined and re-examined. Yes, that’s part of it: revisit each worry again and yet again because there could be a new slant on an old situation that went unnoticed before. The new slants produce more doubts, more worries, more questions, more obsessive negative thoughts, and the entire tree must be explored again with the new slant in mind. The hours tick by and sleep is a gift of the past, the one thing that eludes the watchful eye of the worrier. Insomnia. This is not just a nocturnal thing; it goes on all day, getting in the way of relationships, work, driving, studying, and living. Our brains were not meant to function this way; it’s just not efficient. And it inhibits doing the very thing that seems to be hogging the controls: thinking. Paradoxically, when we stop worrying, we can easily get the answers we want. Here’s why: We are consciously aware of only a small fraction of what we experience. The rest gets filed somewhere in...
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