Posts by Planet Therapy

Looking For a Therapist?

Posted by on Apr 6, 2012 in Features | 0 comments

By William Madsen, Ph.D.

Dr. William Madsen is a psychologist practicing in the Boston and affiliated with the Family Institute of Cambridge. He is the author of a new book “Collaborative Therapy with Multi-Stressed Families.”

When problems crop up in our lives, we often seek out help from others. Over the years, people have turned to family, friends, clergy and others in their community. More recently, people have also turned to books, TV talk shows, and now websites. Sometimes, people look to counselors or therapists.

How do you pick a therapist, if that’s what you decide

There are as many different types of therapists as there are flavors of ice cream and all make different claims about their effectiveness. Research on therapy highlights the importance of the relationship you develop person to person. These studies show just what we would have expected: empathy, respect, warmth, genuineness and hope are the biggest contributors to effective therapy. These factors are reflected in how therapists think, talk and act. So, how do you decide whether a particular therapist is a good fit for you?

One way is to draw from the experience of others. I consult to many mental health programs for people who have not been well-served by the mental health system. I talk with people a lot about what has worked and not worked for them in getting help, and here are some of the things they tell me:

  • “I came into the mental health system in a crisis. I felt so vulnerable it was really hard to trust my own judgment. I didn’t have the confidence to question the professionals, but it was really important to remember this was my life and I should trust myself.”
  • “I want a counselor who’s going to see me as a person and believe I have strengths and resources, even when I don’t feel it. It’s been helpful when a therapist looks to pull me up rather than let themselves get pulled down by the problems and pessimism in my life.”
  • “They’ve got to be on my side. I have enough people criticizing me and telling me I’m wrong. It’s not enough that they aren’t judgmental. They have to let me know they’re in my corner.”
  • “A lot of therapists can fall into only focusing on problems. It’s been most helpful for me when my therapist remembers that I am more than the problems in my life and tries to help me build on that.”

How do you know if you’re making a good choice?

  • Ask Questions!

Therapy is a two-way relationship. The therapist works for you and you can ask them about their work just as they ask you about your life. You can interview a therapist when you first meet them and you can continue asking them questions as you work together. As one person put it,

“It’s really helpful when I know what my therapist is thinking. She checks in with me and asks how this process is going for me. She takes my responses to heart and that helps me feel more ownership of the work and makes sure we’re going in the right direction.”

There are many questions you can ask therapists, but here on some that others have found useful:

  1. How do you work? How is that useful? What are its drawbacks?
  2. Can you share some experiences you’ve had with similar families and situations? What’s worked and what hasn’t with them?
  3. How do you get feedback from clients about finding out how your work is going with them? What do you do with that feedback?
  4. How do you stay hopeful when things aren’t going well in the lives of the people with whom you work?

Trust Your Gut!

What does it feel like being in the room with this person? Do you feel a connection to them? Do you feel respected by them? Do they seem curious about you? Do you feel safe talking to them? Do they seem “on your side?”

So, if you’re looking for a therapist: Ask Questions and Trust your Gut

See if you believe in the therapist and she believes in you.

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Building Connections in Schools

Posted by on Apr 6, 2012 in Features | 0 comments

by Marie-Nathalie Beaudoin, Silicon Valley, CA

[Marie-Nathalie Beaudoin, Ph.D. is the author of “Working with Groups to Enhance Relationships”, and is coordinator of the narrative therapy internship at Bay Area Family Therapy Training Associates in Cupertino, California.]

Communities of Support

When one hears “Silicon Valley,” one thinks: “high-tech, computer chips, and the Internet boom.” Silicon Valley is a place of individual achievement, high prices, and big money. It is also a place where people are struggling to find connection, to find a community of belonging. An unfortunate, and often unspoken, byproduct of capitalism is the experience of isolation and disconnection. Silicon Valley workers often complain of having no time, no one to talk to, little social life. Sometimes the effects are discouragement, feeling marginalized, depression and anxiety (see our section on Depression under Problems). Parents speak of spending long hours at work, sometimes traveling, having precious little time to spend with their kids (see also our articles on the “Curse” of Perfect Parenting under Problem).

In this context, Marie-Nathalie Beaudoin, Ph.D., a French-Canadian who came to California in the early 90’s, decided it only made sense to involve people in communities of support. Working in elementary school programs, she noticed how classrooms provide easy access to the creation of community. Yet more often than not school counselors work with children individually. In contrast, she began to help subgroups of children in a classroom work together.

“Success spies” was one of the first programs Marie-Nathalie created. Several young people who had developed long-standing “troubled” reputations joined together to notice and document each other’s “successes.” Soon the entire class became a team for each other in noticing efforts to overcome difficulties. Teachers became involved as team members and as an “audience” to kids’ victories.

The “Bugging Bug” project is a more recent program in which kids show appreciation and tolerance of their classmates instead of showing disrespect, peer abuse, or bullying each other. Again, entire classrooms and schools become communities of support in which people acknowledge each other’s efforts.

Taking these ideas to a larger network, Dr. Beaudoin developed an online journal, “Silencing Critical Voices” which offers the opportunity for people to share their experiences and learn from others. The site includes writings from a variety of persons (kids, teachers, counselors, parents) who have overcome a wide range of struggles. It invites others to join in the project of “silencing critical voices.”

Currently, Marie-Nathalie Beaudoin is writing for publication to make these programs more widely known. See www.voices.com for excerpts from the work and the actual words of some of the members of these communities of support. By developing such communities, these schools are answering the isolationism and disconnection so prevalent in “Silicon Valley.”

Listen to Audio Interview

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Interview with filmmaker Neil Jordan

Posted by on Apr 6, 2012 in Features | 0 comments

Born in Sligo,Ireland, Neil Jordan is an award-winning writer and internationally acclaimed film director. He is the author of a collection of short stories, Night in Tunisia (winner of The Guardian Fiction Prize), and three novels, The Past, The Dream of a Beast, and Sunrise with Seamonster. His films include “The Company of Wolves,” “Mona Lisa,” “The Crying Game” (which won him an Oscar and a BAFTA for best screenplay in 1993), “Interview With The Vampire,” “Michael Collins,” “The Butcher Boy,” and “The End of The Affair.”

Click to hear the Interview

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The Heroic Client

Posted by on Apr 6, 2012 in Features | 0 comments

By Barry Duncan, Psy.D. and Scott Miller, Ph.D.

[Barry Duncan is a professor of Family Therapy at Nova Southeastern University. Scott Miller is an international workshop presenter and co-director, with Barry Duncan, of the Institute for the Study of Therapeutic Change (see their website www.talkingcure.com). Barry and Scott have co-authored over 100 articles and 13 books.]

The book that will lead psychotherapy away from the dinosaurs and into the age of The Heroic Client.

Psychotherapy has for too long miscast the therapist in the starring role in the drama of change. Furthermore, long-divided along disciplinary lines, therapists helplessly watch as the field is increasingly medicalized and turned over to those interested only in the bottom line. The result: Clients are reduced to diagnostic labels with fewer options and therapists are left without provisions for demonstrating the value of the services they provide–leaving both oppressed by practices in which they do not believe.

This controversial book challenges the traditional focus on diagnosis, “silver bullet” techniques, and magic pills, exposing them as empirically bankrupt practices that only diminish clients and hasten therapy’s extinction. Instead, Barry Duncan and Scott Miller advocate for the long-ignored, but most crucial factor in therapeutic success-the innate resources of the client. The Heroic Client not only shows how to harness the client’s powers of regeneration to make therapy effective, but also how to enlist the client as a partner to make therapy accountable.

The Heroic Client

  • Advocates for a true partnership with the client in all aspects of therapy.
  • Shows how to tailor the relationship to the client’s ideas about change and personal goals.
  • Offers a simple, valid, and reliable way of legitimizing therapy to third party payers without divulging confidential information.
  • Provides the tools of knowledge necessary for therapists and consumers to question mental health authority and subvert business as usual.

The Heroic Client inspires therapists to boldly rewrite the drama of therapy, recast clients in their rightful role as stars of the therapeutic stage, join with clients to legitimize services to third party payers, and form an identity separate from the medical model.

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Concealing and Revealing a Secret [Part-2]

Posted by on Apr 6, 2012 in Features | 1 comment

Part 2 (or return to Part 1)

After years of research Dr. Evan Imber-Black, Director of Program Development and Senior Faculty member at the Ackerman Institute for the Family in New York, offers you a step-by-step guide to help you more fully understand the dilemma of secrets.

1. Is the secret being kept because of intimidation?

Many secrets are kept out of fear or threats.

  • If you feel overwhelmed with fear about opening a secret, seek reliable support.
  • Examine how another person is misusing power to coerce secrecy.
  • If opening the secret will put you in danger, create a plan for safety, including police protection and a place to go.

2. Is the secret being maintained because of overwhelming shame?

Deciding to open a secret often involves facing painful and debilitating shame.

  • We try to avoid shame through secret keeping, but shame and secrets often exist in an escalating dance with each other- the more shame the more secrecy, the more secrecy the more shame.
  • The first step may be to enter an empathetic, witnessing relationship with a therapist in order to dissolve the shame underpinning the secret.

3. Is anger the primary motive to opening a secret?

Some secrets are opened in anger.

  • Revealing a secret can be a weapon to get even.
  • Use caution if you’re planning to open a secret as the next step in a cycle of escalating conflict, or with a desire for revenge.

4. Is self-righteousness the primary motive to open a secret?

  • If you’re thinking of opening a secret because you believe this “is for someone else’s good” regardless of the consequences, it’s best to slow down.

5. Will opening the secret contribute to a sense of integrity for self and relationships?

Secrets may be intricately connected to lies that can erode our sense of self and our capacity for authentic relationships.

  • Restoring the experience of oneself as honest, sincere and genuine may require opening a secret.
  • Regaining integrity includes the recognition that opening the secret is only the beginning. The real work comes with the willingness to listen to the impact of both concealing and revealing.

If you’re considering opening a secret, keep in mind:

  • Risks and benefits to each person and each relationship.
  • Authentic telling is not a talk show. Healing will occur over time and not by the next commercial break.
  • Open secrets in regular time, not ritual time. Major holidays, weddings, graduation are not the time to open secrets.
  • Relationships are a delicate ecology–when information previously hidden is revealed, the balance will be upset. Over time a new equilibrium will emerge.

Suggested Reading:

  • The Secret Life of Families: Truth Telling, Privacy and Reconciliation in a Tell-All Society. Bantam 1998.
  • Secrets in Families and Family Therapy. W.W. Norton, 1993.
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