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Adopting Healthy Habits for Happiness and Wellbeing

Once in a while, we may make concerted attempts to be kinder, less impatient, or more attentive to our own self-care. But our chaotic 21st-century lives often lack the structure, discipline, and even the raw physical energy required to make the changes stick. After a few weeks of trying something as simple as swimming at lunchtime, we sag beneath the weight of too much distraction and too little sleep. We know everything except how to live. In this postmodern world of infinite choice and incoherent structure, what practical steps should we take now—a personal trainer? More therapy? Feng shui? Zen meditation?—to become the self we see shining in our best moments?   Read More

Embracing Creativity and Play in Therapy

In these days of Managed Care and Therapeutic Minimalism, my biggest concern about therapy is that we don’t ask enough of it. Too often, we don’t push ourselves or our clients hard enough to make the changes that make a real difference in people’s lives. It’s taken me more than 30 years to realize that it’s the combination of two strange bedfellows—imagination and repetition—that holds the key to change. To move clients out of their ruts, their numbness, and their stuck places, we need to get their attention and start their adrenaline going at a rate that wakes them up and helps them to experience the fullness of life again.   Read More

A Couples Therapy for the Modern Relationship

When it comes to couples, we still hold onto the romantic ideal of finding that one soulmate who’ll fulfill all our needs for companionship, emotional intimacy, and erotic adventure in a single relationship. In our interview with Esther Perel, she shares her thoughts about how broader social context shapes expectations of marriage in crucial ways that are often ignored by many models of couples therapy.   Read More

A Brain Science Approach to Couples Therapy

When clients become upset, they’re in the grip of one of seven major body-brain mood states, also referred to as “executive operating systems.” These are more than just passing moods. They’re complex neurochemical cascades, in which hormones race through the body and brain and electrical impulses fly over familiar neural synapses, shaping what we feel, do, and think. This hormonal cascade can be lifesaving in the appropriate situation—in the face of a dangerous driver, say, or a possible mugger or rapist. But in intimate relationships, it’s often toxic. In my work as a couples therapist, I train my clients to reactivate the neocortex—the inner switchmaster—in the face of strong emotion.   Read More

When the Therapeutic Alliance Makes Clients Dependent

After 22 years, I can still see Amy sitting there, cross-legged, with her arms folded across her chest. This case had been emotionally devastating for me. Amy began calling me at home. Then she began making hang-up phone calls, started cutting her wrists again and threatened suicide. Years after terminating therapy with Amy, she called me again, begging for me to treat her. I agreed. She was caught in the vortex once more and, like a complete fool, so was I.   Read More

The Rise of Therapy’s Positive Psychology Movement

How did Martin Seligman come to be known as the “father” of something called positive psychology, a movement that could change the face of psychotherapy as we know it? With his scientific study of what makes people happy and good, Seligman overturned therapy’s culture of victimology, obsessed with the study of what’s wrong with people—with their emotional lives, their relationships, their physical brains, and why they fail and feel bad. If people could be taught to feel bad, Seligman supposed, perhaps they could also be taught to feel good.   Read More

How Mindfulness Makes Therapy a Sacred Space

What exactly is it that mindfulness helps bring into focus that our other theories and methods of therapeutic practice haven’t already addressed? For an answer to that question, we asked Jack Kornfield—Buddhist teacher, psychotherapist, and someone who’s been at the forefront of those helping Westerners grasp Eastern spiritual concepts and practices since the 1970s. In this interview, he describes how ritual—what he calls the experience of the sacred—and a concern with the larger mystery of our lives can deepen the therapeutic encounter.   Read More

Confronting the Culture of the Busy Child in Therapy

In previous decades, we came to see sexism and racism as problems we could no longer ignore in our work. I have a nomination for the problem of this decade: for many kids, childhood is becoming a rat race of hyperscheduling, overbusyness, and loss of family time. The problem is all around us, but we haven’t noticed how many of our children need daily planners to manage their schedules of soccer, hockey, piano, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, baseball, football, karate, gymnastics, dance, violin, band, craft clubs, foreign-language classes, academic-enrichment courses, and religious activities. Parents have become recreation directors on the family cruise ship.   Read More

Using Mindfulness to Connect with Therapy Clients

In the spacious room where I’m leading a retreat on relational mindfulness, several dozen therapists sit with their eyes closed, silently attending to their breathing. Many people understand this process as a path toward individual growth and healing, and it is. But the paradox of mindfulness meditation is that in cultivating a more attuned and loving relationship to ourselves, we nurture our capacity for a more resonant connection with others. Mindfulness has a pay-it-forward momentum—for when clinicians are more attuned to their clients, they, in turn, can more readily move forward into greater awareness and kindness toward themselves.   Read More

How to Keep Sex in Marriage After Childbirth

Sex makes babies. So it is ironic that the child, the embodiment of the couple’s love, so often threatens the very romance that brought that child into being. Sex, which sets the entire enterprise in motion, is often abandoned once children enter the picture. But the brave and determined couple who maintains an erotic connection is, above all, the couple who values it. When they sense desire in crisis, they become industrious, and make intentional, diligent attempts to resuscitate. They know that it’s not children who extinguish the flame of desire: it’s adults who fail to keep the spark alive.   Read More

How Mindfulness Therapy Redefines the Self

What if our therapeutic goals of improving self-esteem, developing a stable and coherent sense of self, and identifying and expressing genuine, authentic feelings all turn out to be symptoms of delusion? If we engage in meditation long enough, we discover that our sense of being a separate, coherent, enduring self is actually a delusion maintained by our constant inner chatter. Seeing ourselves in this light can pull the rug out from under us in alarming—though potentially liberating—ways.   Read More

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