Psychotherapy as we know it came out of the particular cultural milieu of the mid- to late-20th century. But the culture has moved on, and we haven’t adapted very well. As a result, we’re suffering the same fate as many other professions that have declined in their cultural support and public clout. Many of us are practicing in another century for another culture. It’s still unclear what we have to offer in a world that’s both hyperconnected and fragmented. What to do? Here’s a road map to a future of relevance.
As a family therapist, I know the power of thinking relationally, collaborating, and working across difference to find the many places where we actually share similarities. I found that at the Networker Symposium, where I had the pleasure of attending a workshop led by Christiana Awosan. Her presentation called practitioners, researchers, and educators alike to ask tough questions when working with Black couples. She invited us to consider the context that Black heterosexual men and women are coupling within, related to the experiences of slavery and racism, both as it was experienced over 250 years ago and also in how it still persists in our society today. There are truly The Colors of Tomorrow that we are living today.
I live in a small city in Upstate New York, and most people in town know somebody who knows me, my husband, or one of our four engaged and energetic sons. Despite all this, I managed, for two decades, to maintain (in my own mind, at least) a fire wall between my personal and professional lives. In the consulting room and the classroom, I worked to present an air of calm worldliness, an expert with the answers to all sorts of painful therapeutic and family dilemmas. Until one day, I was caught being myself, and everything changed. Read More
Although I have read his books and seen many videos of him in action, today’s Networker Symposium workshop was the first in-person opportunity I’ve had to hear Jon Kabat-Zinn speak. This enlightening workshop was exactly the push I needed to reinstate mindful practice into my life, starting right here, right now. Here are a few of my favorite pearls of wisdom from the day: In all Asian languages, “mind” and “heart” are the same word. Thus, “mindfulness” is also “heartfulness,” and “Do you live in a world of nouns or verbs?…Is your intention to be fully present without filling up the moment with anything extra?”
I had the pleasure of attending the Brainspotting seminar with David Grand today. What fresh and amazing information! I am drawn to anything that involves the brain because it brings the scientific information I need to the often less concrete world of talk therapy. Brainspotting is a process by which the client can access encapsulated trauma or other mental health issues without using extensive “talk therapy.” Knowing that clients can often get wrapped up in telling stories, accessing the information using BSP gives clients another way to process their distress without going too deeply into the narrative. I also appreciated that BSP is exceptionally client-driven. Therapists are encouraged to “be the tail of the comet.” The client, BSP teaches, “is the head.” Read More
Marianne Walters didn’t invent a brilliant new therapeutic paradigm, publish a large and magisterial body of research, or establish her own unique school of clinical practice. Yet Walters probably had as great an impact on the overall clinical zeitgeist of family therapy as any of the master theory-builders and gurus. Along with her three comrades in arms—Betty Carter, Peggy Papp, and Olga Silverstein—she formed The Women’s Project in Family Therapy in 1977, once called “the first, biggest, longest-running feminist road show.” It was a combination feminist think tank and SWAT team, which, in public workshops all over the country, challenged the underlying sexism in some of the most basic notions of family therapy. Read More
I attended the Networker Symposium’s Creativity Day because I figured I might take a couple interesting facts home with me or meet a few nice people the day before the large crowds came for the conference. I was pleasantly surprised at how incredible the Symposium was from the very second that Creativity Day started. From the traditional African music to the wonderful choreography on stage, I was energized for the day to begin. By the time I saw Jon Kabat-Zinn, I was inspired. I was blown away by how personable and intellectual he was with regard to mindfulness, along with how well he was able to translate his knowledge to the crowd. Read More
As a profession, we’ve become increasingly focused on our economic survival and seem to have turned a blind eye toward the broader social condition, voicing little about matters that aren’t central to our professional interest. A tendency to ignore the wider social context is reflected in our increasing embrace of more manualized approaches to therapy, predicated on the notion that cultural differences don’t matter much, and you can apply techniques more or less uniformly across different treatment populations. But no professional group is more qualified to address relationship conflict than we are. Read More
Americans have a history of valuing quick-fix solutions to difficult problems. But the simplistic psychopharmacological approach to depressive disorders underestimates the remarkable human capacity for self-transformation. We have the ability to use imagination and intelligence to change our life circumstances, our attitudes and emotions, even, to some extent, our personalities. It is the privilege of our profession to be able to help troubled people along this path, and though medications may make this journey less arduous, in the long run, therapists are indispensable for getting their clients to this destination. Read More
There’s been a decline in the public’s utilization of psychotherapy as a consequence of the rise of what might be called the Gang of Three: DSM, Big Pharma, and Managed Care. Today, we appear to be an atomized and poorly organized field that’s lost economic ground to other approaches promising mental health consumers improved wellbeing. But while recognizing the missed opportunities and missteps we’ve made as a profession, the contributors to our latest issue of the Networker also point to what we need to do to make a more concerted and effective stand to reclaim lost territory.