Internal Family Systems

I enjoyed a webinar with Richard Schwartz, developer of the Internal Family Systems therapy model. The IFS model grew out of other family therapy models that examined “roles” each family member inherits in reaction to each other & the family’s overall needs. The IFS model examines various “parts”, or roles, within a person, often developed within confusing family dynamics. For example, an individual is likely to develop various “protector” parts and other parts that are “exiles”–parts that express impulsive or other unwelcome behavior. In the IFS model, healing occurs as each part is attended to with curiosity and awareness. When the parts are understood, they relax and trust a well-informed leader–the “self.”

Schwartz’s IFS website: Center for Self Leadership

Six Principles of Sexual Health

At a time when people are gaining awareness about the dynamics & negative effects of sexual abuse AND deconstructing puritanical sexual beliefs & misinformation, Doug Braun-Harvey offers us six principles of sexual health. These principles are important guideposts in a frequently neglected and obscured corner of mental health treatment–as well as human lifespan development more generally.

  • pleasure: healthy sexuality leads to joy and/or empowerment (rather than detachment, and/or shame)
  • consent: participants should be in full, active agreement to the particular sexual acts, time, place, people, etc.
  • non-exploitation: secrecy and betrayal prevent partners from engaging in a psychologically-safe intimacy
  • protection: healthy partners collaborate in preventing transmission of STI’s and unwanted pregnancies
  • honesty: healthy partners voice their desires, limits, and ambivalence
  • shared values: connections are built on common meanings

If you would like to examine how your life interfaces with these principles, please contact me. BTW, imagine how much psychological pain would be eliminated and how much pleasure would increase if adolescent sexual education raised conscientiousness about these intra-personal and interpersonal factors.

Innovative Research

If you have a history of suicidal thoughts or know someone who died by suicide, you may want to look into a new research project called Our Data Helps by Qntfy. You can donate social media data (from online activity) and/or fitness & sensory data (from wearable devices) to help researchers learn more about why suicides happen and how they can be prevented. The project will analyse the language, physical data, and media patterns of people who sign up to help the project.

Lies and Infidelity Training

I took a webinar training last week on everyone’s favorite topic: “Lies, Deception, Infidelity, and Jealousy.” Ellyn Bader of The Couples Institute facilitated the discussion. One of the most interesting parts of the training was her model for determining whether a relationship is likely to recover from deception:

  1. How high are the partners’ desires for honesty?
  2. What are the partners’ beliefs in the likelihood of success?
  3. What amount of unwanted effort is it going to take?
  4. How willing are the partners to take emotional risks (self-exposure rather than avoidance, denial, minimizing)?

The answers to these questions can help evaluate the relationship’s potential and pinpoint particular areas for development.

Trauma and Restoration

When you experience a negative memory, do you experience an inability to move or take action? These “stuck” or “frozen” states are indicative of trauma. The trauma may be related to a single overwhelming event and/or it may be from a developmental disturbance, like childhood abuse or neglect. Trauma is about powerlessness, not being able to DO something helpful within the original situation. A traumatized person’s challenge is to re-train their mind AND body to take calm action when they are triggered into these states. Sometimes, traumatized people over-react to situations, understandably not wanting to be revictimized. Some interventions that help relieve (rather than re-live) trauma are: meditation (noticing disturbing mind/body cues while regulating breathing and heart rate); identifying and using self-soothing stimuli (perhaps a comforting smell, texture, visualization); and articulating the trauma experience within a safe and responsive context.

I recently completed a continuing education training with Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps the Score.

Low-Cost Mental Health Resources

Here’s a list of 81 Mental Health Resources, including apps and community support groups.

Each program has it’s potential benefits. Taken as a whole, this list points out that MANY people are working individually and collectively to make this world a more accessible, responsible, and peaceful place. If you try one of these programs, I’d like to hear about your experience.

Trauma Stewardship

In addition to other healthy life practices, I find great resiliency in a self-book: Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others. This book provides a framework for managing vicarious trauma. The text outlines 16 possible imbalances within a caregiver or service provider–such as cynicism, deliberate avoidance, hypervigilance, and an inability to embrace complexity. Readers can self-assess their experience and make adjustments. This collection of research and anecdotes relates to various human services, including social work, law enforcement, education, and medical fields.

Trauma and Avoidance

Trauma often disrupts or prevents otherwise healthy relationships. One way to conceptualize this effect is through Attachment Theory, specifically the avoidant attachment style. People with avoidant attachment may provide vague descriptions of past events, idealize a person in a previous context, dismiss many problems, devalue intimacy, and over-emphasize self-reliance. With such clients, the therapist’s first task is to develop a safe relationship where a client can tolerate connection, exposure, and vulnerability. When a person experiences this vulnerability within a secure connection, he or she has a corrective emotional experience and may enhance other safe relationships.