How to Fall in Love (Again)

If you’re feeling distant from a partner or loved one and want to reconnect–you may need to:

  • look at your partner with beginner’s mind
  • do the scary work of emotional vulnerability

36 Questions is structure that can help you with these common sense, yet often elusive practices. These questions were developed and tested by psychologists. The results? A pair of strangers fell in love.

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.

Addictions Training

I enjoyed a presentation by Dr. David Willey and Dr. Amalia Bullard regarding medical and psychosocial treatments for addiction. Dr. Willey provided great information about medications that may aid in relapse prevention. For example, antagonist medication can help reduce cravings and change the brain-body’s response when substances are consumed. Dr. Bullard reanimated the importance of Motivational Interviewing.

Greater Good Videos

The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California Berkeley curates videos, articles, and podcasts about happiness. The short videos are presented by prominent researchers, therapists, business leaders, and educators. They include a wide range of topics such as “How to check in with Yourself” and “The Biology of Mindfulness and Compassion.” There are hundreds of happiness videos here. The information is not a substitute for therapy–a process that can investigate specific traumas and the complexity of a person’s unique life. However, the videos can help people remember their wisdom and encourage action.

Technology-Assisted Treatment

Many psychology researchers, including the Veterans Administration, are studying the effects of mental health applications. While indiscriminate screen time is widely known to reduce peoples’ focus, some research indicates that consistent, intentional use of some mental health apps tends to boost self-awareness; effectiveness; and happiness. The Veterans Administration is specifically studying the app PTSD Coach, which I would like to use with a client. Please let me know if you would like to participate in that process! Here are some applications I already find useful with many of my clients:

  • Narrative Therapy Questions: helps the participant conduct a deep self-interview about their preferred life direction and related obstacles
  • Calm: 100+ guided meditations to choose from. The app will track the dates and lengths of of your meditations
  • Relax: helps practice diaphragmatic breathing, which is good for nervous system regulation and panic-attack prevention
  • Mood Tracker: charts symptom severity/remissions/patterns based on pre-programmed OR customized data schemes

Daring Greatly

I am currently re-reading the wonderful book Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown. If I only had a single therapeutic tool or paradigm, Dr. Brown’s work may be the one. Dr. Brown examines yucky problems like scarcity, shame, and defense mechanisms with finesse and humor. For those of you who have not seen her first viral video, here it is: vulnerability .

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.

Lessons from Improv

I am currently taking an introduction to Improvisation Comedy class. Improv is a fun way to practice…

  • awareness: it’s hard to keep people’s attention if your own attention is wandering
  • listening: respond to a group story rather than one’s own preoccupations
  • acceptance: in improv, you working as a team–and other people have some weird ideas
  • healthy risk-taking (AKA healthy vulnerability): it gets the dopamine going; it builds competence and resilience