Science of Trust

I took a webinar with John Gottman of the Gottman Institute called “The Science of Trust.” Perhaps Gottman is most famous for his “four horsemen of the apocalypse” theory–that contempt, stonewalling, criticism, and defensiveness poison intimate relationships–and that the long-term success of a partnership can be calculated according to the frequency of these problematic dynamics. This particular webinar about trust explored active, healthy alternatives to repair interpersonal wounds.

Essentially, cognitively-based repairs (appeals to reason, logic, and problem-solving) aren’t as effective within intimate relationships as emotionally-based repairs. For example, empathy, self-disclosure, and investing extra attention/participation into the partnership all work at the emotional level. Emotional interventions help relax someone in distress, thereby encouraging them to make any decisions outside of duress. Within an intimate relationship, logic and “fixing” other’s problems can be experienced as dismissive, shallow, or intrusive.

Many people are not taught intimacy skills–it’s not a formal study in primary school. Some of us learn from family and community role models–other people don’t have this access or experience.

After an interpersonal or developmental trauma, a person is likely to experience hypervigilance–fight/flight responses–and/or avoidance–flight/freeze responses, even within more moderate conflicts. Effective conflict resolution within a healthy relationship requires active participation, deliberation, and transparency from all involved parties. Often, a partner can facilitate a step down the scale of hypervigilance. Gottman and others use the acronym ATTUNE to describe this stance in more detail: awareness, turning towards, tolerance, understanding, non-defensive responding, and empathy. For a great video on empathy, click here: Brene Brown on Empathy.

Does this mean everything has to be hearts, puppies, and sunshine? NO! If people interrupt their conflict or trauma processing, something like the Zeigarnik Effect is likely to happen–people will remember (often at¬†inopportune times) experiences they haven’t ATTUNED to in a healthy relationship. If we haven’t ATTUNED to a partner’s distress, we are most likely telling a negative fictional story about our partner’s abilities.

People who avoid relational conflict have a tendency toward infidelity and and other betrayals, which likely create more (internal) conflict and avoidance.  People who address conflict also practice relaxation and co-construct viable creative solutions, over time, with additional input & information.

Closing Lawrence Office

I am closing my Lawrence office as of December 15th, 2017 and am working full-time at my Overland Park location. Current Lawrence clients have been notified. Previous Lawrence clients are welcome to meet me in Overland Park and/or obtain referrals to additional therapy services.

October 2017 Updates

My education, development, and contribution to the sex therapy and the broader mental health fields continue. Some recent forms of my expansion include:

  • listening to the Esther Perel podcast, “Where Shall we Begin?” Esther Perel is one of the most prominent modern sex therapists. Her podcast includes extended audio clips from her real sex therapy meetings. It’s incredibly relevant and inspiring.
  • a week-long Internal Family Systems training. Although I decided not to continue part II of this course, it gave me an opportunity to further discern my core assumptions and therapeutic skills. I am grateful for the understanding & commitments I developed from this exploration.
  • defining the concept of “Sexual Deviance” with other mental health professionals. We explored several case studies to identify best practices for therapeutic conceptualization and treatment.
  • reading Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. You can expect a future book report on this blog!

Summer 2017 Updates

What’s complete…

Summer semester is over. It’s always fun teaching Theories & Methods of Sexual Counseling–and a lot of work on top of a full client load. I work late hours during the summer–but getting to know the students is worth it! UMKC graduates plenty of competent, inspiring Counseling students. These interactions give me great hope and faith for the Counseling profession. Most of my work in private practice is one-on-one or with couples. It’s something special to see 20+ Counseling students apply themselves to clinical case examples.

Every year I squeeze additional information into the course. This year we fit in brief discussions of Intersex clients and Sex with Spinal Cord Injuries. We also expanded our conceptualization of “Sex Addiction” into Out-of-Control Sexual Behavior treatment.

What’s next…

I’ve organized extra time in my schedule each week for proactive research & development! Stay tuned!

Continuing Education

I attended the AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists) Annual Conference. Of course it was a good time! Here’s what I studied:

  • Combating Sexual Misconduct in our Schools
  • Bringing Perimenopause into the Light
  • Sexual Education & Ethical Decision-Making
  • Coping with Jealousy
  • Strategies of Human Mating
  • Envisioning Sexual Health
  • The Art of Brief Sexual Assessment
  • Black & Sexual with a Disability
  • Transgender Hormone Referral Letters
  • Interdisciplinary Approach to Sexual Pain

Spring Updates

I’ve immersed myself in several continuing education experiences over the last several months. Some highlights:

  • Treatment of Borderline, Narcissistic, and Histrionic Personality disorders with Daniel J. Fox
  • The 6th Annual Sexuality Conference at KU Med
  • Genital Pain: Pelvic Floor Function & Health with Foundation Concepts Physical Therapy (for cooperative physical & mental health treatment of genital pain)

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.

Transgender Assessments

I work with many clients who suffer from gender dysphoria. During any given week, I host several conversations regarding clients’ gender expression as related to their sense of self and well-being. There are several means, depending on the situation, to bolster client efforts in synchronizing their gender expression (cues visible to others) with their gender identity (their self-experienced gender).

Some people seek an official assessment for potential hormone referral therapy. These assessments include an intake of the client’s life history including child & adolescent development; transition goals; coping resources; and any co-occurring problems (such as depression or trauma histories). During later stages in the process, I may invite clients to bring family members into the meetings for increased social support (this part is required earlier for adolescents).

Other clients, such as gender non-conforming people, benefit from deconstructing any unhelpful gender associations & roles they internalized from developmental and social contexts. Then, therapeutic techniques such as assertiveness training help privilege their own unique identity and facilitate choices & empowerment.