Friday, October 24, 2008

New-age Thinking

Departing form the traditional therapist/client setup are self-help methods grouped under the banner "New Age", ranging form one-on-one Eastern relaxation techniques to goddess worship. (A little healthy skepticism is warranted in this category for there is little regulation) The two main tendencies are what might be called "peaceful existence" and "mind/body".

Practical existence
Rather than the healing of any diagnosed problems, the goal is self-awareness and serenity, achieved with the help of lectures, group sessions and reading materials - by such gurus as Marianne Williamson (A Woman's Worth; Random House) and M. Scott Peck (Further Along the Road Less Traveled; Simon & Schuster).

Practitioners claim the body can heal when the mind transcends itself. Examples: phoenix Rising, which combines yoga and traditional therapy, and Bioenergetics, which works to release repressed emotions via breathing, talk therapy, massage and exercises.


Cognitive behavior therapy focuses on the elimination of destructive behavior patters. Cognitive therapy is based on psychologist Albert Elli's theory that it's not an event that causes emotional disturbance but the perception of that event. Aims to correct thinking patterns at the root of phobias or substance abuse. Behavior modification Concentrates on solving problems (i.e. eating disorders, speech impediments) through assertiveness training and conditioning techniques derived from those used by Pavlov on his celebrated dogs. A product of the work of various experimental psychologists, including B.F. Skinner. Anonymous, which hold that recovery from addiction is possible only through abstinence and changes in behavior and attitude. People with a shared dependency problem meet in a group sessions (without a therapist).

Biology Destiny

Biological therapies address the chemical side of psychological disorders.

In the 50's, two French psychiatrists noticed that the sedative Thorazine lessened the delusions of psychotic patients. Today, depression, anxiety or psychosis can be treated with therapy and medication - e.g. Prozac (antidepressant) and Valium (anti-anxiety).

First used in the 30's, in recent years there's been a small revival in using a modified version of treat depression. The brain is exposed to pulses of electrical current that induce a brain seizure, which, for reasons not entirely understood, effects temporary relief of symptoms. Can cause some memory losss.


Short-term (fewer than 26 weeks) therapies that focus on interpersonal problems:

Sexologists of the early twentieth century such as Alfred Kinsey, and William Masters and Virginia Johnson, examined the psychological components of sex, setting the stage for modern sex therapy. Physiological causes of sexual problems such as the inability to have orgasms or premature ejaculation should be ruled out first with a medical exam.

Here, the therapist sees both members of the couple (married or not) at once in an attempt to explore problems of trust and communication.

In 1959, American psychologist Don D. Jackson originated the term and practice of "conjoint family therapy", which requires family members to be therapy together.

The Classic Methods

The most traditional therapy methods require deep emotional exploration and candid self-expression on the part of the client.

Traditional psychoanalysis, sometimes referred to as "the talking cure", requires four or fives sessions a week (for several years), with the patient lying on a couch, not facing the therapist and talking about whatever's on her mind. The analyst interprets these thoughts and explores relationship between the patient's conscious and unconscious thoughts. Based on Freud's late-nineteenth century theory that by listening to a patient's free associations (i.e. mental connections between ideas, memories), the analyst can see the outline and patters of the patient's unconscious mind and there in find the root of her problems.

A less intense, more flexible once-a-week deriation of psychoanalysis, this approach is recommended for patients more interested in solving specific conflicts that in venturing deep into their unconscious. Here, the patient is also encouraged to talk about whatever's on her mind. The therapist, who sits facing the client, listens and interprets, as in psychoanalysis, but is freer to interview the patient and give advice on real-life problems.

Swiss psychologist C.G. Jung, an associate of Freud in developing psychoanalysis, believed everyone's personality to be a product of her ancestral history - one part unconscious mind and o ne part an impersonal "collective unconscioius" that contains the history of the human species. Within the latter lie archetypes, or inherited ideas and thoughts, that will express themselves in symbols (the hero, the Great Mother) in a person's dreams and disturbed states of mind. In analytic psychology, the Jungian analyst, sitting face-to-face with the patient, encourages her to expand upon her dreams. The anaylyst will then focus on and translate the symbols in those dreams in an effort to integrate the different aspects of the person within the deeper unconscious.

The therapist suggest the client perform certain activities (for example, dramatizing a troublesome character trait, fantasizing about an unavailable person, acting out drams) Gestalt therapy focuses on making the individual self-awareness. Gestalt therapy focuses on making the individual conscious of her responsibility for behavior, feelings and thoughts, and also of her capacity for change. Developed in the 40's by Berliln-born psychologist Fritz Perls, it's a combination of psychoanalysis and Gestalt psychology (a theory of personality that focuses on the individual's innate striving for a harmmonious pattern and stability within herself and her environment. "Gestalt" is a loose translation of ther German word for patter).

A penny for your thoughts

Once a luxury of the rich, therapy, with a little research, can be affordable. The biggest factor is insurance, with many company policies providing partial coverage for sessions with licensed therapists. There are therapists and mental-health centers that will charge their clients on a sliding scale, i.e. what they can afford.

Who's who/who's for you?

Though the calloquial term shrink (as in head shrinker) could apply to all practiotioners of psychotherapy, there are important distinctions among them.

PSYCHIATRISTS are licensed M.D.'s who've undergone at least five years of medical training, with a one-to-two year residency in psychiatry. They often prescribe medication as a significant part of treatment.

PSYCHOLOGIST hold Ph.D.'s are licensed by the state and have had at least five years of full-time graduate study, a one-year residency, plus one year of supervised postdoctoral clinical experience. Psychologists emphasize communication and problem-solving (as opposed to medication and unconscious motivations)

SOCIAL WORKERS AND MASTER'S-LEVEL NURSES are certified and undergo two years of graduate training and one year of sueprvised experience. According to Linda Sebastian of the Menninger Clinic, for about 90 percent of people seeking therapy, a master's-level nurse or social worker is perfectly adequate, as opposed to a more costly psychologist or psychiatrist.

Looking for a shrink? The most effective therapist/client relationship is one of complete trust and honesty, so choosing a therapist is serious business. And, as the client is paying for service, she's the employer. Friends already in therapy are good referral source, as are local psychological associations and clinical faculties at any university.