Methods for Working Through Grief

I include questions about close family members in my Client Information Form, that can indicate unfinished grieving: If deaths or divorces occurred, in what year they happened, and the causes of these endings.  I notice any affect that is displayed as they tell me about these events. If the client looks uncomfortable or seems to be retroflecting (bottling up) emotion, I comment that they seem unresolved about the loss, ask them if that’s true and if they have any sense that it is interfering with their current life.

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Saying Goodbye in Therapy: Dealing with Grief

Many years ago I wrote an article on a Gestalt therapy theory about and method of working with grief (Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, Vol. 3, No 2, Summer, 1971).   While I still view many ideas in that article as relevant, I had not had much experience grieving losses in my own life when I wrote it and was not able to understand empathically the complexities of grief.  I now have a more nuanced view of it,  both in how people struggle with it, and how a therapist can help their clients work it through effectively and completely.  

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Therapist Emotions When Clients Terminate

I’ve seldom seen discussed in the literature how therapists deal with their feelings when clients terminate.  There are, of course, many types of termination.  One is where the therapy has been long-term and growthful and the therapist feels sadness, even grief, at the ending because the therapist has developed affection, even love toward the client.

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How Understanding Your Addictions, Even Socially Acceptable Ones, Can Benefit Your Addictive Clients

The common definition of addiction is that it’s very damaging for the addicted person.  I suggest, however, that we expand the definition to include socially acceptable addictions, activities that have benefited the individual.  Sometimes  even the wider society, in important ways.   These behaviors can be classified as addictions, however,  if the person has compulsively kept indulging in them  even when they have been   detrimental to some areas of the person’s life and to people who were close to them.

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Therapist Sadness, Guilt and Longing After Client Leaves Therapy

If we therapists are any good at our jobs, we become very attached to many of our clients.  We feel pain when they’re experiencing shame,  sadness and fear.  We’re  pleased when they feel proud about  dealing effectively with a person or issue with which they’ve had difficulty .  We are joyful when they feel exhilarated about  some significant achievement in their job or profession or sport.  We  feel pity for them and angry at those who have mistreated, abused and  wronged them  And our own self-esteem can zoom when they express affection and appreciation to us for helping them.

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“Lose Your Mind and Come to Your Senses”

Back in the 60s and 70’s there was a great emphasis on living in the present.  Ram Das’s book Be Here Now was very popular.  And Fritz Perls, in his workshops for therapists at Esalen also stressed being present-centered as a way of cutting down  on the obsessive style that one found in therapists who were trained in Freudian analytic therapy.  The Freudian approach emphasized  thinking about one’s problems in living,  the therapist’s main activity being the making of  cognitive interpretations.    Although Perls didn’t spell it out, what he was really getting at was being in the sensory present.

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The Importance of Understanding the Positive Effects of Addictions

Most people see  addictions as negative because they often have dire results for the addicted person and others in his or her life.   Alcohol can result in poor health, premature  death for the alcoholic and injury or even death for people unlucky enough to be on the road while she or he  is driving.   Compulsive gambling practically always results in the loss of money, sometimes vast sums.    We are now finding that addiction to sugar has very negative effects on health, partially responsible for the epidemic increase of  obesity in the US.  Compulsive shopping can result in bankruptcy.

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It Isn’t the drugs that are addictive, it’s mostly the underlying psychological causes

One of the most pernicious, costly and destructive beliefs in the US is the idea that certain substances, like drugs and alcohol, are addictive in themselves.  In other words, almost anyone, if they are exposed to marijuana or heroin or cocaine, are going to become addicted to it and not be able to curb their usage.   The public acceptance of this belief has resulted in the  War on Drugs, which has probably cost us over a trillion dollars over the years,  countless deaths and a huge prison population increase.

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