Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Post-Modern Prometheus and Apocalyptic Premeditations

Truthfully, the title has nothing to do with this blog-article (or blarticle as I like to call them). However, it made you wonder "Hmm, what the heck is this about?"In that case, if you're already reading, you may as well finish. I had an interesting conversation today with a peer. She is an excellent clinician and has wonderful insight. She reminded me how much I still have to learn in the field as a counselor, a supervisor, and an educator and I'm grateful for that. We were discussing how people have gifts, talents, and strengths that sometimes go untapped. She brought up the idea that at times individuals may have gifts that are untapped--that perhaps they recognize them, yet do not wish to recognize them; therefore, they avoid exercising them and may even go to the point of denying they have them. My response to her was something like this: "Well, that would make sense. If someone has an innate gift of capacity and they are not using it, then they are not accountable to it and they have less responsibility, because less is required of them." I'm sure my words were less than this with her, but it was something to that extent. The conversation was short and it made me reflect on myself and what talents I keep "hidden" or "dormant" and why. It also left me wondering what would happen if I did awaken them and used them. What would the result be? I suppose that it would result in more requirements; however, it might also mean that I feel or believe that I am feeling more fulfilled; thus, moving towards a higher level of self-actualization (to speak in Maslow's words). Furthermore, it caused me to realize that in order to do this, it would require me to pursue a higher level of vulnerability with others, which is something that is uncomfortable to me, and to many others. Therefore, do I forget my discomfort and/or lean into it or don't I? I guess one would lean into the discomfort and pursue a higher plane if they had a belief that it did lead to self-actualization. Or, it could mean that they believe that the Universe or a Higher Power has afforded them the gifts for the betterment of others and themselves. Ultimately, all of these things mean the same thing and require the same effort--i.e. a forgetting of one's discomfort, a trust in the existential process of life, and a hope that something fulfilling will come of it. Therefore, leaning into the discomfort would be a positive, yet uncomfortable means to an end--that end meaning the growth of the untapped gift, talent or capacity that would otherwise remain dormant, unused and/or completely lost; not doing anything positive or negative for others or oneself. I suppose that this may just be a brief rambling, but I wonder what others think about this subject…let's see if anyone responds. Also, it could just mean that I read too much and think too much and should spend more time watching TV and vegging out. Dr Jamison Law

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

A Kick In The Teeth: Walt Disney Says It's OK

All the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles have strengthened me...You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you..." Walt Disney Well, there you have it. As I've stated before in this blog, I'm a fan of Walt Disney. Not because I think he was a Saint or some perfect example to pattern my life by. Not a chance. Even he, in the biographies I've read stated that he isn't someone he wanted others to emulate. He said that he swore, told dirty jokes, smoked too much (which ultimately took his life), and drank alcohol. At times, it's been said that he could be overly difficult to work with and even condescending. However, I do appreciate learning about an individual who experiences great odds and difficulties and comes out at the end verifiably happy or content with his life. At one point I liked to study the life of Abraham Lincoln who also struggled and had amazing quotes such as: "I never had a policy; I have just tried to do my very best each and every day." My brief message today, and probably for the next month is for us to remember our struggles and look back at what we have learned. We learn to find meaning and to trust the most important things to remain and the things that are not important to go away. I have been through difficult times and found that family and God are all that matter. Now, I watch other family and friends, and even our country experience difficult times. Whether self-inflicted or not, I believe that there is a Higher Power that is allowing the good and bad to occur and that each one of them is an opportunity to learn and to trust Him. Because, in the end, if there is truly a God, and He is all powerful and knowledgeable, and that He allows things to occur for our benefit, then all of this is a means to an end. And, if He is a God or a Father of me, then His end for me is better than anything that I can imagine, because I do not have all knowledge. Thus, trusting in His means, it will result in an End that will be beneficial more than I can imagine or than what others may imagine. However, because He is not directly in front of me, I look to other examples of those who have struggled to find strength when I do not have strength. Research shows that self-efficacy can be developed by looking to mentors. Mentors must be those who we see have similarities with ourselves in some way. Therefore, I enjoy quotes such as Walt Disney's or Abraham Lincoln's--both men who overcame a lot. That's all for now. Jamison Law

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hello Subconscious! Pull Up A Chair and Let's Have a Chat!

The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes the subconscious as "existing in the mind, but not immediately available to the conscious." Sigmund Freud used the term subconscious and unconscious interchangeably, though he meant it to be the part of our mind that we're not aware of. At times, I have described it as the part of our mind that is running everything in the background. It may be made up of our personal experiences, our culture, our perceptions of the world around us, our emotions at times, and many more things. It may include even the parts of our environment that we are not paying attention to (i.e. sounds, smells, etc.). I wonder at times what would happen if our subconscious was able to slip fully into our conscious. What might we be aware of? I imagine sitting with a client who is comfortably on my office couch (as comfortable as it could be--it's kind of worn-out). I tell them that in order to proceed with therapy, we must look into their subconscious and that I have invented a machine that can open it up like a computer file and project it all onto a screen in front of them. The purpose is to discover everything about them that they cannot remember and the things that they might not even want to know; and that by opening everything up, they can learn to accept and/or reject things about their beliefs, culture, values, cognitive processes, emotional responses, and behaviors that do not fit into the person they wish they were, or think they are. Therefore, after receiving their written consent and reviewing the possible discomforts they might encounter (of course, I use an informed consent as I am an ethical clinician), I press the tell-tale button on my desk and there is a whirring sound that slowly crescendoes as the machine (use your imagination) begins to open up their mind and project it onto the screen. The machine interprets the subconscious and separates the scenes and words into subtypes so that the screen shoes a series of files. They might be separated into childhood stages (this is psychology after all), ages, or maybe even into emotional responses such as "happy memories," "shame-based memories" or something along those lines. At first the client might want to review memories he/she doesn't remember. The images might be of early infancy and childhood. Those memories that very few of us have due to a lack of awareness, or whatever reason our minds don't hold on to them. Many of these memories might come out as a "Aaaawww, that is cute" or "Wow, I didn't know that happened." Some memories might bring up positive emotions and others might bring on feelings of shame. After a few minutes of nostalgic reflection, it's time to do some work. I might say to the client, "Well, it looks like the technology is in-sync with your neural net (sounds Star Trek-like, doesn't it?), we can proceed with the reason you came to counseling." I then review the things the client said in the intake interview, which usually aren't happy. I mean, who hires a therapist when life is going great? Let's say that this client had one or several difficult experiences that they cannot get out of their mind, or that replay over and over in their dreams, when they're awake, or they replay them behaviorally. They can't quite figure out why, either. So, I ask the client, "If we could classify all of these things you're struggling with, what work or set of words would you use to describe them?" The client takes a moment and responds "Ashamed" or "Weak" or "Scared." Again, these are just words, but they mean something to him/her. So, I review the files and pull up all information on those words along with any associations. I then say, "Well, if you'll remember, we already went over how to breathe and calm your emotions when they feel too strong. We will use those, now. We will move at your pace. Are you ready?" The client pauses and responds that he/she is. "Okay, here we go." At this point, I am not going to impose my ideas on how it would go, necessarily. I can't predict with perfect accuracy and experience with clients has demonstrated that my predictions can be wrong. The reader's guess is as good as mine that the emotional response will not be one of comfort and warmth. However, at the end of the review, I would then say to the client that we are not quite done, yet. I would tell them that they did great and commend them for their courage. Then, I would say that we had only reviewed the memories, but that the subconscious part of him/her was not present. I would open then point to a toggle on the underside of my desk and explain that when I flip the toggle, their subconscious will appear and tell them what all of the memories mean. What the client believes the memories say about themselves. How it affects their worldview, and how it has affected their belief in their own value and self-worth. Personally, I think this is the scariest part, and yet the most important. The memories may be painful, but it's how they changed the person that results in continued pain. Again, with their permission, I flip the toggle and there is the sound of static (or maybe the sound that the Transporter makes on The Starship Enterprise--I don't know), and seated next to them appears their subconscious. At first, it is somewhat surprising. Maybe the subconscious looks just like the client, or maybe not. Maybe it takes the appearance of a wise old Chinese Man sitting lotus style. I can only guess. At that point, the client and subconscious begin to talk and the subconscious speaks to him/her about the "truth" they believe in as a result of their bad experiences--maybe even about the client's own decisions/choices that were affected by the bad experiences. Everything is laid open and naked in its raw and primal form. My guess is that there would be some tears. There might even be some yelling. Denial might occur along with depression, anger, bargaining and finally acceptance. At the end of it, I wonder if the client would feel exhausted, but at peace. Of course, this is just my ramblings while sitting in my office. However, I wonder how we might respond if our subconscious sat down for a while. Would we accept it, or reject it? You can decide, I suppose.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

A Place at the Proverbial Therapist Table for Everyone

I recently had an interesting experience that made me reflect on why people choose the mental health field, and how they see people in relation to themselves. In counselor training, we work to help trainees become more self-aware. The purpose is so they do not allow their own biases, personal issues, judgements, etc. to cloud their view of the client's worldview and experiences. It happens at times and is called countertransference. Countertransference is a normal process that we all experience. It can be related to, though not necessarily equal to empathy. Empathy is putting ourselves in other people's situations. Countertransference is when a therapist's personal issues are triggered. A person in the helping field can lose their objectivity and capacity to help when their own countertransference clouds their judgement. Naturally, I see it in myself from time to time. What is interesting is to observe it with students who begin to conceptualize their clients, whether real or role-played, from their own point-of-view. This can be expected when starting out. What can become concerning is when a student or individual is unable or unwilling to look at themselves and begin to modify their perspective to help themselves help others. It may be difficult for them to help people from their point-of-view. However, there are theorists such as Albert Ellis (Rational-emotive behavioral therapy), and Fritz Perls (Gestalt Therapy) who worked from this point-of-view and were very successful. I guess it boils down to therapists finding a theory that fits their world-view. Therefore, even those who are unable and unwilling to change their view, as long as their approach is effective and ethical have a place at the table. This was much more of a reflective article than educational for readers. Maybe someone will find some benefit. Dr. Jamison Law

Friday, May 31, 2013

Captain Picard and His Views on Domestic Violence and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Below, you will find a link to a site where you will view a video of Patrick Stewart talking out against Domestic Violence. He speaks eloquently about his own experiences as a child--viewing his father harming his mother. He also speaks about his father who had PTSD and went untreated. I have always had great respect for this man, but my opinion of him has just increased. Check it out!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Children Stuck In Between Parents

Over the past several years I have had the opportunity to work with children and teens who are stuck in between their parents. The parents have either gone through and completed a custody and divorce battle or they are still in the thick of it. The one thing I have witnessed as a therapist is how it affects children. It does not matter the reason for the divorce, the children still feel fiercely loyal to both parents. When one parent speaks poorly of the other and vice-versa, it does not create a stronger alliance between child and parent, it creates confusion and existential anxiousness for the child. They can begin to exhibit symptoms of mental health disorders such as isolation, anger and behavioral outbursts, aggression, sadness/melancholy, grades drop, etc. In some cases, there were situations of abuse that resulted in the divorce. This can create even more confusion. An abuser can speak poorly of the survivor and vice-versa. When the situation is already highly emotional, and the environment has been emotionally and possibly verbally unsafe, the added stressors of witnessing parents can increase the pathological problems the child is experiencing. It can affect their psychosocial development (see information on Erik Erikson's theory of psychosocial development), change the direction of their attachment style (see info by John Bowlby and attachment), and possibly cause the child to feel alienated in the family. All of these sound very negative and damaging, and they can be. There is always, in my mind, a silver lining to struggles. Children can grow up and with or without professional or social help, they can recover and be stronger. Existential crises can lead to resiliency and personal growth (see info on Martin Seligman's theories of Positive Psychology). In the end, I would prefer to see children treated gently when there are battles raging in the family so that they can grow up and decide for themselves what to believe about their parents. As children, they might not be cognitively ready to make those decisions, yet. Just my thoughts on the subject... Dr. Jamison Law

Friday, January 04, 2013

ACA Podcast: Gestalt Therapy

I had a few moments today to listen to a Podcast from the American Counseling Association on Gestalt Therapy. Those of you familiar with Gestalt Therapy approaches most likely remember their graduate studies watching the "Gloria" videos with Fritz Perls demonstrating his interpretation of Gestalt Therapy. The Podcast I listened to was by John Frew, Ph.D. who is a private practitioner who utilizes Gestalt therapy, theory, and methods. The following is a brief review of what I learned. It is in no way endorsed by anyone and I am not endorsing anyone or any organization. I found the information, however, beneficial and helped me to understand the Gestalt approach better. Gestalt therapy and theory is based on wholeism. Wholeism taking into account all parts of the person such as thoughts, feelings, behaviors, dreams, and more. All of the internal person is connected to their environment and individuals are motivated by needs. As a Gestalt therapist, one would look at the most salient issues first (i.e. what sticks out). Gestalt theory is a theory of health and strengths, rather than pathology. It takes a strengths-based approach and believes that people can generally regulate themselves within their own environment. This is called "organismic regulation." If individuals have satisfaction with needs, then they move on to other needs. Awareness is a key concept for treatment. An individual focuses on intrapersonal and interpersonal awareness and if there is an equilibrium with them. If there isn't, then pathological issues can arise and the individual can focus on seeking resolution. This can be done by focusing on the here and now and making creative adjustments. The past does matter in regards to the creative adjustments that individuals made in the past that are no longer functional. At times, individuals buy into the beliefs of others and adopt it as their own. This is called an introject. At times, they must make a new creative adjustment to come to a resolution. Dr. Frew provided a lot of helpful information. If you're a member of the ACA, I would recommend listening to his podcast. Jamison Law