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Category: family therapy

When Severe Mental Illness Strikes a Loved One

When Severe Mental Illness Strikes a Loved One

Book Review: “I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help” by Xavier Amador, PhD. ¬†(Vida Press, 2012) For the last 20 or so years, brain research has helped doctors and therapists understand that the serious mental illnesses of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are diseases of brain function. During the century before the “Decade of the Brain (the 1990’s)”, these rare and frightening mental diseases were blamed on bad or inadequate mothering (the “schizophrenogenic mother”), thanks to the early theories of…

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Core Long-Term Marriage Skills

Core Long-Term Marriage Skills

One of my couple clients asked me to create a summary of our work together. I know¬†these skills apply to nearly every long-term marriage, so I share them here. 1. Assume positive intent from your spouse. Trust him/her. Build positive interactions. Look for the good. Notice it, appreciate it. Stop trying to control the outcome of every interaction so that you feel less vulnerable. Protect yourself less, be open to one another more. 2. Self-focus: always pay more attention to…

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Direct vs. Indirect Communication

Direct vs. Indirect Communication

Nearly every time I meet with a new couple, one or both of the partners will tell me they think that their main problem is “communication.” When I ask them to tell me more about what they mean, they will often talk about repeated and escalating conflicts, days of avoiding contact, in-house separation, lack of eye contact and physical touch, and constant critical vocal tones. And more. What I hear in that sad list of problems is a relationship that…

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What Every Husband Ought to Know about Marriage Conflict

What Every Husband Ought to Know about Marriage Conflict

Nobody likes to hear someone close to them be critical, blaming or shaming. It feels bad. And sometimes scary. It turns out that when women talk like that to their husbands, contrary to popular opinion, most men feel this intense criticism very strongly in their bodies. And because male bodies “rev up” faster than women’s in stress (heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, tunnel vision), in order to protect themselves and their relationships from too much emotion, men frequently, readily,…

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What Every Wife Ought to Know about Marriage Conflict

What Every Wife Ought to Know about Marriage Conflict

If I had the opportunity to share one essential marital tool with every wife in America, I know exactly what I would say: Learn to bring up difficult topics with your partner in a calm, quiet and focused voice. Marital researcher Dr. John Gottman has studied tens of thousands of marital conversations over 30 + years. He has found that there are 4 distinct communication habits that are poison to happy relationships. He calls them the “Four Horsemen,” like the…

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When To Get Marriage Therapy

When To Get Marriage Therapy

Most couples come to therapy when they have completely run out of steam. While there is a great deal that MFTs can do to help, it’s not a time in the family when people feel resilient, optimistic or energized. In order to create permanent change, one needs a good deal of hope and energy. And so does one’s partner. I’ve observed that for many couples (especially those who have had a less-than smooth relationship history, full of stops and re-starts,…

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We Can’t Choose our Parents

We Can’t Choose our Parents

It’s true; we can’t choose our parents. Whatever skills or deficits they possess as people: their readiness or disinterest at caring for us, their physical and mental health, and their ability to meet basic needs for food, shelter and safety have an immediate and lasting effect on our own development. The human brain is shaped every day by the way we are cared for by those closest to us, and grows fastest during the first two years of life. If…

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