I've found it terribly upsetting watching the news in recent days – terrorism, random acts of violence and the horrors of increasing poverty and civil war. My patients are also expressing a heightened emotionality, and it’s all over the place emotionally speaking. “I just feel like crying all the time,” said one of my clients, “What do you think is going on?"
“My therapist announced to my group that she plans to be out for ‘several weeks.’ Uh oh. What does she mean by ‘several?’” In this post, I consider the trials and tribulations of both patient and therapist as they grapple with all the issues that get raised when the therapist is away.
At a recent conference in Norway, participants asked me what social therapy is like in practice. So, I invited them to read out-loud and perform transcripts from an actual therapy group that I lead in NYC. Take a look at the transcripts, and you'll see some of the weird questions I ask my group. I see my role as performer/director to challenge the group on how they're organizing themselves, so that maybe we can create a new kind of therapy play. I have interrupted their traditional notions of therapy! My colleagues in Norway didn't quite know what to do with this philosophical challenge to traditional concepts of therapy. What do you think?
At a recent conference in Norway, I led a workshop called Therapy Interrupted: Performing Social Therapy. My co-presenter Pal Carlin and I talked with people about how social therapy interrupts our fascination with the self and helps us shift our gaze to the group. It stops us from digging deep into our patients' psyches in favor of helping them create new ensemble performances. It disturbs our patients' notion that therapy is all about them and introduces them to the other. It challenges the model of traditional psychology in favor of exploring, creating and playing with subjectivity as social relational and cultural activity.
I‘m very excited to let you know that I will be presenting at the upcoming conference Beyond the Therapeutic State: Collaborative Practices for Individual and Social Change in Drammen, Norway this summer. Sponsored by the Taos Institute, the conference will bring together practitioners, scholars and progressives in the field of mental health to produce a lively dialogue and share our creativity and desire to create a better world.
I want to invite you to join an international online conversation started by the Social Therapy Group called What Is Mental Health? It’s part of the National Dialogue on Mental Health started last summer in response to the shootings at Sandy Hook and the increasing violence across this country, and it’s one of several conversations taking place in the Civic Commons Initiative, Creating Community Solutions, in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the Department of Health and Human Services.
A few weeks ago I hosted a community event on trauma at the Social Therapy Group’s Conversation with Practitioners series. A friend of mine, a psychologist and longtime political activist who hadn’t been able to attend, asked me why I had chosen this topic. “Doesn’t the field of psychology relate to people who have been traumatized around their victimization and powerlessness?” she asked. “I thought social therapy wasn’t into that. What were you thinking?”
I want to share with you a note that was sent to the Social Therapy Group after our “Play Pride” event, Sexuality, Gender and Development. As a contribution to our dialogue, Yemayah raises a profound issue concerning the development of African American youth: I wanted to say that I enjoyed yesterday's discussion — it was interesting, provocative and funny. Later, I had some thoughts about race and how it pertains to the development of young people of color that I’d like to bring into the conversation.
On May 17 the Social Therapy Group hosted a community dialogue on sexuality, gender and development as part of our new “Conversations with Practitioners” series. My guest at the event was Mark Beauregard, a creative arts and drama therapist who has done groundbreaking work using play and performance with his clients.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of hosting a celebratory community event at the Social Therapy Group to introduce Rachel Mickenberg, a talented social therapist who is joining our staff. As a way of continuing to build community with all of you, I’d like to share with you the talk I gave that evening.
In my last blog entry, I wrote about new ways of thinking, seeing, and creating possibility in our lives and the broader world. A key aspect of this kind of growth and development is an activity — a revolutionary idea, in fact — that Fred Newman called "radical acceptance." The transcript below of a social therapy group led by Dr. Hugh Polk will give us an opportunity to explore and discuss this idea further.
As we move into the New Year I’m experiencing a whole range of emotions. In conversations with my clients in our social therapy groups, it’s become clear that I’m not alone in this experience. Many clients and community members have expressed how they feel overwhelmed and challenged by what is happening in the world.
I hope you and your families are safe and sound in the aftermath of this horrendous hurricane. I live in the Fort Greene area of Brooklyn, and we were quite lucky here. There was little damage — just a few trees down in the park. Most residents of the area were home, since there were no subways to Manhattan.
In my March post (Abnormal? Unusual? Who Decides?) I wrote about a controversial topic in the field of psychology — the pending publication of the American Psychiatric Association’s new manual of psychiatric diagnoses, the DSM 5. Much of the controversy and ensuing dialogue centers around new diagnoses (and changes to old ones) that are potentially harmful to us and our families.
Gay Pride month is in full swing, and its celebration of diversity and creativity in how we perform gender has gotten me thinking about the ways our lives can be shaped by the roles and rules we’re taught for how to be women or men — and it starts when we’re very young. How do we help our children deal with these issues? The exploration of the conventional and cultural expectations of young boys, in particular, is an ongoing dialogue in the field of psychology.
April is Autism Awareness month. I do a great deal of work with autistic children and those on the spectrum, so I’m all for it. But I think there’s something missing in the Autism Awareness media flurry.
There is a fight going on in psychology. And we — the staff of the Social Therapy Group — want you to know about it.
I’m talking about the controversy surrounding diagnostic labeling of patients in the field of mental health. It’s a national fight, in response to “DSM-5,” the American Psychiatric Association’s upcoming fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and it’s currently being fought by progressive practitioners and the various professional organizations they belong to.
Hello everyone! As we move into 2012, I continue to ask the question, “Does the Community Need Therapy?” I want to share with you my joy and appreciation for everything all of you have done with us over the past year in creating an answer to this very important question — and the answer lies in what we have built together.
Dear Readers: Our blog post on men’s lack of emotional development by my colleague, the social therapist and psychiatrist Dr. Hugh Polk, sparked a very rich dialogue — thank you to those who commented. We’re following up by sharing some concrete work done in social therapy groups on how men and women relate to each other. Here's Dr. Polk again:
Dear Readers: I’d like to introduce you to some of my colleagues at the Social Therapy Group, starting with Hugh Polk, MD, the medical director at the Social Therapy Group and a long-time community activist. I asked him what he thought about a recent article in the New York Times about men and therapy — two things many women wish went together more often.
It saddens me to share that Fred Newman, the founder of social therapy, passed away on July 3 after a lengthy illness. As many of you know, Dr. Newman was my mentor and teacher, and for over 30 years he taught me and all of our dedicated social therapists how to practice a radically humanistic, non-adaptive, performatory approach to helping people in emotional pain.
Several readers have contacted me about my recent blog entries that deal with the work with children in our multi-family groups. They want to know more about performance and play. Do adult groups do performances as well? Do they play? If so, how?
Over the past few months, I’ve introduced you to my multi-family group, and you’ve met some of the children and their parents. Every four weeks, I have a session with the parents only, to give them an opportunity to talk about how they are doing in their lives as adults. Here's a glimpse into our last parent group.
In my last post, I introduced you to Josh, a ten-year-old patient in my multi-family group, and shared some moments from our first session, with his mom. Here’s a scene from a session with the whole group.