Having Difficult Conversations

Having Difficult Conversations

by Diane A. Suffridge, Ph.D.

“I have a client who has been 10-15 minutes late to every session since we started meeting three months ago.  My supervisor says I need to talk with her about this, but I’m afraid she might stop therapy if I confront her.  Is it possible to continue seeing her in therapy without talking about why she’s late?”

I sometimes say to my supervisees and people I am training that as mental health practitioners we are in the business of having difficult conversations.  Growing into the role of clinician means developing skills to talk about issues and areas of conflict in a way that is different than usual social conversations.  I’ll discuss first some of the steps that can help us in having these conversations, then address the specific situation you describe.

Each of us comes into the clinical role with interpersonal skills that are familiar and comfortable, and these familiar strategies involve avoiding some type of discomfort.  As we work with different kinds of clients, we find that these interpersonal skills are helpful in some of the situations we face but not in others.  We also face situations with supervisors, peers, and colleagues that may challenge our familiar strategies for coping with conflict or distress.  When we can expand our repertoire of skills in managing these difficult conversations, we are capable of being effective in a broader range of clinical challenges.

In working toward greater interpersonal flexibility, it will be helpful to take some time to reflect on the situation and your emotional responses to it.  Supervision and personal therapy are good resources to use in developing greater self-awareness.  Some steps to consider are to identify 1) the specific nature of the conflict or discomfort you feel, 2) the benefits and limitations of your familiar strategy for managing this type of conflict or discomfort, 3) the fears or worries that arise when you consider handling the situation in a different way, and 4) a small step you could take to expand your skills.  Remember that change usually happens in small steps, so think about developing your interpersonal skills incrementally rather than pressuring yourself to do something dramatically different.

Applying these steps to the specific situation you mention, we start with the nature of the conflict.  It seems your supervisor is suggesting something that you perceive as confrontational, but it isn’t clear whether you perceive the client’s lateness to be a problem and why discussing it would become adversarial.  A starting point would be to explore more of your own response to the client being late and the potential meaning it might have.  This would be something to discuss in supervision as well.  It seems that your familiar strategy with managing this type of conflict is to avoid discussing it directly, so the next step would be to consider the positive and negative results of this type of avoidance in other situations in your life.  It may be that this was the most effective way to respond in your personal relationships, but remember that your job as a clinician is to help your client face and resolve the issues that are interfering with her life.  A limitation of relying solely on avoidance of potential conflict is that your client will not have an opportunity to gain insight into a pattern that may contribute to her difficulties outside of therapy.

A third step to consider is the nature of fears and worries you have about responding differently to this situation.  You express a fear that your client will stop therapy if you discuss her lateness.  This seems to reflect an assumption that she will feel judged or criticized by you and that your therapeutic alliance isn’t strong enough for a conversation about something that affects your work together.  Consider approaching the conversation with curiosity rather than judgment.  You can talk about the issue without requiring that she begin coming on time.  A small step you could take toward handling this situation differently would be to say something like “I notice that you usually come a bit later than our scheduled time and I wonder if there is anything about that you’d like to discuss.”  The client may simply say “no” and move on to another topic, but taking this step moves you into an area that has previously been fearful for you.  You can then look at the meaning of your client’s pattern and additional ways you might discuss it with her.

For more about Diane Suffridge, visit: www.dianesuffridgephd.com

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Please visit http://www.marincountypsych.org for more information about our association and membership benefits or to locate a licensed clinical psychologist in Marin County.

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Blog Disclaimer:

The opinions expressed by the authors are their own and do not reflect the opinions of the Marin County Psychological Association. The information posted on this blog is not intended as, and is not, a substitute for professional mental health services.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Having Difficult Conversations

Money in Psychotherapy

Money in Psychotherapy

by Diane A. Suffridge, Ph.D.

I publish a blog every two weeks for therapists who are in training or newly licensed.  The question poses a dilemma that is common to new practitioners, and the answer provides some suggestions on resolving the dilemma.  This post may also provide some insight to readers who find themselves with mixed feelings about paying for psychotherapy.  

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My internship is in an agency that charges sliding scale fees.  One of my clients hasn’t paid for the last two sessions, saying he forgot his check both times.  I know he can afford it because he just came back from a big vacation to Hawaii.  How can I bring this up with him and get him to pay on time?


This is a difficult clinical issue, and it’s a good experience to have during your training.  If you plan to work in a private practice after licensure, you will find that the meaning and emotions associated with client payment and fees become more complicated when it represents your income and livelihood.  Having this experience while you are in training and not dependent on the fees for income allows you to come to a better understanding of the issues involved for you as well as your clients.

I recommend that you approach the exploration of money and fees by reflecting first on the meaning and emotions that are present for you both personally and professionally.  Often money is a way of expressing and experiencing value or validation, and it may be used as a tool to exert interpersonal power.  Feelings related to self-worth are often associated with the exchange of money in a relationship.  These may include entitlement, comfort, envy, shame, deprivation, and pride.  Think about the role that money plays in your family relationships and the meaning of money in your cultural community.  You may become aware of implicit messages like “it’s not polite to talk about money,” “you have to fight for everything you get,” “you’re only worth what people give you,” or “if you work hard enough you’ll get what you deserve.”

In addition to your personal and cultural history with money, your current status as a therapist in training includes complex relationships with money.  You may have taken on significant student loan debt or received support from a partner or family member.  You are probably working as a volunteer or receiving a small salary while you are accumulating hours toward licensure, and you may be working another job in or outside the mental health field to pay your expenses.  All of these factors will contribute to the feelings that arise in you when your clients pay or don’t pay their assigned fees.  These will become heightened when you are in a private practice and your client fees are a source of income.

Once you have become more clear about how money impacts you in your clinical work, you can move to reflecting on the meaning of money for your client.  Some of the things to consider are his early family experiences related to money, value, and power; cultural messages related to money and gender, since there may be different expectations for men and women; the meaning it has for him to seek services at an agency that offers a sliding scale; and the emotions associated with his financial choices.  Think about conversations and interactions you have had in setting his fee, in sessions when he brings payment and when he doesn’t, and when he tells you about purchases or expenses like his recent vacation.

Your understanding of how you and your client think and feel about money will help you begin to identify the relational and cross-cultural dynamics in this therapy relationship and specifically in his recent lack of payment.  A few possibilities to consider are: your client feels shamed by requesting a sliding scale fee and manages his shame by withholding payment; you are reluctant to discuss money openly and have had difficulty setting an appropriate fee and clear expectations about payment; your client devalues his emotions and needs for nurturing leading him to forget payment for a service that involves both emotions and needs for nurturing; your client associates masculinity with interpersonal power and is attempting to balance the power differential.

What is important in your examination is to consider the contribution that you and the client are each making to this current conflict which will help you identify what you need to do internally and interpersonally to address your client’s lack of payment.

For more about Diane Suffridge, visit: www.dianesuffridgephd.com

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Please visit http://www.marincountypsych.org for more information about our association and membership benefits or to locate a licensed clinical psychologist in Marin County.

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Blog Disclaimer:

The opinions expressed by the authors are their own and do not reflect the opinions of the Marin County Psychological Association. The information posted on this blog is not intended as, and is not, a substitute for professional mental health services.

Posted in Psychotherapy, Therapy, Training | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Money in Psychotherapy

The Topic of Shame

The Topic of Shame

by Mark Zaslav, Ph.D.

Feelings, thoughts, memories, experiences or fantasies can turn into topics when we have a chance to step back from, appraise, and acknowledge them. In psychotherapy, an issue becomes a topic when sufficiently specified and labeled to enable discussion and examination. This very transformation into declarative form accomplishes a great deal. Putting problems into words may be a first step in seeking help. In semantic form, our issues take on a reality and a sense of context that they lack in their latent, experiential or implicit form. Our experience is so rich, and our minds capable of so much conscious and unconscious activity, that anything can become a topic. A conscious conflict or dilemma might become a topic when we get a chance to talk with a trusted friend. On the other hand, there are a myriad of other potential conflicts or dilemmas that may tend never to become topics even in imagination or intention. Unspoken, unacknowledged burdens trouble us all at times.

Guilt and shame differ in their potential to become topics. While the “self-conscious” emotions of guilt and shame are often confused or conflated (even by therapists), cognitive and social psychologists view them as different emotions. In the parlance of current psychological theory, guilt is about “doing” and shame is about “being.” Guilt is an emotion we feel when our act causes real or imagined suffering to another person. Guilt is associated with a sense of regret as well as a motivation to make amends or apologize. In shame, on the other hand, the focus is inward and much broader. Rather than a reaction to having committed harmful actions, shame involves a global sense of being bad, deficient or inadequate. Excessive, recurrent states of shame are associated with tendencies to hide, blame or attack others, or escape into defensive grandiose or persecutory fantasies.

Psychotherapy patients express guilty topics more directly than shameful ones. Guilty patients tend to talk a good deal about their imagined ability to cause suffering. Struggling with an exaggerated sense that they are capable of burdening or injuring others, guilt-prone people will openly share their worries and concerns to friends, loved ones and psychotherapists. They often find it extremely cathartic merely to “confess” some real or imagined harm or potential harm that is worrisome. There may be a sense of expiation in this exchange.

We are social animals. Our complex cognitive capacities have evolved in large part in order to analyze, understand and encode in working memory various important social scenarios or transactions. Transactions involve people and their actions, generally appraised through the lens of self-conscious emotions. A guilty narrative is a story in that there are discrete actors, each having particular interpersonal roles. The guilty perpetrator does something that causes harm to another person in reality or imagination. The harmed person suffers and the guilty self experiences acute regret at the infliction of suffering. The guilty self is in turn imbued with the motivation to apologize, make amends, or “undo” the harm. Evidence for the successful negotiation of this social transaction would be for the harmed individual to forgive the guilty self or to correct guilty distortions by reminding the self that it did not actually commit the imagined offense. Telling the guilty narrative may feel helpful because the person to whom it is told (perhaps a therapist) may be seen symbolically as a proxy for the harmed, who is somehow capable of issuing expiation.

In the case of shame, however, there is no corresponding “story” that is easily told. In shame, the self has not committed an act. The self is fundamentally bad and unworthy to live. This phenomenon does not have a clear playbill of actors, and there is no schematic action that can yield any corresponding sense of remediation. The condition is a wordless, internal sense of a self that is ugly and unworthy. There is no point in expressing this painful material as there is no external agent who can provide the shameful equivalent of forgiveness of the self.

Whereas in guilt the therapist is potentially seen schematically as a potential source of expiation, in shame the therapist may instead suddenly become the devaluing other, scrutinizing and judging the self as deficient or bad. Thus, the shameful situation is not a story having definable actors, it is not written in words, there is no safe person to tell it to and it is not worth telling because it has no foreseeable favorable outcome. The only “solution” is to hide, turn away, or lash out in blame at “others” who are at fault. In fact, shame-prone people often initially present to therapy not to explore their own shame-related problems, but to decry a sense of despair and frustration at the actions of other people in their lives.

In order to help the patient overwhelmed with shame, it is the task of the therapist to make inferences that enable the person to begin to tolerate introduction of the relevant topics. The therapist must be attuned to subtle signs of emotional disconnection, brief but discordant emotional displays (e.g., inappropriate laughter or smiling), confusing omissions in narrative or sudden deflections or disorganization of speech to extrapolate the shameful theme initially being avoided. With tact and empathy, we help the patient piece together topics that are hauntingly familiar but threatening. A picture emerges of recurrent states in which the patient signals that he is experiencing or warding off a deep sense of emptiness, deficiency or self-loathing.

Once revealed, the topics related to shameful self-evaluation tend to flip in and out of focus. At times, the therapist will be recipient of projections appointing him or her as spokesperson for various split-off aspects of the patient’s internal shaming narrative. These enactments enable the therapist to experience parts of the patient’s story at first hand. As the therapist becomes incorporated into the narrative, developments in the relationship between therapist and patient help clarify the emerging issue. For example, the therapist might be in a position to shed light on a pattern in which normally neutral therapist comments take on a projected quality of criticism in response to certain sensitive themes.

As relevant topics are identified and explored, shame and its derivatives can lose some of their debilitating hold on the individual. This therapeutic knowledge is portable. The patient now carries within herself the sense of context and self-exoneration gained in therapy. Access to this new understanding is increasingly linked with the therapist’s stance of understanding and support. With practice, instantiation of an awareness of familiar topics into working memory can help the patient cut short, for example, descent into deflation before it becomes an outright implosion of self-esteem. As mood and personality organization become more stable, shameful states of mind can become less intrusive and compelling. As a result, the shame-prone patient will come to feel more whole, adequate, and essentially deserving to exist.

For more about Mark Zaslav, contact him at markzaslav@gmail.com

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Please visit http://www.marincountypsych.org for more information about our association and membership benefits or to locate a licensed clinical psychologist in Marin County.

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Blog Disclaimer:

The opinions expressed by the authors are their own and do not reflect the opinions of the Marin County Psychological Association. The information posted on this blog is not intended as, and is not, a substitute for professional mental health services.

Posted in Emotions, Therapy | Comments Off on The Topic of Shame

Changes from DSM-IV to DSM-5

Changes from DSM-IV to DSM-5

by Diane Suffridge, Ph.D.

The DSM-5 (it is “5” rather than “V”) was published in May 2013 but many agencies are not yet using it or are just beginning to transition to the new version.  There are a number of structural changes in the organization of the DSM-5 and a number of revised or new diagnoses as well.  The DSM-5 itself contains a summary of the changes in an appendix, which you may find helpful to review.  In addition, I recommend that you look up the criteria for each diagnosis as you begin to use the DSM-5 to make sure you are applying it correctly.  I have summarized the structural and diagnostic changes below.

Structural Changes

The DSM-5 no longer uses a five axis diagnostic system as has been true in DSM-III and DSM-IV.  Instead of five axes, you list the mental health and substance use disorders that apply in the order of their clinical relevance to your treatment, followed by listing the client’s medical conditions.  Many of the psychosocial stressors that were previously listed on Axis IV are contained in an expanded section of “other conditions” called V codes or Z codes so they are included in your diagnostic list.  The GAF is no longer used, but several assessment measures are included in the DSM-5 as alternatives to the GAF for assessing the client’s level of functioning.

Some diagnoses are combined on a continuum with codes for severity rather than having different diagnoses corresponding to different levels of severity.  Autism spectrum disorder and substance use disorders are two commonly used diagnoses that have been changed in this way.  The DSM-5 calls this a dimensional approach to diagnosis rather than a categorical or binary approach. Instead of “alcohol abuse” and “alcohol dependence” disorders, DSM-5 uses “alcohol use disorder” with a code for severity based on the number of criteria met by the client’s use.

The organization of diagnostic categories has been revised so that the categories are more clearly differentiated from each other.  For example, all disorders formerly in the category of “disorders usually first diagnosed in infancy, childhood or adolescence” have been moved to the category of the diagnosis itself (e.g., attention deficit hyperactivity disorder moved to neurodevelopmental disorders).  In addition, some categories have been divided into two smaller categories (e.g., bipolar and depressive disorders, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive & related disorders) or have been combined differently (e.g., trauma & stressor related disorders).

The category of “Other Conditions” has been greatly expanded to cover some of the conditions previously listed on Axis IV as well as other historical and current situational circumstances that may be relevant to the current treatment.

Diagnostic Changes

There are a number of new diagnoses in the DSM-5 as well as revised criteria for other diagnoses.  Below is a partial list of new diagnoses:

  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (age of onset between 6 and 10 years of age)
  • Persistent depressive disorder (combines dysthymia and major depressive disorder, chronic)
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (previously listed as a condition for further study)
  • Hoarding disorder
  • Excoriation disorder
  • Disinhibited social engagement disorder (differentiated from reactive attachment disorder)
  • Gambling disorder (previously listed as a condition for further study)
  • All disorders in the category of “somatic symptom and related disorders” (renamed from “somatoform disorders” in DSM-IV)

This is a very brief summary of the changes between DSM-5 and DSM-IV.  As mentioned above, you should look closely at the diagnostic criteria for each client’s diagnosis when you begin using the DSM-5 and also look at the listing of categories and diagnoses to see if there is a new diagnosis that fits your client’s symptoms more closely than a diagnosis which is familiar to you from the DSM-IV.

I hope you found this blog to be a helpful introduction to DSM-5.  Please email me with comments, questions or suggestions for future blog topics.

For more information about Dr. Suffridge, visit her website: http://dianesuffridgephd.com/


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Please visit http://www.marincountypsych.org for more information about our association and membership benefits or to locate a licensed clinical psychologist in Marin County.

# # #

Blog Disclaimer:

The opinions expressed by the authors are their own and do not reflect the opinions of the Marin County Psychological Association. The information posted on this blog is not intended as, and is not, a substitute for professional mental health services.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Changes from DSM-IV to DSM-5

Using Technology to Enhance Attachment Security

Your text message made me feel 🙂

Using technology to enhance attachment security 

by Daniel Sonkin, Ph.D.

“I received a text message from my wife, and before I even read it, I smiled!”

John Bowlby’s attachment theory (1969, 1973, 1980) revolutionized developmental and social psychology (Cassidy and Shaver, 2008), and infant mental health research (Beatrice and Lachmann, 2013). More recently both researchers and clinicians have begun to explore its clinical application as well (Wallin, 2007; Fonagy, 2010; Obegi and Berant, 2010).  Attachment theory has become a widely accepted concept, whose clinical appeal has grown over the past decade.  Social and personality psychologists have also been interested in attachment theory, primarily in its application to adult relationships (Mikulincer and Shaver, 2010) and group dynamics (Simpson and Rholes, 1998).  Two particular social psychologists, Mario Mikulincer  and Philip Shaver (2010) through their collaboration, have greatly expanded our understanding of attachment in adult relationships, and in particular, the underlying cognitive and emotional processes that lead to particular attachment behaviors (Mikulincer, Shaver, Sapir-Lavid & Avihou-Kanza, 2009).  What is most fascinating is their research on secure base priming which they have been conducting for the past 13 years (Mikulincer and Shaver, 2001).  The implications of their findings, as well as the methodology they employed, are very applicable to our work as psychotherapists.

Secure Base Priming: In their original study, Mikulincer and Shaver were able to create a research methodology that asks the following question.  Can we alter adult insecure attachment emotional, cognitive and behavioral patterns temporarily, so as to reflect secure attachment?  In other words, can people with insecure attachment temporarily act like they have secure attachment?  The answer turned out to be yes. And this methodology has been repeated many, many times over the past 13 years.   This was done through a process called secure base priming.  Secure base priming has been found to be correlated to a wide range of positive outcomes.  It has been associated with increased compassion, altruism, and openness to different ethnic groups.  It has been found to temporarily increase self-esteem (Carnelley and Rowe, 2010), reduceanger (Dutton, unpublished manuscript) and possibly even protect people from post-traumatic stress disorder (Mikulincer, Shaver & Horesh, 2006). Most of the studies have involved single priming exposure and the changes are generally short-lived (minutes or hours).  There are only a few studies on the long-term effects of multiple priming experiences, which to date look promising (Gillath, Selcuk and Shaver, 2008).

Priming is a form of implicit memory.  It is the mechanism through which we learn things through indirect observation, rather than a focused attempt to develop a skill – though it can also occur via a more deliberate process of attention. Mikulincer and Shaver used both subliminal and supraliminal priming techniques to activate “secure base” mental representations of individuals assessed as having insecure attachment as measured by an empirically validated assessment questionnaire (Fraley, Heffernan, Vicary, & Brumbaugh, 2011).

Typical priming techniques include the subliminal presentation of words (eg, love, hug, etc.) and images (parents and children, couples, etc) on a computer screen.  It may also include visual imagery, such as recalling actual secure base experiences.  In their original priming studies Mikulincer and Shaver also asked subjects to create (make up) a secure base story, which had the same effects as actual secure base memories.  Subsequent studies have included subliminal presentation of the names and images of the subject’sattachment figures.

More recent imaging studies have determined that secure priming does affect particular brain structures, which suggests that secure attachment can be neurologically differentiated from insecure attachment (Canterberry & Gillath, 2012; Gillath, Adams, & Kunkel, 2012).   These studies point to a number of physiological processes in the brain that may give rise to attachment security.  Secure base priming appears to, in part, activate memories (ostensibly of positive attachment experiences) (Quirin, Gillath, Pruessner & Eggert,  2010) in conjunction with the simultaneous activation of structures related to the release of attachment-enhancing  hormones, such as vasopressin, oxytocin and dopamine (Gillath, Shaver, Baek & Chun, 2008).  It is theorized that when the brain is primed to activate positive memories (mental images), feelings and thoughts of attachment, these representations are more readily available when experiencing stress, distress or when there is an opportunity for dyadic soothing or problem-solving (Mikulincer, Shaver, Sapir-Lavid, & Avihou-Kanza, 2009).

Priming and Psychotherapy: Secure base priming techniques are very similar to what naturally occurs in psychotherapy.  Therapists utilize words and their non-verbal expressions to express affection, caring, support and concern for their clients.  They also suggest solutions to specific as well as general problems the client is experiencing.  Often therapists will encourage clients to remember positive outcomes from the past, or imagine positive outcomes in the future (both of which result in the creation of mental images and expectations in the brain).  All of these aspects of therapy both directly and indirectly experientially give clients secure base experiences.  It is the hope of therapists, that these repeated positive experiences will result in change.  One can say that clinicians are exposing their clients to repeated secure base priming.

However, there is a huge difference between temporarily changing attachment representations and/or affect in the laboratory via computer, and doing so in psychotherapy with a real live person.  However, change in psychotherapy can be a long, arduous process that could take years to generalize in outside relationships.  So a critical question is can therapists use the secure base priming research to enhance the security-boosting effects of psychotherapy?

Therapists often recommend adjunctive activities that clients can participate in that support change, such as medication, changes in lifestyle, and mindfulness or meditation training.   Mindfulness meditation, in particular, has been shown to improve mood (reduce depression and anxiety) and promote positivity (states of well-being).  Davidson (2004) found that individuals who meditated for 30 minutes a day, six days a week for two months changed the their activation ratio of their prefrontal cortex  – from favoring withdraw emotions on the right to favoring approach emotions on the left.  This change resulted in reduced anxiety and increased states of wellbeing.  Secure base priming may also be a valuable adjunct to traditional psychotherapy.

Texting Can Make You Happy: In a recent study researchers explored whether texting secure base guided imagery exercises can increase self-reported feelings of “felt security” (Otway, Carnelley and Rowe, 2013).  These researchers expanded the traditional view of felt security – feeling care, love and safety.  They have included an energy component that can best be described as a “subjective vitality as feelings of aliveness and vivacity.”  They differentiate this state as discretely different from an overall sense of positivity (Luke, Sedikides and Carnelley, 2012).  Their rational for this particular experiment was their that it was logistically impractical to prime individuals only in the laboratory.  Due to the wide spread use of smart phones, the researchers decided to explore whether or not texting could substitute for in-lab priming.

Subjects were assigned to either a secure or neutral priming condition before starting the priming process.  During the first exposure (which was conducted in the laboratory), subjects were asked to either write a story about a security-inducing attachment figure or a neutral assignment (eg. a supermarket shopping trip).  Twenty-four hours later, subjects were texted a 3-minute visualization task (either secure or neutral).  Twenty-four hours later, subjects received another text with another 3-minute visualization task (secure or neutral).  And again twenty-four hours later they received another text.  They received a total of five primes over the course of a week every twenty-four hours.  Felt security was measured with a 16-item scale (that was developed by the researchers) which assesses feeling secure and safe (eg, loved), as well as this sense of energy.

The findings were in line with other secure base priming studies.  Secure base priming increased feelings of “felt security” as compared to the neutral primes.  Most importantly, they found that the feelings of felt security stayed active for a number of days.  This is important because it suggests that repeated priming may act as security boosters over time.  The results suggest that texting can be used as an intervention with clients.  CBT therapists have been using texting to facilitate treatment for a number of years now (Aguilera and Monoz, 2011).  Why can’t attachment-oriented therapists do the same?

Secure Base Priming Program: Another way of delivering secure base primes to a client is through the Internet.  The smart phones that are able to receive text messages also have access to online information via a web browser.  I have developed a web site (www.securebasepriming.org) that is able to deliver three different types of primes to a user, which can be accessed by the client at any time.  The three priming exercises are words (secure, support, care, etc.), images (mother/fathers and children, opposite and same-sex couples – all of different ethnicities) and guided imagery exercises.  The three guided imagery exercises based on the concept of a Secure Base Script (Waters & Waters, 2006).

“If I encounter an obstacle and/or become distressed, I can approach a significant other for help; he or she is likely to be available and supportive; I will experience relief and comfort as a result of proximity to this person; I can then return to other activities.” 

The first guided imagery exercise is simply an affirmation (saying the secure base script aloud).  The second guided imagery exercise is the creation of a story that reflects the secure base script.  And the third guided imagery exercise is the recalling of an actual secure base experience with a real-life attachment figure.

The web site is the basis of an online research study that will examine the effects of repeated secure base priming on attachment style, mood and relationship behaviors (as measure by the partner of subjects).  Therapists, who are interested in referring subjects, are welcomed to try out the primes themselves and see what effects they may have on their mood and attachment style.

Conclusion: Utilizing technology for enhancing attachment security has potential, but more questions need to be answered before making any claims of beneficial effect to the public.  First, we need to know whether or not repeated priming can have a lasting effect on enhancing attachment security.  We know that the studies date have found short term effects, but it’s not clear whether or not those changes can be sustained over time.  Like most brain-training programs, it is likely that the client will need to prime over a longer period of time in order to experience lasting effects.  Plus, we don’t know if after a specified period, whether or not the effects will begin to plateau or wane altogether.  We don’t know if clients need one type of prime or different types of primes over time.  We also don’t know what types of clients would most benefit from priming.  Most importantly, we don’t know if there are any adverse effects of repeated priming.  All of these questions and more need to be answered through research.  However, in the meantime, there is no question that real relationships can enhance attachment security – this is already been demonstrated though longitudinal studies on attachment (Roisman, Padrón, Sroufe & Egeland, 2002).  Whether or not these effects can be gained electronicly is yet to be determined.

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Aguilera, A., & Muñoz, R. F. (2011). Text messaging as an adjunct to CBT in low-income populations: A usability and feasibility pilot study. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 42(6), 472.

Beebe, B., & Lachmann, F. M. (2013). Infant research and adult treatment: Co-constructing interactions. Routledge.

Bowlby, J. (1969).  Attachment and loss: Vol. 1. Attachment (2nd Ed). London: Hogarth Press.

Bowlby, J. (1973).  Attachment and loss: Vol. 2. Separation. New York: Basic.

Bowlby, J. (1980).  Attachment and loss: Vol. 3. Loss, sadness, and depression. New York: Basic Books.

Canterberry, M., & Gillath, O. (2012). Neural Evidence for a Multifaceted Model of Attachment Security. International Journal of Psychophysiology.

Cassidy, J., & Shaver, P. R. (Eds.). (2008). Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications. Guilford Press.

Davidson, R. J. (2004). Making a life worth living neural correlates of well-being. Psychological Science, 15(6), 367-372.

Fonagy, P. (2010). Attachment theory and psychoanalysis. Other Press, LLC.

Fraley, R. C., Heffernan, M. E., Vicary, A. M., & Brumbaugh, C. C. (2011). The experiences in close relationships—Relationship Structures Questionnaire: A method for assessing attachment orientations across relationships.Psychological assessment23(3), 615.

Gillath, O. E., Adams, G. E., & Kunkel, A. E. (2012). Relationship Science: Integrating Evolutionary, Neuroscience, and Sociocultural Approaches. American Psychological Association.

Gillath, O., Selcuk, E., & Shaver, P. R. (2008). Moving toward a secure attachment style: Can repeated security priming help?  Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 2(4), 1651-1666.

Gillath, O., Shaver, P. R., Baek, J. M., & Chun, D. S. (2008). Genetic correlates of adult attachment style. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(10), 1396-1405.

Luke, M. A., Sedikides, C., & Carnelley, K. (2012). Your love lifts me higher! The energizing quality of secure relationships. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(6), 721-733.

Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. R. (2010). Attachment in adulthood: Structure, dynamics, and change. Guilford Press.

Mikulincer, M., Shaver, P. R., Sapir-Lavid, Y., & Avihou-Kanza, N. (2009). What’s inside the minds of securely and insecurely attached people? The secure-base script and its associations with attachment-style dimensions.Journal of personality and social psychology97(4), 615.

Mikulincer, M., Shaver, P. R., & Horesh, N. (2006). Attachment bases of emotion regulation and posttraumatic adjustment. In D. K. Snyder, J. A. Simpson, & J. N. Hughes (Eds.), Emotion regulation in couples and families: Pathways to dysfunction and health (pp. 77-99).Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. R. (2001). Attachment theory and intergroup bias: evidence that priming the secure base schema attenuates negative reactions to out-groups. Journal of personality and social psychology81(1), 97.

Obegi, J. H., & Berant, E. (Eds.). (2010). Attachment theory and research in clinical work with adults. Guilford Press.

Otway, Lorna J., Carnelley, Katherine B., & Rowe, Angela C. (2013). Texting “boosts” felt security. Attachment & Human Development, (ahead of print).

Quirin, M., Gillath, O., Pruessner, J. C., & Eggert, L. D. (2010). Adult attachment insecurity and hippocampal cell density. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 5(1), 39-47.

Roisman, G. I., Padrón, E., Sroufe, L. A., & Egeland, B. (2002). Earned–Secure Attachment Status in Retrospect and Prospect. Child Development73(4), 1204-1219.

Simpson, J. A., & Rholes, W. S. (Eds.). (1998). Attachment theory and close relationships. Guilford Press.

Urry, H. L., Nitschke, J. B., Dolski, I., Jackson, D. C., Dalton, K. M., Mueller, C. J., … & Davidson, R. J. (2004). Making a life worth living neural correlates of well-being. Psychological Science, 15(6), 367-372.

Waters, H. S., & Waters, E. (2006). The attachment working models concept: Among other things, we build script-like representations of secure base experiences. Attachment & Human Development, 8(3), 185-197.

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Daniel Jay Sonkin, Ph.D. is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in an independent practice in Sausalito, California. Since 1981, his work has focused on the treatment of individuals and couples facing a variety interpersonal problems. In addition to his clinical experience, he has testified as an expert witness since 1977 in criminal cases where domestic violence is an issue. He has also evaluates defendants facing the death penalty conducting social histories with a focus on their childhood abuse and its impact on adult criminal behavior. He has also testifies as an expert witness in malpractice cases and licensing actions. Learn more about Daniel or contact him through his website:


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Please visit http://www.marincountypsych.org for more information about our association and membership benefits or to locate a licensed clinical psychologist in Marin County.

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Blog Disclaimer:

The opinions expressed by the authors are their own and do not reflect the opinions of the Marin County Psychological Association. The information posted on this blog is not intended as, and is not, a substitute for professional mental health services.

Posted in Attachment, Mindfulness, Psychotherapy, relationships, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Using Technology to Enhance Attachment Security

Working with depression

Working with depression 

By Diane Suffridge

“I’m worried about one of my clients who was very depressed and overwhelmed in our last session.  How should I decide whether to call her before our next session?”

This is a common and distressing situation for students in psychotherapy training.  You may find yourself preoccupied with worry and uncertainty about your client’s wellbeing, especially if you are personally vulnerable to anxiety.  Part of the developmental process in clinical psychology training is expanding your focus from alleviating your own distress to evaluating the impact on your client of different interventions.  As behavioral health professionals, our primary responsibility is client welfare so all of our clinical interactions should be centered on that consideration.

Regarding a depressed, overwhelmed client, your first step should be consulting with your supervisor.  This is especially important if you are in your first practicum or field placement setting and you should continue to consult with your supervisor throughout your training whenever you are concerned about a client’s safety.  These situations bring up intense feelings for clinicians and it is hard to be objective in evaluating the most appropriate response when you are caught in the emotional intensity.  Some of us respond to intense emotions by shutting down and minimizing the client’s risk and others of us become agitated and overestimate the risk.

Some of the factors to consider in evaluating your client’s risk, in consultation with your supervisor, are the length of your relationship with the client, whether the client’s emotional state is a change in response to a recent stressor or is more longstanding, how the client has coped or reacted to similar feelings in the past, and what internal strengths and external supports are available to the client.  Clients who are new to you, who are reacting to a recent precipitating event, who use self-destructive or impulsive coping strategies, and have few strengths and supports are at greater risk.  If you are concerned about suicidality, use a risk assessment tool such as the Suicide Assessment Five-step Evaluation and Triage (www.stopasuicide.org/docs/Safe_T_Card_Mental_Health_Professionals.pdf).

If you and your supervisor agree that the client’s risk is high, you should contact the client to make a further assessment.  If the client’s risk is low, you can wait until your next session to do further assessment.  If there is a moderate level of risk, your decision will be based on your understanding of the meaning your intervention will have to your client.  You may contact the client as a way to communicate your care and concern, but the client may experience your call as intrusive and undermining.  You can develop an understanding of your client’s likely interpretation of your interventions based on your knowledge of her/his early experiences with parents and other caregivers and your observations of her/his relational patterns.  A client who experienced neglect and has an expectation that others will be absent and uncaring will respond more positively to an unexpected call from you than a client who experienced abuse and intrusion.  However, because psychotherapy always has the overriding goal of supporting client autonomy and self-determination, it is safer to refrain from initiating contact with a client unless there is a clear reason to do so.

After consultation and consideration of your client’s welfare, you may determine that contact with the client isn’t appropriate but still feel worried.  This is the time to refocus your attention on your own coping strategies and self-care.  Learning psychotherapy involves strengthening your ability to manage intense emotions and placing the client’s welfare above your personal needs.  It also involves differentiating between your relationships with family and friends and your professional relationships with clients.


Diane Suffridge is a licensed psychologist with over 25 years experience training clinicians who are entering the field of psychotherapy, mental health or behavioral health. Her training philosophy is grounded in the belief that becoming a skilled clinician requires integrating what we know and learn in academics with what we feel and intuit when we sit with a client. Learn more about Diane or contact her through her website:


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Please visit http://www.marincountypsych.org for more information about our association and membership benefits or to locate a licensed clinical psychologist in Marin County.

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Blog Disclaimer:

The opinions expressed by the authors are their own and do not reflect the opinions of the Marin County Psychological Association. The information posted on this blog is not intended as, and is not, a substitute for professional mental health services.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Working with depression

Why “Just Get Over It” Doesn’t Work with Anxiety and Depression

Why “Just Get Over It” Doesn’t Work with Anxiety and Depression 

By Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D.

We are continually bombarded with messages from the media and self-help gurus that we are in charge of our own happiness. All we need to do is buy this product ot follow that secret formula and we can get rid of anxiety and negative emotion for good.  If getting rid of negative emotions is so easy, why is it that more than 21 million children and adults get diagnosed with depression each year and that depression is the leading cause of disability for adults age 15-44? Why is it that 40 million adults in the United States suffer from an anxiety disorder?.

The truth is that we can’t just get rid of negative emotions when we feel like it.

Below are six reasons why negative emotions l(like fear or  distress) are such a struggle for us:

(1) Our brains are wired for survival, not happiness. That is why they keep bringing up negative emotions, past mistakes, and worries about the future. We can get stuck in repetitive cycles of self-criticism, worry, and fear that interfere with our ability to be fully experience and react adaptively to what is happening in the present.

(2) It doesn’t work to just shove negative emotions down or pretend they don’t exist. Because of the survival wiring of our brains, they will be given high priority and keep popping up again in conscious experience. In fact, some research by Daniel Wegner and colleagues suggests that suppressing thoughts while in a negative mood makes it more likely both the thoughts and the negative mood will reoccur.

(3)  Our physiological systems can react to mental images and events as if they are happening in the real world. Try thinking about smelling and then biting into a lemon.  You will likely feel a change in saliva in your mouth. Now think about putting your hand on a hot stove. Do you feel your heart pounding a bit faster?  Thus, when fearful thoughts and images come into your mind, your heart starts to race or your breathing get short.

(4) Negative thoughts feed on each other. We may begin by worrying about not having enough money. Then we may think, “What if I lose my job?”  and then about all the people who won’t help us and the past mistakes we made getting into this financial situation in the first place. Before we know it, allowing ourselves to dwell on a small negative thought has led to a mental mountain of difficulties.

(5) The things we do to avoid or try to cope with feeling negative emotions may be more counterproductive than the emotions themselves. People frequently turn to alcohol, marijuana, or prescription drugs, such as Xanax, to escape anxiety. These substances have negative effects on mood and motivation and addictive properties. Turning to food excessively can lead to overweight or obesity and low self-esteem associated with weight gain.  Getting angry and blaming others for our negative emotions can ruin our relationships. Shopping or avoiding opening the bills can lead to mountains of debt.

So what do we do with those distressing and uncomfortable feelings? The answer is surprisingly simple – We learn to make peace with our own feelings and, by doing so, take away their power. As we begin to untangle the feelings themselves from our negative judgments about them (e.g., crying is a sign of weakness), we begin to allow them in. We learn when to listen to our feelings and when to calm them down. Once we understand the connection between events in our lives, our thoughts, and our feelings, we can better anticipate our own reactions, make better choices about how we spend our time, and prepare for emotionally “high risk” situations.  We can also use mindfulness techniques or cognitive reframing strategies to take a step back and see the issue from a broader, wiser perspective.

Psychotherapy can provide you with expert guidance, coping strategies, and emotional support to experience and express your own feelings, while staying grounded and present.  The effects of allowing in your natural, healthy emotional emotions can be transformative and empowering. You need to face your own feelings to get back in the driver’s seat of your life.


To contact Dr. Greenberg or to find out about her services, e-mail her at melaniegreenberg@comcast.net , visit her website http://melaniegreenbergphd.com/marin-psychologist/ or read her blog – The Mindful Self-Express  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mindful-self-express.

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Please visit http://www.marincountypsych.org for more information about our association and membership benefits or to locate a licensed clinical psychologist in Marin County.

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Blog Disclaimer:

The opinions expressed by the authors are their own and do not reflect the opinions of the Marin County Psychological Association. The information posted on this blog is not intended as, and is not, a substitute for professional mental health services.

Posted in Anxiety, CBT, Depression, Mindfulness, Psychology, Psychotherapy, Therapy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Why “Just Get Over It” Doesn’t Work with Anxiety and Depression

Challenges of parents of adolescents

(Originally published: http://www.marinij.com/marinnews/ci_24889178/marin-voice-challenges-parents-adolescents#)

Marin Voice: Challenges of parents of adolescents

By Roberta Seifert, Ph.D. and Mark Phillips

IN THE BOOK, “The Good Marriage,” by the late Marin psychologist, Judith Wallerstein, the section on adolescence was called “Adolescence: A Wolf in Denim Clothing.” She treated adolescence as an almost universal family crisis.

It is a time most parents find challenging that can confront us with problems that are difficult to solve. Even the best parents can find themselves frustrated and self-critical, partly due to unrealistic expectations they’ve set for themselves.

In another book, “Compassion and Self-Hate,” the psychologist Theodore Rubin focused on the illusions we have about who we are supposed to be and what we can accomplish. He included as an example the illusion that if you have enough money you’ll be happy.

Each illusion he describes results in unrealistic expectations that make us self-critical and unhappy.

1. You can and should be able to connect with your adolescent.

Of course you should aspire to this, but you will set yourself up for frustration if you expect it to happen with the same constancy as it may have earlier in your child’s life. Adolescence is filled with complex challenges. No matter how caring and open you are as a parent, your son or daughter may be caught up in relational problems or struggling with internal issues that they’re not ready to share.

They’re also busy developing independence from you and that may create barriers that you just can’t get through until they feel more secure in their newly independent identity.

2. You can (should) always be able to protect your child.

While you do your best to keep your adolescent safe through setting fair and effective rules, there is a limit to what any of us can control. Your teen may usually heed your rules and your advice, but you can’t possibly know all of what is going on internally with your child. And, you have little or no control over what they do with peers or in school.

Parenting is always finding that balance between safety and letting a child grow and learn, even from making mistakes. Finding it is even more difficult in adolescence when kids are making choices with serious risks and consequences.

3. If you are good and caring your children will always feel love for you.

Adolescence is a time of tumultuous emotions coupled with increased idealism and thoughts about how much better they would do things if they only were in charge. Kids at this time seemed programmed to see your quirks and mannerisms as flaws, your sense of humor as boring, your advice as intrusive and insulting.

This can be a normal part of their process of separation and individuation and, while necessary, can be trying for parents.

If you harbor the illusion that there are better families in which children mature without rough patches, you’re doing yourself a big disservice.

4. You can (should) always make the right decisions as a parent.

Even the best parents have bad moments. You may lose your temper, make some unreasonable demand, be insensitive to something that’s delicate for your child.

If you feel you have too many of these moments and are not able to parent as you’d like, it may be helpful to seek counseling about your parenting. Sometimes just getting an objective perspective from someone outside the family can be a big help.

But even if you’re one of the great majority of caring, intelligent, loving parents, you will sometimes screw up!

The bottom line is that while we should always be working to improve within each of these categories, we will never attain anything approaching perfection. Believing that we can insures continual dissatisfaction and unhappiness as parents.

Roberta Seifert, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice in San Rafael (visit her website). Mark Phillips of Woodacre is a professor emeritus of education at San Francisco State University. He is a regular contributor to Marin Voice.

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Please visit http://www.marincountypsych.org for more information about our association and membership benefits or to locate a licensed clinical psychologist in Marin County.

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Blog Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors are their own and do not reflect the opinions of the Marin County Psychological Association. The information posted on this blog is not intended as, and is not, a substitute for professional mental health services.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Challenges of parents of adolescents

Deconstructing Lust

Deconstructing Lust

by Mary Lamia, Ph.D.

Lust may be experienced as intense desire, ardent enthusiasm, or unbridled sexual longing. This passionate craving is attention directing and a motivational force as is the experience of any emotion. When untethered, lust can lead to actions that may appear irrational.  Even so, it can be regarded as a manifestation of unconscious emotional memories.

Like love, technically lust is not considered to be an emotion, but involves emotions such as bliss, excitement, joy, and interest, as well as the erotic anticipation of sensory pleasure. People who are in the throes of lust may lose their sensibilities, since lust seems unable to recognize the reality of a situation or motivates one to neglect it. Lust is an octane for the relentless pursuit of another person in spite of intellectual reason and sometimes regardless of emotional barriers such as guilt or shame.

At times lust is unbridled sexual attraction that seeks expression, where the physical appearance and attributes of one person ignite emotions of intense interest and excitement in another.  Yet whatever is triggered in your psyche regarding the lustful qualities of another person is something specific to your own history.  As a result, a friend might confess to you that he lusts after a certain person, and you may be baffled by his interest in someone who seems unattractive to you. Additionally, lust can lead you to fill-in unknown information about the object of your desire, assigning them perfection in your fantasies.  This is because such passion is a construct of implicit memory that becomes enhanced by conscious imagination.

Implicit memory plays a primary role in the process of falling in lust and can be considered akin to what resides in you unconsciously—emotional memories concerning early attachment and love that direct your behavior, goals, passions, and interests in the present. Phenomena regarding implicit memory have been reported as early as Decartes’ 1649 work regarding The Passions of the Soul where he observed that childhood experiences remain imprinted on the brain (cited by Schacter, 1987). Since that time, numerous philosophers and psychological researchers have found that people are affected by early impressions that are not consciously remembered. In A General Theory of Love contemporary theorists, Lewis, Amini, and Lannon (2001) describe the limbic connection that occurs in intense human relationships and how we are driven by our implicit memories. Such unconscious emotional connections that are based on attractors—patterns imprinted on the limbic system— can serve to regulate human physiology and emotional health. So limbic resonance, even in the form of reciprocated lust, serves an evolutionary purpose. Psychologist Lynn O’Connor (2002) contends that limbic resonance (unrelated to lust), such as in friendships or the relationship between a therapist and patient, results in physiological regulation.

However, early limbic connections that are less than optimal also tend to be repeated throughout life (Lewis, Amini, Lannon, 2000). Therefore, lust and the implicit memories that determine its object can be the result of either healthy or unhealthy early relationships.  It is possible that the nature and outcome of a relationship can illustrate whether a passionate interest is based on implicit memories that resulted from healthy attachments or pathologic ones.  However, the fact that relationships involve at least two individuals, each with unique implicit memory, distorts the picture and adds great complexity to deconstructing lust.

The ineffable quality of lust may be the result of another person matching the template within your implicit memory and the emotions associated with it. Lust provides a rare window through which you can view your vulnerabilities as you are swept away by your imagination.  And if you are able to face and endure the shame and disappointment that are often the outcome of such attraction and subsequent disconnection, you will have ample opportunity to learn about yourself.

For information about my current book for young adults, Emotions! Making Sense of Your Feelings (American Psychological Association Magination Press, August 2012), see my website: http://www.marylamia.com


Lewis, Thomas L.; Amini, Fari; Lannon, Richard (2000). A general theory of love. New York: Random House.

O’Connor, L. E. (2002). Review of A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, and Richard Lannon. Human Nature Review. 2: 89-91.

Schacter, D. (1987). Implicit memory: History and current status. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 13(3),  501-518.

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Please visit http://www.marincountypsych.org for more information about our association and membership benefits or to locate a licensed clinical psychologist in Marin County.

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Blog Disclaimer:

The opinions expressed by the authors are their own and do not reflect the opinions of the Marin County Psychological Association. The information posted on this blog is not intended as, and is not, a substitute for professional mental health services.

Posted in relationships, sexuality | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Deconstructing Lust

Parenting After Separation or Divorce


By Annette Holloway, PsyD

Many families are faced with questions about how to best raise children when the adults don’t live together any more. This is particularly difficult when you are feeling angry, hurt or betrayed by the other parent.

You might know in your mind that it’s best for the children if the parents can cooperate about parenting issues, but how do you actually do that when the littlest thing the other person says sets your teeth on edge? And what do you do if you feel that the other parent isn’t treating your child well?

Here are some general guidelines and helpful resources to get you started, if you feel this applies to you.

What you can do

Keep the children out of the middle.

This basic principle covers many situations and can also be a touchstone to consider whenever you are about to do something that involves the kids and the other parent. Keeping kids out of the middle means not using them to carry messages of any kind to the other parent, not bad mouthing the other parent in front of the kids and not using them to find out what the other parent is up to in his or her private life. It’s important to remember that a person can be a good parent even if he or she wasn’t so great at being a spouse. By keeping the kids out of the middle, you avoid asking them to choose between two parents whom they love. Children want to be loyal to each parent; they are in a very painful position if being loyal to one means being disloyal to the other.

Take care of your needs with the help of people other than your children.

You do need to vent about what the other parent said or did, to de-stress after juggling your complicated schedule and to take care of your finances. You need to learn (or add to your) good self-care techniques, and develop a support network or strengthen the one you already have.

But you need to do these activities and learn these skills without leaning on your children for help. They need you to help them manage the changes that are happening in their lives, and over which they have no control.

Children of divorce whose parents can be neutral with each other and who maintain households with totally separate routines and rules usually do just as well as children whose divorced parents cooperate well and interact easily. You don’t need to co-parent by meeting frequently face to face, creating similar schedules and meal routines, and doing things together; some couples can manage to do this but many can’t.

The good news is that co-parenting separately, with different styles and conventions in a “parallel play” style can create just as good outcomes for the children as being more coordinated.

How you can do it

Talk with people who can empathize with you – understanding, nonjudgmental friends, a therapist, a spiritual or religious leader – or write in a journal. Find ways to lower your stress level: exercise, seek beauty, look at interesting things, be in nature, pet an animal, or do something nice for someone else.

Inform yourself about co-parenting by reading a book (“Mom’s House, Dad’s House” by Isolina Ricci or “Parenting after Divorce” by Philip M. Stahl) or taking a class. Two local groups that offer classes specifically about co-parenting are Family Service Agency of Marin (FSA) and APPLE Family Works (492-0720), both in San Rafael.

At FSA, Parenting Apart is a 6-class series that helps parents better understand their children’s experience of divorce, learn skills that promote the healthy development of their children and help manage conflict with the other parent. The class focuses on positive actions parents can take for the benefit of their children (for more information call 491-5723).

Talk to your children about what is happening and ask how they feel about it. Children need to be told explicitly that the separation or divorce did not occur because of anything that they said or did. They also need an age-appropriate explanation about why their parents don’t live together (“We tried to make things work but we couldn’t be happy together, so we separated, but we both still love you” might be appropriate for a preschooler.) These kind of discussions need to occur on an ongoing basis, as their understanding of the world and of people grows.

As a parent, you know your child better than anyone. If you feel like they need extra support to help them adjust to belonging to two households, find appropriate help. Clinics like FSA and APPLE Family Works offer a variety of services at a sliding scale if your insurance doesn’t cover what you need.

Whether you and your child are going through a high-conflict or low-conflict divorce, there are steps you can take to help them do well in the long-term. Your sense of confidence about being a “good enough” parent and your intent to help them negotiate the new status quo will help both of you get through a difficult time more easily.

To contact Dr. Annette Holloway (PSY 25056) call 415/843-1453, or email Annette@FamilyTherapySF.com.


Lamb, M. E., & Kelly, J. B. (2009). Improving the quality of parent-child contact in separating families with infants and young children: Empirical research foundations. In R. M. Galazter-Levy, J. Kraus, & J. Galatzer-Levy (Eds.), The scientific basis of child custody decisions (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Pruett, M., & Barker, R. (2010). Effectively intervening with divorcing parents and their children: What works and how it works. In M. S. Schulz, M. Pruett, P. K. Kerig, R. D. Parke (Eds.), Strengthening couple relationships for optimal child development: Lessons from research and intervention. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Ricci, I. (1997).  Mom’s house, Dad’s house: A complete guide for parents who are separated, divorced, or remarried (rev. ed.). New York: Fireside for Simon & Schuster.

Stahl, P. M. (2007). Parenting after divorce: Resolving conflicts and meeting your children’s needs (2nd ed.). Atascadero, CA: Impact.

Whiteside, M. F. (1998), The parental alliance following divorce: An overview. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 24, 3–24.

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Please visit http://www.marincountypsych.org for more information about our association and membership benefits or to locate a licensed clinical psychologist in Marin County.

# # #

Blog Disclaimer:

The opinions expressed by the authors are their own and do not reflect the opinions of the Marin County Psychological Association. The information posted on this blog is not intended as, and is not, a substitute for professional mental health services.

Posted in divorce, family therapy, parenting, relationships, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Parenting After Separation or Divorce