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Monday, November 25, 2013

Miraculous Mondays: Psychotherapy: Miracle or Science?


Thought for the Day: As some of you know, I have been giving a lot of thought to the convergence of Chanukah & Thanksgiving lately (Saturday's Songs for the Soul: Chanukah Dayenu for a Good Cause and  David Letterman Style Top 10 SignsYou’re Holding the Perfect Chanukah Gift). What you don't know is that I have also been thinking about writing a new book. The new book idea and the thoughts about the holidays' meaning, like Chanukah & Thanksgiving collided for me this morning. My new book, which is still searching for a title, will share techniques I've used over the years that have helped clients heal broken marriages. Sometimes these techniques seem to work like miracles, surprising both me and the clients. Thinking about Chanukah & Thanksgiving alongside thoughts of therapeutic "miracles" brought me to questions about the convergence of art and science in psychotherapy. Psychology would like to seen as a pure evidence based science; however, the miraculous, creative, artistic side of psychology and psychotherapy is hard to quantify. How can emotions, like love, hope, anger and therapeutic changes be quantified? I went to a lecture this weekend called "The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing but The Truth," where the topic of miracles was discussed. A woman got up and announced she not only believed in miracles, she has learned to depend on them. She also disclosed that she was a recovered alcoholic who has learned to believe in herself, religion and miracles in AA. I am not a religious person and am more of a sceptic than this woman when it comes to miracles, however, there are times when clients come in a week after a therapeutic intervention & something has changed quite dramatically. Those are the moments I plan to report in this new book I am thinking about.
       Have you as a client or therapist experienced or observed one of these therapeutic miracles? If you have, I would love to hear from you. What happened? How do you explain the transformation that therapy helped make happen? 

Today, I'd like to start a series that will tell the story (edited to protect their privacy, but based on real people) of one couple's "miracle" in therapy. 
Here's the 1st installment:
       Nothing appeared to be working in Henry & Linda's marriage. Linda, an attractive, college educated woman grew up in a devout Catholic home. She was, however, a rebel who accepted some of the spiritual lessons & believes in God, but practices only parts of the religious dictates. So, you might call her a reform Catholic. She met Henry, who grew up in a totally nonobservant Catholic family on Match.com.
        After a fairly lengthy online courtship, followed by a long distance relationship, Henry and Linda spent time together and decided to get married. Linda was an independent creative professional who had managed both her own and other small restaurants. Henry, the first son of an Irish immigrant family to complete college is finishing specialized training in international law. When Linda became pregnant, she decided to stop working to care for their son. Although Linda loves being a mother, she misses the life of an independent working woman.
         Henry works full time and takes courses at night an Ivy League college. When he is home, he is constantly preparing for school. In addition, Henry has developed an interest in his Catholicism and attends church on weekends. Linda, on the other hand, has drifted away from her religious upbringing. Before they came for therapy, feeling lonely and craving some adult conversation, she started going out, meeting with both male and female single friends at night. She is not an alcoholic, but enjoys having a couple of drinks with friends. She has not gone to church for some time, has nothing to confess there and resents Henry pressuring her to go to church and confessional. Henry is anxious about her behavior, since she has been coming home late and they seem to be drifting apart.
     In initial sessions, I ask clients, "If a miracle happened and therapy cured you overnight, what would be different? How would you know that therapy had worked?" Later, I always tell them that therapy does not work overnight. With couples, I usually ask them to give therapy at least a few months to see if their marriage is getting better. If it is moving in the right direction, they will know whether they can fix the problems that brought them or not. Successful marital therapy does not always end in healing the marriage. Sometimes it helps people decide whether they should stay together or separate. At times, I am surprised by the outcomes. There are couples who could barely sit in the same room without screaming at one another who are living together in harmony; while other couples who seemed to have more rapport have been unable to work things out.
       If you'd like to hear more about what Henry and Linda thought their "miracle cure" would look like and about an intervention which made a significant difference, come back next week on Miraculous Monday. Have a great week.

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