December 6, 2009
November 25, 2009
November 9, 2009
There are many reasons I am a big proponent of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
October 5, 2009
September 24, 2009
Living in a large, popular city, I see quite a few people coping with transition. One of the common requests for an initial appointment will go something like, "I'm new in town," or "I've lived here about a year now," followed by their complaint, typically something to do with depression or anxiety.
September 13, 2009
Think of the end of an intense and tiring work week. You find yourself channel surfing, up and down, dozens of times, even though you know nothing is on.
According to the article, brains under longterm stress also show a decrease in neurological connections in "regions of the brain associated with executive decision-making and goal-directed behaviors."
August 24, 2009
You can read the whole piece here and I urge you to do so because the writers at Cracked have a way with words that I can't duplicate here.
But I'll summarize:
BS #1: So angry you want to smash something? Think you'll feel better afterwards?
Fact*: Don't. It won't help and will probably lead to more anger down the road. We're better off managing our anger, controlling it, letting go of it, deep breathing and changing the way we think about the situation that is leading to our anger. Less anger is better than "getting it all out" in some kind of aggressive rage. Kind of undercuts one of the selling points of Sarah's Smash Shack. Sorry, Sarah. (But I still wouldn't mind giving it a shot.)
BS #2: You can do anything you want to do as long as you believe in yourself.
Fact: Better success can be had with learning self improvement skills. Take lessons. Practice. Practice some more. And yes, work on improving your self-image while you're at it. Drop negative self-talk. Give yourself affirming messages. But increasing your "self esteem" alone? Probably not gonna cut it, unless you already have a good skill set.
BS #3: People who join cults are naive idiots.
Fact: Cult members are no less smart, on the whole, than you or me. Cults target people who are in transition, vulnerable, feeling desperate, and in need of social affiliation.
BS #4: Subliminal messages cause us to buy things we don't want or need.
Fact: Nope. There's no conclusive evidence that it works.
BS #5: Lie detectors work.
Fact: Slightly better than flipping a coin, yes. Which means, too many times it says we're lying, when we're not. There are ways to beat polygraphs. There are variables that interfere with producing reliable results. They're not admissable in court and with good reason.
BS #6: All homophobes are secretly gay.
Fact: Again, no real evidence supports this widely circulated belief. People who hate or fear homosexuality report a range of reasons. Yes, there are some who are secretly harboring homosexual impulses and they are too ashamed to deal with it. But there are others who rant and rage for the effect or because they've grown up being fed a lot of negative messages about gays and lesbians, not because they're deep down attracted to same sex individuals.
*refers to what is widely believed in the psychological community at this moment in time.
Image source: John Malkovich in Burn After Reading (see it for his performance alone).
August 4, 2009
Sad, anxious, angry, shameful, hurtful feelings.
Should statements, as they are called.
I should exercise more.
I shouldn't be having these thoughts. She just died, afterall.
July 24, 2009
Reader, what helps you get a better workout?
July 5, 2009
I have long believed I am a night owl. Or as sleep experts would now say, I suffer from Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS).
"Delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS) is a disorder in which a person’s sleep is delayed by 2 or more hours beyond the socially acceptable or conventional bedtime. This delay in falling asleep causes difficulty in waking up at the desired time...Most with DSPS describe themselves as "night owls" and say they function best or are most alert during the evening or night hours. If they were to keep a sleep log it would show short sleep periods during the school/work week (with few or no awakenings during the night) and lengthy sleep-ins (late morning to mid afternoon wake up times) on the weekend."
It seemed to become more pronounced over time. In college, as I chose my courses (no morning classes, thank you). In graduate school, I wrote the bulk of my dissertation between 10pm and 4am.
I knew this nirvana night schedule couldn't last forever, though. Eventually I did a one year internship at a medical setting, for example. It required the standard 8am-5pm hours. Oh dread. It about killed me.
But I was hopeful, deciding this was a good experiment: early morning wake up call, everyday, for a whole year. While it did get a bit more tolerable once I caved to the earlier bedtimes, it never, ever, EVER, felt easy. Or natural. I hated mornings as much as always.
So this confirmed night owl wasn't exactly surprised when she learned that researchers identified a particular gene, a mutation, they call it, that determines circadian rhythm. But she did feel vindicated. No, I'm not lazy. No, I wouldn't wake up easier if I'd just go to bed earlier. Okay, well maybe that one is true.
Naturally it's described as a mutation, rather than a variant of normal. But that's okay. I, and plenty of other night owls, have lived our lives feeling like we missed the normal boat.
Back to the gene. The night owl gene was first identified in a mouse, and later in more mice.
This mutation was kindly named the "after hours gene" (AFh). Very aptly named, I would argue, since it's a universally accepted, scientifically verified truth that things happening "after hours" are way more fun and exciting than things happening, say, at 7am (snore).
Everyone wants an invitation to the after hours party, right?
And now one more giant step for night owls. It's been announced there is an official test we can take, a simple mouth swab, to determine if we are, in fact, a morning lark or a night owl.
For more information about night owls, check out the DSPS blog.
Image source: owls, here.
June 26, 2009
I welcome these questions. When clients are more informed about their treatment, they tend to feel more comfortable in our sessions and do better when they get home. And I don't believe clients who ask these questions are dummies, just so you know (I can't speak for the authors of the book). I expect that most people have little idea what CBT is and I'm happy to explain.
CBT refers to two different components: Cognitive is the thinking part of therapy; Behavioral is the doing.
The example I give most often: You're depressed because you've gained a lot of weight. You feel hopeless about ever losing the extra pounds. Your depression leaves you feeling unmotivated to exercise more.
"All I can think about is food."
"I deserve to eat this dessert."
June 11, 2009
"He gave me his phone number. What do you think he meant by that?"
"Do you think that means she wants to go out with me.... or not?"
According to the old school rules of dating, women are supposed to play hard to get and men are supposed to ask a woman straight out, right? And that mars and venus guy? Even he tells us we're looking for different things in a relationship.
Does any of this conventional "wisdom" hold true?
Wisdom, by the way, is codeword for advice given by people who have lived a whole lot longer than you but really have no clue how the dating game is played, either.
But thanks to a couple of dating studies summed up by the good people at BPS Research Digest we don't have to rely on antiquated advice. And we may now be able to say that we are finally beginning to meet up on the same planet.
In 2006 researchers studied what types of come-on lines women see as most effective when a man is trying to show he is interested.
Women, according to this study, are positively swayed when men demonstrate their helpfulness, generosity, athleticism (really? this works?), "culture" and wealth (again with the really?). They are unimpressed by jokes, empty compliments and sexual references.
And how about the guys? What works for them? A 2009 study found that men are most convinced when women use straightforward forms of communicating compared to more subtle lines. So the direct, "Let's go out sometime," is seen as more effective than the indirect, "Is that an iPhone in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?"
And here's where the common planet comes in. Neither men nor women find sexual humor and innuendo to be all that helpful in figuring out whether to expect a follow up phone call. Or text. Or email. Or Facebook friend request. Let alone a date for Saturday night.
So according to the latest in dating research, if you are really interested in a particular someone you are chatting up, here's some potential applied advice.
Women, you might say something like this:
"Want to go out sometime?"
And men, you would say something like this:
"Thanks to my speed and strong throwing arm (athleticism), I caught a little old lady (helpfulness) who stumbled in my Buddhist meditation class (culture). She was so appreciative that I offered her a ride home in my Porsche (wealth) and donated a sizeable chunk to her charity fundraiser (generosity)."
And then you would suggest a night on the town.
Actually, I added that last piece of wisdom. Because it kind of seals the deal, doesn't it?
If you want to read these studies for yourself, in their entirety, you can either go to your nearest university library and look for the journal called Personality and Individual Differences, or, click on the links below and pay $31.50 each to purchase the studies online. You can also read a more in depth explanation here at PsyBlog.
Bale, Christopher, Morrison, R., & Caryl, P. G. (2006). Chat-up lines as male sexual displays. Personality and Individual Differences, 40(4), 655-664.
Wade, Joel T., Butrie, L., & Hoffman, K. (2009). Women’s direct opening lines are perceived as most effective. Personality and Individual Differences, 47 (2), 145-149.
Image source: Oil on canvas by Illingworth, 1971, found here.
June 3, 2009
My answer is typically that it's really up to the preferences of the individual. It's a very personal decision. Some people think they would feel more comfortable with one gender or the other.
May 11, 2009
The moment we've all been waiting for.
Sometimes I get pieces on the phone but will want to hear about the therapy issues in greater detail. This is where the box of tissues might come in handy.
April 28, 2009
Greetings. This is my first post at "blogging behavioral." I hope this is the start of a long and satisfying ... oh, forget all that. I'd like to get right to it.
So are you ready for something truly original? I shall begin ... at the beginning.
Which is the first session.
Many people express nervousness and uncertainty at the thought of their first therapy session. They do not know what to expect and are understandably wary.
Some people have never sat in a room and disclosed private details to a stranger, professional or otherwise. It can feel daunting, at the least. What will I say, exactly? How will I start? How do I ease into potentially embarrassing details? Do I just spill my guts or do I start with the healthier aspects of my functioning?
People worry, in other words, about forming a good impression in the midst of sharing the troubled chaos that has become their life. It's not easy walking into a situation where the emphasis in on our low-lights.
Some are worried about intense emotions expressed during the initial session. It is not uncommon, for example, for clients to shed tears very early on. I often hear something dismissive, like, "I don't usually cry like this." Or, "I'm sorry. I don't know why I'm crying."
But I do. I understand. I expect it. And for this I am prepared. With the most critical tool in my therapeutic arsenal: a box of tissues. I consider this emotional outpouring a normal part of the therapy process.
Most people enter therapy because they have an overwhelming amount of emotional distress. Predictably, and typically out of necessity, they want to unburden. As a professional, I welcome this. There is no judgement.
Next post, I will talk about what a patient can typically expect from me as part of an initial evaluation.
Image source, here.