Why Ask Why?

Sooner or later, if you come to me for therapy, I’ll ask you to put, in a single sentence, your objective in seeing me. I ask this because I want to know how to be successful. I also want you to define your goal. The most common answer I get is something like, “I want to know why I am the way I am.” In other words, why do I drink more than I should, why can’t I get the courage to leave my husband, or why am I so depressed, so anxious, or so angry?

I used to be surprised by this, especially if it came after a long, intense description of how unhappy they were. Wouldn’t they rather know how to stop drinking, how to be less depressed, anxious, or angry, or how to leave their husband? Why ask why? Continue reading →

How Stories Can Harm

But they can heal the harm, too

If someone pointed a gun to my head and forced me to admit, as a psychotherapist, what my preferred counseling method was, I could not say I was a reflective eclectic. That would get me shot. It’s not really an answer. Instead, I would have to confess that I have a soft spot for narrative therapy. I might get shot anyway because few people know what that is. Continue reading →

Cultivating Change

There’s a lot you can do to change another person, up to a point

If you hang around a therapist’s office long enough, or around anyone who’s seen a therapist, they’re going to tell you that you can’t change another person; you can only change yourself.

Basically, it’s true; but, like many adages, there’s more to it than that. There’s a lot you can do to change a person. If there wasn’t, there would be no therapists. But, once you reach a certain point, there’s nothing more you can do, and the other person must take over.

Cultivating change is a lot like cultivating a garden. Continue reading →

Intolerant of the Intolerant and Outraged by the Outrageous

Sooner or later, if you declare yourself as a supporter of liberal democracy, you’ll run into a thorny problem. Do you show tolerance for the intolerant? Can you permit the free speech of those who will destroy free speech? Should you give publicity to those who threaten a free press? Can you get disgusted with disgust or outraged by outrageous behavior? Continue reading →

Living in Fantasyland

America gone haywire

Has our country gone mad? Has anyone examined the head of America?

Kurt Anderson has, shortly after the 2016 election; and his conclusion is yes, we have gone mad and it was bound to happen. He wrote the bestselling book, Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire. In it, he presents an alternate history of the country as a kind of case study of America’s madness. Continue reading →