Los Angeles Chapter  California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists

Voices — June 2020

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  • 05/31/2020 1:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Matthew Evans

    Matthew Evans
    President, LA-CAMFT

    Dear colleagues,

    For the June President’s Message, I want to recognize all of you for the difficult yet rewarding work you do for others. During the past few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, you have been the guiding light, calming breeze, and foundation of stability for the Los Angeles community. The stress from working on the frontlines can impact the mental, emotional, and physical state of yourself and others. Stories of licensed psychologists, psychotherapists, and social workers providing free or low-cost therapy sessions to healthcare professionals (nurses, doctors, EMTs, other therapists, etc.) who find themselves psychologically overwhelmed by the pandemic’s economic, social, and financial fallout are truly inspirational. When reflecting back on the period of the COVID-19 pandemic, give yourself acknowledgment and praise for facing people’s fears and anxieties head-on and easing the suffering of others through your compassion and empathy. Thank you all for the services and support you provide to others.

    Best regards,

    Matthew Evans, LMFT

    Matthew Evans, LMFT, utilizes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy in his work as a Primary Therapist in Resilience Treatment Center’s PHP/IOP program for adults.

    Matthew may be contacted at president@lacamft.org.

  • 05/31/2020 12:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT
    Voices Editor

    Getting Paid: Guiding New Clients into Teletherapy in Your Telepractice
    How to Talk with Potential Clients about Doing Teletherapy in Place of In-Office Sessions

    The biggest challenge therapists say they’re facing with telementalhealth, is how to talk with potential clients about doing teletherapy in place of in office sessions.

    Since therapists now have telepractices doing video and phone sessions instead of face-to-face sessions in their office, they’ve discovered that having the initial contact—the intake or pre-therapy phone or email interaction—with a potential client is, and needs to be, a little bit different than the interaction a clinician is used to having when orienting a client to beginning in-office therapy sessions.

    While clinicians are skilled and practiced in what to say and cover with potential clients during the first contact for in office therapy, now when potential clients call inquiring about therapy, therapists who aren’t doing in-office sessions find their biggest dilemma is what to say to introduce teletherapy video and phone sessions—and how to respond effectively to those potential clients who are resistant or reluctant to schedule an appointment or pay for these sessions.

    When therapists aren’t seeing clients in their offices, what can they say to introduce potential clients to doing therapy through teletherapy sessions? What’s the best way to respond to a potential client who seems reluctant or resistant to engage in video or phone therapy when the therapist isn’t seeing clients in person in the office? What should a therapist say to a new client to orient and prepare them for video or phone therapy sessions?

    As you know, when clients come to therapy they are entering a new world. They are moving from a familiar way of operating to the therapy context where different rules apply. Our job as therapists begins with helping clients enter, become familiar with, and safely navigate the therapeutic context. We are their guide.

    For successful therapy, clients need to experience a safe enough environment where they can be free to examine things and share their feelings. For most clinicians and clients this previously occurred in a therapist’s office that had been specifically created to insure a safe, confidential, and supportive environment.

    Now that the therapy office is a virtual one with therapist and client in a different location, no longer does the clinician arrange for privacy and provide the Kleenex, bottled water, tea, coffee or snack; decorative pillow to hug, comforting blanket and client chair or couch. Gone, too, is therapist greeting the client in the waiting room and the comfortable small talk on the way to the office. Clients, prospective clients and the general public are familiar with and know what to expect from in-office therapy; teletherapy not so much.

    With teletherapy it’s extra important for us to remember that when clients begin therapy and enter the therapeutic milieu via telehealth their experience of changing contexts is much more complex than with in-office therapy sessions. This means that not only are new clients moving from a world where they behave in certain ways to a place where they are expected to think and act differently in the therapeutic setting, with telementalhealth this includes adding another layer to that—a video screen or a phone and the therapist and client being in two locations. That’s quite different from driving to, parking, sitting in the waiting room, and walking into a therapist’s consulting room where therapy occurs and the client is taken care of in person by the therapist.

    How can a therapist re-create that experience with teletherapy and convey to clients and prospective clients that it works? For most new and continuing clients this shift to creating and utilizing a virtual space for therapy takes learning and practice under guidance and direction of a competent therapist—and that starts with the very first phone conversation when Teletherapy is presented.

    As you read the following information, be sure to remember:

    • Only do and say things that fit for you, your clients, and your practice—and always within legal and ethical guidelines.
    • You can ignore everything written in this article and still be successful. Discover what works for you, your clients, and the practice setting you work in.

    1. When therapists aren’t seeing clients in their offices, what can they say to introduce potential clients to doing therapy through teletherapy sessions?

    When doing in-person therapy sessions, during the intake conversation, therapists usually disclose their credentials, review the address and location of the office, frequency of appointments, session length, cost, type of payment accepted, directions to the office, where to park, etc.—and discuss why the client is seeking therapy to make sure it’s within their scope of practice.

    When teletherapy is involved, whether or not a client has requested video or phone sessions, it’s up to the therapist to introduce, disclose, and orient the client to not only the usual therapy information but also the video and phone delivery model, treatment methods, and limitations of the telemental health services the therapist provides (Section 2290.5 of the Code). How every therapist does this is different.

    Regardless of whether a client requests telementalhealth services, or the therapist is informing the client that therapy will be conducted remotely by video or phone, the opening statement and disclosures are the same. Most therapists begin with a simple general statement like, “During this time of social distancing and stay at home orders I provide therapy through telementalhealth video and phone sessions.” Some also include, “In-office sessions may be resumed at a future date and I will let you know when that becomes an option.”

    2. What should a therapist say a new client to prepare new clients for video or phone therapy sessions?

    After an opening statement saying why teletherapy sessions are the sole therapeutic format, stating your own version of the following information is helpful and covers required disclosures:

    • Teletherapy is similar to in-person therapy and studies show it’s just as effective.
    • All the same therapy methods I use for in-person sessions work for video and phone sessions.
    • All that’s needed for teletherapy is a place that’s private where you can talk (at home, work, or in your car) and a device—phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, smartwatch—with internet access or a good phone connection for phone sessions.
    • To get you started with teletherapy, I can show you how simple and easy it is to do therapy with your computer, tablet or phone—at home or any other location of your choosing.
    • I will guide you through the process, just as I would for in-person sessions.
    • With video your session is on the secure platform I use as my virtual office. I email you the link, or phone number I use for your session and help you with any issues that come up.
    • Even before social distancing and stay-at-home orders, I’ve worked successfully with clients who have chosen phone or video sessions when out of town or not able to come to the office (unusual work schedule, sick child, not feeling well but need a session, etc.).

    This is the type of information and guidance that clients and potential clients rely on therapists to provide to guide them into teletherapy that’s safe, confidential and effective.

    3. What are the things therapists need to address with potential telementalhealth clients during that first pre-therapy interaction/intake?

    Aside from informing the client or prospective client about teletherapy by introducing, disclosing, and orienting the client to the usual therapy information, and the video and phone delivery model, treatment methods, and limitations of the telementalhealth services the therapist provides, the California BBS: Standards of Practice for Telehealth also state that before the delivery of teletherapy the therapist needs to obtain verbal or written consent from the client for those services. In addition, the therapist needs to document in the client notes that informed consent was obtained from the client. This is more specifically stated by the BBS, in Section 5,b.

    That’s enough on introducing and talking with clients about doing teletherapy instead of in-office sessions. Next time we’ll focus on how to respond to a potential client who seems reluctant or resistant to engage in video or phone therapy when the therapist isn’t seeing clients in person

    Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT, AAMFT Approved Supervisor, is in private practice in Santa Monica where she works with Couples and Gifted, Talented, and Creative people across the lifespan. Lynne’s been doing business and clinical coaching with mental health professionals for more than 15 years, helping develop successful careers and thriving practices. To learn more about her services, training or the monthly LA Practice Development Lunch visit www.Gifted-Adults.com and www.LAPracticeDevelopment.com.

  • 05/31/2020 11:00 AM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    June ONLINE Presentation

    Friday, June 19, 2020

    9:00 am-11:00 am

    2.0 CEUs

    Narcissist: The Skilled Abuser
    How Personality Disorders Affect The Family System

    Catherine Barrett, Psy.D.

    Catherine Barrett, Psy.D., is a licensed Clinical Forensic Psychologist who specializes in narcissistic abuse recovery. Her background includes working with marginalized communities, social justice advocacy, and the assessment and treatment of sex offenders with personality disorders. She also serves as an expert witness and performs forensic evaluations for the court system. Dr. Barrett is an adjunct faculty professor at the University of Southern California. For more information, visit www.cbpsychological.com.

    Event Details: 

    Friday, June 19, 9:00-11:00 am

    Online Via Zoom

    Register today by clicking the Register Here button below.

    Register Here

  • 05/31/2020 10:00 AM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Maria Gray,

    Your Professional Will

    Last year, I planned to update my professional will with new members for my Emergency Response Team; these are the people who would manage my business affairs if I became seriously ill or in the event of my death. I procrastinated and in March this item was still on my “To-Do” list when the Coronavirus hit, the pandemic made me realize how suddenly things could change and that I needed to be prepared. I contacted two friends/colleagues and asked them if they were willing to assume responsibility for my practice in the event of my death or if I got sick and could no longer care for my clients. Both people I called readily agreed and said they felt honored to be asked.

    Creating a professional will is simple, the challenging part for me was calling my friends and requesting their assistance. I know it’s a big responsibility and sometimes it’s hard for me to ask for help.

    When you feel ready to prepare your professional will, ask at least two people to serve on your Emergency Response team. Their primary responsibility is to inform your clients of your illness or death and provide them with referrals. They would need access to your client data. If you use paper files, I recommend creating a list of your active clients and filing it with your professional will. I maintain electronic records and my brother is my delegate for my password management software; he will coordinate the process of providing my colleagues with access to my records and managing any outstanding financial issues if I am temporarily disabled and in the event of my death.

    As therapists we have an ethical responsibility to our clients and our colleagues to keep our business affairs organized. I know it is not pleasant to think about the possibility of becoming seriously ill or our inevitable death, it’s comforting for me to know that my affairs are in order.

    You can find professional will templates online and I’ve included this link to CAMFT’s Professional Will Template

    Maria Gray, LMFT, NMP, CGP, is a psychotherapist in private practice in Century City, where she specializes in trauma and addictions and leads groups. She enjoys working with adults who grew up around mentally ill or addictive family members. To learn more, go to www.mariagray.net.
  • 05/31/2020 9:00 AM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Leila Aboohamad,

    How to Adapt to Change
    by Finding That Silver Lining

    I think we would all like to wake up from this bad dream that the entire world is experiencing right now. My magic wand seems to have developed a mind of its own and is completely ignoring my directives to stop the nonsense and get us back to normal. I miss my gym, my friends, my professional contacts and networks, movies, theatre, sporting events and especially eating out with friends at our favorite restaurants. This is just too much change all at once.

    OK, agreed. But this is our reality so let’s see how to deal with it. Albert Einstein said, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” Maya Angelou, who overcame a horribly abusive childhood, is quoted as saying “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” And Heraclitus said, “There’s nothing permanent except change.”

    Well, just reading these quotes has made me feel better, but now I have to put these fantastic thoughts into action. And . . . I am actually doing that because I am sitting in front of my computer, struggling to find the right words to share with you about how to find the silver lining regardless of what has happened in your life.

    Have you lost a job, suffered through a divorce, lost a family member to death, experienced financial loss or a complete upending of how your profession is practiced? If we live long enough, no doubt most of us will have endured upheavals in our lives, challenges which force us to acknowledge that our world has changed. It’s no fun, really, to have our comfortable lives turned upside down because the Universe has decided it is time for us to experience new aspects of ourselves. Whenever we get too comfortable with the status quo, when our life is too predictable, along comes a rainstorm or sometimes a tsunami to wake us up from our complacency.

    What is occurring now is a global tsunami which challenges us on so many different levels. First of all, we have to stay well physically as well as mentally and emotionally. And whether we are in a global tsunami or in the midst of our own personal need to grow because our world has changed, it is imperative that we surrender to the law of change by being willing to let go of the comfortable past and embrace what the present has to offer us. We probably learned the necessary lessons in that past life which has changed, so why not be still and ask what the Universe has in store for us right now? What actions do we need to take to expand the scope of our life? Sometimes we are forced to try something new in our career or job because the old ways of practicing our profession are no longer available.

    One of my clients had studied acting since his adolescence. He had done some commercials as a pre-teen and teenager but was unable in his twenties to support himself as an actor. For 8 years he had worked really hard to make a living at it. He had a great bartending job at a very popular restaurant on the Westside of Los Angeles but was feeling really stifled by the management and his life in general. He decided to move to New York City, sold most of his belongings and set out for an entirely new life in the Big Apple.

    It took him 2 years to find the perfect job for him in the restaurant/bar business where he became a very well-known mixologist in the United States and several countries in Europe, Asia and South America. He was able to use his great talents as a performer both behind the bar and in various classes, which he taught. But the pandemic hit NYC like a cyclone and all the city was shut down. No restaurants, no bars, no travel to exotic locations to teach mixology classes and judge competitions. With the restaurant closed, he had no job and no money coming in. But not for long.

    As you are probably aware, we Americans are an adaptable bunch. If you can’t go to a bar for a drink, the internet will have classes taught by professionals like my client which teach you how to make your drinks at home. They are entertaining, informative and fun classes which highlight different liquor brands, every kind of imaginable cocktail and a host with knowledge and personality to light up our lives. And he is paid much more than he earned behind the bar. His world has opened up to new opportunities to share his expertise, financial success and a whole new career on the internet. See, change was the catalyst which has propelled the entire restaurant and bar business to create new ways of serving the public. And change helped my client become the performer he always wanted to be.

    Leila Aboohamad, LMFT, is a psychotherapist practicing in Brentwood, Santa Monica and West Los Angeles, California. She specializes in helping individuals and couples create successful, committed loving relationships. She has studied and practiced spirituality and mindfulness for over 35 years. Leila also works with gifted, talented and creative adults helping them to identify and share their special gifts and passions with the world. Website: www.leilalmft.com.

  • 05/31/2020 8:00 AM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)
    Amy McManus

    Amy McManus, LMFT

    Is Minimalism Good for My Mental Health?

    It certainly can be!

    A lot of us have been using the shelter-in-place quarantine to clean out our closets. When you are spending nearly 24 hours a day in your home, it stands to reason that you are going to be a lot more aware of the things that need straightening up and clearing out. You will probably be even more aware of the things that your partner needs to clean up and straighten out! Tidying up your space can reduce stress and give you a strong sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

    Tidying Up Your Stuff

    Many of my clients have initiated cleaning projects either on their own or with their partners, and most are very happy with the results. They feel lighter, more free.

    Getting rid of things, we will not use doesn’t just free up space on our table, our desk, or our floor, it frees up space in our brain. Every time we see that stack of reading material, we have a shot of anxiety about how much time it is going to take to read it all. We may even judge ourselves as being lazy or slow. Every time we see those clothes that no longer fit, we get an inner shot of criticism for the body we now have and struggle to love. Every time we see that project that has been getting layers of dust on it in the back of the closet, we judge ourselves for not carrying through on a promise to learn a new skill, or for being wasteful and spending money on stuff we never use. Getting rid of these things will bring you some peace of mind.

    Tidying Up Your Cloud

    Cleaning out the things you don’t need frees you up to enjoy the things you do enjoy using. But what about the things in your life that are less concrete? These days many of the things we “need to do” live on our laptops—or in the cloud, to be more accurate.

    There are all those articles you’ve saved to read, or the folders that need to be organized on your cloud, and there’s always email. One helpful thing you can do for electronic information is to store it in a system with a good search function. Apple’s Spotlight and Microsoft’s OneNote Search function are helpful, but a storage system like Evernote will allow you to tag items and search content, which frees you to just jumble things in a notebook without having to worry too much about organization. Put all those unread articles into notebooks, and if you ever need them you will be able to readily find them again. You can even use Evernote’s web clipper to save web pages (without all the ads!) with just one click.

    If you are one of those people (as I am!) who tends to have a bunch of open tabs all the time or has bookmarked folders with names like “to read” and “to do,” get those tabs closed! It will have the same effect as going through all those boxes in the garage, or finally tossing those unfinished projects into the trash. These days, getting rid of all your electronic “trash” can have a much bigger impact than cleaning out a closet or a cupboard.

    Don’t forget to clean up your desktop so that what you first see each time you open your computer doesn’t stress you out, but rather calms you down or cheers you up with a meaningful image that is unobstructed by folders and documents.

    Set aside a few minutes each day or each week to clean up any email or open tabs, just like you clean your dishes each day or brush your teeth. Maintenance is key to keeping things under control electronically!

    The Front End

    Though we readily understand that getting rid of things we don’t absolutely love—the things that spark joy, according to Marie Kondo—we don’t often think about this on the front end, when we are buying stuff, or saving stuff on our computer for later consumption.

    This is the key to retaining the peace of mind that comes from “tidying up.”

    Learning to discriminate with what we buy or save is critical to the peace of mind that comes with tidying up. Now that we have been under quarantine for weeks on end, and are stretched thin for things to do inside, it is so easy to relieve the boredom by shopping online, or falling down the black hole of the internet finding all sorts of things to “read later.” There is no end to the amount of interesting information to be found online, and no end to the number of things you can buy with just “one click.”

    Being mindful about buying and saving things is a real choice, and a difficult habit to build. The internet is designed to hook you in and capture your attention. Information about you is used to try to induce you to buy things that you will be specifically interested in. A lot of money has been spent on research to keep you from being able to control your impulse to buy or to leave a particular site. Setting an alarm when you are on the internet can help, as can all the apps that are now available that assist you in limiting your exposure to the tempting sites you choose. If social media is your weakness, you can find some helpful suggestions here.

    Minimalism is not a magic answer to the stress of day-to-day life, but it can certainly help reduce it. A house and cloud that are free of all the things that remind you of what you haven’t done, or worn, or read, can be a sanctuary where you are free to enjoy the things you really love, start projects that you actually want to finish, and even just relax and do nothing!

    If you can teach your clients to have some self-acceptance in this crazy upside-down world, then you are absolutely rockin’ it. Take a bow. Amy McManus, LMFT, helps anxious young adults build healthy new relationships with themselves and others after a breakup. Amy’s blog, “Life Hacks,” offers practical tips for thriving in today’s crazy plugged-in world. Learn more about Amy from her website www.thrivetherapyla.com.

  • 05/31/2020 5:00 AM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Andrew Susskind,

    The Other Side of Narcissism

    Narcissism is generally seen as a negative trait, but here we will explore its positive side. When babies are born, they imagine that the world revolves around them, and if they have an immediate need, they hope that someone will take care of them efficiently. Unfortunately, the fantasy that your parent will respond to you in just the right way, at just the right time, at just the right temperature, sets you up for the first of many narcissistic injuries to come. As a result, we all suffer from narcissistic wounds throughout our lifetime. It’s not the wounds that count—it’s how you deal with them.

    There are no guarantees in childhood. As a matter of fact, nobody gets what they want exactly when they want it—one dimension of entitlement—and one of the hallmarks of narcissism. Most of us learn to cope with the challenges and unpredictability of relationships and adapt accordingly. True narcissists do not. They stubbornly hold on to their idea of entitlement and develop a lack of empathy for others. On the other hand, healthy narcissism refers to the intrinsic belief that we are desirable, lovable human beings and others may prove trustworthy over time.

    Having grown up in a chaotic home with depressed parents and four older, distant siblings, Charlie was profoundly lonely. As the fifth child, he always felt like he raised himself as he learned to take care of chores such as doing the laundry by the time he was in first grade. His level of self-sufficiency was way beyond his years.

    Because he was a pleasant surprise, his siblings were considerably older. As a result, he felt separate and superior at the same time. He was even placed in a program for kids who excelled academically which set him apart even further and perpetuated the aura of special-ness which fed Charlie’s version of narcissism.

    Having grown up in a home with physical and emotional abuse, achievement and perfectionism were Charlies’ way of getting validation and attention. Although he was very isolated, healthier narcissism helped him feel competent in the midst of constant competition, envy and bullying.

    Charlie represents one version of narcissism which protected him from deeper painful feelings. Here are some practical action steps for narcissism recovery:

    1. Distinguish between healthier narcissism and malignant narcissism.
      Healthier narcissism will generally show up when you’re feeling more emotionally sober, confident and connected to others. Malignant forms of narcissism show up as chronic relationship problems, blaming others and lack of empathy or attunement. Because we all possess each of these qualities, track which qualities are more prevalent and focus your attention on what feels healthier to you.
    2. Move from self-centeredness to other-centeredness by distinguishing between the two.
      Observe yourself as a constant balance between giving and receiving. Practice other-centeredness by giving to others and to your community.
    3. Consider volunteering which comes in various shapes and forms.
      For instance, you have friends who can’t afford a dog sitter for the weekend. Volunteer to look after their dog which can be helpful to them but also an exercise in receiving unconditional love from this furry friend.
    4. Full-blown narcissism and love cannot co-exist.
      If you find yourself reading this and getting in touch with a level of loneliness, start small. Consider adopting a pet or planting a home garden. Notice and surround yourself with emotionally-dependable people—one-by-one. The opposite of narcissism is deeper connection.
    5. Cultivate your generosity of spirit.
      Keep your eyes and ears open for ways to give back to others. Hold the door open for someone. Donate to your favorite charity. Be respectful of others in all walks of life. A simple way of giving is to say hello or smile at your neighbors.
    6. Entitlement and envy are ways of protecting yourself from being hurt.
      Identify these feelings as they arise and try to take contrary action. For instance, if you are feeling entitled to something right away, practice patience. If you are noticing envy, try to be happy for the object of your envy rather than competitive.
    7. Depending on the extent of your past narcissistic wounds, intimacy will be a challenge.
      Begin to notice when you’re feeling vulnerable. Go slow. Pace yourself and try to take bite-size emotional risks. As a result, you’ll create more depth to your relationships. Consider joining a therapy group which is one of the best ways to build relationship muscle and to practice vulnerability in a safe and productive way.
    In summary, narcissism isn’t a bad thing. It’s only problematic when someone is unwilling to look at patterns that get in their way. We all have a narcissistic layer to protect ourselves. Observe yourself with curiosity and non-judgment and see what you discover.

    Andrew Susskind, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Somatic Experiencing and Brainspotting Practitioner and Certified Group Psychotherapist, based in West Los Angeles since 1992, specializing in trauma and addictions. His recent book, It’s Not About the Sex: Moving from Isolation to Intimacy after Sexual Addiction joins his workbook, From Now On: Seven Keys to Purposeful Recovery. For more information visit his websites westsidetherapist.com and brainspottinglosangeles.org.

  • 05/31/2020 4:00 AM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    David Silverman,

    Do Writers Have A Personality Type?

    Some themes that seem to run in writers’ lives are, in varying degrees: introversion, shyness, a tendency toward solitude, a studious nature, a strong goal and productivity orientation, ability to empathize, an intuitive thought process, perseverance, and traits of what psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron calls “highly sensitive people” (HSPs).

    Ironically, most writers have to take bold steps to promote themselves and break out of their shells at times to do so. So, at times they may appear out-going, when networking and deal-making—but spend most of their time indoors, alone in front of the keyboard.

    Introversion, shyness, and the “highly sensitive people” moniker involve three separate, distinctly different sets of attributes.

    Shyness has more to do with anxiety around social situations. Shy people tend to feel more anxious when meeting strangers, when facing large groups, and have trouble getting out of their comfort zones to network, do interviews, and when involved in interpersonal activity.

    The term “introvert” generally implies that someone is more involved in their inner world than other people who’d be considered extroverts. Extroverts are said to get their energy form interactions and in social situations. Introverts tap into an energy that emanates from within.

    Introverts are therefore thought to be able to remain focused for long periods in solitary activities on a receptive level, like reading, studying and mastering—math, say, or language, taking in data and storing it.

    On the expressive level, they are similarly thought to be able to focus longer and more efficiently when playing around with ideas while writing or otherwise expressing themselves through the creative process.

    This doesn’t mean that extroverts aren’t creative; it means that introverts may thrive on the process of solitary creation, while extroverts tend to do so in meetings, or with others, and in social situations.

    While people think of introverts as quiet, well-mannered people who keep their thoughts to—sometimes they can come alive, performing or speaking in front of crowds. Consider some actors, who are extremely shy, or writers like Mark Twain, who—once out of their comfort zones—could thrive on stage.

    Highly sensitive people tend to process everything, especially sensory data more acutely. For example, HSPs are thought to be super-sensitive to physical and visual stimuli, noises, sirens, jackhammers, traffic, and crowded places.

    They also tend to be overly sensitive to emotional experiences, catching subtleties and shades of meaning others might not. For example, they may be more sensitive to arguments, sarcasm, voice inflections, tone of speech, and even odd looks from strangers.

    They may become more anxious, or reflective as a result, when confronted with over whelming emotionality. They might actually cry during moving scenes in a film or feel pain while watching a scene portraying some physical ordeal.

    Highly sensitive people are thought to process experience at a deeper level. They’re thought to be generally more intuitive and drawn into the process of trying to figure things out.

    They’re also thought to be more empathic and, therefore more likely to be more emotionally reactive when observing another person’s struggles, or when processing fictional accounts of people facing adversity.

    Highly sensitive people are thought to expend more psychic energy in making decisions, considering every side of the situation before acting. You might think of a writer, anguished over which way the story should unfold, what would their characters do, and other similar questions.

    This tendency to consider so many possibilities can result in writers finding more interesting, or more original approaches to storytelling. It can also explain why writers may experience occasional, or even recurring creative blocks.

    When observing writers’ behaviors and traits, certain other tendencies come to mind. There are some writers who fit into a category that might be described as self-destructive.

    The notion that creating art in any form can be frustrating and even agonizing has been around since the beginning of time. The Agony and The Ecstasy, for example, the story of Michelangelo’s tortuous experience painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling is a case in point.

    We’ve all heard about writers like Hemmingway, Kafka, and Sylvia Plath, who famously “suffered” for their art. Part of being a writer involves being severely critical of one’s own work.

    There are many stories of writers who’ve worked months or years only to find their work substandard, throw it out and start over from scratch. Additionally, writers might go through their entire careers without ever being discovered, or widely read.

    The stress in the screenwriting world is extremely intense. Even the best screenwriters face constant judgment, and rejection, almost all throughout our careers. When studios read their scripts, writers get many, almost all “passes” (rejections) on their material.

    As if that wasn’t enough, writers encounter all kinds of creative blocks. Self-doubt, waning motivation, lack of confidence, procrastination, contribute to these blocks. Some writers have to deal with a dangerous type of perfectionism that paralyzes one’s ability to write

    Even when screenwriters find success, and scripts get produced, people are quick to judge and ridicule the films, or shows. And if they are successful, ok, critics will say, so they did it once, they wrote a film that got produced and made money; that's the Holy Grail of Hollywood. Then, there's the what’s next? In this town, it’s “What have you done lately?’

    You’ve probably noticed that many famous writers have used drugs, as a crutch, and especially alcohol to get them through their stressed-out lives.

    Some writers (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Hunter Thompson, Aaron Sorkin) drank or took hard drugs (Stephen King, Philip K. Dick) to get them through their scripts. They found substances like coke, or speed to keep them writing. They’ve self-medicated to endure the deluge of self-criticism they are constantly dealing with.

    Writers, especially HSPs and introverts, have got to be strong, and avoid the short-cuts; they have to learn to live in moderation. Those drugs, those uppers, those downers, that booze; it can get you through short-term, but they cause damage long term, especially to sensitive people.

    While not all writers have the exact same personality traits, it seems they share some common characteristics. Writers spend long, difficult hours in isolation –writing, and rewriting endlessly.  It seems tasks would naturally come easier to those with personality traits that allow them the patience to work and create inside their heads—all those hours alone.

    David Silverman, LMFT, treats anxiety and depression, especially in highly sensitive individuals in his LA practice. Having experienced the rejection, stress, creative blocks, paralyzing perfectionism, and career reversals over a 25 year career as a Film/TV writer, he’s uniquely suited to work with gifted, creative, sensitive clients experiencing anxiety, depression, and addiction. David received training at Stanford and Antioch, is EMDR certified, and works with programs treating Victims of Crime and Problem Gamblers. Visit www.DavidSilvermanLMFT.com.

    Image credit: Creative Commons, Quentin Jerome Tarantino, 2012 by aeneastudio, is licensed under CC By 2.0.

    This article was originally published here and is used with the permission of the author.
  • 05/31/2020 3:00 AM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Scott O. Harris, Ph.D

    Cori Rosenthal, LMFT

    The Lessons We've Learned So Far

    Winter 2020 certainly did not go as planned . . . for anyone. In a very short time, everyone in the world turned their attention to the first Pandemic in over 100 years. From the beginning, the news media anticipated the significant toll this experience would have on mental health. As mental health providers, we have had to become more technical, more strategic, and more creative in the delivery of mental health care. We are experiencing a crash course in fear caused by this Pandemic, altering the health, economic stability, and psychological well-being of individuals and families. As mental health clinicians/providers, we must understand the impact thus far as it affects ourselves, our clients, AND the world. We are still learning. Thus far some important lessons include:

    Telehealth is Here to Stay

    Zoom, Doxy.me, VSee, and other systems have proven a viable way of working with clients. Not only is it feasible for talk therapy but also effective for somatic experiencing, EMDR, Brainspotting, and group therapy. There are challenges but we in the psychotherapy community are working through them. Good work is being accomplished as we are invited into homes and living spaces and introduced to pets, family, and the personal isolation precipitated the Pandemic. Healthcare will be forever modified to accept telehealth to reach those in need.

    Pandemic Fear

    The psychological and emotional reactions to the pandemic are mixed and varied from client to client, family to family, crises to crises. For some, the Pandemic has brought about intense fear, anxiety, and panic, loneliness, depression, and grief. It may exacerbate an already difficult psychological issue and make matters worse. For others, it has meant losing your job or ability to make a living. For still others who are considered "essential,” it may mean great health risk(s), sacrifice, and even heroism.

    Family Life

    For some people this experience has given rise to a more difficult time with spouses and family members, leading to estrangement from relatives and support systems. Additionally, not everyone is safer at home, as the United Nations reports a simultaneous surge in domestic violence globally.

    Home Alone

    In 2019, 36.58 million people were living in single-person households. For those who are not quarantining with family and friends, this can be an even more isolating experience. Zoom, Houseparty, and other technologies have stepped up as a virtual respite. Additionally, there are social distance walks or friends meeting in the driveway or yards to have a connection with another human beings offline. However, loneliness can be bitter and cruel . . . leading to extreme depression, anxiety, and even panic. 

    Who Needs Help?

    There is an important role for therapists in supporting and caring for all the "essential workers" in healthcare, food, transportation, and city/state/federal positions. Relief, respite, and hope needs to be in ample supply for all these workers. To meet some of these needs, organizations have emerged to offer crisis support and short term affordable therapeutic services. 

    Preventing Compassion Fatigue (Self-Care)

    For those of us who readily supply emotional and psychological support, it is necessary to provide and maintain self-care. Therapists are talking amongst themselves about the adjustment to telehealth and the intensity of working in this way. Shifting schedules and investing in blue light protection are some of the self-care measures of the day. As we go through a very historic period, as therapists we have a chance to provide an invaluable service and make a difference, something akin to what we signed up for. To do this, however, we must make sure we are taking care of ourselves by honoring and addressing our own issues as we work towards alleviating the suffering of our clients.

    While this has been an unimaginably challenging time, our common humanity and resilience have emerged. Friends, relatives, and colleagues have become closer through more frequent, benevolent, and kindly contact. Shelters and rescues across the country are running out of available cats and dogs who are more than happy to lend emotional support to homebound humans. There are countless free support groups online and social media. One such group offers meal support on Instagram to people struggling with eating disorders. Neighbors are organizing on apps like Nextdoor to shop for those at higher risk. Skies are clearing, traffic is calming, and many businesses are discovering that telecommuting can be very effective.

    As we move through this time it is important that those who need our help can access it, are willing to reach for it, and can afford it. We must not only normalize the depression, anxiety, and trauma the public is facing but the need to seek help to process and work through it. Our role as mental health providers is essential as we continue to learn invaluable lessons from this Pandemic. We are the stewards of connection and resilience for our clients and ourselves, and we will emerge from these trying times stronger for it.

    Scott Harris, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist, is currently involved in private practice and consulting in Brentwood. Prior to independent practice, he was Co-Director of the Center for Behavioral Healthcare and was previously on staff at several child and family facilities. Dr. Harris is the author of three books, "When Growing Up Hurts Too Much,” "Divorcing With Kids," and "Hope Is Good.” He lives in Encino with his wife and three children. To learn more visit www.scottharrisphd.com.

    Cori Rosenthal, LMFT is a mindfulness-based marriage and family therapist in private practice in Brentwood. She specializes in codependence, eating disorders, disordered eating, and trauma in her work with adolescents and adults. A trained mindfulness and self-compassion teacher, Cori offers classes, workshops, and one-on-one sessions in mindfulness and mindful self-compassion. She’s certified in Brainspotting, trained in the Trauma Resiliency Model (TRM), and currently running a Women’s Food and Mood online support group. To learn more: http://www.corirosenthal.com.
  • 05/31/2020 2:00 AM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Attention LA-CAMFT Members!
    2020 LA-CAMFT Board Meeting Dates

    Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at a LA-CAMFT Full Board Meeting? LA-CAMFT members are invited to attend monthly Full Board Meetings hosted at Factor’s Deli in West Los Angeles.

    June 12, 2020
    June 28, 2020 (Board Retreat)
    July 10, 2020
    August 14, 2020
    September 4, 2020
    October 9, 2020
    November 13, 2020

    Factor’s Deli

    9420 W. Pico Blvd.
    Los Angeles, CA 90035

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