Los Angeles Chapter  California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists

Voices — November 2020

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  • 10/31/2020 8:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Matthew Evans

    Matthew Evans
    President, LA-CAMFT

    Dear colleagues,

    With the 2020 Election occurring this week, I want to encourage everyone to make their voice heard by casting their vote in-person or through mail-in-ballot, based on each person’s own health concerns and comfort level. While efforts have been made throughout the history of the United States involving voter suppression through gerrymandering, local/state laws, and other unethical means, our voices will not be deterred. Voting grants each citizen the opportunity to vote for a candidate who shares their ideas and hopes for what this country might one day become. Let’s join together to create a better nation for our children and grandchildren, one which promotes inclusion and equality while eliminating discrimination and immoral prejudices.

    In addition, this month LA-CAMFT will be emailing the 2021 Board of Directors nominations to members in order to be voted upon. The votes will be tallied and in December 2020 we will confirm the 2021 Board of Directors.

    Best regards,

    Matthew Evans, LMFT

    Matthew Evans, LMFT, utilizes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy in his work with adults struggling with anxiety and depression at Kaiser Permanente. 

    Matthew may be contacted at president@lacamft.org.

  • 10/31/2020 7:30 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT
    Voices Editor

    Getting Paid: Using Your Website
    to Get New Clients to Contact You

    Your website represents your therapy practice. The best client friendly websites make it as easy as possible to find out about you and your therapy services and to contact you to schedule the first session. Here are some things to remember and questions to consider to make sure your website does that!

    1. Your website is one of the first places new clients look to decide whether or not you’re the therapist for them—even when they’re referred to you by a friend or one of your colleagues.
    • Does each page on your website help your potential clients better understand who you are, what you do, and how you can help them? People want to know about you and your practice before they contact you or do anything with you.
    • As you put together the pages on your website, focus on your ideal clients and talk directly to them, addressing their wants, needs, concerns and issues.
    • Is your website easy to use? Is the information your ideal clients need included and easy to find? Does what’s on your website make your potential clients feel confident that you know what you’re doing?
    2. Potential clients visiting your website want to know if you can help them—and they want to know it quickly.
    • They want to know if you have answers to their questions and if you can help them solve their problems.
    • Do you have answers to their questions? Show them with examples or information that tells them that.
    • Can you can help them solve their problems? Share that information.
    • When someone is in pain, struggling or feeling stuck, all they’re focusing on is, “Can this person help me?” Help them answer this question with the information you provide about who you work with, the solutions and expertise you can contribute, your credentials, your community participation, and more—but don’t make it too wordy or long.
    3. Do your best to make sure you have the type of content and answers on your website that your ideal clients are looking for.
    • Does the information you provide make potential clients feel like you are experienced, know what you’re doing or are familiar with what they are experiencing or struggling with? That you understand them and what they need? That you’re equipped to work with them? That you can provide support and answers?
    • Do you have the type of content on your website that your ideal clients are seeking? Make sure you include some information about the problem or problems your ideal clients face that cause them to seek therapy.
    • Information and content that addresses the questions that clients have—and that conveys who you are, what you do, and how you can help, assures your potential clients that your therapy services can provide the solutions they’re seeking.
    • When you have the type of information and answers your ideal clients looking for, it helps them feel comfortable and confident in your ability to help them so they can take the next step to call or email or text you to set up a first session.
    4. Get your potential client to the information they’re looking for as easily and quickly as possible.
    • Home, About, Services, and Contact are the basic pages clients find helpful. The About page is usually the most visited page on a website—with the Home page following that. Some websites are now one long page with sections instead of separate pages as this works, too, for some clientele.
    • Make sure each of your webpages has a sentence or two about you, your counseling services and what therapy is generally like. Remember people don’t always look at more than one page so if there’s something on each page about how you work, that may be the deciding factor in whether they leave your website for another one or end up contacting you to set up a first session.
    5. Remember, the main goal of your website is to get new clients to contact you.
    • Is your contact information easy to find?
    • Does your contact information include your phone number, email address, and location of your private practice? (Yes, you need to include this even if you’re only doing teletherapy.)
    • Does your contact information let your clients know the best way to contact you? Phone, email, text or ?
    • Is your contact information consistently placed on every page more than once? Header, footer, sidebar, end or middle of page?
    • Is your contact information conveniently placed on every page? Header, footer, sidebar, end or middle of page?
    • Remember, if potential clients are looking to contact you, always make it as easy as possible.
    Each therapist is unique and brings different experience, training, expertise, and personality to their private practice. Think about the type of client you want to work with and their specific needs then offer useful information to your potential clients, information that assures them your therapy services can provide the change they’re seeking. Let your website help your ideal clients feel comfortable and confident enough to contact you for their first session. 

    Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT, AAMFT Approved Supervisor, is in private practice in Santa Monica where she works with Couples and Gifted, Talented, and Creative Adults across the lifespan. Lynne’s been doing business and clinical coaching with mental health professionals for more than 15 years, helping them develop even more successful careers and practices. To learn more about her in-person and online services, workshops or monthly no-cost Online Networking & Practice Development Lunch visit www.Gifted-Adults.com or www.LAPracticeDevelopment.com.

  • 10/31/2020 6:30 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Online Suicide Prevention Workshop

    Sunday, November 15, 2020

    9:00 am-3:30 pm

    Via Zoom

    6.0 CEUs

    LA-CAMFT Suicide Prevention:
    A BBS-Required, 6-Hour Training for Psychotherapists
    in Client Assessment, Intervention and Follow-Up

    Curt Widhalm, LMFT

    Curt Widhalm, LMFT practices in West LA & Encino working with adolescents and certified in EMDR. Curt is on the CAMFT Ethics Committee, an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University and lecturer at California State University Northridge, co-host of The Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide podcast, and co-founder of the Therapy Reimagined Conference. 

    Event Details: 
    Sunday, November 15, 2020, 9:00 am-3:30 pm

    Where: Online Via Zoom
    After you register you will be emailed a Zoom link the Wednesday before the presentation.

    Register today by clicking the Register Here button below.

    Register Here

  • 10/31/2020 6:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Maria Gray,

    Mindful Scheduling

    In graduate school one professor told our class that he saw about twenty clients a week. I remember wondering why he was working “part-time.” I had worked long hours in my business career and did not comprehend the vast amount of energy and focus it takes to be an attuned, skilled therapist.

    Once I started my internship, I noticed I was tired on the days when I saw more clients or several people in a row without a break. I was exploring my clinical capacity and eventually realized that I was comfortable with about twenty clients a week, just like my professor.

    When I was experiencing health problems, I reduced my schedule. Parents of young children or caregivers to elderly parents may have less capacity than someone who is single. There are countless reasons why some people prefer to work more or less. There is no right answer and your capacity may change over time.

    Over the years, I have discovered that my sweet spot for clients is five individual clients a day or four clients and one group, working four days a week. There are days when I see more than five people and it’s fine and other days when I need a lighter schedule. Another thing I’ve noticed is that I’m less tired when I’m doing more Brainspotting or EMDR sessions.

    Group therapy is exciting and sometimes fast paced. When I’m running a group, I need to focus on multiple transferences, and this requires lots of energy. When I finish running a group, I write my notes and take a long break.

    Sometimes I practice “shuttling” from Dr. Louis Cozolino’s work; he is a psychologist who teaches and writes about psychotherapy and neuroscience. In his book “The Making of a Therapist,” Cozolino (2004) defines shuttling as “ . . . the movement of your awareness inside of yourself, over to your client and back again.” He “shuttles” up into his head and down into his body to notice his own perspective (top down) and limbic countertransference (bottom up) and whatever images, emotions, thoughts, and sensations are present during that exploration. Then he carefully considers the information and decides whether or not to incorporate it into the session. My countertransference impacts my energy level and I do my best to be aware of it to prevent myself from “working too hard” and to inform my clinical work.

    In the early days of the pandemic, I noticed I felt drained and so did my clients. Now my energy is back up, and my capacity has increased again. Although I’m working from home, I still prefer to limit my clinical days to four so I can have an administrative/bike ride day on Fridays and a full weekend. I don’t check email on Saturdays and Sundays, my out of office reply tells people I will respond on Monday and it feels great to completely disconnect during the weekend.

    Managing my time consciously has created more balance in my schedule. I know this sounds “old school” but I noticed I was able to be more precise about my schedule when I could see the entire week on paper so I switched from using my iPad calendar to a paper appointment book; I still have some bad habits and sometimes I respond too quickly to clients’ rescheduling requests. I try to remember to pause and take a few breaths when someone requests a different appointment time on a day that is already full. I consider my plans for that day and whether I will have the capacity to be present for another person. I want to finish my workday with some remaining energy for my personal life. We all have varying levels of physical and emotional capacity for our work, and I hope that reading this article inspires you to explore the schedule that feels right for you today and if you are anything like me your preferences will continue to change over time.

    Maria Gray, LMFT, NMP, CGP, is a psychotherapist in private practice in Century City, she is a Brainspotting Specialist and specializes in trauma and addictions. Maria is a Certified Group Therapist and currently offers three online groups in her practice. She enjoys working with adults who grew up around mentally ill or addictive family members. To learn more, go to www.mariagray.net.

  • 10/31/2020 5:45 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Hannah Campbell,
    LMFT, Prelicensed
    Representative and
    3000 Club Co-Chair

    Hannah Campbell, LMFT

    "I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me."
                                                                     Mark Twain

    Mark Twain describes where I was raised: in a farm family and a surgeon family. A family that valued grit, heavy lifting, “no complaining,” and working with what can be seen and held. Yet, I choose to devote my life to a profession where emotion and internal experience is not only valued, it is a vehicle for boundless growth. A profession where we can’t always explain through controlled studies what is happening in the room.

    While growing up around a “suck it up” mindset, dance was my therapeutic space. In class or onstage, I took all that happened over the course of the day and embodied it, grieved through movement. I shared the most vulnerable sides of me with people whom I trusted deeply and in a language that felt safe. I learned while dancing, that life is movement – it is highs and it is lows. It is sharp, forceful, surprising. It is soft, flowing, quiet. And, just as in dance you celebrate each moment of stillness or grandiosity, I have found this to be a defining theme in how I work as a therapist.

    One of the motivators that brought me into this field was working in documentary storytelling where I became enamored with the uniqueness and resiliencies of the human spirit. Since a young girl, I have been keenly attuned to suffering and wanted to help people experience their full vibrancy. I noticed how many of us had not yet met ourselves beneath the feedback, treatment, and trauma from others and society. My therapeutic approach founds itself on the basis of genuine care for that life force within people.

    I began building a private practice in Santa Monica two years ago and work primarily with teens and adults in their twenties and thirties. Transitional moments of life are of special interest to me because they can be formative in how a person makes sense of past experience and applies it to a new movement. I work from the perspective that often we develop ways of being or reacting that once helped our survival but may now being holding us back from our goals. If a dynamic it is still necessary for safety, we will use that awareness to decrease shame and guilt around the dynamic. With this non-judgmental frame we can define safety for the client, begin exploring the fullness of their experience, choose how to make meaning of it, and envision a path forward. 

    In addition to my private practice, I have worked in a school-based setting for the past two years, particularly with teens at early stages of substance use in efforts to prevent possible substance use issues. So often I hear, “I’m overwhelmed” by life. Teens say they feel they’ve inherited a crumbling world and are required to steer it back on course to secure a future. Pair this with generational trauma, financial stressors, social stressors, world stressors, and having so much information at every second of every day; it is so very much to hold. Within the therapeutic space, alongside someone genuinely interested in their unique sensibilities, they can fully explore their being. And they begin to appreciate their ideas, their interests, and their emotional selves.

    I take my role seriously as a therapeutic modeler. As a modeler I am present, curious, and spontaneous. I show up as a full person and model how we can explore emotions or difficult thoughts and then use grounding in the present to re-center on a sense of security and stability. We can tolerate the intensity of being human together, with all of its stillness and movement. With client goals ranging from processing a past relationship, healing from sexual assault, caring for shame related to OCD, or moving through existential questions, I do look to evidence-based practice for certain presentations. So, while the practical interventions I use vary, how I bring myself into the space as a celebratory partner remains the same.

    I appreciate that you devoted precious few minutes to my writing. I hope that after reading this you may find your own version of a dance studio to seek refuge in for a few hours this week. Perhaps it’s a quiet place, a person, or a meditative trade. Perhaps you are not currently reading this article for that very reason and instead are present in a sacred space, and for that I’m also very glad!

    To contact Hannah as Pre-Licensed Rep and 3000 Club Co-Chair, email her at prelicensed@lacamft.org.

    Hannah Campbell, LMFT, is in private practice in Santa Monica where she specializes in life transitions, developing identity and healthy relationships as a teen, rediscovering the self as an older adult, and building a thriving partnership and family. Hannah has an MA in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine along with two undergraduate degrees, Psychology and Cinematic Arts, from USC. She also provides early interventional substance counseling to teens and families at a local non-profit. Website: hannahcampbelltherapy.com.
  • 10/31/2020 5:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    LA-CAMFT Diversity Committee

    Therapists of Color Support Group

    Sunday, November 8, 2020

    Second Sunday of Every Month

    11:00 am-1:00 pm

    Via Zoom

    Therapists of Color Support Group

    A safe place to receive peer support and process experiences of racism (systemic, social, and internalized), discrimination, implicit bias, racist injury, aggression, and micro-aggressions, along with additional experiences that therapists of color encounter in the field of mental health.

    Open to LA-CAMFT Members and Non-Members
    Second Sunday of Each Month
    Location: Zoom Meeting

    For more information, contact Niparpon Johansen, LMFT at niparpon@yahoo.com.

    Event Details: 

    Licensed Therapists, Associates, and Students

    Event Details: 
    Sunday, October 11, 2020, 11:00 am-1:00 pm (PT)
    Time of Check-In: 10:50 am

    Online Via Zoom
    Once you have registered for the presentation, we will email you a link to Zoom a few days before the presentation.

    No Charge

    Online Registration CLOSES Saturday, October 10th at 11 pm.

    Questions about Registration? Contact Christina Cacho Sakai, LMFT at DiversityCommittee@lacamft.org.

    Register Here

    In diversity there is beauty
    and there is strength.

    Maya Angelou

  • 10/31/2020 3:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)
    Amy McManus

    Amy McManus, LMFT

    How COVID-19 Has Changed Our Dreams—And How We Can Help!

    Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I, like many other therapists, have been experiencing a dramatic change in my therapy practice. The clients who were already on my roster at the beginning of the pandemic began having symptoms of trauma, and new clients were constantly calling with desperate pleas for support and solace.

    In the therapist groups to which I belong, both formal and informal, talk constantly returns to the question of how to offer hope in a world where everything seems so uncertain. As one of my clients put it, it’s not just Schrodinger’s cat, it’s Schrodinger’s world.

    One of the changes that has really caught the attention of many therapists is the significant increase in reports of nightmares, sometimes expressly COVID-19-related, but often more metaphors of the theme of the pandemic trauma.

    I decided to see what I could find out about this phenomenon.

    Historically, widespread effects on dreaming were documented after the San Francisco earthquake in 1989 and after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in 2001, but this is the first time a global surge in dreaming has been documented, and it is the first time one has been documented in the age of social media.

    A recent article in Scientific American by Tore Nielsen, professor of psychiatry and director of the Dream and Nightmare Laboratory at the Université de Montréal, elegantly summarized the current research (mostly as yet unpublished) about the effect that living in a COVID-19 world has on our dreams. We know that 29% of Americans are recalling more dreams than they usually do, and 37% of people are having pandemic dreams with threatening themes.

    The research supports the hypothesis that there are 3 factors contributing to pandemic nightmares:

    • Disrupted Sleep Schedules
    • Threats of Contagion and Social Distancing Impeding Emotional Regulation
    • Social Media Amplification Effect

    Let’s examine each factor to see how we can assist our clients in order to mitigate the effect of COVID-19 on their dreams and reduce their anxiety in general.

    Disrupted Sleep Schedules

    At first it seemed like a good thing—the lack of a commute after the lockdown gave people the ability to sleep in longer before beginning their workday. Indeed, at the beginning of the pandemic, time asleep in the U.S. increased 20%.

    However, longer sleep time means more dreams, more recall of dreams overall, and more vivid and emotional dreams. In addition, if we are sleeping beyond our actual sleep needs, REM sleep also increases proportionately.

    At the same time, many clients have been reporting difficulty going to sleep, or staying asleep. This often leads to sleeping later in the morning after they finally get back to sleep. Sleeping later in the morning is also problematic—REM sleep is more prevalent and intense later in the morning, and dreams are correspondingly more bizarre.

    What can we do?

    Now more than ever, we need to educate our clients about sleep hygiene! There are many excellent articles about the practical things people can do to increase their chances of success in getting a good night’s sleep. Some of the top suggestions are: stick to a schedule, even on weekends; turn off screens at least an hour before bedtime; use your bed only for sleeping and sex; keep your room very dark and somewhat cool; don’t exercise or eat too close to bedtime.

    Another thing that has made a difference for my clients with insomnia is to reassure them that lying quietly in bed is very restorative for their body and mind. Sometimes just knowing this simple fact will help them stay calm enough to fall asleep.

    Overwhelmed Emotional Regulation

    REM sleep and dreaming helps us solve problems and regulate emotions. Dreams often use metaphoric imagery to help us consolidate memories and create a coherent ongoing narrative of our lives. Professor Nielsen explains,

    “The late Ernest Hartmann, a Boston-area dream and nightmare research pioneer who studied dreams after the 9/11 attacks, stipulated that such contextualization best helps people adapt when it weaves together old and new experiences. Successful integration produces a more stable memory system that is resilient to future traumas.”

    How Can We Help Our Clients?

    This is where I find that specialized techniques like EMDR can be so helpful. EMDR is specifically designed to help clients integrate memories in ways that can result in a greater sense of calm and meaning. Hypnosis and somatic processing are some of the other techniques that address this issue on the subconscious level as well.

    Social Media Amplification

    Ah, social media—here is yet another way it enters our lives to disturb our peace of mind!

    Professor Nielsen tells us, “Evidence suggests that mainstream media reporting probably did not trigger the surge (in COVID-19-related dreams) but may have amplified its scope, at least temporarily.”

    What Can We Do About Social Media?

    Social media is specifically designed to be addicting. Many dollars and some of the top engineering minds were enlisted to make social media endlessly compelling. But you can encourage your clients to reduce their use of social media for their own peace of mind. Here is an article with some practical suggestions on how to do this, and another article with excellent ideas on how to take back control of your smart phone so that it is set up to reflect your person values, rather than those of Mark Zuckerberg et. al.

    At the end of the day, there is only so much we can do about a world that is, for many of us, increasingly terrifying. On the other hand, there is much we can do to give our clients tools to face current and future challenges with grace and hope. As difficult as the job is these days, I feel both proud and lucky to be a psychotherapist.

    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.

  • 10/31/2020 2:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Leila Aboohamad,

    Do you Love Too Much? The Third and Fourth Steps to Creating a Loving, “I-Thou” Relationship

    In working with the clients in my practice who are either in unfulfilling relationships or alone, I have discovered what they need to know and the steps they need to take to find that perfect mate for them. While the third and fourth steps to creating a loving. “I-Thou” relationship are the focus of this article, let’s start by going over the first two steps.

    The first step to creating a loving “I-Thou” relationship is to recognize that we are complete and whole unto ourselves. Until a person truly understands that he/she is on a solo quest to discover the real Self, that Self which loves, honors accepts and is totally comfortable, he/she will continue as the victim.

    The second step to finding your soul mate and a happy, fulfilling, committed relationship is to understand your Family of Origin. This is done by working with a seasoned psychotherapist who specializes in guiding you to explore the Life Script which has created the adult you and your unsuccessful, painful relationships. If you’d like more about steps one and two, you can read about those in the first article of this series                                               

    The third step to creating a loving “I-Thou” relationship is to become acutely aware of how we feel. Since our feelings define who we are, we must become aware of how we feel every moment of every day. This is often a new concept to many clients, as communicating feelings was never taught in their families. In fact, each of their family members had no idea how they felt, so each member suffered in silence.

    I once worked with a lovely 25-year-old client who had attempted suicide when she was 16. Both her parents were psychotherapists. She came to see me because she was depressed, had suicidal ideation and did not want to act upon those thoughts. I asked her if any of her former therapists had explained the importance of knowing how she felt and she said no! Well, no wonder she was depressed …her feelings were hidden so deeply inside her that she had no idea what was really bothering her. We worked hard with her Life Script and digging up those buried feelings. She recovered from her depression, improved her relationship with her fiancé, completed her therapy and married her fiancé.

    I worked with another client who told me that nobody in her family ever “heard” her or validated her feelings. She had been born into a wealthy family which provided every material comfort and opportunity, but not a whit of understanding or acknowledgement of any family member’s feelings. Any time my client would express her feelings, her Dad would tell her “No, that is not how you feel.” She “coped” by disassociating, disconnecting, splitting off from her real self. She was unable to create and express her own separate identity and ego strength because it was discouraged and never modeled by parents who themselves were lost. It isn’t as though her dad didn’t love her and want the very best for his daughter. His own co-dependency, fostered by his Family of Origin, prevented him from knowing how he felt!!

    The fourth step to finding a happy, fulfilling, committed relationship is to understand that it is a wounded inner child which has never healed that goes out into the world looking for love, acceptance and companionship. If we are not connected to our real self which has a solid ego strength, we go out into the world involuntarily, unconsciously creating the same unhealthy relationships with which we are familiar.

    Certain behaviors modeled through the years in our Family of Origin are so involuntary and negative that it is impossible to find the true love which we deserve because we do not love, know and accept our precious, wonderful selves. If we are disconnected from our true selves because we have never been encouraged to express our thoughts, feelings and talents, we will be attracted to the same types of people with whom we were raised, suffering the same consequences of never really creating a safe place with an intimate partner where we can “just be.”

    Stay tuned for the next steps in this series of “How to Create a Loving, I-Thou Relationship,” as these steps to understanding ourselves in the quest for love really do work. There are so many examples of clients who did that inner work and found true love and fulfillment. I look forward to sharing those with you.

    Leila Aboohamad, LMFT, is a psychotherapist practicing in Brentwood, West Los Angeles and Santa Monica. She works with clients in person and through tele-therapy. She specializes in helping individuals and couples heal the trauma from their Family of Origin so that they may create successful, committed and loving relationships. Leila also works with gifted, talented and creative adults, helping them to identify and share their special gifts, talents and passions with the world. Website:www.leilalmft.com. 

    *Reprinted from Voices newsletter, August 2019

  • 10/31/2020 12:30 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    David Silverman,

    10 Archetypal Film Stories That Sell: Part 1

    “The ten genres that Blake Snyder identified in the 'Save the Cat' books . . . These are my single favorite tool for screenwriters, and I strongly recommend writers know these types, and seek to write squarely within one of them.”  Erik Bork: Screenwriter Band of Brothers

    While Booker, Campbell and others have boiled the world’s stories into the seven archetypal storylines, Blake Snyder identified sub-genres of archetypal stories that appear in films, as opposed to novels, short stories, plays and oral history.

    Erik Bork’s recommendation quoted above, came from his research into the scripts that have been bought by the studios over the last five or six years. You can check his research, too.

    Google The Scoggins Report’s Year-End Spec Market Scorecard. You will find a list of loglines, titles and summaries of the screenplays that have been purchased over the years.

    Jason Scoggins is a researcher who finds out every year which screenplays were purchased by which studios. Scoggins has been researching and compiling this information, and publishing it online for free now for many, many years.

    Bork writes one of the best blogs on screenwriting, called The Flying Wrestler. While a lot of writers' hate Blake Snyder, and his "Save the Cat" advice, Bork feels very strongly that paying attention to these categories will boost your chances of success.

    I've read his blogs and looked at the screenplays bought over the years and I find his logic very compelling.

    You may say, “not another formula for screenwriting, aren’t scripts overly formulaic already.” And a lot of writers out there will ignore Bork’s advice.

    Ignore that advice at your peril, especially since the number of original spec screenplays being bought each year is dwindling.

    Over the past five or six years, that number has been hovering around 130. That’s right, only 130 out of how many hundreds of thousands of spec scripts written are actually purchased each year.

    And in 2016, sadly, the number is going to be around 60. These numbers don't include all spec scripts bought by producers or production companies, but the films that the studios actually find interesting and commercial enough to buy.

    As far as the studios are concerned, they seem to have dropped the word "original" from their vocabulary. You can plainly see by the numbers of prequels, sequels, remakes, reboots, novel and comic book adaptations, that studio films are risk-averse.

    For those who still want to try selling an original spec screenplay to the studios (and have a good shot at independent sales, too), here are the ten sub-genres, of archetypal film stories identified in Snyder’s Save the Cat.

    1. Monster in the house

    Let’s talk about a good example here, Jurassic Park. In this mythic storyline, our hero, paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neil) helps the good guys escape, and later takes on the monsters (in this case various dinosaurs). When Snyder uses the term “house,” he means to bottle up the action and make the audience feel boxed in with no escape.

    While the monster could take the form of a human villain, or a ghost, or alien, the “house” could take the form of a village, a haunted house, a spaceship, or as in Jurassic Park, an island.

    The human villain behind the monsters is the creator of the park, Professor Hammond (Richard Attenborough). He has messed with nature, and you could also say God, in assuming the creator role by using DNA to create modern day Dinosaurs. This is considered the sin that begets the horror in the film.

    Hammond feels he has it all under control, until he realizes he’s not God, and he can’t control the “monsters” he’s created. The story line involves the hero organizing a lot of scrambling for safety. Finally, as the film climaxes, Grant saves Hammond’s grandchildren, Lex and Timmy, re-enters the control room where he can get the park back online and electrified again.

    The good guys, Grant, and the others, including Timmy and Lex all escape in a helicopter. Grant tries to pull Hammond on board. However, unable to part with his creation he stays behind to meet whatever fate has in store.

    Just to show that this archetype encompasses many other types of monsters; consider other films that fit into this niche:

    Fatal Attraction, Jaws, The Exorcist, The Grudge, The Shining, Hannibal, American Psycho, Pacific Heights, Men in Black and Rosemary’s Baby.

    2. Out of the bottle

    In this archetypal story-line, the hero, let’s say arrogant television news reporter Phil (Bill Murray), off-camera, and a complete jerk, is cursed to live the same boring day he loathes over and over again covering Groundhog Day in the "boring," small town of Punxutawney.

    Phil finds it demeaning, to cover the groundhog’s emergence from his hole as a harbinger of spring or more winter. He also distains and mistreats his production team, producer Rita (Andy MacDowell) and cameraman Larry (Chris Elliot.)

    In these types of stories the hero either gets a wish is granted, or in this case he becomes “cursed.” Phil is cursed to live the same miserable day over and over in Punxsutawney.

    No matter how hard he tries (he even commits suicide) he can’t get out of the perpetual loop. However, as he lives the day over each time he starts to notice and appreciate the people he’s looked down on. He gains a new respect for Larry, and falls in love with Rita.

    As it happens in these story-lines, once the transformation has occurred, the curse is reversed --as is the case when Phil finally learns to be a better person.

    There are many variations that still fit this screenwriting niche, including:

    Mary Poppins, It’s A Wonderful Life, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Big, Shallow Hal, and just about every “body switch” and ‘wish’ movie.

    Next time in Part 2:

    Saving Private Ryan, Ocean's Eleven, Maria Full of Grace, Raging Bull, The Matrix, Gladiator, Batman, Erin Brokovich, Titanic, Brokeback Mountain, Lethal Weapon, All The President's Men.

    This article was originally published here and is used with the permission of the author.

    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, and sensitive clients experiencing anxiety, depression, and addiction. David received training at Stanford and Antioch, is fully EMDR certified, and works with programs treating Victims of Crime and Problem Gamblers. Visit www.DavidSilvermanLMFT.com.

  • 10/31/2020 11:00 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.

    November 13, 2020

    Online Via Zoom

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