Friday, February 29, 2008


Back in the office. Tuesday and Wednesday were full days. In ways the vacation was really good, but in other ways it makes it difficult to miss a step in the process. Therapy is usually done a week at a time, and for me, after things are moving I often shift to two weeks.

But therapy has a rhythm; it is slightly different for each client, but they fall into it. Each person can only tolerate a certain level of working on each obstacle, each person will change only so fast, and unlike the TV show, the change is usually slow.

By Thursday I was feeling roughed-up a bit. I was still a bit jet-lagged. Still waking up too early and fading earlier than usual. I knew going in I had ten appointments and I didn't know how I would hold up. People kind of get offended if you fall asleep in their session. (I've only done that once, and she was really boring and I was taking antihistamines).

But I saw my first appointment and she was struggling with the similarities between her husband and her father, and soon she was crying. My second appointment just came back from his mother's funeral so that was very busy, and then, suddenly it seemed. it was seven o'clock and I had only hour left to go.

It's like basketball, or marathon running; you can get in a zone and things seem more intense, and it's easier to focus, and you feel like you know exactly what you're doing.

When people ask: "How do you stand to listen to every one's problems?" I try to tell them that it's not like that at all. It's like being handed a different puzzle every hour and it's your job to work with someone you like to try and put the pieces together. It's fun and it's fascinating, especially when it works.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

But then I came home

The trip was good. It really cleared my mind. I was out of range and out of touch. I don't have a Blackberry and I only checked email once.

Most people go for outer warmth, but we went to the land of drizzle and mist, where the sea crashes against the rocks and cliffs, but once you open the big wooden door all is warm and welcoming. You sit down, have a pint, listen to the fiddle and there is good craic.

During the day we saw the castles and the ruins, and the Tidy Towns with each house painted a different color. At night we ate fish and potatoes or lamb and potatoes, or fish and potatoes or lamb and potatoes. My wife had the chicken. A question is answered with a story.

Then we flew home.

I checked my voicemail and had 99 new messages. There would have been more but the box was full.

Thankfully, 19 were hang-ups, six were from Jake who was telling me how each person in his life had done him wrong, and fifty were from L, who chronicled each time someone broke into her house, stole a carrot or some coffee, removed a stitch from her sweatpants, scratched a bracelet, used her make-up, tampered with her phone, turned down the volume on her DVR,or replaced the left shoe of the pair she just bought with one that was slightly smaller.

I had told her to keep a list while I was gone, so as not to fill my mailbox, but she could not restrain herself. When I called her and complained she said she was sorry.

Half of the remaining two dozen calls were from insurance companies or lawyers seeking information that I won't give them, the other half were from old clients seeking new appointments, and some new people too.

I should be all caught up by April.

It's always good to go away.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

lawyers came and went

So the lawyers came. I told them not to, but they did.

Two of them drove three hours to my office to talk about a a client who had been in a car accident that no one saw.

They asked me if I believed her version of what happened. I said I accepted what she said. They asked me if I made any attempt to verify anything she said. I said, why should I?

They said doesn't the truth matter?

I said, she is my client, to me it is her truth that matters. When she came to see me I told her I wasn't about going to court. If she wanted to learn to deal with the pain she said she felt, and the depression, and work on getting back to her job and her life, then fine. I would be her therapist.

I told the lawyer I had been her therapist, and now, two years later,four years after the accident, she is back at work and I had not seen her for six months. I felt I did my job.

They asked me if the accident was more of a factor in her depression than the terrible divorce she went through two years before the accident.

I told them that she felt she got hurt in the accident and the pain kept her from working. She fell into debt and got depressed and overwhelmed. But, if she hadn't been divorced she wouldn't have been driving there to meet her new boyfriend. But if she never married that abusive first husband she wouldn't have gotten divorced. But if her parents had not been fighting so much she may have taken more time to consider whom to marry in the first place.

That's what I think, I said.

The lawyers left. But they paid me first. I don't think they will come back soon.

Anyway, I'm off for a week to find someplace a bit warmer.

Friday, February 15, 2008

"In Treatment"

From what I can tell the HBO show "In Treatment" is pretty cool. The therapist is pretty good, has a cool accent and has problems. His clients are attractive, dramatic, wildly verbal, very smart, challenging and diverse.

Just like my practice.

Except not.

I think it's good that the thing is on TV. Anything that gets folks to think about therapy, instead of just taking some pills, is a good thing.

Maybe my clients will see the show, rush in, spill their guts in half an hour. Then I can say a few pithy things that bring eye-popping insight. Their lives will dramatically change, and we can all break for a commercial.

This weeks I sat through thirty four hours of treatment, most of which were surprisingly like the previous session I had with each of these clients. Yes, things are changing, but the grass is growing and the paint is drying too.

But if I could compress ten to eighteen months of treatment into six weeks, it could look pretty much like the show.

I have to work on the accent. (and my chin).

Thursday, February 07, 2008

hints for kids

Last time I wrote a bit about how many people have just missed the boat and are just hanging around, blaming the world.

I read an interesting article by an interesting woman, Dr. Dweck, who happens to be a professor at Stanford. She writes a lot about child raising and success. What she says makes a lot of sense, and she has some research to prove it. It also agrees with something I wrote about a few months ago, so I am even more impressed.

What she says is that if you praise children for being smart, or talented, or in anyway naturally gifted, then you may be doing them some harm.

Americans are much too taken with the idea of I.Q, or some form of innate ability. But, as I said, most people,except for some pretty rare brains, are pretty much the same. The difference comes really in how hard people work at things, and how well they learn to not be frustrated by mistakes.

Dr. Dweck makes a strong case for praising children for their effort, persistence and creativity. It is that skill that will carry them further in the world, and help them through difficult times.

Children, and adults, who are given the impression that they are brilliant or exceptionally talented get to feel that they should not need to work hard; that things should come naturally. Then, if they don't do something well, their bubble pops and they often don't have the skill to keep going.

It is important for kids, and adults, to learn that the process is where the fun is. The challenge of learning, creating, working, problem solving, and over-coming challenges, often after many tries, is where the greatest satisfaction in life lies. Yes, the final achievement is important. But it is always they getting there that makes us feel alive, worthwhile and accomplished.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Don't wanna do it

It's a new month. I have to pay the bills from the practice; the rent, the water, the phone. I have to pay the bills at home. And it's a weekend, I have to clean and fix stuff, and I'm not good at fixing things.

I don't want to do it. I want to just start drinking and watch the Pats in their quest for perfection.

What still amazes me is how many people there are out there that don't do it. It varies from people who don't pay their taxes, to people who don't pay their bills, to people who don't clean up to people who just don't do anything.

It seems that almost every family has one. Someone, in their thirties, forties and up, who just have a room in the attic or the basement, or hang around the house and don't do anything. Sometimes they drink too much, but often they just can't cope, so they don't.

I'm not talking about people with cancer, or brain injury, or developmental disorders, I'm talking about people who are fairly intelligent,may or may not be friendly, but who somehow missed a beat, dropped out, and never got it back. Then they give up trying and expect that it's OK.

It takes so much energy from so many other people to drag these folks along. Usually, there is one parent who enables them, and always has. One parent who worries, and forgives, and gives just one more chance or one last gift of $50 to $50,000.

Bills, food, laundry, cars, hospitals, and on top of that melt-downs.

There are so many of these folks, but you hardly see them, because they don't come out. And no one talks about them because they are such an embarrassment.

I'm not sure of the solution, but they are frustrating to deal with in therapy. I have a few from some of the wealthiest families in this small city. Lonely, entitled, anxious, angry, and somehow missing the drive to fight their way out of it.

Usually, with some kind of excuse.

They wouldn't last long with Belichick.