Don E. Gibbons, Ph.D., NJ Licensed Psychologist #03513
This Blog is published for information and educational purposes only. No warranty, expressed or implied, is furnished with respect to the material contained in this Blog. The reader is urged to consult with his/her physician or a duly licensed mental health professional with respect to the treatment of any medical or psychological condition.

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The New Center for Counseling and Psychotherapy, LLC

The New Center for Counseling and Psychotherapy, LLC, is located at 675 Route 72 E Manahawkin, NJ 08050. Telephone us at(609)709-2043 and (609) 709-0009.Take Mill Creek Road South, just off Route 72, on the road to Beach Haven West.After about 400 feet, turn right into the office complex of Greater Coastal Realty. Then turn right and go past the Lyceum Gyn. Continue on to the Prudential Zack Building. We. are the last office at the end. We accept Medicare and most other major insurance.Weekend and evening office hours are avalable.

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

How to be More "Therapieutic" for your Family and Friends


Most of the actual "therapy" that is done in the world is carried on between close friends, romantic partners, family members, and co-workers, who provide understanding and emotional support to those around them while serving as a good listener and helping them to look at things in a more positive light. In clinical settings, family systems theorists point out that the "identified patient" who comes for counseling or psychotherapy may not be the one who actually needs it, but merely the one who is the most sensitive. How can we help people to be a therapeutic influence for others whom they are close to, who may be more in need of help than they are, but who refuse to even consider such a possibility?

Cognitive-behavioral psychologists have found many ways to change people. Many of these techniques, once we have learned them and put them to work in our own lives, can also be used to help those around us. While they cannot, of course, serve as a substitute for actual counseling or psychotherapy which is provided by a duly trained and licensed mental health professional, they can help to make life easier, both for ourselves and for those whom we hold dear. 

For example, Albert Ellis has compiled a list of "ten irrational ideas," which is reproduced below, Most of us believe some of these false beliefs at least part of the time. The first one, "I must be perfect in all respects in order to be worthwhile," does an especially great amount of damage, since it guarantees that we are going to feel like miserable failures whenever we do not live up to this impossible ideal. We can spare ourselves a great deal of misery when we cast out this false belief once and for all! But what about our friends and loved ones? Whenever someone who is close to you acts as if he or she could use a gentle reminder that they are being too hard on themselves by expecting to be perfect all the time, you might point this out by saing something like, "You know, dear, sometimes I think you feel like you have to be perfect all the time or you're a failure. But even the Pope goes to confession. You mustn't expect yourself to be perfect when nobody else is!"

You don't need a Ph.D. in clinical psychology to apply ideas like this in a common-sense manner when the situation is appropriate. The rest of the items on Ellis's list can also take their turn when the situation warrants it.  


 Ideas that Cause Negative Emotions

 "I must be perfect in all respects in order to be worthwhile." Nobody can be perfect in everything that we have to do in life. But if you believe that you're a failure unless you are perfect in every way, you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of unhappiness.

"I must be loved and approved of by everyone who is important to me." Sometimes you just can't help making enemies, and there are people in the world who bear ill will to almost everyone. But you can't make your own life miserable by trying to please them.

"When people treat me unfairly, it is because they are bad people." Most of the people who treat you unfairly have friends and family who love them. People are mixtures of good and bad.

"It is terrible when I am seriously frustrated, treated badly, or rejected." Some people have such a short fuse, that they are constantly losing jobs or endangering friendships because they are unable to endure the slightest frustration.

"Misery comes from outside forces which I can’t do very much to change." Many prison inmates describe their life as if it were a cork, bobbing up and down on waves of circumstance. You can choose whether to see yourself as an effect of your circumstances, or a cause.

"If something is dangerous or fearful, I have to worry about it." Many people believe that "the work of worrying" will help to make problems go away. "Okay, that's over. Now, what's the next thing on the list that I have to worry about?"

"It is easier to avoid life’s difficulties and responsibilities than to face them." Even painful experiences, once we can get through them, can serve as a basis for learning and future growth.

"Because things in my past controlled my life, they have to keep doing so now and in the future." If this were really true, it would mean that we are prisoners of our past, and change is impossible. But people change all the time -- and sometimes they change dramatically!

"It is terrible when things do not work out exactly as I want them to." Could you have predicted the course of your own life? Probably not. By the same token, you can't predict that things are going to work out exactly as you want them to, even in the short term.

"I can be as happy as possible by just doing nothing and enjoying myself, taking life as it comes." If this were true, almost every wealthy or comfortably retired person would do as little as possible. But instead, they seek new challenges as a pathway to further growth.


Perceptions that Make Negative Emotions Worse



Similar practical applications can be found for the items on the second list. which cognitive-behavioral psychologists refer to as "cognitive distortions."  Most of us have heard the expression, "looking at the world through rose-colored glasses." But when you use cognitive distortions, you tend to look at the world through mud-colored glasses! Here are some habitual ways of looking at things that you should stop from rolling through your head if you catch yourself using them.

All-or-nothing thinking. Everything is good or bad, with nothing in between. If you aren't perfect, then you're a failure. You procastinate doing stuff because they are not perfect until you have no other choice than doing them.

Overgeneralization. A single negative event turns into a never-ending pattern of defeat. "I didn't get a phone call. I'll never hear from anybody again."

Mental filter. One single negative thing colors everything else. When you're depressed, it sometimes feels like you're "looking at the world through mud-colored glasses."

Disqualifying the positive. If somebody says something good about you, it doesn't count. But if somebody says something bad about you, you "knew it all along."

Jumping to conclusions. You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.

Mind reading. You think somebody is disrespecting you and don't bother to check it out. You just assume that he is.

The Fortune Teller Error. You think that things are going to turn out badly, and convince yourself that this is already a fact.

Magnification (catastrophizing) or minimization. Imagine that you're looking at yourself or somebody else through a pair of binoculars. You might think that a mistake you made or somebody else's achievement are more important than they really are. Now imagine that you've turned the binoculars around and you're looking through them backwards. Something you've done might look less important than it really is, and somebody else's faults might look less important than they really are.

Emotional reasoning. You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: "I feel it, therefore it must be true."

"Should" statements. You beat up on yourself as a way of getting motivated to do something. You "should" do this, you "must" do this, you "ought" to do this, and so on. This doesn't make you want to do it, it only makes you feel guilty. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.

Labeling and mislabeling. This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. When you make a mistake, you give yourself a label, such as, "I'm a loser." When someone else's behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him, "He's a louse." Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.

Personalization. You believe that you were the cause of something bad that happened, when you really didn't have very much to do with it. And ask a friend to help you realize your emotions or worries so that you can have someone to rely on.

Don't memorize these lists, just keep them handy.  (One of my cilients keeps them posted on her refrigerator for ready reference!) And when someone you know well enough starts showing signs of exaggerated worry, self-distrust, fear, anger, or despair, see whether or not some of these false beliefs or false perceptions might be behind these feelings. And, in the process, you'll get pretty good at applying these principles to your own life.

As previously mentioned, this type of "psychological first aid," augmented by sympathetic listening, affection, and encouragement, is not to be considered as a substitute for actual counseling or psychotherapy, which can only be carried out by trained professional. But If we can get the people around us who refuse to even consider the possibility of formal counseling or psychotherapy to "lighten up" in the manner just described, it can frequently make life better for ud ss well as for them!

See also: 
How to Recognize a Personality Disorder
How to Keep Your Boss from Driving You Crazy

Print Sources


Ellis, A. (2006). IHow to stubbornly refuse to make yourself miserable about anything -- yes, anything! Chicago: Citadel Press. 

Laazrus, A. A., Lazarus, C. A., & Fay, A. Don't believe it for a minute! Forty toxic ideas that are driving you crazy. San Luis Obispo, CA: Impact Publishers.



 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Toxic People Who can Wreck Your Life


The following descriptions of personality disorders have been compiled by some of the best minds in the field of mental health, drawing upon years of clinical observation and literally hundreds of research studies to find patterns which “clump together” in present-day culture. Of course,actual diagnosis and treatment should only be undertaken by a mental health professionall but There is an old saying, "If it wlks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck -- it's a duck!"

Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

The ancient Greeks used to tell the story of Narcissus -- a lad who was so good-looking that he fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water, and spent so much time gazing at it that he eventually fell into the pool and drowned. People who are given a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder are often perceived as being selfish or conceited. They may often spend a great deal of time telling you how great they are, or boasting of their achievements or accomplishments.

Some people think of a person with a narcissistic personality disorder as having a superiority complex to cover up for an inferiority complex. When you get to know such people well, it soon becomes apparent that the reason they spend so much time “tooting their own horn” is that deep down inside, they really feel afraid, inadequate, and unlovable.

Narcissists do not always act selfishly in the short term. They are often highly motivated to pursue long-term goals in order to prove their worth both to themselves and others. For this reason, narcissists often tend to gravitate to positions of leadership in business, government, education -- and yes, even churches.

Narcissists often cause a great deal of suffering, particularly when they happen to be employers, family members,  or romantic partners. Yet there are ways of dealing with them. (Since no two personalities are exactly identical, however, you cannot stereotype them and treat them all exactly the same way.)

Histrionic Personality Disorder.

People who have been diagnosed with histrionic personality disorder may often be compared to an adult version of the “spoiled child” who will do anything to remain the center of attention. If histrionics are able to “show off” and remain the center of attention by doing a good job, they often accomplish a great deal. But if they feel that they are being ignored, or that the attention which they crave so deeply is denied them, they may become angry and disruptive in order to get it back again -- even if it’s unfavorable attention this time! ("I don't care what yor say about me," one publicity-hungry histrionic is reported to have said to a reporter for a scandal magazine. "Just be sure you spell my name right.!")

Antisocial Personality Disorder.

People with a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder did not incorporate our society’s standards of right and wrong into their personalities as well as the rest of us have. They begin getting into trouble with the authorities by the time they are adolescents, and don’t grow out of it. As you might suppose, this pattern is much more common in men than in women.

Since personality disorders are so difficult to change, many such people keep going back and forth to jail from their teen years until middle age, when they seem to mellow out of their own accord. They make up the bulk of most prison populations, and often have a history of substance abuse or substance dependency. However, people with antisocial personality traits (I like to call them stealth antisocials) may be encountered almost anywhere, even at the highest levels of many organizations; and they may not be found out until their behavior gets them into trouble. (The discovery and apprehension of stealth antisocials in high-profile positions is the basis of many of the news stories we read about every day.)

Borderline Personality Disorder.

To understand the person who qualifies for a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, think back to some of the stormiest days of your own adolescence, or the adolescence of someone you know well. With an incompletely developed sense of self, the borderlines have no firm idea of who they are and where they are going. Their lives are often erratic, with frequent job changes and alterations in long term goals, and intense and unstable friendships and romantic involvements.

Because of their poorly developed sense of self, borderlines often have difficulty with so-called “boundary issues,” or the ability to distinguish between what is appropriate and what is inappropriate in a given situation. Some borderlines, in fact, may find it difficult to even talk to a person of the opposite sex for very long without acting as if they are falling in love with them. As would be expected, the romantic lives of borderlines tend to be especially intense and tumultuous. The manipulative abilities of people with borderline personality disorder often enable them to deceive those who do not understand the inner storms which produce such behavior, which frequently causes their sudden bouts of passion to be mistaken for genuine love.

Borderlines often engage in “splitting,” with either extremely positive or extremely negative feelings towards others, sometimes suddenly reversing from extreme friendliness to extreme rejection and vice-versa. This changeability frequently leads them to engage in behavior that is highly manipulative. This splitting may also be the reason why the interpersonal relationships of borderlines are often centered around real of imagined fears of abandonment. (One book on borderline personality disorder is entitled, I Hate You - Don’t Leave Me!) These tendencies to engage in splitting may also explain why borderlines also seem to have a strong ability to divide those around them into separate camps of friends and enemies.  

Borderlines usually have very low self-esteem, and suicidal gestures, genuine attempts,
and successful suicides are not uncommon. Since many borderlines have a history of cutting themselves, or other forms of self-injurious behavior, it has been speculated that this represents an extreme attempt to combat the overwhelming numbness of an otherwise empty life.

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder.


People who have been diagnosed with an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder may be popularly known as a “nit-picker” or “neat freak.” They may become so involved with orderliness, perfectionism, and control that efficiency suffers as a result. This culture tends to place a high value on preoccupation with detail in certain jobs. With proper training, people who have milder forms of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder may become excellent law clerks, college registrars, bank auditors, or personal physicians -- in which case, it may not be a personality disorder any more, unless it interferes with their functioning off the job!

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is closely related to another disorder with a similar name, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD for short, which is similar in nature but more limited in scope. Obsessive-compulsive disorder refers to a pattern of continually recurring thoughts (obsessions), or behaviors which one is compelled to continually repeat, such as checking a door several times in a row to be sure that it is locked.

Avoidant Personality Disorder.

People who carry a diagnosis of avoidant personality disorder have had such unpleasant social interactions in the past that with the possible exception of one or two close relatives or special friends, they have come to fear all human contact. Avoidants are frequently not merely shy about most social situations, they are genuinely phobic about them. Their avoidance is often centered around a core belief that if people really got to know them, it would immediately become obvious how incompetent and worthless they really are, and the immediate result would be scorn, rejection, and loss of employment. People with an avoidant personality disorder often tend to gravitate to solitary occupations -- researchers, librarians, or forest rangers, for example; and they may be attracted by certain monastic orders. (Of course, not everyone in these types of occupations could be diagnosed with an avoidant personality disorder!)

Dependent Personality Disorder.

A central theme in the life of people who have been diagnosed with a dependent personality disorder is a need to be looked after and taken care of, often accompanied by excessive fears of real or imagined abandonment. Ironically, some people who qualify for a diagnosis of DPD may behave in exactly opposite fashion. Those with milder forms of this disorder may attempt to satisfy their underlying dependency needs by becoming so efficient and thorough that they make themselves indispensable. Others, whose disorder is more severe, become highly dependent on instructions from above, and are reluctant to show any initiative in carrying out their responsibilities for fear that they will have made the wrong decision.

Paranoid Personality Disorder.

People who have been diagnoses with paranoid personality disorder tend to see the activities of other people as ill-intentioned -- even when the opposite is true. Compliments may be seen as attempts to gain undue influence through flattery, and offers of help may be seen as evidence that the person to whom the help is offered is viewed as incompetent. The resulting suspiciousness and hostility may tend to bring about the negative attitudes and behaviors which the person with a paranoid personality disorder believes were always there. (The saying goes, “Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you!”)

Schizoid Personality Disorder.

The person who has been diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder is an extreme loner or a “cold fish” who just isn’t interested in being around people. Such people are often found in the most solitary jobs which others might tend to shy away from. Because of their extreme lack of social skills, they should not be expected to change simply by inviting them to parties or by introducing them to a wide circle of people.

Schizotypal Personality Disorder.

People who have been diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder typically have bizarre notions of cause and effect, and may practice unusual rituals of their own devising, either to make things happen or to prevent them from happening, similar to those who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Their everyday speech patterns and favorite topics of converstation are usually regarded by those around them as being somewhat bizarre, although not totally “crazy” in the popular sense of the term. They may also take a keen interest in cults and in the paranormal. Although certainly not everyone who is interested in such topics has a schizotypal personality disorder, the true schizotypal still tends to stand out because of bizarre thought patterns.

Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder.

Although the American Psychiatric Association no longer officially lists this as a separate personality disorder, people with passive aggressive tendencies try to disrupt things by sabotaging the success of their employers, their family, or their friends without appearing do so deliberately, because they feel that their own needs for recognition, status, or achievement are not being met, or that other people are more successful than they are. Passive aggressive people may risk an occasional confrontation if it helps them to get their frustrations out, but they can usually gauge their actions carefully enough to avoid losing their jobs or their families.

If they are not frankly and firmly confronted about their behavior, their passive-aggressive patterns may become worse over time as they continue to follow their own “hidden agendas” and they feel that their actions are being accepted or condoned. They may single out for special treatment vulnerable individuals or groups who will not or cannot “fight back,” and their behavior may degenerate into outright bullying. Then, when the inevitable day of reckoning does arrive, the consequences may be much more serious -- both for the victims and for the organization -- than if the problem had been immediately and forcefully dealt with.

Limitations of a Personality Disorder Diagnosis.

In order to qualify for any of the foregoing diagnoses of personality disorder, the disorder must be seen to cause people significant distress in their social, intellectual, or occupational functioning, regardless of whether or not they are aware of this fact. Temperamental but highly successful movie stars, for example, whose demanding and self-centered behavior would interfere with their adjustment in another setting, would probably not qualify for a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder as long as they can "get away with it." Similarly, people who live alone in a remote location miles from the nearest neighbor would not qualify for a diagnosis of avoidant personality disorder as long as they are able to function well their current situation, regardless of how intensely they may dislike having social contact with their fellow human beings.

It's easy to see how more than one personality disorder, or the traits of several, can work together in the same individual. Most of us are familiar with, or have heard stories about, the narcissistic borderline who sleeps her way into an executive position and then proceeds to systematically eliminate all those who are familiar with how she got to where she is, while tyrannizing over the ones who have been hired as their replacements. We are also not surprised to learn about a narcissistic antisocial convict (sometimes referred to as a psychopath), who immediately commits another crime upon his release from prison, which entitles him to several more years of "three hots and a cot," plus free medical and dental care. Many of us have also witnessed instances of a passive-aggressive histrionic, who regularly disrupts public meetings with their oft-repeated tales of woe, to the extent that it becomes next to impossible to get any business done. 

People with personality disorders are not likely to seek professional assistance, because they are frequently inclined to blame their troubles on everyone but themselves. When they do seek help, it is usually because they are forced to do so (often in conjunction with an assault or a suicide attempt, or because a family member insists on it). They tend to remain as long as they are "hurting," or as long as they are forced to stay. When they are no longer hurting and are in a position to stop, they discontinue treatment.

Istead of seeing the personality-disordered individual directly,a therapist is much more likely to see a family member, romantic partner, or employee who presents with anxiety or depression as a result of their interaction with someone who has a personality disorder (whom they may refer to as a "toxic person" or an "energy vampire").

A final word of caution: as stated previously, an actual diagnosis of a personality disorder should only be made by an appropriately trained mental health professional. One of the easiest and most powerful ways to insult people is to let them know that you suspect them of having a personality disorder! While avoiding making such a diagnosis yourself unless you are properly trained to do so, and not communicating your suspicions to the individuals concerned, knowing how to recognize the major symptoms of a personality disorder will place you in a much better position to deal with such people on a daily basis, and to seek professional assistance in order to better cope with them if you need to do so. 

Print Sources

Cavaiola, A. C., & Lavender, N. J. (2000). Toxic co-workers: How to deal with dysfunctional people on the job. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual, DSM-V. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Sometimes Therapists Just Talk Too Much!

When people are helplessly stuck, a sympathetic ear can often make all the difference.



Even  when the problem can be fixed, many people want understanding and sympathy first.


Often what they want most of all is validation.




And if you create enough expectancy for change, you may not need to say anything at all!



How to Redesign Your Life SCIENTIFICALLY and ENJOYABLY!

The folks at www.smartrecovery.org, are primarily a group of recovering addicts and alcoholics who have not been able to benefit from the usual sets of  twelve-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous.. They have developed an alternative method, based on Allbert Ellis's Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy., for changing the beliefs which guide our lives. Their free downloadable  ABC Worksheet, can become your daily companion for taking control of your life in matters large and small. You can use it to make motivational and behavioral adjustments on everything from paying your bills on time, to stopping smoking, or deciding on which career path to follow. (If you don't have the necessary Adobe Acrobat Reader, you can also download it free of charge.)

It first asks you about the causes of something you would like to change in your life, and then asks about the emotional consequences which were the unpleasant result, your beliefs about what happened, what beliefs could be substituted for the ones which brought about the unpleasant result, and how those changed beliefs make you feel. You can write on the form itself, clearing and changing it as often as you like. Then, when you are finished, you can either print it out or save it as a text file, using a different form for each problem you would like to work on. To re-examine it or re-do each form that you have completed, just call up that particular file and continue to modify it as you progress.



There are several other helpful aids to life management in their tools and homework and articles and essays sections.



Do the important things -- and then take time to enjoy life!