new york psychotherapy

A Poignant Piece About the Special Space of Psychoanalytic Therapy

A number of psychoanalytic therapists have been passing around this beautifully written piece from the New York Times. In it, the writer describes the strong and respectful relationship she always shared with the therapists who occupied the office next to her own. It is an unusual relationship: these are figures she sees several times a week, but they are people with whom she maintains a respectful distance, as accorded by the psychoanalytic endeavor and its emphasis on discretion. When one of those doctors grew slowly sick and eventually succumbed to illness, she was moved more than she ever would have thought possible:

Why am I sharing this small story? Perhaps because I love that psychoanalysis is a frame through which I have permission to pay close attention to peripheral vision, to things that are out of focus and not so conscious. Enigmatic dreams, childhood memories and mourning are all welcome, and they open me to my own feelings and to a wider range of human experiences.

Psychoanalytic therapy is about a great many things: communication, trust, exploration and facing that which is hard. It’s also about the small interactions that surround the therapeutic space, and how they cultivate a climate of emotional mindfulness.

At PPSC, we believe that psychotherapy can serve people’s health in uncountable ways, helping to ease depression, anxiety and a number of related maladies of the soul. If you’re interested in exploring what analytic therapy can do to improve your life, please contact us today.

On Buddhism, Mindfulness and Psychoanalytic Therapy

We have written before about the subject of mindfulness in psychotherapy, especially since a growing body of literature suggests that both paradigms may have something to teach one another. Although they share a common goal of contentment, it has been noted that the two approaches are in a sense mirrors of one another:

The main challenge for each side in this dialogue is resisting the temptation to swallow the other. It's easy for a therapist to reject Buddhist awakening as an escapist fantasy, and just as easy for Buddhists to dismiss a psychotherapeutic focus on relationship problems as obsessing with past events rather than realizing one's true nature and living fully in the present. This temptation is aggravated by the fact that the cultural and historical gap between them is so great, which tends to activate Eurocentrism ("the intellectually imperialistic tendency in much Western scholarship to assume that European and North American standards and values are the center of the moral and intellectual universe," according to Jeffrey Rubin) or to idealize Orientocentrism ("the idealizing and privileging of Asian thought--treating it as sacred--and the neglect if not dismissal of the value of Western psychological perspectives"). If we are honest with ourselves, most of us have a bias favoring one side or the other.

This excellent and scholarly piece discusses some ways to resolve this tension, which would seem a worthy goal considering how many psychotherapists practice some elements of mindfulness and meditation. It is especially important because meditation and analytic therapy are directed at somewhat different issues; psychotherapy is concerned with causes, while mindfulness is concerned more with present experience.

[M]ore than a generation of Buddhist practice by committed Western students has made it apparent that meditation by itself is sometimes insufficient to resolve deep-rooted psychological problems and relationship difficulties. In its own short history the psychotherapeutic tradition has gained considerable insight into the mechanisms of denial, rationalization, repression, projection, and so forth, which can help us understand how Buddhist practice sometimes goes wrong--for example, the complicated transference/countertransference that can distort the relationship between therapist and client (or between teacher and disciple).

Of course both approaches show benefits, and both are concerned with liberating the mind from its tortures. There is also no question that mindfulness comes with great benefits, just as psychoanalytic therapy does.

Here at PPSC, we offer an eclectic approach to talk therapy that combine both schools of thought, and that constantly strives for the very latest ideas to help our patients. Contact us today to learn how you can effectively incorporate mindful approaches into your therapy.

So Funny, It’s Psychotic

It’s not often that researchers take the world of stand up comedy especially seriously. Which makes one recent study all the more remarkable: Researchers in the British Journal of Psychiatry have discovered that comics score significantly higher than control groups for so-called psychotic personality traits. Some of this study is perhaps self-evident. The findings that comics tend to be somewhat disorganized, and that they chafe at conformist pressure, qualify as something close to conventional wisdom. But of the four traits associated with psychosis, one in particular stood out to us: “‘introvertive anhedonia’ – reduced ability to feel social and physical pleasure.”

This is yet more confirmation of the deep link between depression and comedy, a phenomenon which has been described in many places over many years. Theories abound about what lies behind this association – is the comedy simply a coping mechanism to leaven the misery, or do both qualities spring from a similar emotional place? Whatever the explanation, it seems likely that no two people ever arrive at a humorous worldview in precisely the same way.

Depression therapy can be a great relief to people whose talents are undermined by periods of deep despair. If you’d like to find a therapist in New York who can help unpack your own feelings of “introvertive anhedonia,” please contact the Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Study Center here today.