A Brilliant Author’s Defense of Psychoanalysis

If you don’t recognize the name Gary Shteyngart, you may have seen his endlessly witty verbal pyrotechnics in places like the New Yorker. Shteyngart is that rare writer who can capture the endless regression of our interiority without getting bogged down in all the sad parts. To what does he credit his prolific effectiveness, after a lifetime of false starts and cowering anxiety? A lengthy psychoanalysis that helped him surface all the issues that held him back. As one thoughtful piece in UTNE noted:

But psychoanalysis is a profound exploration of human subjectivity—our inner world with all its memories, desires, and impulses—and its relation to the external, objective world. And it is much more than a treatment. It’s also a set of theories about the complex nature of human experience. “Analysis is the most elaborate and nuanced view of the mind that we have,” Nobel-winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel recently told a meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association.

The piece is part of a broader trend toward celebrating the rebirth of psychoanalytic therapy—or at the very least, disproving its premature death. After all, analytic therapy remains the most in-depth tool we have for enacting lasting change, and the studies bear this out:

Jonathan Shedler, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Science, has examined the efficacy of psychodynamic therapy—a term describing treatment based on psychoanalytic theory and methods but briefer and less intensive—for everything from depression and anxiety to panic disorders, personality disorders, and substance abuse. He has found that the benefits of psychodynamic therapy extend well beyond symptom relief.

“The benefits of newer therapies often start to decay after treatment ends,” Shedler contends. “Studies of psychodynamic therapies show that people not only look much better in terms of symptom relief, personality functioning, and social functioning after treatment, but also stay better. What’s more, they display continued improvement.”

The whole piece is worth a read, not least because it helps resolve some of the sticky debates between neuroscience and psychology, revealing both camps to be far less at odds than many have feared.

Want to get started with a psychoanalyst or low cost psychotherapy today? Contact PPSC here.

The Power of Psychoanalysis

One of the fascinating things about analytic therapy is that everything goes into the hopper: your life, your feelings, your relationships, your depredations – even your accidents can be grist for therapy. This recent piece in the New York Times highlights a good example of how seemingly random accidents can bring our personal histories to the fore, and help patient and therapist alike discover meaning in something that may have seemed meaningless.

The author’s patient suffered burns over the summer, and the injury and its aftermath underscored some longstanding issues of enmeshment with the patient’s mother. On the subject of her mother’s prurient interest in the extent of these injuries, for instance, the patient reports:

“And my mother replied: ‘It’s my trauma, too. In fact, I think I’m more traumatized by it than you.’”

Sometimes the things we say illuminate far more than we intend, and psychoanalysis is a perfect forum to explore these valences. The mother’s words in this case provide a nice starting to explore what has gone wrong between these two women.

Psychoanalytic psychotherapy is the only existing modality that lets us understand our lives and histories from an emotional perspective. As the writer says:

One of the things I miss most about my own analysis is the suddenness with which strange events could emerge, knocking you over backward. And toward the very end it felt as if you could time-travel, bouncing between a past and present whose surface was fabricated by an ancient mythology, the wondrous accident that was your existence.

If you’d like to explore the fundamental psychology that continues to influence your life and choices, please contact PPSC to find a therapist today.

In-Person Therapy Is Still the Best

Technology is bringing rapid changes to the field of psychotherapy. A number of recent stories have discussed the possibilities and limitations of so-called teletherapy, or therapy that is performed remotely. Most New York psychotherapists have at least a passing familiarity with this notion; many patients use their phones to “call in” to appointments if traffic renders an in-person visit impossible. And because so many patients now sport smartphones and webcams, the notion of “Skype therapy” comes up often.

Someday it seems inevitable that the pace of progress will make these remote sessions commonplace, and essentially indistinguishable from their real-world counterparts. But for the moment, teletherapy bumps up against a difficult set of practicalities, not least that most video-chat software remains poorly secured, and unable to offer the same protective privacy as a closed office.

And then there is the legal issue, which remains the principal obstacle for many of us in the field of analytic therapy:

The legality of Skype therapy is a gray area because most state laws require the professional to hold a license in the state where the client resides. . . . Some therapists call themselves “life coaches” when they work across state lines; others simply ignore the law. The arrival of distance therapy and telemedicine is rapidly rendering state-by-state licensure impractical. As usual, the law lags far behind technical innovation.

We’ll get there, of course. And it is heartening to see that the tremendous value of talk therapy continues to find its way into national conversations about health and technology. But for the time being, the easiest way to find a therapist in New York remains the old-fashioned way: let your fingers do the walking, and then follow them to your doctor’s doorstep.

When Anxiety Strikes Young

It is not an uncommon sight these days: a teenager, laboring under the gargantuan expectations of today’s schools, suddenly struggling to breathe. The episode is just one of the many outward symptoms of an anxiety disorder; for other people, the issue can manifest as an ongoing sense of dread, panic or overwhelm. Because anxiety can strike at any age, many schools have found themselves hard-pressed to handle each case with the appropriate care:

School counselors and nurses alike have cited increased amounts of stress, pressure, social media, and divorce as causes for this surge in anxiety that has not only affected the teens who suffer but school administrators trying to help their students.

As one administrator put it:

Sevier said she now encounters students with anxiety on a “daily basis.” Thirty years ago, Sevier said she dealt with more “normal” teenage issues, such as conflicts with parents, friends, and significant others. Now, Sevier said she sees more severe cases of anxiety.

Some forms of anxiety respond well to drugs or cognitive-behavioral therapy. Other kinds of anxiety may require a more psychoanalytic approach, as patient and therapist together explore the early experiences that have given rise to the disorder.

Seeking anxiety therapy in New York gets easier when you can tap into a network of analytic therapists who have received special training in easing these symptoms. At PPSC, we are proud to offer low cost psychotherapy for teenagers and adults in search of a lasting solution to anxiety.

To learn more, please contact us here today.

Pulling Back the Curtain on Psychoanalytic Therapy

Many people have long been curious about the world of psychoanalytic therapy and psychoanalysis. Recently we published an introductory take on the subject from a major national media source. Now we have this interesting photo essay: a look inside the offices of psychoanalysts around the world, by photographer Mark Gerald. His interest in the subject is more than idle:

As an adult, Gerald realized that few people get to see inside the world of psychoanalysis, a sphere often obscured by its confidential nature and clouded by outdated stereotypes. “I found psychoanalysis extremely vibrant and current and yet it was being talked about in popular culture and some mental health circles as very passé—something of the 19th century, something that had really seen its heyday and was over. I didn't feel that way,” he said.

It is a fascinating look inside the environments analysts create to encourage sharing, trust, and emotional work, many of which are distinctively designed to inspire associations and new avenues:

Kim Leary, Ph.D., Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Phillip Ringstrom, Ph.D., Psy.D., Encino, California.

Leanh Nguyen, Ph.D., New York.

For the full gallery, click here. To find a therapist in New York who can offer the many benefits of a psychoanalytic approach, start your search at PPSC today.

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.

The Connection Between Insomnia, Depression and Talk Therapy

Several outlets reported this week that a new small NIH-funded study has affirmed an earlier finding that talk therapy could be an unexpectedly effective cure for insomnia – and that curing insomnia could relieve the symptoms of depression. Here’s the New York Times:

Curing insomnia in people with depression could double their chance of a full recovery, scientists are reporting. The findings, based on an insomnia treatment that uses talk therapy rather than drugs, are the first to emerge from a series of closely watched studies of sleep and depression to be released in the coming year.

Although most researchers and clinical psychologists have long considered insomnia a symptom of depression, it turns out that the causality may flow both ways:

Several studies now suggest that developing insomnia doubles a person’s risk of later becoming depressed — the sleep problem preceding the mood disorder, rather than the other way around.

It is an encouraging finding for the field of therapy for depression, and yet more evidence that talk therapy can give rise to deep-seated changes which cannot always be matched by drugs. The study in question focused on a form of cognitive therapy known as CDT-I (“I” for insomnia), but no study has yet been undertaken that compares this type of therapy to another modality such as analytic therapy. Either way, the tidal wave of new evidence underscoring the timeless power of dialogue continues to color national conversations on mental health.