A Key to Avoiding Friendship Problems: Mentalization

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

There is considerable evidence that friendships enhance our physical and emotional well-being. A recent study by John Cacioppo at the University of Chicago even suggests that the feeling of extreme loneliness increases the risk of premature death by 14 percent.

Culturally the notion of having and holding friends is passed on to us from early childhood:

“We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?’ asked Piglet. Even longer,’ Pooh answered.”― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Poohfriends

Despite the benefits, however, friendships are complicated and at times problematic. The key to avoid problems in friendships is to begin with you, the only person you can ever really know or control and to use mentalization.

Survive the First Four Years of Marriage: Use Anger Management

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

We know that only half of all first marriages make it. What we often don’t recognize is that the first four years seem to be important ones in shaping, making or breaking a marital relationship.

Research has long pointed to communication as core to a couple’s satisfaction and regulation of conflict. A study by Ronald Rogge and Tom Bradbury, uncovers another tipping point of early marriage survival.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • The research sample included 60 couples married less than 6 months, with average age in the mid-twenties, average incomes between 20,000-30,000 and of mixed ethnicity (White 75%, Latino 10%, Asian 7%, and African American 5%).
  • What the researchers found in following up every six months for four years was that communication did make a difference in marital satisfaction and dissatisfaction, but dissatisfied couples remained together.
  • The true tipping point to divorce in the first four years of the marriages for this sample was aggression.

Love Means–Wanting To Know Your Partner More

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

One of the most recognized signs of relationship potential is someone’s interest in knowing us. They want to know about our past, our present, and our dreams for the future. They want our opinion of the movie and whether we like sushi or pasta. They look at us with rapt attention. When we resonate with mutual interest and delight, when we also want to know about them, we share an essential ingredient for falling in love- the desire to know.

Four Essential Ingredients in Loving and Sustaining Marriages

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

In his latest book, Love Illuminated, Daniel Jones concludes, after culling over thousands of essays written to his Modern Love Column in the New York Times, that what most people really want is a loving and permanent relationship.older couple

Evidence for this is the over 13.5 million self-help books addressing relationships and the interest by so many couples in improving and sustaining their love.

Given the deluge of information offered, I have siphoned out four essential ingredients that can be found in satisfied, long-lasting marriages.

A Simple Way to Enhance Intimacy: Watch TV “Together”

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

Research tells us that what is novel or out of the ordinary has been found to change neurochemistry and actually stimulate hormones related to excitement and desire. If you are one of many couples who like different TV shows that you watch in different rooms, consider the novelty of finding, saving and watching a show together. It may well enhance intimacy!couplewatchingtv

Enhanced intimacy is much more than watching a show together once and ending up being sexual. It is building a pattern that includes a mini pause in the midst of a non-stop culture, with non-stop media prompts to privately share something interesting and enjoyable. In a couples’ life the treasures are often found in the simple things shared.

No Innocent Bystanders:The Role We Play in Reducing Violence

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP


“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

In a culture that is horrified at the degree of interpersonal violence reflected in child abuse, school shootings, bullying, Intimate Partner Violence, racial discrimination, hate crimes and suicide rates, it is worth considering that there are no innocent bystanders.

The well-known slogan “ If you see something—say something” merits our attention beyond just noticing an unattended package.

The Loss of A Child to Suicide: Complicated Pain

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

The loss of a child is an unspeakable trauma. When that death is caused by suicide, the pain becomes more complicated.suicide man crying

There are 39,000 deaths a year by suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in the United States among 19-14 year olds and 15-14 year olds, and the second leading cause among 25-34 year olds. Spanning the ages, each of those who have taken their lives is someone’s child.

On hearing of the suicide of her 18-year-old son, singer Marie Osmond shares, “I thought someone had run a knife into my heart.”

The agony of losing a child by suicide is complicated by a number of factors:

Turn Down Perfectionism and Turn Up Success:Four Possible Ways

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

One of the most productive things you can do to improve your success in any aspect of life is to turn down perfectionism.guitar player

Perfectionism is the pervasive need to achieve an unrealistic standard of perfection-There is no other choice.

  • Perfectionism is often driven by historical expectations of perfection, excessive criticism and lack of secure and loving attachment.
  • Perfection becomes the necessary criteria for love and self-worth.
  • Given we live in a culture that pushes perfection to sell products and invites us to believe that it is actually achievable, early scars and solutions are often re-enforced.

Are You a Perfectionist?

Giving and Receiving as Counterparts of Generosity

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

Giving is considered intrinsic to generosity–be it the giving of money, time, understanding, or acts of kindness.

Receiving, on the other hand, is usually simply seen as getting something.

A closer look at giving and receiving from an interpersonal perspective invites us to consider that “ giving and receiving” are not separate events. They are counterparts that are inextricably connected.  There really is no true giving without receiving and no receiving without giving.

Women Going Beyond Social Drinking: Three Overlooked Factors

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

glass of wineIt is hard to deny that a group of women gathered for a shower, a book club, a planning session or just a Thursday night over good food and drinks isn’t one of life’s pleasures.

Experts would even weigh in with the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption. Studies have found that a glass of wine a day is heart healthy and a study in The New England Journal of medicine evaluating 12,000 women aged 70-81 found the moderate drinkers had 23% reduced mental decline compared with nondrinkers.

It is just as difficult, however, to deny the reality that women are increasingly doing more than social drinking.

Healing Together

Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP & Dianne Kane, DSW are the authors of Healing Together: A Couple's Guide to Coping with Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress. Pick up the book today!

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Recent Comments
  • Lin Agostinacchio: Great writing. You pinpointed so much about divorce. I know many friends and relatives that are...
  • Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP: Becky: Thanks for adding these. My intention was to mention some as examples of the...
  • Becky: You didn’t mention acupuncture, chiropractic, or the Wahl’s Paleo diet, a diet high in omega 3...
  • Mindy: “Why couldn’t you change him/ her” You should start putting these gender lists in alphabetical...
  • Lin Agostinacchio: Great blog. Life is a balancing act.
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