Therapy Soup Everything you wanted to know about psychotherapy but were afraid to ask. 2017-10-10T16:07:46Z Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski <![CDATA[Four Reasons Why Calling Someone “Crazy” Hurts (Do We Still Really Need Reasons?)]]> 2017-10-10T16:07:46Z 2017-10-10T16:07:46Z If I don’t like you or what you stand for, you must be

  1. Evil
  2. Ignorant
  3. In the minority (and therefore irrelevant)
  4. “Crazy”

While there is certainly evil, ignorance, minority points of view, and mental illness in the world, the way the intolerant shut down opposition and delegitimize people they disagree with is not to debate, but to name-call or label. “You’re (fill in the blank) therefore your argument is wrong.”

By claiming something is wrong with the person one disagrees with, rather than argue constructively about ideas, you just shut down the possibility of rapport, compromise or even the possibility of persuading the person that your ideas are better. In other words, you shut down progress.

This divisive tactic can take a toll on reasoned discourse and the essential art of constructive criticism as well as professional and personal relationships and society in general.*

Number 4 Is A Big Problem 

Calling someone mentally ill or labeling them with a diagnosis to win a victory over them, like all ad hominem attacks, is problematical, but for PsychCentral contributors and readers, it is the most flagrantly offensive of ad hominem attacks. Calling someone one disagrees with “crazy”, mentally ill, insane, or even diagnosing them without proper evaluation does harm in more than one way.

  1. First it reinforces the stigma of mental illness. We can’t have it both ways–either we’ve come far enough that mental health problems including personality disorders, don’t deserve to be stigmatized, or they do. Cherry picking when they are allowed to be considered to be stigmatizing, in the service of condemning someone we dislike or disagree with, is seriously problematical.
  2. Calling someone mentally ill who we disagree with also may contribute to the “Crying Wolf” effect. (See Wolf! Wolf!) Declaring someone mentally ill because we dislike their religion, politics or personality makes it more difficult when mental health is a serious issue and does in fact need to be addressed.
  3. Mental health professionals have to be very clear on what they’re doing: They might believe that the path someone is on may lead them and/or others into trouble, but labeling this as “crazy” may delegitimize their own professionalism. It makes professionals seem unprofessional. Mental health professionals in general agree that “we could never truly claim to psychoanalyze someone through secondary sources alone, particularly someone in the public eye who has no doubt already gone to great lengths to paint their public image in a very specific way.” (See PsychCentral’s Stefan Walters’, MFT, brilliant book review, Obama On The Couch.)
  4. To me the most obvious and the most important reason not to call people mentally ill when we disagree with them is that it hurts people, including those with mental illness. Simple.

Have a great week,

C.R. (filling in for Richard)

*To be clear, we’re not talking arm-chair quarterbacks, professional or otherwise, who analyse and discuss the behavior and mental faculties of criminals dead or alive, such as Harvey Weinstein, Anthony Weiner, O.J. Simpson, or those on a larger scale such as genocidal maniac Pol Pot, mass murderer Stalin, and so on.  We’re also not talking about the analysis of political figures’ approaches and even the characterization of them as seriously problematical, as people have done and will continue to do, generally with very good cause.



Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski <![CDATA[Is It Ever Okay To Spank A Child?]]> 2017-10-04T20:47:18Z 2017-10-04T20:47:18Z A new study from Penn State shows that physical abuse leads to cognitive decline but that even non-abusive (yet harsh) physical discipline leads to social and academic withdrawal.

In fact, they both cause fear and distress.

What about mild physical discipline?

Though non-harsh physical discipline such as light spanking didn’t appear to have any negative consequences the researchers warn that this kind of discipline can possibly lead to abuse and therefore is best avoided.

Today, it’s assumed that the situation is black and white: Either a child is abused or a child isn’t exposed to any physical discipline. However, there is a style of discipline in which a parent waits until they weren’t angry, and then, when age and temperament appropriate, lightly spanks a child for an egregious and repeated behavior such as stealing, or a dangerous behavior such running across a busy street without  permission, looking, and so on.

If you ask people from the generation which primarily lived with physical discipline how it affected them, some say that it made them better people. (I know people like this, and not one of them is under 75 years old.) But the truth is that today, this wouldn’t go down well at all and there was definitely lot of actual abuse that wasn’t recognized as such then as now.

I agree with the authors that hitting a child is probably never warranted–kids are too sensitive and I don’t believe the vast majority of adults are able to truly tap a child lightly, not in anger, when age and temperament appropriate.

Are there exceptions to this? Perhaps there are (I somewhat see, theoretically, that this might be okay in specific situations.)

What do you think?


Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski <![CDATA[Is Being A Little Bit Offended Or Hurt A Good Thing?]]> 2017-09-28T16:48:19Z 2017-09-28T15:49:27Z *“Hey, you look terrible in that outfit.

“Get out of my way, stupid.”

“You’re really bad at softball.”

“I disagree with you and the majority of people in this classroom.”

“You’re fired.”

While some of these statements may seem unfair, the truth is, if we judge by our own limited intellects, life in general does look unfair. Sometimes very unfair.

We don’t have the ability to see the total big picture, and we can only base our life choices on a combination of thoughtful analysis, emotions and faith.

That being said, it is important to stand up for what’s right when it counts. But when does it count? And when should we accept that sometimes, things aren’t pleasant or fair? And they may even hurt?

Reasoned thought tells that someone cannot stand up for themselves and/or when seriously harmful physical or psycho-spiritual abuse occurs, we have to stop it.

But while it may be right and good to stand up for others and one’s self in situations that can be dangerous either physically or psycho-spiritually, have we gone too far?

Are we fighting off even minor infractions with everything we’ve got?

Have we reached a point where even minor discomfort seems to constitute a threat to our well being?

Have we raised up a generation of people unable to deal with small offenses and other discomforts?

Bacteria and Anti-Bacterial Soap

“Antibacterial soaps and other cleaners may actually be aiding in the development of superbacteria,” warned a report in Scientific American several years ago.

In a kind of man-made natural selection of super-bacteria, anti-bacterial products, say various studies, kill off the weaker bacteria and unwittingly select for antibacterial resistant strains.  Additionally, some bacteria mutate to fight off these chemicals and now the superbugs need newer, stronger products too kill them, and we may not be able to keep up with the race, think MRSA.

What does this have to do with being offended?

Some Dirt Is Good Dirt

Some researchers theorize in what is often called the hygiene hypothesis, that when children play in the dirt, they develop resistance to some of the potentially harmful bacteria in it. Some view it as a type of inoculation or a training camp for the immune system.

The theory goes that being exposed to small amounts of harmful bacteria enable the immune system to recognize and wipe out the invaders. In other words, being exposed to a few potentially harmful organisms strengthens the body’s ability to fight off a broader range of bacteria.

A Little Bit Of Hurt

No sane, loving parent wants to see their child hurt. But the emotional bumps and scrapes of childhood offer potential lessons in life. Bullying is a terrible problem, don’t let the naysayers tell you otherwise. It does real damage. But there is a difference between bullying and simple friction between peers or even an insult once or twice. (And yes, the person doing the insulting needs to learn not to insult others.) The occasional jab or jostle while unpleasant, if used as a life lesson, can actually help a child become stronger in the future.

It used to be called “character building.”

We all have unpleasant life experiences behind, and sadly, ahead of us. Accepting this, understanding that not everything is going to go to plan, that we may feel disappointed, offended, uncomfortable, and even hurt, but that these things aren’t life-threatening, makes life’s ups and downs a lot easier to deal with.

Next time you face an unpleasant or hurtful situation ask yourself:

If this is a likely temporary or at least not very serious issue, can I make myself aware of it’s relatively minor impact?

Can I get through this hurt without feeling down for long?

Can I find the positive in this unwanted experience? (If nothing else, the experience might have the potential to make you stronger.)

If the experience is traumatic (trauma and its after-effects must be acknowledged and treated), can I courageously seek healing?

*C.R. writes



Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski <![CDATA[Beautiful Music To Soothe The Soul]]> 2017-09-22T13:41:41Z 2017-09-19T19:54:13Z Research has generally shown that certain types of music have the ability to calm anxiety, lift symptoms of depression, and positively affect mood. The mystics teach that listening to music […]]]>

Research has generally shown that certain types of music have the ability to calm anxiety, lift symptoms of depression, and positively affect mood.

The mystics teach that listening to music from a happy, calm and loving source, composed by someone who is spiritually connected, offers a different experience than listening to music from a source of anger, depression, or dead-ended thinking.

Playing an instrument (not well :)) is something I (C.R.) do that’s at once relaxing and creative. I’ve also created a couple of playlists to relieve worries and increase joy, based on the advice of my teacher.

My playlists include traditional melodies composed by people who practice  prayerful meditation, as well as other uplifting music. I find that uplifting music is one way to infuse some positivity in my life, especially the kind that makes me dance. Calming music, too is essential, helping me to wind down at the end of a hectic, jam-packed day and prepare to meditate and pray.

Sometimes, though, music finds a place in my heart and affects me in a way that is difficult to articulate. This was my recent experience when I came across a new recording by Shoshana Michel, a talented pianist and composer. “Prelude to a Dream” is at at once soothing and pensive, even a bit nostalgic without being cloying, the flavor of a wished-for childhood. The simplicity of the melodies are for me what captivates. It is also beautifully performed by Shoshana, and a bit Schumann-esque.

Though I generally don’t listen to music while I do writing work, I find myself reaching for this album again and again. Its soothing sounds don’t impede the thinking I need to do while writing, and provide a winding path along which my thoughts can develop. Because Prelude to a Dream has charmed me, I asked Shoshana if she would share one of the tracks with Therapy Soup blog readers.

Here’s Wonders from Prelude to a Dream by Shoshana Michel.

About Shoshana Michel

Classically trained, Shoshana has been playing professionally since the age of seventeen. She has released three solo piano albums and her music plays worldwide on Sirius XM radio, Whisperings Solo Piano Radio, Pandora, and many other online stations. She resides with her human and avian family in Brooklyn, New York.




Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski <![CDATA[Three Signs Of Parental Alienation: Video]]> 2017-09-15T14:51:06Z 2017-09-14T23:36:04Z ]]>

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski <![CDATA[Wolf! Wolf!]]> 2017-09-07T14:24:13Z 2017-09-07T14:24:13Z A Shepherd Boy tended his master’s sheep near a dark forest not far from the village. Soon he found life in the pasture very dull. All he could do to amuse himself was to talk to his dog or play on his shepherd’s pipe.

One day as he sat watching the Sheep and the quiet forest, and thinking what he would do should he see a Wolf, he thought of a plan to amuse himself.

His Master had told him to call for help should a Wolf attack the flock, and the Villagers would drive it away. So now, though he had not seen anything that even looked like a Wolf, he ran toward the village shouting at the top of his voice, “Wolf! Wolf!”

As he expected, the Villagers who heard the cry dropped their work and ran in great excitement to the pasture. But when they got there they found the Boy doubled up with laughter at the trick he had played on them.

A few days later the Shepherd Boy again shouted, “Wolf! Wolf!” Again the Villagers ran to help him, only to be laughed at again.

Then one evening as the sun was setting behind the forest and the shadows were creeping out over the pasture, a Wolf really did spring from the underbrush and fall upon the Sheep.

In terror the Boy ran toward the village shouting “Wolf! Wolf!” But though the Villagers heard the cry, they did not run to help him as they had before. “He cannot fool us again,” they said.

The Wolf killed a great many of the Boy’s sheep and then slipped away into the forest.

Liars are not believed even when they speak the truth. —Aesop’s Tales, The Library of Congress,

Wolf! Wolf!

Why did the shepherd boy cry wolf? He was bored, he wanted excitement, he wanted attention. But instead of the numerous creative ways he could have made life more interesting, he chose lies and destruction.

What could he have done instead of crying wolf? He could have: Mastered his flute. Composed songs, written lyrics. Learned the local botany. Learned about the local healing herbs. Collected rocks and built a fire pit. Built a small fire and cooked. Invited a friend by for a meal. Meditated. Prayed. Read a book (assuming one was available.) Played with the lambs (they love to jump and play.) Taught his dog to do tricks. Made a business plan.

But instead of choosing constructive or at least non-harmful actions, he chose lies and destruction. In a way, he created the wolf which destroyed his flock, for if he hadn’t lied the first few times, the villagers would have come running and saved his sheep.

The obvious moral lesson is: Don’t lie. But there is more wisdom hidden in this simple tale of Aesop.

Don’t complain about “nothing”.

Don’t seek pointless attention.

Do fill at least some of your free time with creative or at least non-destructive actions.

Do develop your ability to spend time alone, find the healing possibilities.

Don’t manipulate people and then freak out when they stop allowing themselves to be manipulated.

Do act as an honest broker.

Don’t look to others to solve your boredom or need for attention.



Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski <![CDATA[Therapy Unfolding: The Inner Therapy Session]]> 2017-08-30T15:53:42Z 2017-08-30T15:53:42Z What is going on with you internally–what are the feelings and thoughts inside– right before, during, and after your therapy session?

I call this the inner therapy session.

On one level, there is tremendous energy being generated, although you might not always feel that way. Before a session you may feel excited, anxious, positive, negative, or have other strong feelings.

Sometimes, though, a patient will feel apathetic about therapy. Assuming the patient is working with a good therapist, and one who is right for him or her, the feelings of apathy could be a cover for feelings of anger and fear. Sometimes uncovering your problems and seeing yourself more objectively can be scary. You might unconsciously quash these uncomfortable feelings by feeling, or convincing yourself, that you feel apathetic.

If you find yourself feeling apathetic (or overtly fearful, angry, or confused about therapy), this should be discussed during your sessions. Even if you don’t tell him, your therapist should be able to discern your feelings of discomfort during the course of a session.

In addition to your actual words, or lack of them, your nonverbal language should help clue your therapist in to the fact that something is holding you back or upsetting you. Your therapist really has to work at being in tune with you—that’s his job.

If for some reason he hasn’t perceived that something is troubling you, you should make every effort to tell him what is going on inside. An experienced, caring therapist will want to use his skills to help address the issues you’re dealing with.

For example, if your therapist finds that you have uncomfortable feelings about therapy—or about him—he might make use of important techniques, such as immediacy and self-disclosure.

Immediacy (also known as you-me talk) is the experience of and discussion about therapy itself, as well as the relationship between the therapist and the patient. This very direct approach brings the relationship you have with your therapist into view. Saying, “I sense that something is not right between us. Is there something going on between you and me that we should talk about?” He might also say, “Did I miss something important that I should be focusing on?” Or, “You seem upset with me. Can we talk about that?” These are all examples of the use of immediacy by a therapist.

Your therapist might bring your nonverbal behavior into the open—into immediacy—by describing what he sees. “Since you came in you’ve been looking at the floor, and you haven’t been as communicative as in the past. Also, your eyes seem a bit teary. I’m wondering if you are okay, and if you would like to tell me what you’re thinking about.” This kind of you-me talk helps the patient understand that the therapist is aware of, and cares about, him and the relationship.

Rarely your therapist will use another technique, called self-disclosure, which is not used often. Self-disclosure is a clinical technique that involves the telling of specific, limited amounts of personal information by a therapist. He might (briefly) tell you something about his own life that could inspire you and help you expand your understanding of your own issues.

However, and this is a very big however, therapy should never be about your therapist. If he does use this technique, it should be used very sparingly, and it should be tailored to spur you to self-exploration. Also, he should never reveal intimate details about his relationships or use names.

Often, in order to steer the session toward inward exploration, your therapist will ask the kinds of open-ended questions that refer to your inner thoughts and feelings. They might come at the start of or during the session. “What were you thinking about right before your session, today?” or “What are you feeling right now?” These questions are usually too pointed or direct unless you already have a trusting relationship with your therapist.

As you become more and more comfortable with therapy, your therapist will use these questions in order to help you articulate feelings and thoughts you may not even know you have. He may even make this a part of your written treatment plan. After exploring your inner session further, you both may eventually decide to modify your treatment goals. Sometimes on a journey, if you catch a glimpse of a mountain or a valley, you’ll want to examine the map and take a detour that will bring you to these yearned-for places. A skilled therapist knows when that detour is called for.

For example, if your primary treatment goal is to explore your fear of intimate relationships, but you are also depressed, after talking about your feelings, you and your therapist may come to the conclusion that your treatment goal should be redefined temporarily. Perhaps understanding and managing symptoms of depression would be a worthwhile goal.

Conversely, there will be times when your therapist will want to help you focus on other important goals you may not even be aware of and may steer you gently toward them. Of course, he must have clinical justification for suggesting you focus on any specific problem. Ultimately, the feelings, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors you have during or in between sessions will all have a part to play in how therapy will unfold.


Adapted from Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On (HCI)

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski <![CDATA[The Exposure Myth]]> 2017-08-25T16:34:47Z 2017-08-25T16:34:47Z The exposure myth, occasionally perpetrated by psychotherapists themselves, is the belief that by exposing a hidden neglect or trauma (usually one that occurred in childhood), or even an external, physical cause (such as extreme stress or substance abuse), all the patient’s problems will be solved. Suddenly, the patient’s life will become meaningful and happy.

When patients talk about painful events, they are at their most vulnerable. They don’t yet know how to build their healed “new” selves because they weren’t ready for the confrontation with their unhappy “old” selves. In fact, it is not uncommon to find that patients don’t have the emotional scaffolding in place to deal with their pasts.

Emotional scaffolding is our term for the coping strategies and skills that are taught to a patient by a therapist in order to help the patient manage and deal with the deep inner exploration that may be a part of psychotherapy. These groups of skills act as scaffolding or structures upon which exploration can take place and healthy emotions, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors can be built.

Many patients who are raw, wounded, and (even after years of therapy), unable to rebuild their live, just didn’t have the requisite emotional skills in place before they and their therapists plunged in. Psychotherapists who train with me work together with their patients to build the emotional scaffolding they need before encouraging their patients to expose painful, deeply private memories.

Experienced therapists know that exposing and discussing everything about their patients’ pasts—a common approach, unfortunately—is rarely, if ever, necessary. In some cases untimely or unnecessary exposure to painful recollections may even prevent patients from coping with life at the most basic level. They may just shut down or act out. Remember, if a therapist takes someone apart, they may not be able to put them back together again.

Experienced therapists believe in everyone’s right to privacy—especially yours. They believe it is extremely important to help you understand which parts of your life are relevant and need to be talked about and which areas should remain unexposed. There are some types of therapy, though, that encourage therapists and patients to make an unhealthy breach of boundaries. These methods are a reflection of the culture at large, where privacy and modesty have completely fallen by the wayside.

Nowhere is the lack of respect for boundaries more clearly apparent than in our celebrity culture. There the goal is to attain power and adoration—the kind that comes from gaining the attention of others. In order to get attention, celebrities—and the paparazzi that encourage them—stop at almost nothing.

Some people, famous and not famous alike, are driven to expose themselves and breach all boundaries, because they are desperate for attention and love. Some will even humiliate themselves to get it. TV reality shows and many talk shows, for example, feed upon this neediness. And who hasn’t at least glanced at a celebrity tell-all webpage, book or magazine in which abusive childhood experiences are described in lurid detail?

Sure, our earliest experiences and relationships influence us greatly. They truly are a very important factor that can help us understand why we are the way we are. All too often though, uncovering and discussing our family’s dysfunction (and what family isn’t dysfunctional in some way?), has achieved a bizarre social status in our culture.

We all need to know that talking about our pasts in and of itself is not a cure. Exploring the past needlessly, or before one is ready, or exploring it with someone whose trustworthiness is questionable, can be worse than useless. It can cause emotional pain strong enough to instigate a shutdown of feeling and even a shutdown of reason; then the individual’s ability to deal with the present, and possibly the future, has been damaged.

Adapted from Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better and Move On (HCI)

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski <![CDATA[Is Work Your Friend Or Foe?]]> 2017-08-21T12:35:16Z 2017-08-16T20:36:23Z Do you love your job, hate it, or something in between? *The American Working Conditions Survey just reported its data from the 2015 research and for those of us who […]]]>

Do you love your job, hate it, or something in between?

*The American Working Conditions Survey just reported its data from the 2015 research and for those of us who work, the findings are unsurprising and a bit sad.

Workers in the United States report they just don’t have enough time to do their jobs, and about half say they are taking work home with them or otherwise working in their time off.

About half of workers report a hostile or threatening social environment on the job.

Both blue and white collar workers find work too physically exerting–nearly 75 percent of workers are worn out from on-the-job demands.

There are pluses, too. About 50 percent of over 3000 people surveyed say their boss is supportive and that they have made good friends at work.

And most workers find at least some of their work meaningful.

What do you think? Is your job good, bad or something in between? More than one answer and comments are welcome.


*The survey was conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School and UCLA (funded by federal grants), along with those at the federally-funded military-linked think-tank known as the RAND Corporation.

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski <![CDATA[Nine Thoughts For The Thinking Person]]> 2017-08-11T17:11:59Z 2017-08-11T17:11:59Z Think about the power of your thoughts and change your life.

  1. Change your thoughts and you change your world.  —Norman Vincent Peale
  2. As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. — Henry David Thoreau
  3. The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts. —Marcus Aurelius
  4. By verbalizing your deepest thoughts and feelings, you take them out of the realm of intangible into the realm where material and intangible meet. You begin to actually change the routes your thoughts usually take, and charter new territory. You also make space inside to listen to that still, small voice. You’ll have made space to hear the answers God sends you. You and the Creator are the co-therapists, the co problem solvers, co life changers. —C.R. Zwolinski
  5. As the plant springs from, and could not be without, the seed, so every act of man springs from the hidden seeds of thought, and could not have appeared without them. —James Allen
  6. The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking. —Albert Einstein
  7. A sick thought can devour the body’s flesh more than fever or consumption. —Guy De Maupassant
  8. The trouble with most people is that they think with their hopes or fears or wishes rather than with their minds. —Will Durant
  9. The mind can’t hold two thoughts at once so try replacing a negative thought with a positive one.  —Rebbe Nachman of Breslov