Jeff Levy, LCSW
Mental Health, Relationships, Trauma, Identity
Originally Published on Branching Out: The Live Oak Blog, February 2018
No one wants to feel pain. At least that’s true for most of us. In fact, a good number of us make the decision to enter psychotherapy to alleviate pain. As a therapist, I’ve also been in the position of wanting to support my clients in easing the pain they are feeling. I’m still not so sure that’s an unrealistic goal. What I have learned, however, is that the way to assuage one kind of pain often requires that we feel another. No one necessarily signs up for this.
Jeff Levy, LCSW
(originally posted on Branching Out: The Live Oak Blog, June 2014)
Last week in the graduate social work class I am teaching, we had a conversation arise about whether it was acceptable to offer a client a box of Kleenex when they are crying. One supervisor had told a student not to offer Kleenex because in an implicit way, it conveyed that crying was not ok, or at a minimum, the crying should stop. Another student shared she had received the opposite instruction, and that the offering of Kleenex displayed an empathic connection. So many considerations for the small act of pushing a Kleenex box closer to a client.
Every time I teach a graduate course in social work, the topic of crying during sessions comes up. In most instances, however, it’s not about what to do when clients cry that people want to talk about. My students, and many of the therapists I supervise or with whom I consult, want to know what to do when they are crying—or how to handle it if a time arises when they find themselves crying in front of a client or with a client.
Jeff Levy, LCSW
(originally posted on Branching Out: The Live Oak Blog, April 2014)
I remember as an adult, when I would share with my mother frustration or anger I felt toward one or both of my brothers, her consistent response was: “Oh Jeff, life’s too short. Don’t be like that.” When I think about it now, I realize she told me that many times, from when I was a child even until several weeks before she died. It took a long time for me to learn that expressing anger was not only acceptable, but necessary. I was careful, though, not to let my mother in on this revelation.
Anger Is Seen As A Negative Emotion
For many of us, anger is not an easy emotion to experience, let alone express. We may have received implicit and explicit messages since we were children that it wasn’t acceptable to express anger. Conversely, we may have grown up in a home where anger felt almost palpable. We lived with anger every day. It might never have been discussed, but its remnants were visible on the faces and bodies of those we loved, or even on our own bodies. What complicated our experience of anger is that it was often denied or we were told very clearly not to discuss the anger we experienced outside of the confines of our home. Regardless of the extent to which we experienced anger, we are a culture that often pathologizes anger. We see it as a “negative” emotion and, consequently, it is sequestered, making it relatively inaccessible.
Jeff Levy, LCSW
(originally posted on Branching Out: The Live Oak Blog, April 2015)
One of the premises underlying the work we do is our desire to help. Implicit in the idea of helping is improving concrete life conditions or increasing the experience of happiness or peace in someone’s internal landscape. Helping means feeling better. If that is one of the most basic premises underlying the work we do, how do we respond when someone expresses a desire not to live?
All AIDS Anger Apologizing Asking Questions In Sessions Authenticity Beginnings And Endings Being The Expert Boundaries Boundary Crossing Boundary Violations Breaks From Therapy Collaboration Between Therapists Coming Out Compassion Fatigue Contact Between Sessions Continuity Between Sessions Courage Crying Death Depression Disclosure Disclosure And Technology Dogs Email Emotional Support Animals Emotions Empathy Ending Psychotherapy Endings Expectations Experiments Failure Finances Forgiveness Framing Therapy Fraudulence Gifts Goals Grief Happiness Healing Rituals HIV Holding Back Homework Honesty Hope Human Animal Bond Identity Imposter Injuries Interpersonal Neurobiology Intersectionality Long Term Therapy Loss Loving Yourself Memory Metaphors In Psychotherapy Microaggressions Money Multiple Identities Neurophysiology New Information New Normal Normal Not Knowing Pain Physical Contact Positive Emotions Present Moment Priorities Privacy Questions Rage Real Relationships Resentment Resolution Rites Of Passage Rituals Rupture And Repair Sadness Safe Spaces Safety Safety Plan Safety Versus Comfort Secrecy Session Structure Short Term Therapy Silence Stigma And Mental Health Suicide Survival Strategies Themes In Psychotherapy Therapist Client Relationships Touch Trauma Trigger Warnings Values Vicarious Resilience Vicarious Trauma