Therapy can seem like a bit of a black box. There's a therapist, some comfy seating, tissues, a clock, you . . . then what?



The truth is, there are hundreds of types of psychotherapy. Some therapists strictly practice one type, and some learn several types and blend them together. Most therapies originate from a central idea: talking to someone can help you gain perspective, increase self-awareness, and feel more content and confident.


I feel most effective using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Psychodynamic Therapy. I also draw from Family Systems therapy and Internal Family Systems (IFS). To understand what therapy will be like with me, it's helpful to learn a little bit about each one...


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on the relationship between our thoughts, feeling and behaviors. Often people come in feeling emotionally "overwhelmed" and want relief. Other times, they feel stuck in a behavioral pattern (ex: "I keep getting in the same fight with my wife, and it's never resolved.") CBT gives you tools to slow down and look carefully at the related thoughts (ex: "When my wife rolls her eyes at me, I think she hates me"), feelings ("Then, I feel terrified") and behaviors ("I start acting clingy and texting her constantly"). By breaking down these parts, you can gain insight into your underlying beliefs and begin to explore ways to change your patterns.


Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) was created by a psychologist named Marsha Linehan, as a way to help patients who were chronically suicidal. In its intended form, DBT is an intensive treatment that involves weekly individual therapy in addition to a 90-minute weekly skills group and therapeutic coaching calls. I don't offer this form of intensive treatment, and it's rarely necessary for the clients I see. But, I do draw on my DBT training because I've found that DBT skills provide a clear, step-by-step path to becoming more confident and assertive, setting healthy personal boundaries, tolerating emotional distress, and becoming more focused and effective at work and in relationships.


Psychodynamic Psychotherapy assumes that much of what we do and feel is controlled by our unconscious. If this idea seems abstract, consider the last time you fell in love. What drew you to this person? Did you feel in control of your emotions and choices, or did it seem as though the love was happening to you? Similarly, have you ever had an intense dream, filled with vivid images and memories that left you feeling shaken, but you're not sure why? Psychodynamic therapy provides a space to be open and curious about these experiences in order to gain greater personal insight. It provides a frame to explore childhood relationships to understand how they're unconsciously impacting our current relationships and actions. It also provides a frame to discuss the client/therapist relationship to gain greater insight into the unconscious messages we send to others. Clients typically gain greater understanding of themselves and their motives, and ultimately a deeper sense of self compassion and confidence.


I find that different clients are naturally drawn to one therapy more than another, depending on his or her needs or temperament. That said, I don't pick one therapy per person; I always weave aspects of each into my work. If you are particularly interested in one type of therapy, I would love to hear about it! You are always welcome to ask me questions about how I work and therapy in general. Email me at LPerl@therapistsofny.com

Updated: Nov 19, 2018

My research says . . . .

While in graduate school, I read a 2013 research paper that made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. The researchers found that in marriages in which the woman earned more than their husbands, couples were more likely to divorce and more likely to report marital distress, compared with households in which the man earned more. They also found that in cities where women earned more than men, overall marriage rates were lower. The researchers speculated that high-earning women were less "appealing" marriage partners, and that if they did want to get married and have families, they needed to remain "underemployed," or stop work entirely in order to appear less "threatening" to men.


Ack! (insert visual from Cathy cartoon here. Oh, wait, this a blog, I can actually do that....).



I had so many questions....foremost: What the hell?! So I decided to focus my graduate research on the goal of answering the question: What is going on in Breadwinner-Women marriages?


And a mere six years later (okay, grad school takes a long time)...the results are in. Well, some results. Based on my data, which included close to 1,000 married, heterosexual men and women in the NY-area:


1. Yes, marriages in which the woman made more where slightly less happy. And by slightly, I mean a teensy, tiny bit. In stats terms, women's earnings account for .08% of overall marital happiness. MUCH LESS than 1%!

2. But . . . only the women reported being less happy when they earned more than their husbands. Men did not report being any less happy when their wives earned more than they did.

3. And....men reported being less happy in their marriages when they were less happy in their careers. (For women, career distress was unrelated to marital happiness).


So, what does this all mean?? There are a lot of possible interpretations. Perhaps we've come a long way, and it's more normal for women to earn more than their husbands than it was in 2013, when the last study was published. (I know many higher-earning wives in my own circle of friends and colleagues.). Or, perhaps my sample of well-employed, college-educated professionals was too skewed. Most of my subjects were professionally employed and earned more than $50K per year. Perhaps their financial security kept them safe from marital stressors. For example, they could hire babysitters and cleaning services, whereas in lower-earning households, those jobs are often left to women, even those women with full-time jobs.


Many high-earning women I spoke to reported feeling like they do "everything"--both at work and at home. A common refrain, "I make more money, but I still make my kids' lunches and schedule playdates and do the laundry." On the flip side, some men I spoke to reported that they'd take on more if their wives were more willing to delegate. For example, one man I spoke to said, "My wife wants me to do more, but when I try, she tells me I'm not doing it the right way. Or she feels guilty that I'm spending more time with the kids than she is."


Personally, I believe that how we negotiate even mundane household and parenting responsibilities with our spouses is extremely emotionally charged. It's tied up with deeply felt ideas of what it means to be a mom, a dad, a husband and a wife. Often, these beliefs--and the family history they're based on--don't line up with how much money we make compared to our spouses. For example, if I have visions of my mom packing my lunch in the morning, and drawing a little heart on my paper napkin, what does it mean when I don't have time to do the same for my kids because I have to be in the office at 7am? And what does it mean to my husband that I can't do it when his mom drew those same little hearts? And what does it mean to me that he doesn't jump in and draw the napkin hearts for me?


If you're in a breadwinner-woman marriage and have some thoughts on the topic, email me (lperl@therapistsofny.com)! I'd love to interview you.


In the meantime, I'm doing a deep dive into these marriages to learn more about how people are struggling AND making them work.

#marriage #love #breadwinnerwomen

 

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