Building Healthy Relationships: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk

August 1, 2010

Dr. Ken Pope notified me of an article “Social Relationships and Mortality Risk”  that recently appeared in PLOS Medicine.  In a meta-analysis, 300,000+ individuals studied for an average of 7.5 years had a 50% greater likelihood of survival if they had adequate social relationships as opposed to insufficient social relationships.  This effect on mortality was comparable to quitting smoking and better than weight loss.  Despite living in the communication era, people are far less likely to have a confidant and more likely to feel socially isolated.

What does this mean for psychotherapy?  Building healthy relationships can be a goal of treatment that will improve health risk.  Of course, building healthy relationships is a challenge for those who had them historically, but extraordinarily difficult for those who never had them.

Irving Nadler, PhD    Tel:  561-361-0711

Boca Raton Psychologist: Increased Demand for Psychotherapy

July 16, 2010

Dr. Ken Pope sent an e-mail regarding an article this month in the International Journal of Mental Health about demand growing for mental health services around the world.  As the need for more treatment arises from the stressful economic times, the United States is decreasing services.  The states are responsible for providing services and in 2009, 32 state mental health agencies report cuts.  Interestingly, the United Kingdom “has designated stimulus money for workers who have lost their jobs and suffer from anxiety and depression as a result.”

Do we in the US want to have diminished mental health as the world  competes economically?  This does not seem to make good common sense or good dollars and cents.  I proudly worked as a psychologist  in the VA for 27 years where treatment was free or low-cost. 

What does diminished services by government mean for private practitioners, like myself now, when we are confronted with desperate people who cannot pay for psychotherapy for depression or anxiety?  The Boca Raton Psychologist thinks that our profession has an obligation to help some of these people, but we still have to pay our bills.

Building Healthy Relationships: Pre-empting Marital Strife III

July 11, 2010

In the aforementioned article, there was a discussion of “acceptance therapy”, which focuses on recognizing and accepting the partners’ flaws.  When partners received this type of couple therapy, after two years, this therapy was superior to others in a study by Christenson and Jacobson; after five years, half the marriages were significantly improved. 

This type of treatment reminds me of the philosophy of the late Albert Ellis – “Acceptance is not love. You love a person because he or she has lovable traits, but you accept everybody just because they’re alive and human”

In couples therapy.  I suggest that the partners accept each other as is, but they may in a gentle, non-punitive way point out how change may positively affect the marriage.  Of course, people work at different speeds in changing and so there is no agreement on a comparable time frame for the partners.  The person that changes, enhances his/her relationship.  Thus, accepting “as is”  is a crucial aspect of building healthy relationships.

Building Healthy Relationships: Pre-empting Marital Strife II

July 9, 2010

The article cited in the previous blog suggests a “marital checkup” on a yearly basis to pre-empt marital strife and build healthy relationships.  In general, we have a dental exam, medical exam, check and rebalance our financial portfolio, and have automobile maintenance on at least a yearly basis. 

Why not visit a psychologist for couple therapy and make improvements in one to several sessions for healthy marriages.  What can be discussed?  A whole range of topics – children, in-laws, out-laws, finances, sexuality, arguments,  how to fight fair, etc. – are grist for the mill.  Working with couples in this way can prevent unhappiness or irreconcilable differences which may lead to divorce.  By the way, my wife and I just celebrated our fortieth wedding anniversary so we must be doing something right!   Building healthy relationships is a dynamic issue for couples to work on.

Building Healthy Relationships: Pre-empting Marital Strife

July 4, 2010

This past week’s Science Times section of the NY Times had an article -“Seeking to Pre-empt Marital Strife”.  There were three interesting  aspects of the article –

1.  Nearly two-thirds of divorcing couples never sought couple therapy.

2.  Yearly check-ups of one’s marital state are important for building healthy relationships.

3.  “Acceptance therapy” consists of better understanding a partner’s flaws.

I will focus on failure to seek couple therapy in this blog and address the other two issues in future blogs.  Some couples do not wish to avail themselves of couple therapy because that means they have failed in their relationship.   In my practice, I state in the first session that my goal for the couple is to build a healthier relationship and subsequently to decide whether they wish to remain married.  It has seemed to me that the couples find this a reasonable goal and are more willing to work toward that outcome.  They can be successful and still get divorced. The divorce will be more amicable and life after divorce will be much healthier emotionally.  Although I believe that gender of the therapist is a preference and is not one of the major variables related to outcome in any form of psychotherapy, some men can be reluctant to engage in couple therapy with a female counselor (that makes it two against one). They are more agreeable to work with me, a gray-haired non-threatening male.  Thus, building healthy relationships via marital therapy can serve to pre-empt divorce.

Building Healthy Realtionships: Empathy

July 3, 2010

Last Sunday, the NY Times reported on a study by Dr. Sara Konrath.  She found that empathy was markedly reduced in college students compared to twenty years ago, but in particular since 2000.  Of considerable interest to me were her definitions of four aspects of “interpersonal sensitivity”:

1.  “Empathic concern , or sympathy over the misfortunes of others”;

2.  “perspective taking, an intellectual capacity to imagine other people’s points of view”;

3.  “fantasy or people’s tendency to identify imaginatively with fictional characters in books or movies”;

4.  “and personal distress, which refers to the anguish one feels during others’ misfortunes.”

I plan to distribute these definitions to some of my clients in individual psychotherapy and couple counseling.  Then, we can use the definitions to help in building healthy relationships.

Boca Raton Psychologist

June 23, 2010

From, the June 29, 2010 issue of  the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has two articles and an editorial this month about anxiety predicting heart disease years later.  In one of the studies, 50,000 men were followed for 37 years.  Those with anxiety disorders were twice as likely to suffer from heart disease or an acute heart attack.  In the other study, with an 11 year follow-up, there was a 50% increase in  risk of cardiac death for people with anxiety disorders.

What does this mean for anxious people?  Seek help very early.  What does this mean for cardiologists? Evaluate your clients for anxiety and refer them for treatment when indicated.  What does this mean for the Boca Raton Psychologist AKA “Dr. Relax”?  Inform your clients about the relationship between anxiety and heart disease, the importance of  treatment and the importance of  practicing relaxation and stress management techniques forever.  (Don’t we brush our teeth every day?) Furthermore, follow-up with your psychologist when anxiety provoking life events (such as graduation, marriage, having children, retirement, etc) occur.

Boca Raton Psychologist

June 23, 2010

In this weeks Science Times, Jane Brody writes about “When tanning turns into an addiction.”  Frequent tanners showed signs of both physiological and psychological addiciton.  Release of endorphins (naturally occurring morphine like substances in the brain) are believed to be the physiological components for tanning addiction.  Relaxation, mood enhancement, looking healthier and socialization seem to be psychological components of the addiction. 

Melanoma can be deadly (from my personal experience, my cousin and a dear friend both died from metastatic melanoma).  Psychologists, especially those in South Florida, should evaluate the symptoms of “addiction to tanning”  and help their clients change their behaviors to healthier ones.

Dr. Nadler, A Boca Raton Psychologist, offers a free telephone consultation to prospective clients.

Boca Raton Psychologist

June 18, 2010

An article in this week’s Science Times notes that people exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to suffer from depression and increased frequency of hospitalization.  The author refers to an online article in the Archives of General Psychiatry.  It has long been known that smokers suffer from mental health problems, but a causal relationship was not clear.  It behooves psychologists to offer a quit smoking program to their clients for not only themselves, but the nonsmokers around them.  The Boca Raton Psychologist has treated over 5,000 clients for smoking cessation.

Relationship Issues and Finances

August 6, 2009

In marriage counseling, communication is an important component.  Harmful communications such as yelling, blaming and degrading are certainly not helpful in resolving any relationship issue, especially relating to finances. Often, partners have different spending habits and ideas about saving.  Money Magazine recommends to “Make peace with your money” by sitting down for 45 minutes a week to discuss financial issues.  If you are unable to do this peacefully and effectively, it is advisable to seek marriage counseling.  Consultation with a psychologist will probably identify other significant relationship issues.