Grow your Family’s Relationship Superpowers

I’m so pleased to share this recently published book by my friend and colleague, Dr. Saliha Bava, and her partner, Mark Greene.

Although we might agree in theory that parenting is indeed a relational endeavor, our language belies this perspective. For example, we describe the child as “oppositional defiant” as though she existed in a relational vacuum, without that ‘other’ person she must oppose.

Diagnostic criteria focuses on the individual and obscures the parts of the relational system that promote imbalance and ill health.  This extends beyond the family system to the school, community and environment in which families are situated.  But responses to poverty or racism are not part of our diagnostic nomenclature.  We focus instead on the interiorized pathology of the individual, as if divorced from her community and relational world.

Bava and Green eloquently describe what happens in the relationship between parent and child:

“As we are shaping them, they are shaping us”

Indeed, we are changed as we parent,  uncovering parts of ourselves as we are buffeted from one intense emotion to the next.

Green talks about the opportunities in this process:

“for me to discover that I have some agency in those relationships, in those spaces, that there are ways I can operate that help me not fall prey to my own doubts, fears or concerns. “

The doubts, fears and concerns we harbor as parents are openings for change:

“If we have more flexibility, if we can look at problems from more angles, if we can hold our fears and concerns more lightly, if we can be more playful and collaborative,

If we can wait and see what’s emerging before we name and define our responses, all of these things are possible .”

 

I invite you and yours to hone your “family relationship superpowers” by engaging with this brilliant and captivating guide.  The Relational Book for Parenting: Raising Children to Connect, Collaborate, and Innovate by Growing our Families’ Relationship Superpowers is now available.

Enjoy this video by the authors https://player.vimeo.com/video/267271358“>video by the authors and you and your family can grow your relationship superpowers!

Happy Valentines Day

Family historian,  Stephanie Coontz, is admittedly one of my favorites.

Former President of The Council on Contemporary Families, Dr. Coontz brings a much needed perspective to our cultural discourses about marriage and family life.  Her capacity to mine enormous bodies of data and expose trends about the current state of relationships is remarkable – and very much needed.  The landscape of marriage and family is not easy to navigate, and I’m grateful for her clarity and perspective.

In that spirit (and because tomorrow is Valentines Day), I wanted to share her New York Times piece, For a Better Marriage, Act Like a Single Person.

Couple and family therapists are well aware of the hazards when two people believe they can be ‘everything’ to each other.  From a historical perspective, this “soul mate,” “one and only,” “romantic love” narrative is a fairly recent phenomenon.  In the not too distant past, one’s marital partner was not expected to fulfill so many needs; rather, marriage was more of an economic arrangement, with less expectation of emotional fulfillment from that one person. (For a full discussion, check out Dr. Coontz’s 2006 book: Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage). 

I’ve said before that one of the more exciting things about being a Couple and Family Therapist today is the research that shows the significance of relationship in one’s life.  In a shift from the traditional, individual paradigm that has dominated psychological theory, the new “science of relationship” and data from a wide variety of studies shows what we family therapists have intuited for so long: that the quality of one’s relationships matters to health and well being.

In her Times article, Coontz shifts her lens to the impact of community on marriage.  She finds that social networks of friends and family are enormously helpful to the couple:

“having supportive friendships is associated with more satisfying marriages, even among couples already content with the support they get from each other.”

And, the benefits go beyond the psychological health of the marriage:

“…..health researchers report that maintaining high levels of social integration provides as much protection against early mortality as quitting smoking. In fact, having weak social networks is a greater risk factor for dying early than being obese or sedentary. One analysis of 148 separate health studies found that people who cultivated a wide network of friends and other social relationships had a mortality risk 50 percent lower than those with weak ties.”

Therapists typically attempt to shift the dynamics between the members of the couple they see for treatment.  Coontz warns against using such a narrow lens:

“Many marriage counselors focus narrowly on improving partners’ couple skills without taking into account how the marital relationship is affected by interactions with other people. Yet a 2017 study found that when people socialize more frequently with good friends, they not only report fewer depressive symptoms themselves, but so do their partners.”

So, Happy Valentines Day.  Here’s to celebrating the many relationships that edify our lives, and contribute to our health and well being.

Read Dr Coontz’s full article here

Observing Traditional Holidays in Updated Ways, New Expressions

For nontraditional families, including same-sex couples, single parents, and people raising their grandkids, the ways in which holidays like Father’s Day are celebrated continue to evolve. Jacqueline Hudak, PhD, clinical director of the Penn Center for Couples and Adult Families, explains how these family dynamics grow and change.

Communications placement

WHYY NewsWorks

CCAF Event 9/28/16 Supporting Transgender Young Adults: Working Collaboratively with Family and Individual Treatment

Join colleagues at Penn Medicine and CHOP for this exciting panel, lead by transgender activist and family therapist, DR. ELIJAH NEALY.  They will address the importance of family therapy in the treatment of transgender young adults.

Dr. Nealy will be joined by Jacqueline HUDAK, PhD., LMFT, The Center for Couples and Adult Families, Perelman School of Medicine, Linda HAWKINS, Ph.D., Gender and Sexuality Development Clinic, CHOP, and Benoit DUBÉ, MD, Perelman School of Medicine.

 Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

6-8PM

16th Fl., 3535 Market Street

Philadelphia, PA 19104

A light dinner will be served

 RSVP sean.smith@uphs.upenn.edu

For the past 25 years, Elijah C. Nealy, PhD, M.Div., LCSW has worked extensively with LGBTQ adolescents and adults in both pastoral and social service capacities. Currently an assistant professor of social work at the University of Saint Joseph, West Hartford, CT, his clinical practice has focused on transgender and gender diverse youth and their families. Ordained with Metropolitan Community Church, Dr. Nealy regularly preaches and provides trainings for clinicians, faith communities, and organizations. An openly identified transgender man, Dr. Nealy lives in West Hartford with his partner and is the proud father of three amazing young people. He is the author of Transgender Children and Youth: Cultivating Pride and Joy with Families in Transition [Norton, February 2017].

 

 

“Breaking the Male Code” book release party: Dr. Rob Garfield & CCAF Faculty

“Breaking the Male Code” book release party:  Dr. Rob Garfield & CCAF Faculty

“I wrote this for us, for our health, our longevity, and our children,” said Dr. Rob Garfield, family psychiatrist, author, and CCAF faculty member of his new book, Breaking the Male Code: Unlocking the Power of Friendship. 

IMG_3616

CCAF faculty, friends and family gathered at Dr. Garfield’s home this evening for a celebration, the theme of which was the power of friendship, particularly for men.  

CCAF Faculty, Drs. Wayne Jones, Rob Garfield, Jacqueline Hudak, and CCAF Founder, Dr. Ellen Berman.

CCAF Faculty, Drs. Wayne Jones, Rob Garfield, Ellen Berman (CCAF Founder) and Jacqueline Hudak (CCAF  Clinical Director)

This is an important book; as a feminist family therapist I work with gender issues, specifically, the ways in which gender shapes relationship.  All too often I observe the dire costs of traditional masculine gender norms on family relationships.  The inability to identify and express emotion and the rigid gender rules that police masculine behavior inhibit and constrain the capacity for intimacy.  Thankfully, my colleague and friend Rob Garfield has written a book that is accessible, and provides an alternate map for men to navigate their most important relationships: 

“For much of the past century, men have operated under the rules of Male Code, a rigid set of guidelines that equate masculinity with stoicism, silence, and strength. As men’s roles have changed over the past few decades, this lingering pressure to hide their emotions has wreaked havoc on men’s lives. Lacking the ability to communicate their needs, desires, and feelings effectively, they are more likely to suffer from depression, anger, and isolation, and their relationships often suffer.

Noted psychotherapist Rob Garfield has worked with men struggling with emotional issues for more than forty years. Through his “Friendship Labs,” clinical settings in which men engage in group therapy, he teaches men how to identify inner conflicts, express emotions, and communicate openly. According to Garfield, traditional therapy has largely marginalized men since many lack the tools to properly engage. But when men learn to open up to other men who share similar experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives, they not only build lasting bonds but learn the skills necessary to thrive in all aspects of their lives.

Writing with empathy and authority, Garfield examines the unique challenges men face and urges them to abandon male code in favor of a masculinity that integrates traditional male traits with emotional intimacy skills. He urges men to connect with other men using the Four C’s of intimacy—connection, communication, commitment, and co-operation—to form meaningful bonds. Drawing on real-life stories and original research, he shows how their friendships can serve as the foundation on which men can build and sustain deep relationships with all of their loved ones—including spouses, children, and parents—and in turn lead to happier, healthier lives.”

Congratulations, Dr. Garfield! We are so fortunate to have you on our faculty, and to collaborate with you in our work with couples and families.

To order the book:

http://www.amazon.com/Breaking-Male-Code-Unlocking-Friendship/dp/1592409040/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1431917378&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=rob+garfield+breaking

Philadelphia Inquirer Review:

http://www.philly.com/philly/health/menshealth/20150517_Well_Being__New_book_explores_male_friendship_and_the_outdated_male_code.html