An Alternative Psychotherapy Perspective: Depression, Anxiety, ADHD, Relationship Problems, Behavioral Issues in Children
This blog is born out of both pain and hope. As life-long practitioners and teachers of family therapy, we find it painful to observe how modern culture simplifies and reduces problems of living to simplified, individual, medicalized “answers”. Standard therapies for depression, anxiety and behavioral difficulties in children are devoid of the language of relationship. Treatment is often geared toward one individual in the family who then may learn to see himself or herself as sick.
But we know a different story. We begin with the assumption that, until proven otherwise, psychiatric symptoms are related to interpersonal experience. The moods and behavior of troubled kids–depressed, anxious or acting-out kids–are connected to the dynamics of their intimate relationship systems, particularly the family. Further, we believe that what are commonly called ” mood disorders” in adults are symptomatic expressions of problems embedded in intimate relationships, meaning family, partner, or the broader culture. Both of us know from our training and experience working with families–as well as our own human-ness–that relationship dynamics play a critical role in symptoms that show up as individual problems.
Our hope comes from the many years of experience in our offices, where we have helped many, many people with difficult children, or adults with depression or other typically psychiatric problems. As we said, we regard all problems as interpersonal until proven otherwise. That means that intimate relationship systems are included in how we understand and treat the people who come to see us. This pattern of treatment is often relatively brief and, for the most part, is done without psychiatric medications. How a person “feels” is a dynamic story, imbedded in the operating system of the relationship. But focusing therapy on the family is not done simply in the name of looking for what’s wrong; our therapeutic work involves connecting with health and activating the healing capacity within families.
This blog is dedicated to sharing what we know, and what we have learned, in hopes of helping others. We include stories from our offices and reflections from our practice and teaching. (We disguise the identifying data from our office vignettes, but the stories are real. ) We hope you will learn something new about yourselves, which can support your personal and relationship growth. For us, learning never stops; we are grateful to have an opportunity to share whatever insights we have gained with you. We also invite your comments and questions.
Who We Are
Amy Begel, LCSW, LMFT
Amy Begel is a family therapist who received her family therapy training nearly 30 years ago with one of the creators of family therapy, Dr. Salvador Minuchin. Since then, she has maintained a busy private practice in New York City. Amy describes her office as a place where she “sees everybody for everything”, including couples in various kinds of distress, and families with children with emotional/behavioral difficulties. She is on the faculty of the Department of Family Practice, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and works with Internal Medicine and Cardiology Resident physicians at Maimonides Medical Center. Her work in family and internal medicine has contributed to her particular interest in the complex intersection between Mind and Body.
Amy is also known for the development of the “Jazz Consultation”, a unique way of working with couples and families that includes using jazz musicians to add musical commentary to family therapy sessions. She is the author of many articles and has presented her work at Regional, National and International professional conferences. For more information please check out her website to get a sense of what she’s about.
David Keith, M.D.
David Keith is Professor of Psychiatry and Director of Family Therapy at SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York. He has been in practice over 40 years, joining the Upstate faculty in 1988.
David is a prolific writer in the world of psychotherapy/family therapy. Here’s a selection of his work:
He has coauthored Defiance in the Family: Finding Hope in Therapy (2001), co-edited, Family Therapy as an Alternative to Medication: An Appraisal of Pharmland (2003)and is the author of Continuing the Experiential Approach of Carl Whitaker: Process, Practice & Magic (2015). He is the subject of Clinical Dialogues in Family Therapy, Based on the Psychotherapy of Carl Whitaker, M.D. and David Keith, M.D. by Howard Denofsky, MSW (2004)
He has contributed to 21 books and published 31 papers.