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STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 1 Restructuring the Sense of Self by Building Self Compassion Leigh McCullough Ph.D. Associate Clinical Professor,

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Presentation on theme: "STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 1 Restructuring the Sense of Self by Building Self Compassion Leigh McCullough Ph.D. Associate Clinical Professor,"— Presentation transcript:

1 STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 1 Restructuring the Sense of Self by Building Self Compassion Leigh McCullough Ph.D. Associate Clinical Professor, Harvard Medical School Slides from the IEDTA Conference (International Experiential Dynamic Therapy Association UCLA, Los Angeles, CA., September 2005 The point of this lecture was to demonstrate that compassion can be dealt with similarly to grief and anger in Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy; i.e., patients who are self attacking or self destructive need to be desensitized to positive feeling for self by exposure to feelings of care, concern, compassion for self and by the prevention of defensive and inhibitory responses. This approach is presented in detail in the following books (on the next two slides) and the website,

2 Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy STDP Short Term Anxiety- Regulating Psychotherapy for Restructuring Defenses, Affects and Attachments Basic Books, 1997 To Order:

3 STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 3 Treating Affect Phobias: A Manual for Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy Each chapter presents: 1) Basic concepts of STDP, and 2) Exercises for reader practice To order: 800 –

4 STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 4 Go to our Website: For information on our Training Programs in in the Boston Area (Details to be posted in the Fall of 2005)

5 STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 5 COMPASSION Synonyms : Sympathy, empathy, pity, concern, kindness, consideration, care softhearted, tenderhearted Antonyms : Hardhearted, stoneyhearted, callous, insensitive, pitiless

6 STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 6 Thoughts on Compassion Compassion is the antitoxin of the soul: where there is compassion even the most poisonous impulses remain relatively harmless. Eric Hoffer U.S. Philosopher

7 STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 7 The Triangle of Conflict David Malan DEFENSES Behaviors, Thoughts, and Feelings INHIBITION Anxiety, Guilt, Shame, Emotional Pain ACTIVATING FEELINGS Adaptive forms of grief, anger, closeness, And...POSITIVE FEELINGS FOR SELF ( Interest/excitement, Enjoyment-joy) The emotional bases of self-care, concern, compassion, pride, and esteem

8 STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 8 Compassion and its’ Blocks on the Triangle of Conflict DEFENSES Self Attack, Self-Hate Low Self Esteem ANXIETY/ CONFLICT I am afraid to be too big. I am ashamed to feel proud. It is too painful to feel good about myself. ADAPTIVE FEELING JOY OR INTERESTIN SELF Self Compassion, Self Care, Self Esteem, Pride, Self Confidence, Self Worth, Self Respect, Trust in Self

9 STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 9 Desensitization of Affect Phobias in STDP DEFENSIVE AFFECTS Self Hate INHIBITORY AFFECTS SHAME, Guilt, Pain Positive Self Feeling, Self Interest, Self Care, Self Compassion ACTIVATING AFFECTS EXPOSURE RESPONSE PREVENTION

10 STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 10 A Bit of Exposure from Grapes of Wrath Steinbeck, Chapter 6 Muley Graves: (After talking about wanting to kill the people who threw his family off their land;) “Fella should maybe keep stuff like that in his head.” Casey (Former Preacher): “Yes, you should talk,” he said. “Sometimes a sad man can talk the sadness right out through his mouth. Sometimes a killin’ man can talk the murder right out of his mouth an’ not do no murder. You done right. Don’t you kill nobody if you can help it.”

11 STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 11 Triangle of Person David Malan THERAPIST CURRENT PERSONS (Spouse, boss, friends, etc.) Identify the Adaptive and Maladaptive Relationships at each pole Exposure to care & concern (or lack thereof) from each person; CHANGING PERSPECTIVES ON THE SELF PAST PERSONS (Family of Origin, Lost Loves, Teachers, Friends ) ORIGIN VERSUS MAINTENANCE OF DESTRUCTIVE DEFENSES

12 STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 12 Interventions to Restructure the Sense of Self Insight: Identify the self attacking defenses Motivation to change the self attack Origin versus Maintenance of Defenses (You didn’t cause the problem, but you have to resolve it.) Exposure & DESENSITIZATION to compassion/care by: Changing Perspectives - THERAPIST (How do I feel about you?/Shared feeling.) - others (What do they feel for you?) - self (How do you feel about yourself?) Expression of Compassion: The ability to treat self with compassion and care outside the session

13 STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 13 Theory in Restructuring the Self Retranscribing the Memory Trace Changing patients’ world view about the self …or ”Self View” Building new neuronal networks

14 STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 14 Caveats There are inevitable problems that arise when you work with positive feelings. What might those be?

15 STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 15 Problems (More frequently occurring as GAF becomes lower, especially. under 50) Sexual feelings that arise with closeness –(Need exposure and desensitization when conflicted, but take care not to let sexual feelings act as defenses to closeness with the therapist. Fear of boundaries being violated –(There are clear boundaries here, remember that we imagine murderous feelings, but no one actually is murdered.) Over-idealizing the therapist –(Sometimes a necessary phase with more regressed patients, but eventually the therapist must been seen as fully human.) Never wanting to leave therapy (We need to set you free…Can you take me with you?…Can you take these feelings with you? Generalize to caring feelings of others.) …..OTHER EXAMPLES?

16 STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 16 SELECTING TREATMENT FOR PATIENTS BASED ON LEVEL OF FUNCTIONING Build supports, Inpatient Care GAF Build defenses Cognitive Rx Supportive Rx Restructuring self/others Short Term Restructuring of Defenses Short term Restructuring of Feelings More Supportive treatment More Expressive treatment

17 STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 17 Some Old Things & Some New Things COMPASSION follows the same principles as other affects, ( e.g.,desensitization) but has some different mechanisms. There seem to be no “breakthroughs” to compassion as with grief or anger. One builds, or develops this capacity incrementally. There can be no full sense of compassion without comparable acceptance of grief and rage.

18 STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 18 Global Functioning, Affective Competence, and underlying Ego Strength Patient Adm GAF 1 st Grief 1 st AngerGAF SESSION SESSION Lesser Twin601 2TBA Caged Man55~ 2TBA Spiritual Chemist523 ~ (FU) 89 Grandmother ~75 Tortured Student Lady Cloaked in Fog

19 STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 19 Are There Stages in Achieving Compassion? Denial and Anger Bargaining Acceptance

20 STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 20 The Spiritual Chemist 37 year old divorced female; fired from job as a lab technician, estranged from son Came to Rx for help during divorce Initial GAF: 65 Current GAF: 89 (7 year follow-up) Sense of Self: “An amino acid with legs” Session 3: Exposure to closeness with and acceptance from me.

21 STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 21 The Superior Unchanging Grandmother 68 year old married female; 45 years of therapy, and almost as long on anti-depressants. Admission GAF: 55 Current GAF: 75 (2yr F-U) Sense of Self: “There’s something horrible about me.” Sessions 1, 5, 10 and 12 Off anti-depressants by Session 11

22 STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 22

23 STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 23 IT TAKES COURAGE TO BE KIND IT TAKES COURAGE TO BE … COMPASSIONATE … SOFTHEARTED

24 STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 24 When time is limited: Point out self-attacking defenses Build compassion for self Find loves that have been lost (people who found them special): ’Whose eyes lit up when they saw you?’’ Explore positive feelings in the therapist-patient relationship Use Socratic dialogue; What do you think I... – Feel for you? – Want for you? – Hope for you?

25 STDP Workshop - Leigh McCullough Ph.D. 25 Three Treatment Objectives Defense Restructuring Defense Recognition (Can the patient see the self attack?) Giving Up Defenses (Is the patient motivated to give up self attack?) FOCUS: DEFENSES & ANXIETY Affect Restructuring Affect Experiencing (Degree of felt care or compassion for self) Affect Expression (Can the patient treat self compassionately?) FOCUS: FEELINGS & ANXIETY Self/Other Restructuring Sense of Self (Positive and compassionate?) S ense of Others (Realistic, adaptive?) FOCUS: RELATIONSHIP & ANXIETY


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