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Sunday, March 11, 2018

Podcasts Post No. 1: You Need Help to Help Her

True Confession: I am addicted to podcasts. I will spare you and not give you the long list of podcasts I regularly listen to, but rest assured, it is my number one form of entertainment. I listen to podcasts when I cook, exercise, travel, clean... you get the picture.

Blame it on my restless mind, blame it on my Strengths Finder #5 talent Input, blame it on my nerdy interest in almost anything, but I never tire of gaining more information.

I'm going to introduce you to one I am especially impressed by called Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel, a Belgian therapist who specializes in assisting couples in relationships. She just started Season Two of her podcast, and it appears she may be taking things in a slightly different direction than Season One, where she gave us ten intense, often intimate episodes of actual couples therapy. Once I got over the novelty of listening in on someone's real therapy, I usually gleaned tremendous insights on how to counsel others. 

This first episode of Season Two is titled, You Need Help to Help Her. It focuses on a couple whose daughter is in profound, ongoing distress. As Esther says at the beginning, couples not only have their intimate relationship to maintain, they also have other relationships to manage, and this episode relates to their relationship as parents.

To describe the content of the podcast would be to give too much away, but I'm writing about it because it gets at the heart of much of what I talk about with clients when we are discussing interpersonal dynamics and conflicts, usually in the workplace. I try to do a lot of listening in order to understand all the different people and stories at play. As Esther said in this episode,
I think systemically. I think about problems in their context... not just what causes them, but what maintains them. How is the relationship system, how is the family organized around the problem?
This comes from a classic approach in therapy known as Bowen Family Systems Therapy that I learned in my one whole counseling class in seminary, Even though I only had that one class in grad school on counseling, it is something I have found profoundly helpful over the years, and I've tried to grow in knowledge and depth of insight as I encounter stress and conflict in groups.

Though this podcast pertains to family struggles, I have certainly found that similar dynamics can be in the workplace, where so many of us spend at least one third of our days! Dr. Katherine Kott describes it this way:
Applying Bowen theory to work systems has the potential to create transformative change as people become aware of hidden emotional processes in the system. Understanding these emotional processes through Bowen theory takes some of the mystery out of workplace behaviors that do not make logical sense. 
If you are experiencing any sort of dysfunction or dysregulation in the workplace, it might be worthwhile to start with Perel's podcast today, and then go from there in terms of understanding how in stress we tend to organize around the one Bowen calls "the identified patient," the one whom the system directs all of their anxiety toward as a way to divert attention from anyone else. It's pretty fascinating stuff!

Though tremendously complex and difficult, I have found it to be so worthwhile when groups invite me to help them work through the knotty dynamics of a system. If you want to learn more about family systems beyond Dr. Perel's podcast, I recommend starting with The Family Crucible by Napier and Whitaker. And if you are in the midst of an ongoing struggle with others at home or at work, take the title of Perel's podcast episode to heart: "You need help to help her (or him)." These things don't just go away. Find the help you need!

Stay tuned for regular updates on podcasts I like... there will be many, of that I am sure.

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