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Posts Tagged ‘psychotherapy’

SONY DSCI’m always hearing that I’m a downer, that all I ever write about is the negative side of law. Nothing could be further from the truth. If The People’s Therapist has one precept he lives by, it’s that old adage (okay, so maybe it’s a tenet) from management theory: Don’t bring me a problem unless you’re also bringing me a solution. It’s hardly my issue that all people ever seem to bring me (at least where law’s concerned) is problems. I’m drowning in their problems, and they must have the wrong guy, because I’m a constitutionally upbeat, constructive person – all about solutions, and upbeat ones, at that. Upbeat, constructive solutions are my forte. But these law people…what can I say? They just keep coming with the problems.

This dynamic plays out a lot when I do interviews. As an international celebrity, trend-setter and raconteur on all-things legal, I’m flooded – or, I should say my people (agents, managers, major domos, land stewards, footmen, grand viziers, and so forth) are flooded – with requests for interviews, podcasts, panels, speeches, award ceremonies, ribbon-cuttings, product endorsements, mall openings, ship launchings, red carpet appearances and the like. Of course, I always say yes, since I’m an upbeat, constructive guy. But in the course of these lavish, star-studded galas, my merriment is again and again interrupted by pesky, repetitive questions about anxiety and lawyers, depression and lawyers, suicide and lawyers, yadda yadda yadda. For whatever reason, these appear to be the favorite topics of whoever wants to chat about law in these situations, and so I find myself reluctantly fielding inquiry after inquiry regarding how common these phenomena are, why they occur and (just to drive home how ridiculous this all gets) if there’s something about law or law firms that might somehow be responsible for the sky-high rates of anxiety, depression and suicide that apparently seem to occur among lawyers.

I’m an upbeat, constructive, cosmopolitan kind of a guy, more flaneur than talking head, and this is downer, negative stuff coming at me when I’d rather opine about matters fun and hip. But I’m also a celebrity and a spokesmodel, with the attendant obligations (as well as a plain old, down-homey, profoundly decent and modest regular guy), and so I do the best I can to satisfy the peculiar one-track tunnel vision of certain persons out there with regard to this thing we all love that we call law.

At some point in these events, there inevitably arrives a juncture at which I’m expected to answer one key question: How can lawyers manage anxiety and depression (and thus stop committing suicide), because, you know…it’s getting to be a drag.

I get that, and as an upbeat and constructive person, I welcome this juncture when it arrives, because we need to fix this! We need answers here. I’m as positive and rah-rah and gung-ho about law as anyone – in fact, I’m Mr. Gung-ho, and I eat and breathe a love for law in everything I do, and I’m not too proud to admit that. And I totally agree that it is time to stop whining and griping and start finding solutions!

There’s just one little problem, though, and it’s a doozie…

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mikeMike DeBlis is an exhilarating interviewer. After chatting away merrily for nearly an hour, delving down into the issues in a refreshingly honest and unvarnished manner, he surprised me by nonchalantly announcing:  “Will, this is great.”  I, of course, enthusiastically agreed.  Then he added, even more nonchalantly, “So, shall we begin recording?” I couldn’t think of anything else to say, but “sure.”  And so we did.

logoI realized that’s the secret to how Mike gets such open, authentic, natural sounding podcasts for his series – he uses that first hour as the warm-up, to actually sit down and talk and talk and get to know his guests.

The good news is it really works.  We kept going, and going, and going, and I think – no exaggeration – we probably talked for about three hours, and covered a lot of meaningful ground in what was probably the most enjoyable and heartfelt interview I’ve ever participated in.

Happily, Mike, and Riche (Mike’s Social Media Director, who helps Mike produce the Emotion in the Courtroom podcast series) edited down the tapes to a mere hour of all the best bits…and here’s the result.  I hope you’ll enjoy listening in as much as we enjoyed spending those hours together getting acquainted, sharing ideas and digging into the issues surrounding depression, anxiety and the practice of law today.
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Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

 

 

And now there’s a new Sequel: Still Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: (The Sequel)

 

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy:Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

 

 

 

 

I’ve also written a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls

in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

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Our initial task as client and therapist – our work during the first few sessions – resembles cartography.  I begin, like a map-maker, drawing a square or a rectangle, then sketching the outlines of landmarks visible from afar – the mountains, the sea, the rivers.  In limning a life, the prominent features are obvious – where you were born, and when, where you grew up, what you do for a living, who your parents were and what they do, your siblings, if you have any, and your relationships with them, your partner, if you have one, and your relationship with him.  I get the big stuff down, then step back, and try to make sense of it all – take “the lay of the land.”  Later, I’ll add shading and nuance, and fill in the details – tiny inlets and hillocks, copses and rills.

I conjure a map from blank parchment.  It returns the favor – conjuring a New World from my collected observations, and serving as a trusty guide.  The expanse charted in shorthand on the map permits me to “rack focus” (as they say in film-making) – alter my gaze to take a fresh perspective, observe an unaccustomed vista. The map, as it develops, assumes a shape of its own.  Disparate regions are drawn together by common threads – the length of a river’s course, a shared coastline or mountain range.  My attention drifts to objects on the edges of boundaries, features I might have missed.  The elusive “big picture” – awareness, the ultimate goal in psychotherapy – begins to coalesce.

The first step in the process comes as a question from the therapist.  The phrasing of that “first question” gets debated when therapists gather.  I trained with a colleague who invariably asked the same thing at each first session:  “So what brings you here today?”  That feels twisty and indirect to me.  I usually start with “So how are you?” or, depending on my mood, or yours, “So how’s it going?”  Sometimes there’s serious upset taking place in the here and now, that needs attending to right away.  Before I sketch the background – the mountains and the sea and the rivers – I need to know if there’s a battle occurring on that stony plain, a castle under siege, a forest caught fire.

This is an historical map.  I am mapping a quest – an epic voyage.  You are the hero. Ours will be the sort of map with crossed swords to mark battlefields and mythic beasts to guard those unexplored zones at the edges of awareness.

The first question doesn’t matter much, because your unconscious feelings function like a compass.  Wherever you start, you’ll find yourself where you need to be.

I have a good sense of direction, too.  If I sense we’re drifting off-course, I’ll lean my elbow on the tiller.

Your compass is guided by emotion, drawn to it as to a magnetic pole.  If I detect an increase in feeling, I might grow cautious, slow our pace and sniff the breeze, comb the sky for a cynosure – fear, anger, sadness, hurt.  Emotions guide our way.

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I received the following letter regarding humankind’s on-going battle with its own impulses:

Hi Will,

I really enjoy reading your blog, you give great insight. I have often been told that I need to focus (I do not have ADHD or any other attention disorder).My problem or what others see as a problem is that I tend have a large array of interests and life goals that are not necessarily connected for which I have much passion. There so many things I want to do, but the older I get the more I feel like everyone is right. I need to pick an area or two at most on which to focus. I have heard the arguments for and against the jack of all trades approach to life, but I am still not sold. I don’t want to focus; I want to do it all. I am I being overly idealistic? Is it necessary for one to focus on their energy on one specific passion? If so, how does one decide how to go about focusing their energy on something specific?

-DH

And here’s my response:

To submit a question to Ask The People’s Therapist, please email it as text or a video to: wmeyerhofer@aquietroom.com

If I answer your question on the site, you’ll win a free session of psychotherapy with The People’s Therapist.
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If you’re interested in learning more about the scientific and philosophical underpinnings of psychotherapy, you might enjoy my first book, “Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy”

My second book takes a humorous look at the current state of the legal profession, “Way Worse Than Being A Dentist”

(Both books are also available on bn.com and the Apple iBookstore.) 

For information on my private practice, click here.

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This month’s question for The People’s Therapist gets to the heart of how psychotherapy – “talk therapy” – actually works:

Why is psychotherapy conducted exclusively face-to-face, rather than in writing?  I find that I express myself much more clearly and precisely in writing, after having had the chance to ruminate on my response — it’s one of the reasons I’m pursuing law as a career.  I’ll bet this is something I share with other lawyers and law students.  Having time to consider my response also reduces the risk that when I happen to have my precious hour in session, I’ll be guarded and not in a very sharing mood, and the hour will be unproductive for the both of us.  Having the written word as an intermediary allows me to present myself much more honestly.

Thanks,

M

And here’s my response:

To submit a question to Ask The People’s Therapist, please email it as text or a video to: wmeyerhofer@aquietroom.com

If I answer your question on the site, you’ll win a free session of psychotherapy with The People’s Therapist.
========

If you’re interested in learning more about the scientific and philosophical underpinnings of psychotherapy, you might enjoy my first book, “Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy”

My second book takes a humorous look at the current state of the legal profession, “Way Worse Than Being A Dentist”

(Both books are also available on bn.com and the Apple iBookstore.) 

For information on my private practice, click here.

Read Full Post »

I received the following letter concerning the tricky business of maintaining a relationship:

Dear Will,

I’m a recent law school graduate studying for the bar exam. I just got into another argument with my boyfriend of four years, and I’m feeling frustrated and upset.

Our relationship tends to break down when I’m going through a period of heightened stress — writing my law school admissions essays, studying for finals at the end of each semester, and now, studying for the bar. I know I can get moody and depressed during these times, but I’m up front with him about my state of mind, and I wish he could be more understanding.

The problem is that, on the one hand, I’m starting to feel like the girl who cried wolf, since these periods of stress have happened regularly throughout our relationship. On the other hand, I still feel hurt and upset when he loses patience with me, like I can’t rely on him during tough times.

Any thoughts or advice you can provide would be much appreciated.

Thank you,

L

And here’s my response:

To submit a question to Ask The People’s Therapist, please email it as text or a video to: wmeyerhofer@aquietroom.com

If I answer your question on the site, you’ll win a free session of psychotherapy with The People’s Therapist.
========

Please check out The People’s Therapist’s new book, “Way Worse Than Being A Dentist”

I also recommend my first book, “Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy”

(Both books are also available on bn.com and the Apple iBookstore.) 

Read Full Post »

There’s a terrific opening scene in Stephen King’s novel, “Pet Sematary.”

I don’t read a lot of Stephen King novels. That’s not because I dismiss his skill as a writer. It’s because they scare the hell out of me.

In this one, the main character is a young doctor. He’s on his first day at a hospital when a college kid is rushed into the ER. The kid was hit by a car, so he’s all smashed up, his neck broken, blood all over the place, one eyeball hanging out – whatever. Just as the doctor is concluding he’s dead, an arm shoots out, grabs the doctor by the collar and the dead kid stares at him (with his working eyeball.)

“Stay away from the Pet Cemetery!” he intones.

In a flash, it’s over. The kid is stone cold, and the doctor wonders if he was hallucinating.

The suggestion to stay away from the pet cemetery, however, is a sensible one. Like most sensible suggestions, it goes entirely unheeded.

I don’t want to give away the ending (and I only read the first 20 pages because I got scared) but I suspect, if he stays away from the pet cemetery, flesh-eating zombies won’t become an issue.

But he doesn’t listen!

Lawyers are the same way. They just don’t listen!

Here’s another scary story. My client was in law school. With a big smile, she announced to her journalist boyfriend she was accepting a job at the big, prestigious law firm where she’d summered the year before.

He grabbed her by the collar, his face etched with horror, and intoned: “But you hated that place. It totally weirded you out. You said you were pursuing public interest. Why would you go back there?”

She didn’t listen. Now their relationship is over, and she’s hating her job and her life and weeping in my office.

“Why didn’t I listen?”

But she’s not the only one. You had moments like that, too – didn’t you? When someone tried to warn you?

My Pet Sematary moment came the summer before I started law school.

I was visiting home, went to a party and ran into an old friend – a guy I’d known since I was about twelve years old. I casually related the big news – I was going to law school! I expected one of several possible reactions:

  • an expression, feigned or otherwise, of happiness that I was finding my way forward in the world;
  • a tinge of jealousy that he was still a burn-out art student while I was on my way to wielding staggering corporate power; or
  • curiosity about law school and how he might follow in my tracks.

I didn’t get any of those reactions. I got disappointment and concern.

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