James Tobin, Ph.D.             

Parent Guidance 
Buddhism and Mindfulness
Organizational Consulting

(I) Buddhism and Mindfulness: The Concept of "Anatta" 

My psychotherapy process has been significantly influenced by the Buddhist notion of "Anatta." Translated from the Pali as freedom from attachment to a construction of the self, or "no-self," Anatta is considered an antidote to most forms of human suffering.  In Western psychological theory, the achievement of an identity characterized by differentiation from the family of origin and from ego and superego components of the ideal is celebrated.  In contrast, the Buddhist conceptualization is that the organization of one's identity is largely constituted by conditioned attachments to inner reality and social experience.  The view is that "the self" is not a possession to be attained ("I am"), but instead is consistently deconstructed in order to promote the flexibility of one's experience and the diminishment of clinging.  Podcasts by Myoshin Kelley, Steve Armstrong, and Mark Coleman offer insightful commentary on Anatta and its role in psychological and physical ailments.     


(II) The Dating and Relationship Group:
John Gottman  

The work of the renowned researcher and clinician John Gottman of the University of Washington at Seattle has greatly influenced my approach to couple therapy.  His ability to predict years into the future which couples will stay together and which will break apart based on the content of brief communication samples between partners is truly compelling.  Once partners are educated about Gottman's research, including his notion of the "four horsemen of the apocalypse," the impact of harsh verbal and nonverbal messages, and the primary "risk" periods in the developmental life of the couple, most are able to advance the quality of their relationships.  I have found that many couples seeking treatment are quite receptive to Gottman's ideas.  In addition, mental health clinicians with varying levels of professional experience tend to easily incorporate Gottman's ideas into their clinical work.  An interview with Gottman and a conference presentation segment provide a good introduction to his research findings and clinical approach.  In the next meeting of the Dating and Relationship Group on Saturday, November 15, 2014 (12:00 to 1:15 PM), I will review Gottman's work and specify how persons can begin to apply his perspective to their romantic relationships.  To register to attend this group, please see the directions below. 


(III) Parenting: 
The Mindful Parenting Paradigm

Mindfulness has penetrated a wide range of spiritual perspectives and meditation approaches and, in recent years, has made its entry into the treatment of psychiatric and psychological conditions.  In their recent article, Flaxman and Flook provide a succinct summary of empirical research demonstrating the role of mindfulness in neurocognitive, mind/body, relational, and educational contexts.  I have become interested in the emerging application of mindfulness to parenting, especially when advising couples about children who pose notable parenting challenges.  The 2014 publication Mindful Parenting: A Guide for Mental Health Practitioners emphasizes how mindful awareness may promote self-regulation and free parents from responding to internal and external experiences with habitual ("automatic") cognitive and behavioral reactions.  The approach is designed to help parents shift their awareness to the present-moment parenting experience with an investment in promoting long-term healthy relatedness with their child, while also promoting the child's autonomous psychological development.  The five dimensions of mindful parenting include: (1) Listening with Full Attention; (2) Nonjudgmental Acceptance of Self and Child; (3) Emotional Awareness of Self and Child; (4) Self-Regulation in the Parenting Relationship; and (5) Compassion for Self and Child.  An insightful review of the book provides a good introduction to the mindful parenting paradigm. 


(IV) The Men's Group: 

In the next meeting of the Men's Group on Saturday, November 15, 2014 (10:45 AM to 12:00 PM noon), we will consider the experience of shame in the lives of men.  In my clinical experience, shame constitutes a significant role in the cause and maintenance of numerous psychological problems and relational difficulties in boyhood and across the lifespan. John Bradshaw's groundbreaking work (featured in video one and two) was perhaps the earliest and most influential depiction of the insidious effects of shame on the human condition, especially shame experienced in early development in the parent-child relationship.  Since that time, a large body of theoretical and clinical work has articulated the role of shame in personality functioning, intimacy, emotion regulation, and overall personal competency.  A psychoeducational blog has posted an intriguing article on the dynamics of shame-based relationships. A posting from Psychology Today summarizes the distinction between shame and guilt and depicts the many relational difficulties emanating from unresolved shame.  On Saturday, November 15, I will review these videos and readings and consider shame specifically in the context of male development. To register to attend this group, please see the directions below. 

(V) Psychotherapy: Jon Frederickson and Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy 
Jon Frederickson, a former clinical supervisor of mine based in Washington, D.C., has been instrumental in the formation and development of Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP).  The ISTDP Institute features useful writings, educational materials, and conference information, and there is an active California ISTDP chapter. The approach is directed toward problem definition, analysis of defense, and the exploration of affect.  Based upon my review of ISTDP and Frederickson's important book "Co-Creating Change: Effective Dynamic Therapy Techniques," I cannot be more emphatic about the utility of this approach for a wide range of patients. ISTDP provides a useful conceptualization of role definition within the therapeutic alliance and clinical technique applicable to many forms of inhibition, internal conflict, and self-destructive tendencies.  Important psychoanalytic constructs are refined into a pragmatic time-limited technical strategy designed to block the patient's defenses, increase the intensity of conflict, and avoid the pitfalls of ambiguous goal definition that derail the collaboration between patient and therapist.  Brief videos of Frederickson and his colleague will hopefully motivate clinicians to learn more about this approach.  

To register for the November 15th meetings of the Men's Group and the Dating and Relationship Group: If you would like to attend the Men's Group and/or the Dating and Relationship Group on Saturday, November 15, 2014, please RSVP ASAP to Dr. Tobin at 949-338-4388 or jt@jamestobinphd.com. There is a limit of 14 attendees for each group and registrants will be accommodated on a first-come/first-serve basis.  The fee is $25.00 and the location is The Water Garden Business Center, 23421 South Pointe Drive, Suite 130, Laguna Hills, CA, 92653.  
James Tobin, Ph.D., PSY 22074 | 949-338-4388 | jt@jamestobinphd.com 
Website: jamestobinphd.com
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