An Interview With Psychotherapist J. Edward Goldman

J. Edward Goldman is a licensed psychotherapist who owns Power Therapy LA. Here is a link to his website:

www.powertherapyla.com.

 

Q: What made you want to become a therapist?

A: I am often asked this question, as if being a psychotherapist requires more justification than your average profession. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been deeply   fascinated by human beings, the bigger questions in life, philosophy, psychology, philosophy of religion, spirituality, cultural anthropology, etc. I read Freud in my early teens and found that I absolutely loved his way of conceptualizing human beings and human nature, though I didn’t exactly agree with it. I particularly loved reading the case studies and stories of individuals. Though I have always been a creative, well-rounded person that’s into writing, music, film, art and so on, and I’ve dabbled in all of these things, psychology really drew me in more. It also seemed more practical and personally rewarding to me than philosophy, because there was the prospect of actually helping people improve their lives, in addition to naturally improving my own life and well-being in the process. In short, I am a psychotherapist not in the cliché sense that one often hears of wanting to help others while secretly harboring a desire to be above or superior to others while judging and ‘analyzing’ them through the guise of helping (and making a decent buck while one’s at it). I am a psychotherapist because I am deeply, inescapably drawn to understanding and coping with our human situation, discovering the commonalities and difference amongst people, and in using my knowledge and wisdom to assist and guide people to healthier and more satisfying existences. And truly helping others, as a byproduct of being a psychotherapist, just so happens to feel really great. It is a very rewarding job despite common misconceptions.

Q:  What is Power Therapy?

A: Power Therapy is, in a nutshell, my new integrative approach to psychotherapy and life change for the 21st Century, developed over the course of the past decade through my education, work experience, and personal life experiences. It is an integration of all the theories and approaches to psychotherapy that I have been trained in as an undergrad and grad student, including Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Multicultural Therapy, Narrative Therapy, Solution-Focused Therapy, Psychodynamic Therapy, and Existential Therapy. My belief is that there is not a current theory of psychotherapy that adequately addresses the unique problems of our time. Just as these previous theories of psychotherapy served their purpose during the particular eras in which they were developed, I am developing Power Therapy to meet our current needs as individuals struggling to find power, freedom, happiness, and effectiveness in a 21st Century plagued by powerlessness and all of the opposite of these things. I believe that we, as Americans, are extremely lost on the whole as individuals, as couples, and as families, and that nearly everyone could use some tools for their own personal empowerment. Power Therapy has a unique philosophical basis, a theory of the dynamics of human nature, an original view on love, and a five-step, integrative therapeutic process for achieving life and relationship change that only my approach incorporates–the ABCDE’s of Power Therapy. Each letter stands for a different step in the process of change, with the final step leading to Empowerment. Power Therapy works for both short-term (8-10 sessions or less) and long-term/ongoing therapy, for a variety of mental health issues and life problems, and with a diverse variety of individuals, couples, and families. As a psychotherapist, I always adapt my work to the particular needs and goals of clients and attempt to meet them exactly where they are at in their lives. Each and every person, couple, and family is different. But I am positive that Power Therapy can help the majority of clients due to its integrative and flexible nature. For more information on Power Therapy, you can check out my website at www.powertherapyla.com. I will be releasing a book in one form or another, most likely in the second half of 2013.

Q:  What kind of training have you had?

A: I have been on the path to becoming a Psychotherapist/Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) in California for over a decade. Originally from the Midwest, I  received a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology from the University of Iowa as well as a Minor in Philosophy. I later attended the University of San Francisco, where I received my Master’s in Psychology. As a grad student, I worked for about a year as a therapist intern at St. Anthony Foundation–the preeminent organization serving the poor and disadvantaged in the Tenderloin and other areas of San Francisco. Upon graduating in 2008, I began the 3-4 year process of gaining hours of experience as a therapist intern in order to take my licensure exams. I worked at Alta Mira–a luxury, holistic, dual-diagnosis rehabilitation in Sausalito, CA–for a year, where I served several high-profile clients including athletes, actors, lawyers, businessmen, musicians, and various other professional clients. I then relocated to Los Angeles, where I finished up my hours at Olive Vista in Pomona, CA, where I had the opportunity to work with some of the most interesting clients from all over LA County, some of whom were very poor and severely mentally ill, and others of whom were affluent, experiencing difficult life transitions, and in need to help to recover from their addictions and other mental health issues. After two years at Olive Vista, I passed my Licensure exams with very little studying (a rare feat for MFTs), and proceeded with my natural and seasoned psychotherapeutic abilities to embark upon private practice on the West Side of Los Angeles. I continue to serve the more poor, disadvantaged, and powerless segment of our LA population on the side while focusing my time and energies on serving more affluent and high-profile clients in my West Side private practice. It is my belief that both the rich and the poor can immensely benefit from an empowerment model of psychotherapy, though the upper middle-class has traditionally sought out services (and should continue to do so!). Regardless of your class, culture, gender, etc., we are all struggling with our own personal issues mediated by the relative balance of power and powerlessness in our lives. I passionately believe in helping everyone that either needs help, or whom could absolutely benefit from the type of psychotherapy that I provide. My training and specialties include drug addictions, alcoholism, eating disorders, sexual addiction, depression, anxiety, life transitions counseling, career counseling, loss/trauma/grief work, self-esteem work, celebrity identity and career issues, spirituality, and life coaching.

Q:  Why should a couple go to see a therapist rather than just working things out for themselves?

 A: It is not a question of ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ or ‘need’ or ‘must’ go to therapy in most cases. People in our lives often use these types of accusations to judge us regarding the way that we live our lives, or the relationships that we inhabit. That is not a healthy way or thinking or relating. Except for in certain extreme cases of domestic violence, child abuse, or elder abuse, no couple should go to a therapist unless they want to work out their problems and issues. Therapy generally only works and promotes life and relationship change if it is chosen freely and if the client(s) are motivated to be there. Many couples in Los Angeles probably work things out for themselves in the sense that they resolve their problems and differences and continue to maintain their relationships in some form. As for whether the majority of relationships in Los Angeles are healthy according to the volumes of research and wisdom as to what constitutes health, long-lasting relationships…that is another question. In my work and everyday life in LA I find countless dysfunctional relationships and am often very hard-pressed to find a good model or example of what I have been trained to recognize as a good relationship. Los Angeles is a massive beast of a city where everything is spread very far apart. People often seem to end up in relationships that relieve their sense of isolation and loneliness, promote their need for belonging, and protect them from the harsh realities and culture of narcissism/competition inherent to the city. I’ve noticed as a therapist that couples in LA often end up together for happenstance and/or surface-level reasons rather than deeply, slowly connecting and getting to know each other over time. Eventually, problems with communication, ineffective and unhealthy fighting, and feelings of imbalance, one person getting more out of the relationship than the other, and power struggles often seem to emerge. LA is an extremely diverse place and people come here from all over the world either to pursue one dream or another and/or to create a fulfilling life for themselves. Power Therapy for couples can address all these situations that couples encounter, and can assist couples with achieving their goals, whether that might be staying together by improving the various facets of a healthy relationship, or whether that might be slowly, eventually moving apart and working towards more satisfying relationships for each individual involved. I will assist couples in figuring out what they want, give them the tools to realize their relationship goals, and help them to leave therapy with a greater sense of balance and empowerment in their relationship. In short, come do couple therapy with me if whatever you and your partner are doing on your own just isn’t working, and you want help. Investing the time and money in the relationship might be one of the best things you’ve ever done for yourself, or for your partner. Occasionally, as well, the need for individual therapy may arise during couple therapy, if I determine as your therapist that there are individual psychological issues preventing the relationship from working, and that need to be independently resolved in order to preserve the relationship. Couple and Individual therapy work can occur simultaneously while discreetly maintaining the confidentiality of each individual. It is quite common, as many clients have deeper issues–for example, attachment issues from their families of origin, depression, anxiety, addiction, loss/trauma, etc.–that make it very difficult for these individuals to maintain healthy and satisfying relationships and marriages. This particularly seems to be the case in a place like Los Angeles, where it is quite common for people to leave dysfunctional families and homes from all around the country and world, seeking the good life out West in Southern California and sunny, beautiful LA. Alas, geographic moves do not take away our underlying problems, dynamics, and repeated relationship patterns…in some cases it even makes them worse! The good news is, therapy can help. And I, as a psychotherapist with a rich perspective from diverse areas and cities across America, as well as a decent amount of traveling, engaging with, and learning about other cultures, can most likely assist you very well with your particular issues and goals, whether individual or couple.

Q: Why do you think the institution of marriage has stood the test of time?

 A: Honestly, I’m not sure that the institution of marriage has stood the test of time, considering the fact that the divorce rate appears to be 50% and rising in our country, and probably even worse in the state of California. It is precisely for this reason, I believe, that the California government created the Licensure for Marriage and Family Therapists: to preserve the institution of marriage in California as much as possible, as well as to promote and to protect the mental health of Californian families. Potential clients of mine are often mislead by my title as an MFT and are confused as to whether I only conduct psychotherapy sessions with married couples and families. Of course this is not the case: MFTs serve individuals, couples, families, and groups. We exist primarily as Licensed Psychotherapists to educate, improve, and to promote healthy relationships in California, but this could involve helping clients that are already in relationships, married, or have families; clients that are single but who would like to have a relationship; and clients who are not particularly interested in having a relationship but who have mental health problems or issues that stem from their families of origin or ‘family system’–as we call it. I believe that all human beings have belonging needs that most often influence them towards romantic relationships and, in many cases, marriage. I do believe that people have a deep desire and longing to be close and intimate with one person over all others and that marriage can meet this need. However, there must be some reason, or reasons, why divorce is such a common reality in this day and age in California, and in Los Angeles. When we look around us, we see some happy married couples, or seemingly happy married couples, but we also see many single people and people who are in and out of relationships, on the dating scene, or those who have apparently given up on finding a mate. It is obvious that Los Angeles is not an easy place to find and maintain love/marriage. There are too many factors to name, but I believe that narcissism, lack of commitment, materialism/status/prestige, and an imbalance in power dynamics and in the ways in which men and women (or men and men, or women and women) relate to each other here in LA all figure prominently into the problem. I don’t think that we should give up hope though: this is what MFTs are for! And I am here as an MFT/Licensed Psychotherapist to offer my unique approach of Power Therapy to the Los Angeles community. I want to help save individuals, couples, and families from these disempowering forces that are both internally/mentally and externally/behaviorally perpetuated by ourselves and by the culture that we inhabit. We can all take control of our lives, to free ourselves, and to realize our personal potential, sense of power, and of control.

 

Q:  What was your most challenging case?

 A: I would say that my most challenging and rewarding case involved an actress with an addiction to multiple substances, an eating disorder, sex addiction, bipolar disorder, personality disorder, the recent loss of her prominent mother, and some serious life and career transition issues. She was a diverse client in her mid-thirties who had fallen out of success as an actress and entertainer and who could not seem to let go of the previous success she had had in her career. Her public image had been damaged for years due to stints with the law, rehab, and bad publicity. My client was suffering from prolonged grief and loss issues regarding the loss of her mother to cancer, a dysfunctional family situation including a daughter that she barely had contact with, and a severe case of bipolar disorder, which she would struggle in managing by oftentimes not complying with her medication regimen. She believed that she deserved the level of success that she had in the past and would vacillate between different extremes of mood and ideas for her career that were sometime so grandiose that they were borderline delusional, frantically attempting to contact people that she had known or worked with in the past, and attempting to rely on connections that her late prominent mother had during her career. Over the course of several months of therapy, and working in conjunction with my client’s psychiatrist and family, I was able to assist my client in confronting and accepting all the realities in her life over which she she really had no control (for example, the death of her mother, her increasing age and changing looks, her current public image, her bipolar disorder and addiction issues, her cultural background and basic identity, etc.). This actress/writer/model/musician was able to complete her rehab, learn to manage the symptoms of her mental illness and addiction, regain contact with her daughter, come to terms with the loss of her mother, improve her self-esteem and body image, and to slowly transition back into her career, with a newfound sense of herself and how to go about achieving a realistic form of success in the entertainment industry, including finishing and publishing her book, creating a film to accompany the book, and pursuing other acting roles and musical opportunities that would be more satisfying and fulfilling to her than the chaotic, disorganized, desperate, and powerless life that she was living before. This client of mine was incredibly challenging in terms of holding all of her layers of powerlessness and deep pain and loss in therapy, dealing with the recurring grandiose thought patterns and mood swings, and not losing hope on a client that would constantly attempt to control me, manipulate me, and distract me from herself and from her problems. I believe that she left therapy, six months later, with a renewed, realistic sense of power, direction, balance, and a clearer idea of where her priorities were in life, so that she could work towards them, step by step, rather than reeling from one thing to the next, fueled by any number of drugs, alcohol, sex, and the desperation that we so often recognize in Hollywood: that which has taken so many lives. I was very rewarded by my work with this client and continue to see her not only functioning more normally but increasingly flourishing in her life and in her relationships. I believe that there are many stories not so different than this in Hollywood and in Los Angeles, regardless of what type of industry one is in, or the work that one excels at (or once excelled at). This case drove home to me the profound truth about human nature that some of the most seemingly powerful individuals on the outside, on the surface, can feel and be some of the most powerless and lost individuals deep inside, and can act out that powerlessness in the most unhealthy of ways. LA is a difficult place to achieve success in because it rarely seems to last. All of the successful people of Los Angeles need help realizing that there is more to ‘success’ than meets the eye: that there is power, spiritual, and emotional success that lies within. And that Power Therapy can truly help them tap into this empowering, liberating force.

Q: What are the benefits of group therapy?

A: Group therapy is extremely beneficial for individuals who would like to improve the way in which they relate to others, or to improve themselves in the context of a supportive, safe, positive therapeutic environment. The group in Group Therapy is like a microcosm of the world as a whole, and the individual clients enacts his/her being-with-others and being-in-the-world in the course of the group. Groups may be beneficial whether they are very mixed and diverse or whether the population of the group is very specific and focused. Group therapy powerfully promotes life change for certain individuals who feel comfortable sharing and opening up within the group context. A sort of universality of common shared human experience tends to emerge from the group, as well as growth in terms of accepting the real differences between persons. Depending upon the particular problems, issues, or goals that an individual wishes to address in group therapy, the benefits may vary. For example, a person with an eating disorder and poor body image will be able to share their thoughts and feelings with the group, receive feedback from them, and to build trust in the group and in themselves over time. A depressed or anxious person, or a person with low self-esteem can test their inaccurate or distorted thought and perceptions about themselves out with other group members and the therapist, to see how people tolerate them and respond. Or a person having suffering major loss or trauma or in the midst of a grief process may share his/her pain in an empathic, positive, and authentic group environment, thereby allowing the client to feel less isolated, alone, and more able to cope. Group therapy is extremely beneficial for all the various types of addictions, for life and career transitions, and for building social skills in order to find healthy relationships or to improve existing relationships. Some clients will benefit more from group therapy than they ever would from individual therapy. On the other hand, occasionally group therapy is inappropriate for clients with certain types of mental disorders, especially severe ones, and these clients must be transitioned to individual sessions. A Licensed Psychotherapist like myself can determine if individual or group therapy is the best fit for you, and what type of therapy will benefit you the most. In terms of Power Therapy, I will be conducting empowerment groups utilizing concepts from my theory that are geared both towards assisting individuals as well as groups geared towards examining and improving the way in which men and women relate to each other and negotiate power within relationships and families. I believe that this is a fertile ground for improving relationships, marriages, and families in California and Los Angeles so that we someday reach a point where more of us are married than divorced, and that there are more healthy, intact families, than dysfunctional and crazy-making ones. We have got to change the culture of love and what it means to love in the 21st Century, little by little, person by person.

Q: What is the most common parenting mistake you have seen?

A: That’s easy: physically punishing your children in any manner, whether hitting, spanking, or whatever. All the research shows that physical forms of punishment are the least effective means of achieving long-lasting behavior change with children and that the costs of physical punishment to children are tremendous. Despite this fact, physical punishment persists as a very common parenting mistake. Children or teens may temporarily cease a problem behavior after being physically punished, but it is just a matter of time before the punishment leads to other problems, or detrimental issues. Physical punishment has been shown to be highly corrected with violent behavior, addiction, sexual promiscuity, low self-esteem, impulsivity, anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, lower academic performance, and career success. I also strongly believe that spanking, in particular, as the most common form of physical punishment, leads to serious sexual consequences in functioning that later negatively impact sexual and relationship satisfaction in adulthood. Nevertheless, parents keep making the same mistakes, because that’s what their parents did to them, or because they don’t have the right information, or because they feel powerless to cope with and to manage their emotions in those particular moments where their frustration with their children’s or teen’s misbehavior gets the best of them. I was trained as an MFT to view the entire family as a system and to never look at any behavior as isolated or accidental. The family is a meaningfully connected system of individuals that are struggling with issues of power and powerlessness as a system, and whom have inherited their values, attitudes, and behavior patterns from the generations that came before them. Power Therapy addresses family problems by understanding the family as a system of power and powerlessness that is situated in a particular community, in a particular city, in a particular culture, with a particular ethnic background and nationality, in a particular socio-economic and political structure over which they only have so much control. Power Therapy addresses the powerlessness that American and Californian families face, and empathically, sensitively, moves and guides each family member through the 5-step ABCDE process of Empowerment, so that families may learn how to regain, utilize, and fulfill their potential for power, happiness, and freedom as much as possible in these extremely difficult, trying times in which we live.

Q:  What are some of the things a couple should discuss before getting married?

A: Well, seeing as marriage is probably one of the biggest commitments a person will ever make in his/her life, I would hope that a couple would discuss everything imaginable before they tie the knot. I could list off any number of important things that should probably be mentioned in order to determine the couple’s compatibility, values, religion/spirituality, personality type, attachment style, relationship history and patterns, culture, ethnicity, class, sexual preferences and sexuality, communication and problem-solving style, etc. The list goes on and on. I honestly believe that every couple should deeply consider doing some pre-marital counseling with an Marriage and Family Therapist like myself before actually getting married. MFTs would like for people to be happily married rather than entering into marriages that aren’t likely to work and could end in divorce. There is certainly no harm in doing pre-marital counseling or pre-marriage therapy with an MFT because the MFT should meet the couple where they are at and help them to achieve their goals. At least I would, as a therapist. It is not the place of an MFT or any other helping professional (licensed or not–such as life coaches) to dictate who should and who should not be married. It is a personal decision and choice between two individuals. And, as with anything in life, before making big decisions–big life and big financial decisions–it is always wise to consult with experts, or professionals, or at least people with wisdom that have been in your position before, or who understand precisely what you are going through. My particular concern as a psychotherapist in the incredibly diverse city of Los Angeles is how married couples negotiate their differences in background and maintain healthy, satisfying relationships despite all the variables of difference that can move couples apart, or cause them to butt heads. There are many multicultural relationships in LA, as well as relationships between people of varying degrees of power, success, money, status, and so on. These relationships and marriages occur in the context of a city that is extremely narcissistic by its nature, driven by image and looks, fast-paced and full of supposedly quick-fixes, and where there are many options, possibilities, and potential mates. I believe that a couple should discuss as many of these issues as possible before getting married so that they can be relatively sure that they are on the same page and want similar things in life. It would be easier to work these things out with a psychotherapist, but not every couple needs one. I believe it is absolutely possible for marriages to work and to last in Los Angeles despite all the factors that have traditionally worked against its longevity. In short, the more you discuss with the potential love of your life, the better. And even better if you involve a therapist in the process! One caveat: be wary of potential marriage partners that prefer not to discuss the past, whether past relationships or family past, or who flat-out refuse to discuss these matters. The more open, honest, and self-aware a partner is, while also being respectful of your feelings and your boundaries/limits to tolerating certain disclosures, the more likely he or she will make a good partner in marriage. Good luck! I think we all need a little of it in matters of love. The key is to first love yourself, to have true self-esteem, and to be living as healthy an full of a life as you possibly can before you can expect true romantic love to work for you. Individual therapy can certainly help towards this end.

Q:  What would you say to someone who says romantic love is temporary and romantic relationships naturally have a beginning a middle and an end?

A: I am not exactly sure what I would say to this person who is telling me something that sounds rather pessimistic regarding love and the possibility of romantic love lasting. I  would be extremely empathic to this person and attempt to put myself in their shoes, inquiring about what they have been through in their life to make them feel this way about love. I believe that many people employ intellectualizing defenses in an ineffective attempt to cope with their true feelings, hurts, pains, and losses regarding love. The most important thing in life or in therapy is to get as in touch with your true feeling as humanly possible: to feel pain, rather than avoid it. Or to feel joy, rather than to avoid it. Life is both of those things, and everything in between. If we look at the facts, romantic love and marriage has actually been temporary for half or more of the American population, considering the high rate of divorce. This, however, does not mean that it is the nature of love itself to be temporary, except for in the sense that all things in life are temporary. Love and marriage simply cannot last forever in a material or psychological sense because we are all human beings and we all die: even the longest, healthiest, most satisfying and fulfilling of all loves and marriages must eventually end. That’s why they say, “Till death do us part…”. I do believe, however, that the potential for maintaining lasting, fulfilling relationships and marriages is nearly infinite, and that we have a lot of work to do as therapists and as individuals. The divorce rate can go down, and the success rate of marriage can go up. What I am noticing about the younger generations is that they are taking longer to get married, to find the right or best mate, and to ‘settle down’ in general. This could actually be very good in a way, because it gives younger folks time to ‘play the field’, to discover themselves and what they want out of their futures, and to commit to another person when it feels right. Because there might not be as much pressure for the younger generations to marry due to a number of factors, the marriages that do occur may end up being more successful. Lastly, I do have my own unique view of love within my theory of Power Therapy, and I believe that there is a sense in which love in general or romantic love can go on existing, and to not have an end, spiritually speaking. Love, for me, regardless of the type of love of which we speak, is the near-perfect balance between powerlessness and power, between life and death, and approaches a kind of symbolic immortality, in which love goes on affecting and influencing other human beings and the universe after the person who loved dies. Love, I believe, is neither powerful, nor does it seek after power. On the other hand, love is not powerless, nor does it succumb to that which is beyond its control. Love exists in the middle ground where it balances us between our own mortality and eventual death and our soul’s yearning for life and immortality. Love does not dwell in death and in things that are of this earth, nor does it preoccupy itself with things eternal, infinite, or beyond this earth. It exists in a near-perfect balance, sometimes falling on one side of the spectrum, other times falling on the opposite side of the spectrum. Whether we love a person, an activity, or a way of being, I believe there is something transcendent about love that continues on after we are someday gone. The power of love, or of a thing that was loved or made through love, seems to overcome the powerlessness of death that we must all face. Let me end with a hopefully illustrative example: In therapy, there is a concept of therapeutic Eros, which refers to the special feeling that therapist have for their clients in the helping relationship that is distinctive from romantic love, friendship, and from other types of love or ‘Eros’. If therapy works and the client is truly helped, that therapeutic Eros and the ripple-like effect that therapist has had on the client (and the client has had on the therapist as well) continues on indefinitely, like some sort of positive karmic energy or force in the universe. Therapists like myself have felt this before. It’s hard to describe, but it’s real. And so have clients like yourself felt this. I know in my heart and soul that Power Therapy can empower, liberate, and guide individuals, couples, families, and groups of human beings towards this type of love that I’m talking about. It’s the kind of love that has the power to last so very much, much longer than we’re used to.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

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