Grief

An American Marriage

By Elisabeth LaMotte / January 21, 2019

Therapists are always asking about the intricacies of marriage, and so we learn a lot about our clients’ personal lives. But what actually happens within the dome of an intimate married life is ultimately private. Tayari Jones’s beautiful novel, An American Marriage, offers a layered exploration of the inner emotional lives of a married couple,…

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Come From Away

By Elisabeth LaMotte / September 8, 2018

Each summer, as September approaches, I find myself remembering the morning of September 11, 2001. I was seeing a therapy client in my office on Washington Circle in Northwest DC. My office sat on one side of the circle, and GW Hospital sat directly across. I could easily see the hospital from my office window.…

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The Band’s Visit

By Elisabeth LaMotte / July 27, 2018

I find it helpful to ask clients in the early stage of therapy to pay attention to where they notice the experience of being in therapy coming up when they are not in my office. The most common response I hear sounds something like this: “It’s hard to describe a concrete difference, but in the…

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Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

By Elisabeth LaMotte / May 18, 2018

Emotional maturity is a critical concept that underpins all couples therapy. If there is one consistent goal I have for therapy clients seeking couples therapy, it is to develop greater emotional maturity through engaging in the therapy process. The psychological school of Systems Theory places emotional maturity at the centerpiece of its conceptual framework. This…

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Wind River

By Elisabeth LaMotte / February 19, 2018

If either of my teenage daughters suggest to watch a movie with me, I eagerly agree. (A bit too eagerly, they would say.) My sixteen year old and I missed Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River in theaters, and we both enjoy a good murder mystery, especially if a strong female detective is featured. As a therapist…

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Shadowlands

By Elisabeth LaMotte / December 3, 2017

Love and connection drive the human experience. But balancing separateness and togetherness can feel much more challenging than we are socialized to expect. This balancing act – threading the needle between existing as a separate self while developing intimacy with another — is a frequent conversation topic in therapy. When falling in love generates anxiety,…

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People, Places & Things

By Elisabeth LaMotte / November 8, 2017

The slippery criteria that define substance abuse are notoriously difficult to distinguish in a client’s behavior. Sometimes the signs are obvious. But often, therapy clients hesitate to report the full extent of their usage. Practicing therapists must ask the right questions, usually more than once. I was trained to begin therapy asking several background inquiries…

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The Visitor

By Elisabeth LaMotte / October 21, 2017

Grieving the loss of a spouse or immediate family member can involve an unpredictable journey. Researcher Elisabeth Kubler Ross categorized the expected stages of the grieving process — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance – but people move through these stages in their own way, and sometimes in an unexpected sequence. One of the most common…

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Anything Is Possible

By Elisabeth LaMotte / September 5, 2017

Elizabeth Stroud’s 2017 follow-up to “My Name is Lucy Barton” stands alone as an engaging, page-turning tale about how two people can have vastly different experiences of the same relationship. A group of character studies follows the same characters that played roles in “My Name is Lucy Barton”. This time around, their stories are excavated…

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Tender is the Night

By Elisabeth LaMotte / July 21, 2017

Deepak Chopra famously said: “When you blame and criticize others, you are avoiding some truth about yourself.” The tendency to focus on the flaws of others in order to deny scary or painful dimensions of the self comes up often in therapy. Sigmund Freud described this process as projective identification. Projective identification — often called…

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