Mark Forman (Part 1) – Hot Button Issues in Mental Health & Psychotherapy: Trauma, Transgender, Psychedelics, SuperShrinks, Feminism’s Shadow & the Loneliness Epidemic

Mark Forman Integral Psychotherapy

Integral psychotherapist Mark Forman, author of the seminal work A Guide to Integral Psychotherapy, doesn’t mince words when it comes to the field he is passionate about: helping people out of their mental pain and dysphoria. Mark’s Integral perspective and longtime work in the trenches—with clients from all income levels, political persuasions, and levels of development—put him in a unique position to illuminate us as to the nuances of the hot button issues new to psychotherapy or ones that have suddenly exploded in numbers: misuse of the term trauma and its diagnostic creep, what the research says about the effectiveness of psychedelics to treat mental health disorders and what that portends for the future, the exponentially growing trend of teenage girls deciding they are transgender and the crying need for more data to help with counseling transgender and trans-curious youth, what is causing the loneliness epidemic, the pressing need to reimagine the male role to balance how feminism has changed the female role, and more. 

Mark describes the “therapeutic zone” that can happen in therapy when inspiration strikes, and shares the latest research on what makes therapists into “super-shrinks” who have client outcomes ten times better than average. He also relates how living in our psychologized culture affects therapy, and how it can get tricky when therapist and client are at different levels of development. Mark’s vast knowledge and big heart shine through the many topics he delves into and his tales of actual therapeutic encounters are eye opening and moving. This is an impassioned, courageous conversation on the front lines of mental health and psychotherapy. Recorded May 4, 2023.

“The therapist is the priest of our times…imbued with a certain amount of metaphysical responsibility. So when the therapeutic field gets out of balance, it makes a difference.”

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Topics & Time Stamps – Part 1

  • Introducing Integral psychotherapist Mark Forman, author of A Guide to Integral Psychotherapy and The Monster’s Journey: From Trauma to Connection (00:52)
  • How we have moved from the animistic to the religious to the scientific worldview, and now look at the world through a predominantly psychological perspective (02:25)
  • 42 million people in the U.S. interacted with therapy or counseling, which is up 20 million people from the year 2000 (03:41)
  • The therapist is the priest of our times…imbued with a certain amount of metaphysical responsibility. So when the therapeutic field gets out of balance, it makes a difference (06:41)
  • Has there been a shift in what clients are bringing up? It’s still often about love or work, as Freud said; diagnoses are depression, anxiety, panic disorder, bipolar, eating disorders, substance abuse (09:20)
  • What might be new is people venting their political worries, gender dynamics, and how informed people are about psychology, largely via the internet (10:45)
  • Positive effects of people being more informed about their own condition (13:35)
  • What are the negative effects of the psychologization of our culture? Falsely self-labeling disorders (15:25)
  • The paradoxical nature of labels and the skillful use of labels (20:15)
  • The phenomenon of diagnostic creep in recent decades, especially in regard to trauma (24:53)
  • Kaiser’s study of 17,000 members provided a watershed moment correlating cause and outcome: 65% of adults had a traumatic event in childhood (abandonment, abuse), and the more boxes people checked, the worse their mental & physical outcomes were (27:40)
  • Mark has found the hero’s journey motif doesn’t apply with people who suffered early childhood trauma (31:11)
  • The magic quality of resilience (33:23)
  • The widespread mistake of inflating upsets to trauma status and its effect of negating the research (33:54) 
  • The concept of “self as instrument” (40:48)
  • Differentiating between real trauma and upsetting events (43:10)
  • What are the forces making trauma labeling so popular: absolving ourselves of responsibility and playing the victim role (45:24)
  • The role of the therapist is validating people’s pain, while offering a more practical, moderated narrative that is not so fire & brimstone: trauma means there is a lasting imprint on brain, body, nervous system, psyche (49:16)
  • The supershrink literature: what constitutes the most effective therapist? (52:08)

Resources & References – Part 1

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Mark Forman Integral Psychotherapy

Mark Forman, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist with over twenty years experience working with individuals, couples, children, teens, and families. His text – A Guide to Integral Psychotherapy: Complexity, Integration, and Spirituality in Practice – is one of the seminal works in the field of Integral Psychotherapy. Dr. Forman is more recently the author of The Monster’s Journey: From Trauma to Connection, which is a reimagining of the The Hero’s Journey archetype for those who have suffered early childhood trauma. Dr. Forman has an academic background in philosophy and religion and is a long-term practitioner of yoga, reiki, martial arts, and meditation.

Podcast produced by Vanessa Santos and Show Notes by Heidi Mitchell

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