Psyching the Zietgeist:
Current Culture Through a Mental Health Lens


Interview with Dianne Grob, LMHC

Last month, I met with Dianne Grob, LMHC, to talk about a 12-month group she’s starting this year, “The Intimate Geography of Sexuality”. We discussed her background and how it led to her interest in human sexuality, and she shared with me the ways her mentors and teachers have inspired her.

Dianne has been interested in the topic of human sexuality since she was an undergraduate intern at the Human Sexuality Center in Boston. She belonged to a cohort of 15 students who worked under a sex educator to provide peer counseling to other students around sexual issues. Dianne’s experiences as an intern opened her eyes to a diversity of people: “It was great… the group of 15 of us was mixed racially, in gender, and in sexual orientation. It was a fantastic learning experience.” Dianne stayed with her internship for 3 years. The group became close, and Dianne is still friends with some of those people.

Toward an intimacy-based model

After getting her Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, Dianne began working as a couples therapist. She found a mentor, Michael Kelch, a psychotherapist and certified sex therapist, and from him she learned a intimacy-based developmental model for couples therapy. This model opened Dianne’s eyes to a new way of thinking about sexuality.

When Dianne was first learning about sexuality as an undergrad in the 70’s, “..everything was about orgasm. Everything: who could have the most, who could have the best.” In contrast,  in the intimacy-based model she was learning, “ … sex became about an energetic expression of loving between two people. This was the primary goal, and orgasm was the secondary goal.” 

This new paradigm dramatically changed the way Dianne worked with couples. She began to cover intimacy in all its realms: emotional, psychological, intellectual, physical, erotic, sexual, and spiritual. “Over and over, I began to hear from women, especially pre-menopausal and menopausal women and women who’d been in 20-year + relationships, that they felt ‘broken’, or that ‘something was wrong’ with them, or that they ‘didn’t like sex'”. After hearing these kinds of statements from women for several years, she came to see that “.. the whole paradigm around sexuality is trying to change… my mentor had taught me that there’s a collective shift that’s trying to happen, and it’s getting expressed through women first”.

Dianne began to tell her women clients that they weren’t alone, that many women report feeling broken, and they often responded with tears and a feeling of relief.

Spirituality

Four years ago, Dianne began to study with Thomas Hueblwhose teachings combine spiritual and psychological approaches. Dianne has witnessed him working one-on-one with people, and “…watching him work gave me a sense of how much more is possible in psychotherapy. His skill level, mastery, precision, and compassion are unmatched by anybody I’ve ever watched, and his influence sparked my inspiration to do this group.”

Structure and Intention for the group

Dianne feels that women need to be talking to each other about sex. “Most of the women I see in therapy with their partners aren’t talking to anybody because they have too much shame.”

Dianne’s group is for women who have done some work in therapy and who feel ready to talk about sexual issues. Group members will engage in a gradual process of getting in touch with their unique sexual identity and life energy, using movement, art, video presentations, and practices that will be taught in the group and then practiced at home. The group will meet once a month for a year, and through this process, group members will make conscious the nuanced aspects of sexuality that they may not even be aware of.

The arc of this year-long project will be from the suffering of feeling broken to a discovery of the longing that is hidden beneath it, with the understanding that each member’s suffering and longing will be unique.

Dianne is offering a one-day workshop on February 6 for women who may be interested in participating in this year-long group. For more information, click here.

by Anne Ihnen

Interview with Jan Bucy, MA LMHC

This morning, I sat down for a talk with Jan Bucy, MA LHMC, a Seattle psychotherapist who, for ten years, also worked as a professional organizer.

How she got started
Jan’s professional organizing business got started at a time when she had cut her practice back to half time, giving herself a semi-sabbatical. She heard about an elderly antique collector who needed help cleaning out a house that was filled with a combination of valuable antiques and things that just needed to be given away. Jan spent 6 months on this job, eventually hiring 20 people to help her. “It was really fun; I learned so much”, she told me, “and this is what started my business”.

Over the next 10 years, Jan worked with a variety of people, doing both big and small jobs. Many of her clients were people who had become overwhelmed for one reason or another and who could no longer tackle the daunting task of sorting through their belongings and getting their living spaces in order. Often, things got out of control due to a death or other major life transition. Jan enjoyed helping people untangle, and she “really liked the process of helping them find the meaning in their things”.

What she learned
Jan quickly learned that when she ran into resistance, i.e., when a client had difficulty making a decision about one of their belongings, if she could help her client discover what person or experience the object was attached to, it helped the client tell their story and grieve the loss inherent in letting go. One retired client who couldn’t bring herself to give away a closet full of business suits was able to give them away after Jan spent several hours with her, listening as she shared stories of her professional life. Having her stories heard helped this client find closure, relief, and peace.

Jan told me that this kind of work has to be done in stages, just like grief work. Most people could spend about 3 hours sorting and clearing, and Jan always started with the easiest things to give away. “You build up a tolerance, a muscle for getting into the deeper stuff that carries more attachment”.

I commented that Jan’s clearing and organizing sounds like a form of therapy, and she agreed, noting that doing this work helped her learn the importance of remembering that she can’t “fix” people. She saw that both her organizing work and her work as a therapist are about being with her clients where they are, helping them tell their stories, pointing out what the client can’t see or realize, and helping them heal.

After 10 years, Jan closed her business and went back to being a full-time therapist. The organizing work is physically demanding and not something she could keep doing.

Integrating lessons learned
Jan has taken the lessons she learned as a professional organizer into her private therapy practice, especially when she works with a person experiencing grief or a person who is living with someone who can’t let go of their things.

Jan highly recommends the book Organizing from the Inside Out, by Julie Morgernstern. This practical and useful book isn’t just about cleaning clutter, it also talks about life transitions, the speed at which we live our lives, and both the external and internal realities that contribute to a cluttered or disorganized space.

In a piece she wrote a few years ago, Jan makes the connection between an organized space and creativity:

Do you remember being young and painting in a room full of other children? If you had looked around you would have seen that every picture was different and an expression of the moment. It was not a comparison or a judgment. It was an expression from the inside out. That is what creative organizing is….allowing an image of what you want , how you want to live , to take shape. One step at a time, allowing a place of beauty and comfort to emerge. Persevering towards your greater good, one step at a time. Letting go and forgiving yourself for your missteps. Starting anew again and again.

 

by Anne Ihnen