Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My Blog

Many of my friends, colleagues and readers have expressed an interest in my blogs: how and why I write them, where I get my ideas, how I maintain confidentiality, how I feel about having to turn out weekly material, and so on. So I decided that I would write a blog about my blogs and, hopefully, many of these questions will be answered. 

When I first started blogging I was tremendously intimidated, not by the writing itself, but by the idea of tackling social media. To say the least, this was not my area of expertise. My foray into this arena was due to the prodding of Alia, the public relations person I hired after the publication of my book, Love and Loss in Life and in Treatment. She thought it would get my name “out there” and, hopefully, help promote my book. Has it? I have no idea. My guess is, not much. But I’m still blogging. And I still hear Alia’s admonition to write shorter, clearer, simpler, in a way that will engage readers.  

I get mostly positive feedback on my blogs and, of course, that in itself is gratifying. But I suspect there’s another reason I keep blogging, a reason related to my need for someone to hear me, to listen to me now that my husband is no longer present in that role. He’s been deceased for over six years now. My ever constant supportive and appreciative audience is no more. So I blog instead, to a more anonymous audience who can’t of course replace all his love and warmth. Still, I’m drawn to my computer every Friday. 

Yes, I write on Fridays, every Friday. That’s when I wrote my book; that’s when I write my blogs. Friends know not to call me on Fridays. I don’t answer the phone. I don’t find that discipline difficult. I love to write and even if I’m having a not-so-productive day, I stay at my computer. Sometimes having to produce weekly blogs can feel burdensome and I do occasionally give myself a vacation break. Basically, however, as I said, I appreciate having an audience.

Sometimes I’m asked how I can reveal so much about my patients in such an open a forum. I want to again offer the reassurance that I never violate my patients’ confidentiality. Most of the patients presented in my blogs are composites of various patients I have seen over the years; sometimes they are entirely fictionalized, springing seemingly unbidden from somewhere in my unconscious; very occasionally they are patients - still disguised - who have given me permission to write about them. 

Some readers will then question how my blogs can have any clinical relevance if the patients presented are composites or fictional. My answer is that I always try to remain true to the patient or concept that I am attempting to portray. I also hope that my 40 plus years of clinical experience adds weight to my ability to paint an authentic clinical picture.

Others ask how I can be so self-revealing in my blogs, since present, past or future patients can potentially learn so much about me. I struggled with this question when I wrote Love and Loss which intertwines memoir with clinical material. I couldn’t write that book, the book that memorializes my husband and our relationship, without providing autobiographical material. It was a risk I chose to take and, as far as I can tell, it has had minimal consequences. Most patients seem not to know about my book – or my blog. Of those who do, some have chosen to read it, others have not. Those who read it have told me either that they felt enriched by getting to know me on another level or have seemed relatively unaffected by the content.

I have read and written about self-disclosure a good deal during the course of my career and have come to the conclusion that patients can fantasize as much about what they know about their therapist, as what they don’t know. For example, patients who know that I’m a widow have as much of a subjective spin on that fact, as those who don’t know. They can create whatever transference scenario that fits their own internal dynamics. I know I have colleagues who will disagree and say that I’m rationalizing my self-disclosure. Perhaps they are correct. I can only say that my experience has been that my self-disclosure has often deepened the treatment, as opposed to derailing it.

Please ask whatever further questions you might have about my blogs and I will attempt to answer them. Perhaps in another blog. 


Howard Covitz said...

My experiences in publishing in a first-person voice and blogging comport closely with yours. I would add that allowing my patients (those few who choose to read either papers, volume or blog) to see me as a person with his own vulnerabilities in getting on in years I sense has been helpful in resolving some of their own issues surrounding shame, secondary to their own vulnerabilities.

Howard Covitz

Linda Sherby PH.D., ABPP said...

I couldn't agree with you more.

I would add that there are many issues that can prove helpful to patients as they deal with knowing various of their therapist's struggles. My experience of dealing with my husband's illness and eventual death, helped some patients to appreciate the value of love and connection and to come to believe that it is indeed "better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."

Heather Pyle, PsyD said...

Bravo Linda! I applaud the way you have the courage to embrace your own vulnerability within your work and practice to allow it to deepen the process.

Linda Sherby PH.D., ABPP said...

Thank you so much, Heather. I appreciate your understanding and support of both my therapeutic work and my blog.

kitty literate said...

Linda, I don't think you're rationalizing your self-disclosure; on the contrary, I think you've hit on an essential truth: people see other people through their own series of filters, and if you worry about what they're going to think you'll be the one on the couch. Obviously in your role as a therapist this realization needs to be tempered with discretion, e.g., no selfies of you at the many wild parties you attend! Seriously, the point you make about needing to be heard and using your blog to that end resonated deeply in me, as I often feel that my own writing is not really meaningful until I know I've connected with an audience, even if it is just one person and even without the intimacy that comes with the love of a significant other.

Laura Favin, LCSW said...

Dear Linda,

Thank you so much for sharing your feelings about self disclosure. I have found that whenever I share something about myself, of course offered with consideration of who the patient is and at what point in their therapy, it has most often been a very important turning point for their treatment and our therapeutic relationship. I still have hesitation of how much to share in my blog. I will continue to read your writing and use it as inspiration for how to share my voice on the internet.
Thank you,
Laura Favin

Linda Sherby PH.D., ABPP said...

Thank you so much, Kitty. You've perfectly captured both of my ideas: people see others through their own lens and writers need and want to connect to an audience.

Happy writing!

Linda Sherby PH.D., ABPP said...

Thank you, Laura!

Self-disclosure on the part of the therapist remains a very personal choice. And sharing on the internet is obviously an even a more complicated question since we never know where the material will end up or who will read it.

I"m flattered that you take my blog as an inspiration.

Unknown said...

You have always been an inspiration. You have challenged me to grow into the woman I am today. I believe self disclosure on your behalf has enriched the relationship we continue to share. Through your Blog you allow others to see you as human...vulnerable in a way we all our. I enjoy reading your blog, and getting to know you in a whole new and genuine way. You inspire me to continue my journey as a writer. It helps to know and understand part of the reason I write is because I want to be heard. I am a valuable person with much to say. Thank you for openly sharing your journey through Loss And treatment and life...yours always, Alyce...

Linda Sherby PH.D., ABPP said...

Thanks so much "Alyce." As you know, you have a special place in my heart, so I'm delighted to know that I'm an inspiration to you as a writer and that you feel comfortable with what I choose to reveal in both my blogs and my book.

I wish you much success on your journey. You certainly deserve it!