Not on Speaking Terms: Clinical Strategies to Resolve Family and Friendship Cutoffs

Overview

How significant relationship rifts affect people in therapy, and how therapists can help.
Scratch the surface of almost any family and you will undoubtedly find a significant cutoff. Nearly everyone has someone in their lives with whom they stopped speaking for one reason or another, or someone who abruptly cut them off. Often these severed ties are forever unresolved, and the emotional strain and upset they cause—even if seemingly in the ...
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Not on Speaking Terms: Clinical Strategies to Resolve Family and Friendship Cutoffs

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Overview

How significant relationship rifts affect people in therapy, and how therapists can help.
Scratch the surface of almost any family and you will undoubtedly find a significant cutoff. Nearly everyone has someone in their lives with whom they stopped speaking for one reason or another, or someone who abruptly cut them off. Often these severed ties are forever unresolved, and the emotional strain and upset they cause—even if seemingly in the background of one’s life—never go away.
Here, Elena Lesser Bruun and Suzanne Michael have gathered many stories about emotional cutoffs from psychotherapists, and personal stories from a host of laypeople they encountered in the course of writing this book. Based on their collective clinical experience spanning decades of work with clients, the authors identify basic themes, categories, and cutoff types. They then offer a set of guidelines to facilitate a deeper understanding of the dynamics of cutoffs, suggesting strategies for clinicians to use as they work with clients to overcome the emotional devastation that this sort of relationship breach can cause.
Given the magnitude of the problem, its ubiquity, and the psychological complexity associated with it, this book is sorely needed. Each chapter addresses a particular cause for cutoffs, such as abandonment, jealousy, betrayal, matters of principle, and mental illness or substance abuse. All types of relationships are considered: parent-child, other relatives, siblings, former spouses, colleagues, and friends. Close analysis of all these scenarios led the authors to reach many conclusions about cutoffs and how to address them in therapy, including:
• Cutoffs are common experiences—prevalent, sometimes embarrassing, and thus an elephant in the therapy room.
• Cutoffs are extremely damaging even though people often tell themselves the other person is expendable. They induce involuntary suppression of feelings.
• The aftermath of cutoffs can include depression, devastation, dismay, shock, isolation, as well as work problems and physical/psychosomatic issues.
• Cutoffs, even decades old, are not always clients’ presenting problem; however, they often surface in the course of therapy..
• Clinicians often fail to identify cutoffs in their clients’ lives, or encourage clients to explore what happened, and to consider taking steps towards reconciliation. The author’s hypothesize reasons for therapists’ hesitancy and suggest ways to overcome it.
Helping clients to successfully deal with emotional cutoffs will lead to reduction in self-blame for any lost relationships, less reactivity, and lower anxiety in general. No therapist dealing with this all-too-common, challenging issue should be without this book.
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Editorial Reviews

Ruth Sidel
“A powerful description and analysis of the all-too-common phenomenon of cut-offs. Particularly important and relevant to therapists but also to anyone concerned with the complexity of human interaction. Absorbing, thoughtful, and a compelling read.”
C. Christian Beels MD
“This is an amazing book. The stories alone are a rich and moving experience. The clinical challenge is: what is the part that ‘cut-offs’ of family and friends play in your therapy practice, and what can you imagine doing about it? The authors provide abundant material—cases, theory, and literature—to help you decide.”
Anita Bardin
“An intelligent, well-thought-out and researched book that is broad in scope and abundant in its strategies. The authors take an often-overlooked subject and place it front and center. With their rich professional experience, they offer thought-provoking ideas to experienced professionals, in addition to practical advice for the less experienced. I highly recommend this addition to today's professional literature.”
Lois Braverman
“Those who have a serious interest in family therapy should read this book. Through a thorough, historical, and practical analysis, the authors elevate the therapeutic dilemma of the ‘cut-off’ and provide a road map to working with clients that is both elegant and pragmatic. This book is an invaluable guide!”
Parenting Press Newsletter
“This book has value for someone struggling with a cut-off from a family member or close friend, in part because it points out how common such problems are and helps the reader identify possible causes. It is of greatest value, however, to such professionals as school social workers and counselors, grief counselors and mental health therapists.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393707045
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/6/2014
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 663,739
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Elena Lesser Bruun, EdD, LMFT, is Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. She is an American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) Clinical Member and Approved Supervisor, and a past president of the New York State division (NYAMFT). She practices in Manhattan, where she sees individuals, families, and couples, an ever-increasing number of them premarital. Her Web site is www.elbtherapy.com.

Suzanne Michael, LCSW, PhD, sociologist and LCSW, has been a family therapist, an assistant professor of social work; and the director of educational and health related programs. Currently, she is an evaluation consultant; and a senior research analyst at Rutgers University’s Education and Employment Research Center. Dr Michael has authored articles, research reports and book chapters, and has served on the editorial board of several peer review journals.

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