Therapy Student

Dating Coach for Men

“So how does it happen, great love? Nobody knows but what I can tell you is that it happens in the blink of an eye. One moment you are enjoying your life and the next you are wondering how you ever lived without them.”


Book Chapter

I caught the ending of Hitch (2005) today and it made me wonder about relationship coaching for men. Specifically, it made me wonder whether men are interested in relationship coaching and how far they would go to get the attention of a woman. A Google search reveled over two million results in under one second. The first website was from a self-proclaimed relationship expert. As far as I could tell, they did not have any professional training. This did not prevent them, however, from charging nearly $600 for one hour of coaching. To put this into perspective, highly trained therapists (i.e., those with a Ph.D.) do not charge that much. The second website was a list of mistakes that men make, which were actually not that bad. And the third website, along with the fourth and fifth, were from other self-proclaimed relationship experts. These experts also charged anywhere from $500 to $5,000 for coaching. There was no doubt in my mind that the prospect of love sells. Well, I would not necessarily call that love. It is more or less preying on vulnerable men who would do anything to find someone. If it was possible to change yourself that quickly I would not have spent nearly six years in graduate school.

As an adolescent, I read several of these books. They were not, however, about relationship coaching. They were about dating and hooking up. While there is nothing inherently wrong with casual relationships or hooking up, they are different parts to a satisfying and healthy relationship. The first book I read was The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists by Neil Strauss. It was written by a former journalist turned pick-up artist and chronicles his development from a self-described virgin to playboy. Again, interesting but not for men looking to have a satisfying and healthy relationship. I would even go as far as saying that going from a self-described virgin to playboy is not development let alone a change (i.e., they are essentially the same). The second book I read was Rules of the Game, also by Neil Strauss. While the apparent intention of this book is to improve yourself in thirty days, which is one of the building blocks to a satisfying and healthy relationship, its hidden intention was to sell (i.e., research has demonstrated that changing patterns and habits takes a lot longer than thirty days). The third book I read was The Mystery Method by Mystery. In addition to being Neil’s mentor, Mystery was the host of The Pickup Artist on VH1, a show that “transformed lovable losers into successful pick-up artists.” This book was drastically different than the first two. It was technical and to a certain extent obsessive. It tired to distill human interaction into functions. While it is possible to predict patterns in human behavior – which is the basis for change – it is impossible to distill human interaction to formulas. There were, unfortunately, several other books that I read.

This leads me back to the beginning and the purpose of this entry. Are men interested in relationship coaching? I am going to write another entry with more information – but in the meantime – I have a proposition. I am willing to offer five hours of relationship coaching, whether it is over the phone or e-mail, for free. There are no conditions or signing up. The only request I have is that you give me your honest feedback.

Please complete the form below to express your interest in relationship coaching.

Paralyzed by Words: Part I

Paralyzed by Words: Part I

Writing Books


I started this blog with two intentions. First, to share my knowledge as a marriage and family therapist/doctoral student with the world. In some ways, a means to take you along the ride of graduate school. And second, to encourage myself to write with the ultimate goal of becoming prolific. Needless to say that I have not been successful with either of these. I have been extremely busy with graduate school and the last thing I wanted to do was write more. However, I am going to make a conscious effort to blog at least every week. That being said, this is the first part of a two part piece on my experiences with writing anxiety.


I have been paralyzed by words for the past seven years. In college, I remember sitting at the now defunct Borders Books and staring at the computer screen. The cursor blinking steadily as my heartbeat increased rapidly. I began to panic. “How am I going to write this 2,000 word essay in one week?” I picked up Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan. I put it down after only a few minutes and continued to stare at the computer screen. I kept doing this for what must have been hours, “Great, the only thing I did was drink coffee.” I eventually finished the essay and received a decent grade. Needless to say I also graduated from college – with honors.

Master’s Program

We were assigned to read A Visit from the Good Squad by Jennifer Eagan and write a 2,000 word reflection. To be honest, I still have no idea why. I was studying marriage and family therapy. This book had nothing to do with marriages, families, or relationships. I was sitting by my small desk on a hard wooden chair. And the same pattern began. I picked up the book only to read a few sentences before putting it down. I then turned to the computer to stare at the cursor. “This cannot be happening. And in graduate school of all places.” During the second semester of graduate school we had to write a short paper about couples functioning. I do not remember the details of the assignment but I do remember that I struggled writing it. I did not expect a good grade but I also did not expect the instructor to ask me, “Do you struggle with writing because English is your second language?” This questions, whether genuine or not, was devastating. It was devastating because it implied that I could not change or improve my writing skills. It meant that I was forced to embrace mediocrity and the inability to share my thoughts, ideas, and feelings with the world.

Doctoral Program

It has always been my dream to pursue higher education and a doctorate symbolized the pinnacle. A doctorate also symbolized writing, a lot of writing. In my first semester we had to write a short paper on a social science theory we were interested in. “This should not be difficult.” Well, I was wrong. The place changed but the panic was too familiar.

“Again. It is happening again.” I was at the end of my ropes. And I knew that I would not be successful as an academic without strong writing skills. I began to read everything about writing. The first book I read was Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It may be considered a classic but I did not find it helpful. For that matter, I actually found it boring. The second book I read was The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear by Ralph Keys. Again, I did not find it helpful. I do not remember anything about it. The third book that I read was Unstuck: A Supportive and Practical Guide to Working Through Writer’s Block by Jane Staw. This book was fantastic. Unlike the others, it related to the reader and clearly addressed common problems experienced by writers or those attempting to write. I found out that the author, Jane Staw, made herself available to both successful and aspiring writers. I took a leap of faith and reached out to her in e-mail. I was surprised and happy that she responded. After several e-mail exchanges, I hired her as my writing coach. I needed guidance and encouragement in writing my primary written exam, a literature review, on how war impacts families and children. This was not only a daunting task but also the first major milestone of the program.

As is the pattern, I passed my preliminary written exam after being asked to make revisions. I then decided to apply for three fellowships. The first fellowship was for a writing workshop, of all topics, with one of the highest ranked academic journals in the field of marriage and family therapy. The second fellowship was human rights-based, which is my graduate minor, with a law school. And the third fellowship was research-based from the federal government. I was surprised, static, and a little shocked, that I was awarded all three fellowships.

United States as the Self-Appointed Global Judicial Body and Germany’s Role in Europe

I wrote this in response to an article by Robert Kagan entitled “Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire: What our tired country still owes the world” and an article entitled “What Is Wrong with German Foreign Policy” by Charles Grant.

Kagan’s sentiment that the current world order is showing signs of cracking is well founded. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, there are currently 31 active armed conflicts around the world that extend from the Americas, to the Middle East, and Asia. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 51.2 million people are annually displaced as a direct result of such persecution, war, violence, and human rights atrocities.

While the post-World War II United States became dedicated to maintaining world order through enforcing principles of international behavior and encouraging a minimum respect for human rights, this dedication has fallen short in recent history. The forward-leaning posture of the United States, as written by Kagan, is paradoxical in light of a war that ended nearly twenty years ago but continues to have repercussions. In the words of theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, “the world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”

The former Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia was an amalgam of ethnicities, religions, and diversity-inspired ideologies. The ruins of historic buildings, however, are not the only reminders of a war that led to an estimated 181,477 deaths and displaced 2.6 million. The lack of an immediate and forceful response from not only the United States, but also the global community, contributed to the deterioration of a social structure that ultimately left many families without a social support system.

It is important to note, however, that the United States should never have taken sole responsibility for maintaining world order. The presence of armed peacekeeping troops may provide short-term stability to a geopolitical region but such an effort is difficult, and if not impossible, to sustain in the long-term by a sole state. The self-imposed “rights and responsibilities…of a great power” may as a result become remnants of unfulfilled promises.

Instead of serving as the self-appointed international judicial body, the United States should focus on applying international human rights standards to domestic policies. Germany, on the other hand, should work towards embracing its geographic location and geopolitical advantages in maintaining regional stability. The intentional focus of its advantages may lead Germany to, as written by Grant, “take on greater responsibility for European security.”

While these endeavors are challenging, they embrace diversity and promote the complexity associated with continuously changing diplomatic dynamics. They also highlight the importance of directing resources to post-war mental health interventions for families, which have been largely neglected. This may ultimately be, as Kagan writes, a means to achieving “maximum ends at minimal cost.”

Children at the United States-Mexico Border

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR, 2014), the human cost of war displaces an average of 32,200 people per day. While research in the past has primarily focused on identifying and treating that post-war mental health implications of individuals, it has largely neglected the needs of families (Shick, Morina, Klaghoer, Schnyder, & Műller, 2013; Weine, 2011; Nickerson, Bryant, Brooks, Silove, & Chen, 2011).The immediate implications of exposure to war-related trauma manifests in PTSD symptoms such as intrusive and involuntary thoughts, avoidance of feelings or event-related reminders, negative alterations in cognition and mood, and alterations in arousal and reactivity (APA, 2013). The long-term implications, on the other hand, manifest in an inability to maintain steady employment, pursue an education, engage in health interpersonal relationships, and dependence on substances (Min, Farkas, Minnes, & Singer, 2007; Lo & Cheng, 2007). The loss and grief associated with war extends beyond the individual and influences the entire family (Nickerson, et al., 2011). While direct exposure to war has a harmful cumulative effect on the mental health of children (Catani, Jacob, Schauer, Kohila, & Neuner, 2008), parental response to war also contributes to the development of PTSD and anxiety in children (Thabet, Tawahina, El Sarraj, & Vostanis, 2008).

I Stand with Refugee Children

The recent crisis of children on the United States-Mexico border, for example, illustrates the deep-rooted consequences associated with a lack of universal definitions. The act of labeling these children as refugee or immigrant has individual, familial, national, and international repercussions.

According to the Refugee Convention (United Nations, 1951) a refugee is anyone “owning to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owning to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”

If these children were classified as refugees, they would be endowed with rights and privileges associated with seeking protection from harm. The United Nations (2002) definition of immigrant, on the other hand, is a “non-resident who enters a country with a view of establishing residence.” It is radically different and seemingly allows nations to independently define immigrant. If these children were classified as immigrants, they would not be endowed with the same rights and privileges granted to refugees.

The familial consequences have further repercussions that are associated with international policies. The definition of refugee falls within international humanitarian law, also known as the law of war, which is responsible for the protection of civilians exposed to conflict. If the children at the United States-Mexico border were classified as refugees, for example, they would be entitled to rights outlined by international humanitarian law. These liberties include an inherent right to life and identity, which includes family relations, without unlawful interference (UNHCR, 1990). The United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2013) defines family as a household consisting of either a married couple without children, a married couple with one or more unmarried children, a father with one or more unmarried children, or a mother with one or more unmarried children. While this definition seems comprehensive, it is not universal. In the social sciences, family is often synonymous with the parent-child relationship. The most comprehensive definition of the parent-child relationship, according to Anderson, Riesch, Pridham, Lutz, and Becker (2010), is the connection between parent and child that develops as a result of behaviors and emotions.

If the children are classified as immigrants, on the other hand, their liberties would fall under international human rights law. The most direct manner of implementing and enforcing human rights law is through national and local legislation (Weissbrodt, Ni Aolảin, Fitzpatrick, & Newman, 2009). In the United States, Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would be responsible for enforcement of human rights law.

Excerpt from “Through My Parents Eyes: The Refugee As a Therapist”

What happens to a family nearly twenty years after the guns fall silent? The immediate consequences of war are obvious. They manifest in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS). The long-term consequences are not obvious. They manifest in substance abuse and dependence, clinical depression, and perhaps most importantly, dysfunction in family relationship dynamics and the parent-child relationship. The lack of focus on the impact of war on family relationship dynamics is problematic.

According to family systems theory, family members influence each other’s behaviors and emotions. Regardless of whether the father or mother has been diagnosed with PTSD, the entire family will be experience the symptoms of withdrawal, depression, anger, and loss of identity. Children in particular are at risk for developing secondary traumatization as a result of being exposed to parents diagnosed with psychiatric problems as a result of war. The general long-term consequences of secondary traumatization in children has been described extensively in research literature. As adults, these children tend to have dysfunctional interpersonal relationships, are unable to cope with external stressors, and use substances to numb feelings of emptiness.

The symptoms of secondary traumatization are not out of the ordinary. They are similar to the primary symptoms of PTSD. The difference, however, is in that these children have often not been directly exposed to traumatic events. They were not exposed to shelling, did not witness murder, and were not tortured. They lost their homes and identities, which is different from typical experiences associated with war, but nonetheless cataclysmic.

We arrived in the United States on a hot and humid July afternoon. I was in awe of the yellow taxis at the airport. It was how they were portrayed on television. We were greeted by a man who feign smile, had tumbleweed hair, gold rings on his fingers, and made many promises. I did not like him.

I knew that what was portrayed on television was fiction and nothing would ever be the same once we arrived at the new apartment. I have described the apartment for numerous years and grown tired of trying to illicit vivid images. It was a run-down red-brick multi-family apartment building located a few blocks from a police station. There were constant disturbances and the police was called nearly every day. The neighbors were drug addicts, homeless men and women, and squatters. These were all images representative of the low and unfortunate that had given up on life. I had not given up on life. I was not used to failure and even as a child, I knew that I did not belong in this run-down red-brick multi-family prison. I wish that I could say that everything changed at that moment and that I committed to a better life through the pursuit of education. It did not. I was torn between being a child and parent.

I remember my first day of school in the United States. It was early in the morning and my father was walking me to the bus stop as I nervously held onto a small plastic bound German to English dictionary. I spoke a little English but not enough to effectively communicate with others. I was excited to see the yellow school bus, which I had previously only seen on the television. I nervously stepped into the bus when it arrived. I could see different faces of children walking down the narrow isle of the bus when one suddenly exclaimed, “You are gay!” I shyly smiled, and embarrassingly replied, “Thank you.” I sat down alone in the back of the bus on the pleather seats, opened the small plastic bound dictionary, and turned to “g.” A tear began streaming down my face as I read the definition. The thoughts inside my head began to culminate and fear surrounded the possibility that living in the United States would not be different from living in Germany.

I was afraid that the stigma of immigrants and refugees, which I had been exposed to on a daily basis, was not different. It was perhaps the first time when I began to question the ideal of the “American Dream” and recognize that hatred is an international language.

The Refugee as a Therapist

In an effort to improve my writing, which is one of many things I am looking to improve, I have begun drafting a paper entitled: The Refugee as a Therapist. There is an enormous amount of literature on the clinical implications on working with immigrants and refugees but none that I have been able to find on the refugee as a therapist. This is an excerpt from what I have written thus far that is especially meaningful, to me that is.

“Whether in a romantic or professional relationship, I consistently replay difficult moments not with the intention to resolve them but with almost the consequence of punishing myself. Being a therapist does not make the matter easier because I am aware of what is happening on a conscious level but unable to stop it on a subconscious level. In other words, as a therapist I should be more accountable for my actions and thoughts than the layperson. This cycle of punishment is never ending but infused with brief moments of compassion and caring that wash away the anxiety of having to maintain a façade of perfection and solitude. The days pass like grains of sand in an hourglass of time, and while each is precious, I fail to take advantage of each opportunity presented. These opportunities are not professional. They are personal. The destructive cycle of indifference rears its ugly head once again and it becomes a never ending battle to subdue my subconscious voices of imperfection, solitude, and perhaps more importantly, desire.” 

Cornell University Response to “Facebook Experiment”

After several hours of furiously writing an angry e-mail Cornell University, I received a reply.

I am not necessarily satisfied by the response but the institution, at this point, is doing damage control. They recognize that their involvement in this matter was detrimental to its long-held traditions and the utmost importance placed on human rights by various national and international organizations. In the end, I do not think that this conversation is over. It is just the beginning to a public relations nightmare.

Cornell University Logo


FOR RELEASE:  June 30, 2014

Media statement on Cornell University’s role in Facebook ‘emotional contagion’ research

ITHACA, N.Y. – Cornell University Professor of Communication and Information Science Jeffrey Hancock and Jamie Guillory, a Cornell doctoral student at the time (now at University of California San Francisco) analyzed results from previously conducted research by Facebook into emotional contagion among its users. Professor Hancock and Dr. Guillory did not participate in data collection and did not have access to user data. Their work was limited to initial discussions, analyzing the research results and working with colleagues from Facebook to prepare the peer-reviewed paper “Experimental Evidence of Massive-Scale Emotional Contagion through Social Networks,” published online June 2 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science-Social Science.

Because the research was conducted independently by Facebook and Professor Hancock had access only to results – and not to any data at any time – Cornell University’s Institutional Review Board concluded that he was not directly engaged in human research and that no review by the Cornell Human Research Protection Program was required.

Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews.


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