For most people, the Christmas and Hanukkah seasons are wonderful and magical times of the year filled with joyful celebration and happiness. The bright-colored lights and splendid decorations of the season remind many of us that the holidays are a time for holding on to fantasies, with the wish of having our every dream fulfilled. Despite this image, for some people the holidays often can be a time of increased stress and loneliness.
Experts have categorized holiday stress in three general areas.
Socioeconomic stress may result from the added financial burdens of gift-giving and of purchasing additional food and drink for special holiday entertaining. Being physically or emotionally separated from one’s family adds to holiday tension. In some cases, the increased proximity to family may likewise cause additional stress as a result for unresolved family conflicts or differences.
I was saddened to read a recent article in the New York Times featuring a psychiatrist who used to like doing psychotherapy. He now restricts his practice to writing prescriptions. He no longer talks to his patients about their emotional problems; he refers them to nonmedical therapists.
Many people are familiar with the dramatic developments in the field of psychopharmacology beginning in the 1950s. Less well known are the equally exciting developments in the field of psychotherapy during these years, particularly cognitive therapy and other cognitive-behavioral therapies.
Cognitive therapy and other cognitive-behavioral therapies are active and structured forms of psychotherapy based on the idea that the way an individual views the world has a major influence on emotions and behavior. A variety of cognitive and behavioral strategies are employed to reduce unpleasant feelings and change maladaptive behavior.
These treatments are more efficient and often more effective than traditional psychotherapy in the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders and other psychiatric illnesses. Cognitive therapy and other cognitive-behavioral therapies can be used alone or with medication, and treatment often takes months rather than years. These treatments are based on scientific research. Continue reading →