The mechanism of emotional change is central to the field of mental health. Emotional change is necessary for healing the long-standing pain of character pathology, yet is the least studied and most misunderstood area in psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy. Changing Character at its heart is about emotion—how to draw it out, recognize it and make it conscious, follow its lead and, equally important, use cognition to guide, control, and direct our emotional lives. This treatment manual teaches therapists time-efficient techniques for changing character and helping their patients live mindfully with themselves and others through adaptive responses to conflictual experiences.
Leigh McCullough Vaillant, a nationally recognized expert on short-term dynamic psychotherapy, shows therapists how to identify and remove obstacles in one's character (ego defenses) that block emotional experience. She then illustrates how the therapist can delve into that experience and harness the tremendous adaptive power provided by emotions. The result? She shows us how to have emotions without emotions 'having' their way with us. Vaillant's integrative psychodynamic model holds that the source of psychopathology is the impairment of human emotional experience and expression, which includes impairment in drives and beliefs but is seen fundamentally as the impairment of affects.In this short-term approach, psychotherapists are shown how to combine behavioral, cognitive, and relational theories to make psychodynamic treatment briefer and more effective.
Vaillant illustrates how affect bridges the gap between intrapsychic and interpersonal approaches to psychotherapy. Affect, she argues, has the power to make or break relational bonds. Through the regulation of anxieties associated with affects in relation to self and others, therapists can help their patients undergo meaningful character change. A holistic focus on affects and attachment has not been adequately addressed in either traditional psychodynamic theory or cognitive theory. Clearly and masterfully, Vaillant shows therapists how to integrate the powers of cognition and emotion within a dynamic short-term therapy approach.
'In an era in which managed care has replaced clinical goals in psychotherapy with economic demands for 'quick fixes,' this superb new volume by Leigh McCullough Vaillant is most welcome. She persuasively makes the point that short-term dynamic therapy evolved outside the context of managed care and should not be appropriated and subverted by the needs of profit-oriented utilization review companies. Short-term dynamic therapy is rightfully defined by how much treatment the patient needs. The author is a master synthesizer who eschews a party line and integrates the most useful aspects of a number of diverse theories. With clear and detailed clinnical illustrations, she takes the reader by the hand and demonstrates a practical, systematic approach to addressing characterological issues in short-term therapy. The result is a significant contribution to the literature that will be of great value to both students and experienced therapists.'
Glen O. Gabbard, M.D.,The Menninger Clinic; author of Psychodynamic Psychiatry in Clinical Practice
'In this book Leigh McCullough Vaillant gives us a whole new way of thinking about short-term therapy. Rather than confrontation, she points to the centrality of connection. Rather than providing simplistic formulas, she offers us a complex but cogent path toward healing psychological suffering. Leigh is a brilliant, skillful teacher whose work is empathic, clear, moving, and effective. At a time when the pressure for brief interventions has led to underestimating the importance of the therapeutic relationship, Leigh brings the relational dimension back to the heart of psychotherapy. This book is essential reading for anyone practicing short-term therapy. But it is a gift to all psychotherapists.'
Judith V. Jordan, Ph.D.,author of Women's Growth in Connection
'In an era when patient welfare is increasingly being sacrificed to the bottom line of insurance companies, it is a pleasure to encounter an approach to brief therapy that is rooted in the patient's needs. Changing Character is an excellent and important book. Both beginners and experienced therapists will find much to learn in these pages.'
Paul L. Wachtel, Ph.D. Program in Clinical Psychology, City College; author of Therapeutic Communication
'With this impressive contribution by one of the most sensible observers of the psychotherapy process, the art of brief psychotherapy is vaulted forward significantly. Leigh McCullough Vaillant draws from every known system of therapy to offer methods and techniques that can be learned by clinicians at all levels of sophistication. Especially refreshing is her insistence that the therapist develop expertise at the identification and management of a core group of innate affects that are responsible for all motivation, provide the firepower for all conflict, and underlie all defenses. I suspect that Changing Character will become a basic text in our field.'