• Practicing Psychological Skills: What is Effective Practice?

    Posted on September 7, 2023
    By Tom Horvath, PhD This blog will focus less on physical skills (like playing the piano or hitting a baseball) and more on “psychological skills” like being assertive. Physical and psychological skills are not entirely distinct. Your body will need to play its part in a psychological skill. For instance, you would need to say “no thanks, I’m not interested in that” with your mouth. The physical skills needed to accomplish a psychological skill are typically already well known to you. You just need to use them! Without further ado, let's take a look at practicing psychological skills. Practicing Psychological Skills #1: Interpersonal Skills Nevertheless, the physical aspect of a psychological skill can be a good place to start. To stay with our example, you could practice sayin...
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  • A Closer Look at the Rat Park Experiment, Part 2

    Posted on July 27, 2023
    A Closer Look at the Rat Park Experiment, Part 2 By Kenneth Anderson, MA Part 1 reviewed some of the historical background which led up to the rat park studies. Part 2 reviews the rat park studies themselves. Part 3 will take a look at where we have gone since. Bruce K. Alexander's first rat park study was published in 1978. The subjects were 32 albino Wistar rats (18 males and 14 females). After weaning, 10 of the rats (six males and four females) were placed in solitary confinement in standard laboratory cages. Twenty-two of the rats (12 males and 10 females) were placed in rat park. Rat park was an open-topped plywood box with 95 square feet of floor space covered in sawdust where rats could play, fight, and have sex with each other just like they did in their natural enviro...
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  • Social Fitness

    Posted on April 21, 2023
    By Tom Horvath, PhD We regularly see criteria for evaluating our health, physical fitness, or financial well-being. If our relationships are the primary source of our emotional well-being (a statement apparently accurate for most people), then guidelines for evaluating our relationships would also be valuable. Having both one or a few intimates, and a wide range of other relationships, is conducive to well-being. We need to have one or a few people we know very well, and then many other relationships that could be meaningful in various ways. We can compare this situation to the specialist/generalist distinction. We need to be a specialist in one or a few areas (often to make a living), but we also need to have much general knowledge, to get along well in the world. The followin...
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  • Radical Acceptance

    Posted on June 4, 2021
    by Tom Horvath, PhD, ABPP Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) places a primary focus on improving distress tolerance. One of several tools DBT offers for tolerating distress is radical acceptance. The context of using any of the distress tolerance tools is the recognition that life will have distress, and that we need to learn how to bear up under it. Life is worth living even if it can be painful. DBT distress tolerance skills are designed to help us get through a crisis, but these tools benefit from practice in advance. These skills can help us accept the discomfort or pain that occur in a crisis, while preventing that discomfort or pain from rising to the level of suffering. Radical = “going to the root,” like a radish. Radical acceptance does not mean we approve of reality. ...
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  • Dialectical Dilemmas

    Posted on May 7, 2021
    by Tom Horvath, PhD, ABPP Dialectical is a word with a long history (back to the Greeks), but for now let’s define it as “focusing or acting on the interaction of opposing forces or ideas.” Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) identifies and addresses three common dialectical dilemmas, in order to improve emotional self-regulation, one of the primary goals of DBT. DBT can be helpful for individuals in whom large and rapid emotional swings (e.g., from love to hate) are common, painful, and harmful. The first of the dialectical dilemmas involves being emotionally vulnerable (either at present, or over a lifetime as a result of being emotionally more sensitive than average), but then downplaying the intensity of emotions. Typical self-statements are “this won’t be that hard” or “I shou...
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  • Managing Interpersonal Boundaries, pt. I

    Posted on April 9, 2021
    by Tom Horvath, PhD, ABPP Interpersonal boundaries are part of the rules we establish about how to interact with other people. We can compare interpersonal boundaries to being in a house. The house protects us from the outside, and on the inside we protect our warm or cool air, our possessions, and our privacy. Houses have walls, roofs, doors, windows, window coverings, pipes, wires, and vents, which allow us to be highly flexible about what comes in and what goes out. In this blog we focus on keeping inside what needs to stay in. In a parallel blog we focus on keeping outside what needs to stay out. In either case, I am the one ultimately responsible for managing the boundary. I need to be prepared for others who may not know or respect the boundary I have established. I need to kno...
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  • Alcohol and Sexual Performance: Too Much May Mean Not Enough

    Posted on October 16, 2020
    by Tom Horvath, PhD., ABPP Macbeth, Act II, Scene 3: [Alcohol] provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance It was not until 1976 that scientific evidence supporting this line from Shakespeare was published. In a study of 16 male volunteers, ages 18-24 (mean age 20), the diameter of erections was approximately 10% larger than normal after about 1 drink, about 5% smaller after 2-3 drinks, and about 20% smaller after 4 drinks. With even higher doses of alcohol we can only guess the impact, but clearly the trend is not in the desired direction. The phrase “whiskey dick” is less than Shakespearian but expresses a similar idea when it comes to alcohol and sexual performance. Search the web and you can find numerous articles about this term. A related finding is that lo...
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  • Staying Sober in a “Let’s Grab Drinks” Culture

    Posted on January 25, 2019
    By the team at Practical Recovery Separating libations from social situations in American culture is about as easy as separating hassle from air travel.  A 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that alcohol consumption is on the rise in the United States, especially among women, older adults, ethnic minorities, and the socioeconomically disadvantaged.  The phrase, "Let's grab drinks," is such a staple of US culture that establishing a natural, rich, and fulfilling social life is a legitimate challenge for those who pass on the party scene.  For those who resist liquid luncheons, thirsty Thursdays, not-so-happy hours, and whiskey sours, it is important to have some ways of staying sober in a “let’s grab drinks” culture. People don’t drink for...
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  • Preventing Relapse: The Role of Lifestyle Balance

    Posted on April 22, 2016
    In addiction recovery, if your life is filled with non-pleasurable activities, you are more likely to relapse. The relapse will provide an intense, but only temporary, satisfaction. Perhaps the greatest risk for imbalance comes when we are too focused on what we “should” do and not enough on what we want to do. Of course, we need to do what we should do, but with balance! Lifestyle balance can be considered from a number of perspectives. Below is a list (taken from Dr. Horvath's book, Sex, Drugs, Gambling & Chocolate, page 191) that you might use to consider how balanced you are: Work and relaxation Activity and contemplation (self-assessment) Duties and fun Long-term projects and momentary pleasure Alone time and social time Routine household chores and new proj...
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  • On being a SEN Master, Part 1

    Posted on January 22, 2016
    by Tom Horvath, Ph.D., ABPP What did the Zen Master say to the hot dog vendor?  “Make me one with everything.” This article is NOT about gaining enlightenment.  Rather, I focus on gaining greater lifestyle balance and greater overall physical and emotional health.  The term SEN Master, which I coined a few years ago, emphasizes the benefits of good Sleep, Exercise and Nutrition.  Of course, there are other valuable health habits (not abusing substances, washing your hands regularly–so as not to spread germs, taking care of your teeth, limiting sun exposure), and other habits that indirectly promote health (having a good social life, having meaningful activities).  The term SEN Master, however, suggests that good sleep, exercise and nutrition are the core health habits. Physicia...
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