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Transformations Issue 5 - January/February/March 2012



from the office of

Christopher Emerson, Ph.D.

Jan/Feb/Mar 2012 Issue No. 5


Welcome to the fifth issue of Transformations, the first of 2012. In this issue, Dr. Katie Barnes writes about the benefits of psychotherapy for creative artists, and I present a dialogue with Kirsten Rogoff, MFT on sexual addiction and compulsivity. Our regular feature TRANSFORMATIVE VOICES offers an inspiring quote from accomplished television producer Jack Kenny. And thanks as always to practice administrator Dylan Maddalena for his help in assembling and editing this issue of TRANSFORMATIONS. Dr. Katie Barnes is currently accepting new patients, and is often willing to work on a sliding fee scale. As always, we welcome your thoughts, inquiries, comments, and questions.


Dr. Chris Emerson

Psychotherapy for the Creative Artist, and Creative Blocks


by Dr. Katie Barnes

Dr. Katherine Barnes Headshot

I've treated many creative artists in my practice-thespians, screen actors, writers and behind-the-

sceners. Over the years of my own experience as a performing artist turned clinician, I have come to

understand the psychological uniqueness of this population. First, I will list some clinical issues specific

to the creative artist, and secondly I will address how psychotherapy can be helpful for the all-too-

familiar "creative block."


Psychological Issues relating to artists:


Low self-esteem due to continued rejection

Low motivation or hope for the future due to lack of work

Body image issues

Disordered eating

Creative blocks

Unresolved emotional issues hindering performance

Performance anxiety



Unresolved emotional issues being triggered by work and inability to appropriately work through them

Substance abuse for coping or performance enhancement


Negative self-criticism or self-doubt

Relationship problems

Lack of meaning or purpose in one's work

Shifts in identity

Loss of identity


The list could probably go on. Needless to say, it's tough out there for any artist. I have found that fortunately, the artistic mind does incredibly well in therapy as it is naturally intuitive and introspective, and it typically benefits greatly from therapy.


One common reason creative artists seek therapy is for "creative block," or feeling frozen in one's tracks-the inability to perform or to produce new material. Psychotherapy can help with creative blocks. Recent research has shown that active mood states, particularly the verbal exploration of them, increases creativity. Having a safe place in which one is motivated to explore aloud their most primitive emotions might be the perfect catalyst for sparking a creative process. Often, that emotional content is accessed in therapy and becomes expressed in the form of creativity. Research in drama therapy has shown techniques such as the empty chair, role play and various experiential exercises to be highly effective at increasing creativity in artists.


Generally, psychoanalytic therapy for creative blocks encourages unbridled unconscious "material" to enter the room through free association, where the person says whatever comes to mind no matter how trivial. Free association through drawing, writing, reporting of dreams or others mediums are used as well, and the key is for both the analyst and patient to analyze the content to discover where the blockage lies. I favor this approach, since I believe nothing leads to understanding, let alone new creative material, like free association does.


New York psychoanalyst Paul Cooper makes an important point, informed by his award-winning career as a writer, poet and musician. He states that creative blocks for the artist can be mistakenly viewed as a "blockage," or halt in functioning resulting from the individual's own inner conflict. This often leads to a "what's wrong with me?" focus for the artist, and the therapy can become about finding the cause of one's defectiveness. Cooper's observation is that the creative process naturally ebbs and flows, requiring times for pause-for "taking in, absorption, gestation and consolidation." Thus, therapy should work with the circular creative process, with an acceptance and curiosity about where the artist is currently in their process.


So, it is accurate to say the inherently creative process of therapy, despite the specifics of one's approach, is helpful in understanding where the artistic "blockage" comes from. As it typically stems from unconscious material, what better way to tackle it or to accept it than welcoming that precious material into the therapy room?




Paul Cooper, NCPsyA, LP. (Website). Psychoanalysis, Contemplative Psychotherapy and Creative

Rhythms. http://choshi.us/creativity.html


Leib, Jodi R. Benefits of Drama Therapy for Actors with Creative Blocks due to Fear, Anxiety, and Depression. http://www.jodileib.com/AntisexualPersonalityDisorder/





The Fantasy and the Facts Behind Sexual Compulsivity

A Dialogue with Kirsten Rogoff, MFT

Dr. christopher Emerson, Ph.D.By Dr. Chris Emerson



Dr. Chris Emerson recently interviewed Kirsten Rogoff, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with expertise in the treatment sexual compulsivity. Rogoff's ideas about the nature of sexual addiction are provocative, and challenge many commonly held notions of diagnosis, addiction, and treatment. In future editions of TRANSFORMATIONS, we will report in depth on treatment options for sexual compulsivity and achieving maximum

sexual health.



DR. CHRIS EMERSON: Kirsten, can you say a little bit about your training and background as a therapist?


KIRSTEN ROGOFF: I would say that 90% of my training and background as a therapist is from my own therapy, thirty years of it. My formal training was at Phillips Graduate Institute in Encino. I also have a two-year certificate at the New Center for Psychoanalysis where I'm currently in a Ph.D. program, and I worked at the Sexual Recovery Institute for two years.


CE: Do most of your patients come to you for treatment of sex addiction?


KR: When a person comes in and says, "I'm struggling with X, Y, and Z," or "I have sex addiction, or I think I do," that's rarely the thing that we talk about most in therapy sessions. It's a symptom, so we take the gift wrapping off the package and see what's inside the box.


CE: Are you saying that sex addiction as we think of it is a symptom of something else?


KR: I think so, yes. I don't think it's a problem in its own right. But I don't think it comes out of nowhere - behaviors that we call sex addiction operate on the basis of fantasy. You could say it's as much an addiction to fantasy as you could say it's sex addiction.


CE: This idea that's what's commonly known in the culture as sex addiction is really an addiction to fantasy - is that what you're saying?


KR: I think it sounds better, doesn't it? I mean, more people would be willing to say, "I'm a fantasy addict" than they would "I'm a sex addict." Because when it comes right down to it, when you're looking at pornography, you're looking at a computer screen with images on it; it's only sex because you're imagining it to be that. What your eyes are seeing is not a real human being, it's a bunch of pixels moving around on a screen. So it's really not sex you're responding to -- it's what it evokes.


CE: What about people who are compulsively engaged in the sexual act itself? Is that a different phenomenon?


KR: Well, in a way, it's actually one step above pornography in that they're actually making human contact - it's an attempt to make some kind of contact with human beings. But the phenomenon is essentially much the same, because on some level, these people are not comfortable being intimate with people that they're very close to - but they can intimate be with people that they don't know.


There are just so many levels to this. One client is able to be sexual with a partner only at the beginning of the relationship, when he's trying to impress them, or to win them over from somebody else -- then, they can be very physically active with their partner. Otherwise, they may have absolutely no physical interest in their partner, and they go back to sexual acting out again.


CE: I wonder if that behavior pattern might be observed in many human beings, particularly some men.


KR: Well, I think that for men and women in a relationship, the idealized state won't last forever, and at the end of the day, there are a lot of things that take the eroticism out of a

relationship - including too much closeness.


Esther Perel wrote a book entitled Mating in Captivity; She says that fire needs air to breathe, and that people expect from their partner what the whole community used to do for us before. I think that human beings have to work together to survive, and we're not that worried about survival in the way that less industrialized societies were.


There are more important things to worry about than our sex life when you're trying to survive - then we're all concerned about getting along together as a team, and people tend to get along pretty well. There have been studies about young couples doing best when they're not financially well off, when they're working towards a goal of getting those things.


CE: That struggle unites us . . .


KR: Trying to problem solve together essentially unites us, and also, the focus isn't on each other, to fulfill each other - there's less of an expectation that can be failed. I should add that everybody I've been seeing with a sexual addiction issue has not had a good childhood.


CE: What's happened to them?


KR: For the most part, there seems to be some sexual abuse of some kind, whether it's covert or overt, or they themselves were perpetrators as youngsters; one or both parents may have overlooked it or brushed it aside and didn't see it as a cry for help or attention or connection of some kind, and didn't want to deal with it.


I don't have a single client who hasn't had a lot of neglect or abuse, so there is a trauma component to the clients that I see. They never walk in the door with just sexual compulsivity; they're usually in debt of some kind, or have some other addiction that they're also battling. It never walks alone. Then there's sexual anorexia which comes along with this package, too . . .


CE: What do you mean by sexual anorexia? Do you think that such a thing really exists?


KR: I think there is lack of interest in work - an allergy to getting involved and doing the work it takes to be in a relationship. It takes work. And we live in a disposable, immediate gratification society - entertainment and porn show sex that requires no work, where you don't need to think about consequences, involvement, romance . . .


CE: You're saying that maintaining sexual interest takes work.


KR: Yes. It's not spontaneous. It never was. That's what everyone's belief is - that in the beginning stages of a relationship that everything feels so spontaneous - it's not. The only reason that it feels that way is because we've all set it up to be that way. There's a lot of planning at the beginning of a relationship, far more than at the middle of a relationship. We're planning the dates, we're planning to dress well, and we're fantasizing what it's going to be like. That's all self-generated fantasy that drives us from the beginning. There's a lot of planning and a lot of work involved, and no one wants to maintain that.


CE: We're back to the fantasy component again . . .


KR: The fantasy, the sex that a person has is always generated between the ears - it's not what you're doing or what's being done to you necessarily - it's how you see it. And there's the whole component of repetition compulsion where a lot of the sexual acting out is acting out some painful experience in a less painful manner.


CE: How do you treat this addiction to fantasy, and/or this repetition of trauma in your patients?


KR: It's different for each person - I generally let them take me where I need to go, and I find out every detail of how they operate. Then I can see the discrepancy between their real life and what happens behind closed doors . . . where they want to be Superman, or they want to be special, or they want to be treated like a king, or they want to be where they were when they were two years old.


CE: What would you like people to know about sex addiction or fantasy addiction or sexual compulsivity that they don't know?


KR: I think what a lot of people don't know is that they're not bad people, and that they can have their needs met if they know exactly what they are, instead of trying to run from them.


They have needs, but are afraid to ask for them to be met, or feel they can never be met, and therefore they resort to this form of expression - and the needs feel as though they get met for a short while, but not afterwards. Then, the inevitable self-loathing begins.


CE: I want to thank you for talking with me today.



In This Issue
-Psychotherapy for the Creative Artist
-Sexual Addiction: A Dialogue with Kirsten Rogoff
-Transformative Voices

Transformative Voices








"It only took me 54 years to realize that 'transformation' is just another name for LIFE. If you're lucky. And I've been very lucky. I remember when I was 12 and my father got transferred by IBM from Poughkeepsie to Raleigh - I thought the world had ended. I'd just won a certificate in front of the whole 7th grade for "Best Punster and Class Clown". I had ARRIVED. And now we were moving! To freakin' Mayberry!


But, as it turned out, my new high school had an amazing drama department, and I flourished a LOT more than I would have in Poughkeepsie with no drama department. I think that was the first lesson I got in the "Just Say Yes" approach to life.


Throughout high school, if anyone asked me to join anything or run anything or try anything (except seafood) I would just say yes. I kept very busy.


The next big event was when I was 18. I was all set to go to UNC-Chapel Hill - mostly cuz everybody else was going there! And my friend, Steve, said "Hey, you should check out UNC-Greensboro. Way better drama department." So I went with him to see it. I came back, totally bailed on UNC-CH, and ended up at UNC-G. That put me on a course to the Juilliard Theatre Center, The Acting Company, and meeting the LOVE OF MY LIFE in 1982. We're still together. And probably all because my father got transferred to Mayberry.


Without actually knowing I was doing it, I used the "Just Say Yes" approach for the next 30 years. It took me from acting to writing to producing and beyond.


BUT, what ultimately made me realize that I was even using this approach was my involvement in AA. Probably the most important lesson I've ever learned was in the program: The only thing I have any control over in any situation is my reaction.


So, as long as my reaction is one of looking forward and not backward, saying yes to opportunity, and being happy instead of being right, I seem to continue to enjoy this Transformation called LIFE."


-Jack Kenny
Executive Producer/Showrunner
"Warehouse 13"


Holiday Wrap up at 450 N. Robertson










Our building management did such a wonderful job decorating and creating an environment where we

could celebrate

the conclusion of one year and the hope a new year offers. 2012 brings with it an opportunity to embrace the spirit of transformation, as we mark the end of the old and look forward to what's in store.

Here's to all the GOOD things for each of us in 2012.


-Dylan Maddalena



This concludes the fifth issue of our quarterly newsletter, TRANSFORMATIONS. Heading into this New Year, we will continue to explore different aspects of treatment and bring new ideas and perspectives to our community.
Feel free to forward TRANSFORMATIONS to friends and colleagues, and be sure to take a look at our new Resource Center at www.drchrisemerson.com for updates on what we're doing to stay involved in the community and how we will look to continue our understanding of therapy and treatment. We wish you all the best in the New Year and will be back with a new issue of TRANSFORMATIONS in the Spring.


Chris, Katie, and Dylan


Contact Us...
for appointments and comments

Dr. Chris Emerson:
[email protected]
(310) 550-4560

Dr. Katie Barnes:
[email protected]
(310) 684-3605

Dylan Maddalena, Photographer, Editor:

[email protected]

(310) 550-4560



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West Hollywood, California 90048

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