Michael Shaffran, LCSW

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Quick Facts

  • CARING, COMPASSIONATE AND CONCERNED COUNSELOR
  • 35 YEARS IN THE MENTAL HEALTH AND PSYCHIATRY PROFESSION
  • TRAINED IN MULTIPLE THERAPIES: GESTALT, EMDR, HYPNOSIS, SOLUTION FOCUSED,
    PSYCHODYNAMIC AND FAMILY THERAPY
  • PROVIDES THERAPY IN SPANISH AND UNDERSTANDS LATINO AND HISPANIC CULTURES
  • MULTICULTURAL BACKGROUND: TAUGHT ENGLISH IN KOREA; TRAVELLED THROUGH ASIA, RUSSIA, EUROPE AND THE CARIBBEAN

Unitiated Young, Angry, White Men and How To Help Them Them
Written by Mike Shaffran   
Sadly, young men--often, white and uneducated--are becoming more violent in our society. There is an occasional incident in other industrialized countries with European populations but largely, acts of violence by predominantly white men like James Holmes, Adam Lanza or Dylan Ruff occur in the USA.While an occasional African-American, Latino, Asian or Middle Eastern man commits a heinous crime of random violence, it appears that the vaste majority are committed by young white men from early 20's to late 40's. Something is going on here like never before and law enforcement, stricter gun laws and backgrounds checks are not simply the answer. Nor is the solution as simple are creating more jobs for working and middle class white men--but clearly,it can't hurt. The something deeper that is happening in our increasingly more fragmented and divided country is a lack of mentorship, role modeling and sense of belonging to community. An excellent book by Sebastian Junger looked at bonding in small military units and "platoons" on the battle field. Male soldiers (no studies of female soldiers yet) created what he calls a Tribe. He feels that throughout history all humans have bonded in their respective tribes. It seems to me, as a psychotherapist for over 30 years experience, that this is an important ingredient in our society that is missing today. It appears that there was much of this before families, institutions and the national economy unraveled. Even in African-American ghettos, you rarely see this random violence perpetrated on civilians like the movie massacre in Colorado or the slaughter of children in Connecticut at an elementary school or the mass murder of church goers in South Carolina or even the assassination attempt of a US Congresswoman in Arizona. While there is violence among gang members and drive by shootings that are horrific, there is still a code of conduct that precludes these random acts of violence in the "hood." Why is it then that white men in urban and rural areas are acting out their rage with deadly assault weapons? What has gone wrong in America and perhaps, the world at large, that warrants this behavior. Of course, the answer is quite complex but as a social worker and psychotherapist who has worked in prisons, mental hospitals, outpatient mental health clinics and private practice, the theme that comes up all the time is that there was no father or male mentor--or the father was emotionally or physically abusive (sometimes, even sexually) or completely absent due to working all the time or because parents were divorced. If there is any hope to change the way boys and men feel about themselves, we need strong and tender fathers or father figures to provide all American males with supporting, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting, respecting, and negotiating differences type of men ( this from Dr. William Glasser's, Choice Theory). This would be a very good start if male teachers, coaches, counselors, clergy, fathers, business leaders et al. could provide these positive attitudes and role modeling to all boys, adolescents and young men throughout our nation. Perhaps, we could see a precipitous drop in random violence among these alienated young men and maybe, even an elimination of this destructive behavior someday. I certainly hope so!
 
Men and Pornography Addiction
Written by Mike Shaffran   
There's an epidemic going on in men's lives and sadly, adolescent boys lives too. It's an addiction like no other. Patrick Carnes, Ph.D, a world expert on sex addiction, refers to pornography addiction as the “crack cocaine” of sex addiction. This is unfortunately a billion dollar industry and more than the Pentagon budget by all estimates. What can be done about it? Well , the good news is many things. Among these are the following: 1. 12 step groups like Sexaholics Anonymous (SA); Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) and Sexual Compulsives Anonymous (SCA) and even Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA); 2. One can find a Sponsor in any of these groups; 3. There are certified psychotherapists who specialize in helping sex addicts; 4. Inpatient treatment programs like The Meadows in Arizona might be necessary to break a serious pornography addiction; 5. Meditation groups and 6. Religious institutions with pastoral counselors to help men in their struggles with their addiction from a theological perspective. Any one of these approaches would be a very good start to help men break this growing world wide disease. The cure is never punishment and a moral approach is often not the most successful; can even backfire. Treating this addiction as one would treat alcoholism or gambling addiction or drug addiction is a better approach. Neuroscience tells us that the brain gets hijacked and neural pathways develop that cause the pornography user to keep upping his game, so to speak, in search of more graphic material which leads to greater use of the internet and feeling of “I can't stop myself.” He is hooked and this becomes like a dog chasing its tale. Of course, this is true of drug addicts and alcoholics as well. Really, all addictions have the same circuitry of the brain hijacked and need to break the cycle, or trance, to change thoughts, feelings and behavior. A rigorous adherence to a 12 step program or psychotherapy program or inpatient program can do the initial trick to break the cycle but the heavy lifting involves continuous commitment to sobriety and changing one's life style. Many men are “loners” and this sets them up for “free time” to cruise the net and find themselves on internet sites that only “fuel the fire.” So, groups and community and “wholesome” activities, ie, exercise, service organizations, religious or spiritual groups and work: paid or volunteer are essential to change thoughts and behavior and lead a man (or boy) back to a healthy sense of self and a life free of addictions.
 
After The Aftermath of Newtown, CT
Written by Mike Shaffran   

Now that it’s been over 6 weeks since the terrible shooting—really a massacre—in Newtown, CT, I feel it safe to speak out about the mental health issues that have been lightly touched upon.  What I mean by lightly is that several pundits have talked about the need for background checks on people who buy guns. There should be an FBI check on their mental health history and a determination on whether to allow a sale to them depending on a history of presumably psychosis versus neurosis. If someone has been depressed and taken, for example, Prozac, law enforcement might not allow an arms sale to them. What the public doesn’t know and many law enforcement agencies or gun sales people is that depression per se does not often, in and of itself, lead to homicide. Severe depression can lead to suicide. In the case of Mr. Lanza, the shooter at Sandy Hook, it led to homicide and suicide. I have not read all the psychoanalyses of his mental condition but it appears that he suffered from psychosis; perhaps, Paranoid Schizophrenia. This is a far more extreme case of mental illness than mild to moderate depression; anxiety; panic disorder etc. A thorough investigation of someone’s mental health history needs to be done with professionals (and perhaps, a panel of them) to determine the severity of the illness before a blanket decision is made that a gun sale should be prohibited to a gun purchaser. I am not an NRA member and have never owned any guns of any kind. Yet, I believe that citizens who support the Second Amendment should be given the benefit of doubt with respect to legal purchases of weapons for sports hunting or target shooting and the like.

My second point is that I absolutely agree with President Obama and Vice President, Joe Biden that we should put a ban on semi-automatic handguns and 57% of the US agrees. We should ban high capacity clips and 59% of the US public agrees. I agree with Senator Feinstein that we should outlaw assault style weapons—those used primarily in combat. By the way, the police and law enforcement are in agreement with this as well—no surprise, as many police departments are being outgunned by criminals and police officers are being maimed or killed in the line of duty. There is no reason to sell these type of weapons to mentally and emotionally unstable people like Mr. Lanza-CT; Mr. Holmes-CO; Mr. Loughner-AZ or Mr.Cho-VA to name a few murderers in recent years. Without a doubt, there needs to be legislation to put a stop to these horrific “weapons of mass destruction” but more needs to be done on a societal level to look at the messages we are giving boys and young men (primarily) about how to not deal with one’s anger and rage appropriately.

My third and final point is this: We as a society, nation and world need to figure out ways to educate and guide our boys into manhood in more appropriate ways. We need to find ways to help them feel included, not excluded from society if they are different and perhaps, do not fit the classic stereotypes of success in society: high academic achievement or athletic prowess. There are many ways we can acknowledge, honor and respect the differences in boys and young men who are not mainstream so that they do not feel alienated or like an outsider in society. We want our school counselors to do a better job in spotting those youth who do not fit in and seem lost or alienated to get one- on- one attention from teachers, counselors, administrators, and even fellow students. As an example, I saw in the interviews with a fellow student who graduated from Newtown High School that he noted that Adam Lanza was always alone and no one ever spoke to him. This student said, “had I known he was so lonely, I would have tried to develop a friendship with him.” How tragic that this human contact never took place. What keeps us as a society from reaching out and really trying to make emotional contact with our fellow students; neighbors; workers; and citizens? If we can address these more fundamental issues, I think that along with mental health background checks, bans on assault weapons and ammunition clips that we stand a good chance of not only slowing down mass violence—if not eliminating most of it—as well as creating a society that is more inclusive, supportive and life affirming!

 
Fathers' Day
Written by Michael Shaffran   

Father's Day is a day that is to represent the best that fathers like myself represent.  Since I have no biological children of my own or sons, I often feel left out.  However, my wonderful girlfriend/partner of 14 years always gives me a Father's Day card, as she acknowledges all the boys, adolescents and men that I've mentored over 25 years "doing men's work".  Providing individual, and group therapy for adolescent boys and men over all these years has been very healing for not only the boys and men but also for me as well.  This is why I started in this specific area of therapy i.e., to heal my childhood wounds from my father and family of origin, however, over the last several years, the focus has been exclusively for the men and boys who need this healing far more than I do.  It's a gift to be sufficiently well healed to devote my time and energy to them.

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Men and Job Loss
Written by Michael Shaffran   

Nothing can be more devastating than for a man to lose his job. This takes a toll in many ways; specifically, with regards to self-esteem as so many men define themselves by their jobs or profession. If a man loses his job and has no one to turn to: wife, girlfriend, partner, religious or spiritual group or family and friends, he can isolate and withdraw into himself.

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Men and Creativity
Written by Mike Shaffran   
In my psychotherapy with men of all ages, I noticed that many men have given up on their creative personalities. Many were coaxed or even forced into jobs or careers that they really disliked, if not despised. They were told:" You need to make a living so you can support your (future) wife and children or you can't be a struggling artist, this will be tough on you and your family." There were many variations on these type of admonitions but the common denominator is that one should play it safe and think financial security at all costs (pun not intended) or else there could be serious consequences, ie. divorce, separation from children, financial ruin, homelessness, poverty, shame etc. These societal and familial threats have kept men stuck, in many instances, and these passionless jobs or careers have added to men drinking, drugging, having affairs, pornography and gambling to name a few addictions and destructive behaviors. Ironically, what was predicted to happen if men didn't keep their lackluster jobs led to the very behaviors that were suppose to be avoided if they conformed to societal demands. I am not saying that every man everywhere needs to quit his job and start painting or sculpting but I am saying that without creative outlets--and possible job or career changes--many men will become bitter, disillusioned and even depressed and hopeless. Sadly, some will become suicidal or even succeed. So, in reading a book recently called Wired To Create by Kaufman, Ph.D and Gregoire, a journalist, they suggested that some men are geared to create. They say ways to access this creativity is through 10 steps: 1. Imaginative Play, 2. Passion, 3. Daydreaming, 4. Intuition, 5. Openeness to Experience, 6. Mindfulness, 7.Sensitivity, 8.Turning Adversity into Advantage, 9. Solitutude and 10. Thinking Differently. Wouldn't be a wonderful world if boys and adolescents were encouraged to access their creativity so that by the time they arrived at adulthood, they would have choices on the types of profession they might choose. Whether their creative outlets led to a career or simply an avocation would not be as important as supporting them in the pursuit of happiness. Happy boys and men will lead to a happier society, whether men marry or not. Happier men who marry will mean happier spouses and children. Final thought: as more girls and women choose to become lawyers, doctors, engineers or run for President of the United States, so too can men choose to be artists, writers, painters, designers and caregivers.
 
Men Healing Men
Written by Mike Shaffran   

The world is changing. There is a relatively new phenomenon in which men are healing other men; thereby, themselves. There are men’s groups sprouting up all over this country in rural, suburban and urban areas. Whether a faith based group like Promise Keepers or a non-denominational group like the Mankind Project (which is international—8 countries, including the US), men are coming together to co-facilitate groups that support and nurture one another. Some men’s groups have weekends that start the process of change through initiation rites, borrowing from Native American culture. There are groups that focus on healing men in prison. There are groups for older men that emphasize Elderhood and its importance for society. Ancient cultures had elders who mentored and modeled wisdom and compassion for its younger men and boys (women and girls as well).

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The Psychological Effects of Divorce on Children
Written by Michael Shaffran   

The psychological effects on children of divorce can be devastating and many divorcing couples are completely oblivious to how their private “War of the Roses” has lasting effects on their children. It is said: “Children are always the losers in divorce.” Unfortunately, parents do not think about the consequences of how they treat their soon to be ex-spouse and how they continue to malign them in front of their children who often feel loyalty to both parents. These children or adolescents are often manipulated by their parents for personal, social or financial reasons.

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