A Unique & Essential Library of Clinical Interviews
Social Anxiety runs the spectrum from performance anxiety, public speaking anxiety, and toxic perfectionism to selective mutism and pervasive social avoidance. Many of the millions impacted fear being noticeably nervous, as in erythraphobia (fear of blushing), hyper-hidrosis (sweating), and voice shaking. Social anxiety remains a complex challenge for the mental health professions as most sufferers never seek help due to embarrassment driven detachment and avoidance.
The following clinical interviews may be the most documented clinical success with social anxiety. These interviews are with real patients who had the courage to tell their stories. Their stories represent the development and attainment of a “high performance mind”, which is the essence of The Berent Treatment Methodology. If you listen carefully you will gain insight into the healing process.
“Tom” a senior executive and former semi-pro football player and military swat team member describes how he changed his life by resolving his deep rooted public speaking anxiety. Hear how he embraced the adrenaline to facilitate his “passion”.
“Carol” an ovarian cancer survivor, and mother of two, describes the intensity of her anxiety. “Cancer shook me to my core. It was just me with the fight of my life vs. with blushing it’s people putting judgment and expectations on me. It’s my bright red burning face larger than life for everyone to see”. The social anxiety-driven blushing made her “a prisoner” as she avoided anything that would “put her in the spotlight”. The interpretation she put on the blushing was that “everyone could see that I was frightened and they would disregard everything I had to say”.
Learn from this technology executive of a 30 billion dollar company who suffered from intermittent, but long term social anxiety and public speaking anxiety. Hear how he integrated the adrenaline control technique to make adrenaline his “friend” and source of power! Gain insight into the ingrained nature of hyper-vigilance and detachment.
Robert described his anxiety upon initiating treatment with the following: “As I approached the boardroom I would experience a spiraling effect. I was having bad recurring experiences with anxiety which were getting worse with each challenge. It was horrible because when I was on a speaking cycle of every 2-3 months the anxiety was worse because of the build- up. I never ran from the challenge. I continued attacking but my mechanisms were not working”. Robert’s success in treatment was very much based on his core work revolving around his “walk of shame” concurrent with his implementation of the paradox-based adrenaline control methodology.
Hear “Kevin”, a successful lawyer describe insightfully how he learned to resolve his hyperhidrosis-driven public speaking anxiety and fear of being noticeably nervous. He describes how he controlled his “internal critical script”, which in turn stopped his sweating during a business meeting. While learning to control his “perfectionism” he states “I stopped trying to be perfect and focused on being the best I could be”!
Hear “Ray” describe his battle and success with performance anxiety and fear of public speaking in an ultra-competitive business. Core work included resolution of embarrassment, shame, and unresolved anger and rage at non-conscious levels. The client evolved from not getting out of bed in the morning due to anxiety and depression to major career advancement and harmony in his personal life.
“John” describes how he once had “joy” with public speaking but lost it due to his anxiety which drove his avoidance and performance phobia. He “tried everything” but realized all of his previous attempts at help were “band aids over a gaping wound”. Very close to “abusing medication” he rediscovered his “”joy” by doing core work, which helped him understand his deep rooted anger, which had been recycling and driving his obsessive worry. The Berent method helped him channel the anger into productive and proactive energy.
Even though “Rob”, was a highly successful salesman his anxiety was creating tremendous emotional pain. He describes how his anxiety “got to the point where he had difficulty talking to people”. It became a chore to the point where he “was not doing his job well”. In meetings where he received awards he was not able to share his success strategy to “people who were looking for direction”. He knew his anxiety “was out of control but didn’t know what to do about it”. His learning curve in treatment was exceptional.
“Bill” had achieved a relatively high level of success in sales relying on one to one scenarios and spontaneous interactions with physicians in hospitals. Career pressure and advancement required that he face the anxiety scenarios that he had been very adept at avoiding; group presentations and meetings. In fact he had been avoiding job opportunities due to his anxiety, which he described as “anelephant sitting on my chest when trying to talk”. He had gone to a psychiatrist for help, but did not like the medication route. In this interview he discusses his high performance learning curve which was characterized by confidence implementing the paradoxical technique required for psycho-physiological control and management of sweating and blushing.
In this candid discussion “Mike” describes the “grey cloud over his head” caused by his daily worry regarding public speaking. His primary fear was that his voice would “quiver or shake”. High on the food chain of a small company he had been in a position to become quite proficient at avoiding anxiety inducing situations. His career as a salesman was threatened the more he avoided “getting in front of potential customers”. With a substantial amount of “expendable income” fine restaurants and “partying” became a way of life. The insidious nature of his relationship with alcohol became a major factor for deteriorating performance at work and negative mental health. Understanding the “physiology of performance” concurrent to self-esteem work is what “Mike” credits for his success.
“Sam” remembered experiencing anxiety since he was 15 in high school when there was any situation where he was the focus of attention. His anxiety became especially debilitating in college where he would skip the first day of classes to avoid the panic that would occur during introductions in class. He realized that his use of Xanax and beta blockers was becoming a crutch as he always kept them at ready, in his pocket, when there would be any situation where he could be the focus of attention. He was desperate to “hide any possible symptom”. He became an expert at obsessively analyzing in advance possible performance scenarios, during meetings, so that he could take his medicine exactly at the right time. This became a compulsion and an ingrained way of life. “Power drinking” beer became an integral part of his social culture as a teen; especially during football days. Sam turned the tragedy of his DWI into an empowering treatment experience.
“Richard”, a successful businessman and dedicated family man describes his “core” work of self-acceptance that had been eluding him after experiencing “every type of motivational technique from positive thinking to programming your unconscious”. His long term struggle with social anxiety grew out of his “conflict with authority figures and his father”. He had lived with his “unauthentic self” stating that his many previous attempts at self-help and therapy dealt with this concept in a “cursory manner”.
For your education and entertainment, Jonathan discusses sports, public speaking and performance anxiety, angry loners, selective mutism, and more!
Jonathan Berent and a recovered patient discuss the methodology for healing. On the verge of a having a physician perform a sympathectomy, “Jim” gained control over his blushing, obsessive compulsive challenges, and performance anxiety.
The last thing 16 yr. old “Arthur” wanted was to go to therapy when he was in the midst of his school phobia. This social anxiety-driven problem had persisted since elementary school. He spent his days depressed; in his room playing computer baseball. His only friend was his cousin. His parents “didn’t know what to do”, but they learned how to enlist him in treatment. In this interview Arthur describes his metamorphosis into a “social butterfly”.
“Jack”, a standout golfer, discusses the process by which he resolved his conversation anxiety, social avoidance, and obsessive perfectionism. His healing journey started when his parents initiated treatment when he avoided going to a cocktail party during school vacation. He never would have initiated treatment on his own. His anxiety was driven by his fear of sweating and conversation challenges. With his anxiety under control he proactively advanced his career and social life.
Once having considered an operation to sever her nerves, “Diane”, in her 40’s, describes her resolution – through therapy via telephone – of erythrophobia. When Diane initiated treatment she was at a “low point”. Her fear of blushing prevented her from getting “in front” of the people necessary to advance her career. Her avoidance was causing depression. Her anxiety was based on her belief that when she blushed “people would think she was not smart enough”. She describes how she learned to be “very good at hiding things” . Her insight into the ingrained character of the problem, and the fact that its’ seeds were in grammar school, was crucial for her healing.
All too often I encounter patients who have become overly dependent on prescription medication for their social and performance anxiety. A common problem scenario is over-dependence on beta blockers. While this dependence is more psychological than physical, the results can be devastatingly negative. Frequently prescribed for stage fright and performance anxiety, they can be effective in blocking adrenaline surges. The philosophy in The Berent Treatment Method for performance anxiety is that when used occasionally in high risk situations this is productive for healing. But; when over-adapting via beta blocker dependence occurs there is minimal opportunity to learn and implement the adrenaline control technique. This is because the technique is based on adrenalin acceptance and you have to feel that which you want to control. This interview describes productive integration of beta blockers into the treatment process.
This interview highlights the need for the proactive thinking and behavior required for true resolution of social anxiety. There is absolutely no way that anxiety resolution can occur via passivity. Learning and skills acquisition, requires action. This action refers to a system of skills including mind-body self-regulation, emotional management, cognitive re-structuring, and behavioral immersion. In other words, the quarterback may drop the ball or throw an interception, but he creates motion. Facilitating the motion of learning is a crucial element for healing social anxiety and its’ insidious and complex layers of avoidance.This interview highlights the need for the proactive thinking and behavior required for true resolution of social anxiety. There is absolutely no way that anxiety resolution can occur via passivity. Learning and skills acquisition, requires action. This action refers to a system of skills including mind-body self-regulation, emotional management, cognitive re-structuring, and behavioral immersion. In other words, the quarterback may drop the ball or throw an interception, but he creates motion. Facilitating the motion of learning is a crucial element for healing social anxiety and its’ insidious and complex layers of avoidance.
“Mike”, a 26 yr. old ambitious entrepreneur describes his resolution of multiple psychological challenges. With dramatic insight he communicates the impact his special education experience had on his social anxiety and self- esteem. He originally “did not understand what was going on” regarding his panic and anxiety. Before treatment he believed “he was born this way” and there was nothing he could do about it!”
Numerous variables can enable primitive functioning, which is defined as “spending the minimal amount of energy required to sustain a baseline lifestyle”. “Baseline” refers to substantially substandard emotional growth and development. In this case the variables include learning challenges which drove performance anxiety, family distress and divorce, fragmented parenting, and an overall compulsion on the patient’s part to detach from expending brain energy while avoiding responsibilities, and social and career challenges. In addition, unresolved and recycling anger and regae was a toxic dynamic. The patient describes his evolution from the prison of detachment, avoidance, and depression to the point where he was developing motivation for healing.
“Jim” a 26 year old businessman describes with creativity, insight, and high energy how he resolved his debilitating fear of blushing (erythraphobia), fear of public speaking, and obsessive compulsive disorder. While “Jim” was very social, outgoing and charismatic, his social anxiety was driving an underlying depression which “he was unaware of”.
Perfectionism is a symptom of obsessive compulsive personality disorder. It is a characteristic of insecurity. The rigidity of perfectionism inhibits flexibility, performance and productivity. It causes “burnout”, which is mental exhaustion, and depression.. “Lauren”, a straight A student at an Ivy League College and high level businesswoman, describes her challenge and path to healing.
“Joe”, a banker, had originally not been aware of the term ”social anxiety”. He knew” something was wrong” as he was searching for help with his “depression. He describes his problem as being “a gradual thing during a few years”. He was “avoiding people, avoiding family, and lost touch with church”. He stopped “engaging in conversation where once people wanted to get to know me”. He” used to be at the forefront” but “stopped offering opinions”. Here he describes his descent into emotional turmoil and recovery.
With special insight into the avoidance-dependence dynamics of a close knit and loving family, “David” describes his struggle with learning disabilities, social anxiety, phobic avoidance, and eventual success. David’s healing journey evolved from hiding in his dorm room in college; not going to classes, alone and depressed, and avoiding all social interaction to obtaining an advanced degree, becoming an administrator in a mental health agency, and creating an active and rich social life.
“Karen”, a film editor, explains “I would try to escape in any way possible. The avoidance was affecting my social and work life!” Here she describes her emotional and physiological (psycho-physiological) challenges and success. At one point “she felt the blush working its’ way up (her body), accepted it and it never reached her face!”
“I avoided social situations; especially ones where I had to walk in by myself. More and more I made excuses to avoid. I had problems with my relationship. I was depressed””. “Vicki” discusses the process of healing.
“Steve” is a 37 yr. old businessman and part time stand- up comedian. He describes his long term struggle; “I didn’t like being touched. Holding hands would cause panic. I avoided dating. I was caught in an endless loop of obsessing about the next step. I wasn’t in the moment”.
“Mike” a corporate vice president describes his long term suffering; “I never had the possibility of finding a girlfriend. I was petrifies about finding a real relationship. Now I can let loose and socialize”. This interview includes dramatic insight into the cognitive distortions and self-esteem challenge that drive intimacy anxiety and phobia.
This unique discussion may be one of a kind! Four patients who suffered from Erythraphobia and social anxiety discuss their healing journey and treatment experience. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best measuring treatment progress) two of the participants self -evaluated as 9, one a 7, and the other was just beginning treatment; a 1. Listen carefully and you will gain insight into the methodology of recovery including the technique of adrenaline acceptance, “mind state” work, management of emotions and self-esteem.
Kirk Rueter was a pitcher in the major leagues for 13 years. He won the most games as a lefthander for the San Francisco Giants. He and his wife Karla had two wonderful children. One had selective mutism. In this stimulating, realistic, and frank interview, the Rueters describe, in detail, their treatment experience. After non-productive encounters with previous therapists, which is very common, therapy with Jonathan was initiated via telephone as the Rueters lived in the Midwest and Jonathan is on Long Island, New York. Their process included parenting team work, implementing non-enabling strategies, helping the child identify thoughts and feelings, and implementing the therapeutic strategy within the school setting. Especially important is the process of parents managing their own emotions and anxieties in order to facilitate healing.
“It was like a miracle.”
This interview highlights a comprehensive treatment process, which occurred via telephone and skype. The father describes the steps of The Berent Methodology including; productive diagnostics, empowering parenting, “processing”, which is the challenging, but profoundly important task of helping the child identify thoughts, feelings, and reasoning skills at age appropriate levels. This process empowered the social intelligence and social skills of child who was previously “imprisoned” by selective mutism. In addition, the cycle of pharmaceutical intervention is described.
Lynn was told that her clingy, selectively mute (for 3 years) six-year-old daughter, would “grow out of it” by the family pediatrician, teachers, and other well intentioned professionals. The problem continued to worsen with time. “Sidney” would only talk to her parents and brother and a couple of children in school. In every other possible verbal interaction she would “shut down”. While the parents were looking for guidance from the school; the teachers did not know what to do, and were frustrated as they were not able to assess the student’s academic functioning due to the void of verbal performance. This interview highlights the power of corrective parenting for the child with selective mutism.
Think of the last time someone tried to engage your child verbally and there was no response. As a loving parent you want to rescue your child from the stress of this kind of encounter. You probably experienced your own discomfort and anxiety, which typically results in the reflex of rescuing your child (and yourself) by talking or thinking for the child. The “freeze the moment” technique is employed to break the reflex of the child automatically thinking that rescuing will take place. With insight and courage, the mother of this 5 yr. old with selective mutism describes how she managed her own anxiety as a crucial component for non-enabling and healing.
The older the child, the more that selective mutism becomes ingrained into the personality and lifestyle. It can evolve into a developmental challenge as many aspects of maturation are impacted. In this case avoidant personality disorder was in full swing concurrent with an underlying depression. This was driven by social anxiety. In this case, the teenager was a B student who was on the high school golf team. He was an excellent golfer! He never talked in school until his sophomore year. The parents describe, in very productive and empowering detail, the intensity and complexity of a successful treatment experience.
This is the perfect interview for people who think and wish that the young child will simply outgrow selective mutism. “Mike”, a 35-year old with SM and social anxiety describes his “avoidance of talking” because he thought “he had nothing to say”. He eventually learned this was not true as his belief and behavior were manifestations of obsessive compulsive disorder . Mike describes how the insidious nature of selective mutsim became a long term addiction to the avoidance of talking. While he was a B + student in high school he did not go to college because of his mutism. His social life was basically non-existent. He was depressed due to overwhelming social anxiety. The story has a happy ending.
Anger and rage occur at different levels of consciousness. Anger is energy. Unresolved; it recycles and drives obsessive worry , anxiety, and a myriad of problems from substance dependence to pain. Internalized anger causes depression. While it may sound a bit weird, repressed anger is the core emotion which drives panic. “Eric” describes the “energy” of his anger as it relates to anxiety and depression with insight into the social “pecking order”.
Once having considered an operation to sever her nerves, Diane describes her resolution – through therapy via telephone – of this” medical” disorder.
Sarah did not speak in school, which was the primary parental concern. She also did not participate in group activities. A speech therapist provided an evaluation and diagnosed the selective mutism. Parents describe previous therapy with a social worker who did one to one counseling and play therapy; “we had no idea what the therapist was doing; she did not provide us with direction”.
This interview showcases the wonderful creativity of a mother. Teaching emotional vocabulary is an important component of treatment. All too often “anxiety” is a dirty word! Positioning the term functionally is crucial for facilitating healing and an age appropriate “high performance mind”. Teaching an emotional vocabulary enhances emotional intelligence. While many selectively mute children have high, and often gifted intellect, their emotional intelligence is at risk. An example of this is the possible learned delusion that the world will continue to over-adapt to their needs. The longer this belief is intact, the more there is potential for ongoing and toxic avoidance and over-dependence.
“Talking in 5 Sessions”
Zachary did not talk to his mother. He talked only to father and sister. No other person. He was totally shut down. Dad described his son as his “little butterfly”. Mom said her son “broke the glass door” that trapped her son verbally. Typically, effective treatment requires hard and sustained work. Each family has their individual learning curve. This case was exceptional.
“We feel we gave birth to a whole new person”
“Sophie” never talked in school until 4th grade. No one heard her voice besides parents, grand- parents, and sister. Mom said “we would do anything to set her free; nothing worked”. Now it’s “overwhelmingly positive”. This interview highlights the reality that in most cases one to one counseling with a young child with selective mutism is unproductive. Think about it. The child has no initiative (motivation) for healing, and the therapist most often goes into enabling mode when the child is mute in session. (Of course there’s an exception to every rule). The Berent Treatment Method utilizes the leverage of the parents to nurture the child through the complex, insidious, and ingrained avoidance-dependence dynamic.
The most difficult and the most productive component of The Berent Treatment Method for Selective Mutism is the process of nurturing the child into attachment and identification of thoughts and feelings concurrent with age appropriate reasoning skills. In this dramatic interview a father demonstrates his resolve and technique. It’s crucial to understand the obsessive compulsive dynamics at play. The mutism is a compulsive verbal shutdown. Obsessive refers to the thoughts and worries that the child has. The more these thoughts can be identified, the more potential for healing there is. Typically, another compulsion is present; the detach or disconnect from thoughts and feelings. Therefore; an aspect of nurturing is facilitating attachment or connecting to this content. It is very difficult. It is profoundly important! “Processing” enhances emotional intelligence. It helps the child access neural pathways which have been under developed due to anxiety.
Mom describes how “Jessica” age 12 struggled with selective mutism since age 8. In addition, profound developmental and social challenges were present. “Jessica” developed a system of body language to replace her own voice. Teachers were unable to test for IQ or reading level. She totally shut down with her speech therapist. She was bullied! She took her rage out on Mom who was her “entertainment center”.
The following is a processing session with Henry and his mother. This occurred at session #15 of treatment, which was in the final stage. Please keep in mind that each patient or family has their own learning curve which is dependent on a number of variables. Listen to the high performance and outstanding way this 8 yr old was able to discuss thoughts and feelings.