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Elisabeth Joy LaMotte, LICSW
Elisabeth J. LaMotte LICSW is a psychotherapist in private practice and author of Overcoming Your Parents’ Divorce: 5 Steps to a Happy Relationship. She is the founder of the DC Counseling and Psychotherapy Center. She has been practicing therapy for over fifteen years, and her book was a finalist in the 2008 National Best Book Awards in the Relationship category. She was recently a third round finalist in Good Morning America’s Advice Guru search. Out of over 15,000 applications, she was among fewer than 50 third-round finalists. With extensive radio and media experience she is an expert in issues related to divorce, dating and relationships. Visit her website to learn more.

Entries by Elisabeth Joy LaMotte, LICSW

What Couples in Therapy Can Learn From Jennifer Lawrence

(2) Comments | Posted October 16, 2015 | 2:31 PM

There's a lot to like about Jennifer Lawrence. She disappears into each role: Ree in Winter's Bone, Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook, Rosalyn in American Hustle, and the beloved dystopian heroine Katniss Everdeen. She uses her range as an actress to create...

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This Summer, Amys Rule the Big Screen With Comedy and Tragedy

(0) Comments | Posted August 6, 2015 | 5:20 PM

This summer at the movies it's all about Amys. Brilliant, legendary Amys. And the startling similarities between two of the summer's most talked about films emphasize that comedy and tragedy can sometimes tell the same important story.

On their surface, the two Amys of this summer's cinema could not...

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The Psychology Behind Ghosting

(0) Comments | Posted June 30, 2015 | 6:28 PM

The mysterious disappearing act newly popularized as "ghosting" surfaces as a frequent topic in psychotherapy. Ghosted individuals wonder how and why someone would suddenly disappear following a series of great dates or months of a great relationship. Therapy sessions can begin with a client's longing to understand the...

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Review: Let's All Hold Hands and Drop Dead

(0) Comments | Posted May 11, 2015 | 3:49 PM

Group therapy is one of the most difficult forms of therapy, but it is also perhaps the most effective. World renowned group therapist Elaine J. Cooper's new book,Let's All Hold Hands and Drop Dead: Three Generations One Story, is part autobiography, part biography and part guide for clinicians in the...

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The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace

(0) Comments | Posted March 19, 2015 | 9:17 PM

College life is under a microscope of significant recent media attention. The massive promotion surrounding Frank Bruni's new book Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania makes a convincing case that an Ivy League education is not necessarily in the best interest...

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The Elephant Man; A Portrait of Dignity

(3) Comments | Posted January 30, 2015 | 2:03 PM

Bradley Cooper's stupendous rendering of Joseph Merrick in director Scott Ellis' Broadway production of The Elephant Man is painful to watch -- both literally and figuratively. Merrick suffered from either neurofibromatosis type 1 or Proteus syndrome, or some combination of the two, which caused dramatic skin, facial and...

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Family Visits: A Wealth of Dramatic Material

(0) Comments | Posted December 22, 2014 | 1:56 PM

Each holiday season, many therapy clients reflect and prepare emotionally in an effort to make the most of their upcoming visits with family. Family visits can be psychologically intense experiences that are especially meaningful for those who are in therapy and hoping to break out of long standing patterns and...

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Two Strikingly Similar Films Celebrate Professional Fulfillment

(0) Comments | Posted November 25, 2014 | 9:39 AM

Viewing the recent DVD releases Chef and Begin Again, some startling similarities challenge viewers to rethink what it means to cultivate professional satisfaction.

Both films feature a gifted male artist who seems past his prime and is struggling through a mid-life professional crisis.

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Can Every Lemon Make Lemonade?

(0) Comments | Posted November 17, 2014 | 9:58 AM

Like any therapist, I hear a lot about loss. I emphasize that loss can be a catalyst for growth and change. A photograph of a bowl of bright lemons hangs in my office, and I wrote a book about divorce with a chapter titled "Making Lemons Into Lemonade."


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Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage

(0) Comments | Posted October 2, 2014 | 5:34 PM

Molly Wizenberg's blog, Orangette, was named the world's best food blog by the London Times. Her lively 2014 memoir about her husband Brandon's dream of opening a pizza joint in Seattle and what happens along the way says as much about maintaining a healthy, happy albeit imperfect marriage as it...

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Frontera: A Conversation About Immigration and an Essay on Grief

(0) Comments | Posted August 21, 2014 | 7:10 PM

Michael Berry's timely new film, Frontera, is sure to stir controversy and conversation. Currently available on demand and through iTunes, Frontera opens in theaters on September 5th. The film's backdrop is the border between Mexico and Arizona where Ed Harris plays a retired Sheriff living on...

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Cinema Therapy and Robin Williams

(0) Comments | Posted August 18, 2014 | 10:57 AM

Cinema therapy is an aspect of psychotherapy that is gaining attention these days. This approach involves the therapist's suggestion of various films that relate to the issues the client wants to address. Film's power to help and to heal, and therefore complement that therapeutic process, may be one of the...

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A Case for Pre-Marital Counseling

(3) Comments | Posted April 22, 2014 | 5:52 PM

I recently had an interesting discussion with a panel of colleagues about the value of couples therapy. The question was this: "Can all couples, even those who are happily married, benefit from working with a skilled couples therapist?"

Some of my colleagues made interesting points about prevention and maintenance and how pre-emptive therapy may give happy couples a chance to make sure they are taking good care of their relationship. My colleague's angle is compelling. Why wait for the problem to arise? Why not nip it in the bud by working on the relationship before potential problems have a chance to surface? Clinician's often site John Gottman's research that most couples are unhappy for years before entering therapy. Gottman likens waiting too long to seek therapy to walking around on a broken leg for years and therefore inflicting permanent damage that could have been fixed much more effectively in the beginning.

I agree that if a problem arises in a marriage, it is optimal to seek help sooner rather than later. However, achieving a happy marriage is a tremendous feat. For those who get there organically, I believe they have created something precious and important. If there is no reported problem, such as infidelity, poor communication, or loss of sexual desire, I believe a happy marriage does not necessitate a therapist's intervention.

I grew up with a surgeon for a step-father and his motto was: "If it's not broke, don't fix it." This message informs my perspective. My observation is that if both halves of a couple report that they feel happy and satisfied with their marriage, they have built something substantial and the value in seeking to tweak or modify such a union seems limited.

Where I do view universal value in some form of pre-emptive relationship counseling is during a couples' engagement, as they prepare to marry. Marriage is perhaps the biggest single decision an individual will make, and it's ramifications are extraordinary and lasting. While statistics are limited on the benefits of pre-marital counseling, an interesting study recently reported in the New York Times described significant benefits of brief counseling before or early in marriage. The study compared the CARE and PREP methods of couples counseling as well as film viewing followed by guided discussions. The CARE approach emphasizes building empathy while the PREP approach emphasizes communication skills. The film approach was extremely hands-off with minimal clinical involvement. All three groups were half as likely to separate or divorce three years later when compared to the couples who did not engage in any pre-marital intervention.

It is useful to make a slight distinction between therapy and counseling. Therapy is defined as "treatment intended to heal or relieve a disorder." Counseling, is defined as "the provision of assistance and guidance in resolving personal, social, or psychological problems and difficulties." Counseling's definition does not assume that a "disorder" must be present. Hence we refer to "pre-marital counseling" not "pre-marital therapy".

Whether couples seek counseling through their place of worship or through a trained clinician, pre-marital counseling provides a valuable platform to ensure that each person knows as much as possible about the other before making what will hopefully be a life-long commitment. (The clinician should have either certification or a license specific to couples therapy.)

Pre-marital counseling should be a place where each person acknowledges what they anticipate will be their relationship's greatest strengths and greatest challenges. A common fantasy that engaged couples may have is that certain challenges will resolve or disappear simply through the act of marrying. This is rarely if ever the case. In fact, most couples struggle with the same challenges throughout their marriage. What distinguishes the healthy marriages is an ability to take these challenges to a different level so that, over time, they become less problematic. Pre-marital counseling can be a safe place to identify these assumptions if they exist and to explore such assumptions sooner, rather than later.

For many couples, pre-marital counseling is a positive, affirming and bonding experience that enhances their commitment to marry. It is so easy to get carried away with meaningless but pressing details such as which cake flavor to choose, what floral arrangement works best and whether to send out save-the-date notifications. Pre-Marital Counseling can help couples keep their priorities grounded and focused on what the wedding preparations represent -- the decision to build a life together.

If you are engaged or contemplating engagement and do not plan to pursue pre-marital counseling, be sure to read Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriageand Monica Mendez Leahy's 1001 Questions to Ask Before You Get Married. Many of my clients have found these resources incredibly helpful. If you are happily married but toying with the idea of couples therapy, be sure to read Elizabeth Weil's book No Cheating, No Dying: I Had a Good Marriage. Then I Tried To Make It Better.

Sometimes a good book can be a great friend and can save you time, money and emotional...

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Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone: Lessons from Downton Abbey

(0) Comments | Posted February 25, 2014 | 2:59 PM

Many people initiate therapy because they are aware that something needs to change. Unfortunately, change is not always easy or intuitive. Through years of work as a therapist, I have noticed that when someone is stuck, helping them to exit their comfort zone often serves as a catalyst for personal...

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Facing Rejection With Dignity: Lessons From Downton Abbey

(0) Comments | Posted February 18, 2014 | 11:16 AM

No relationship comes with a guarantee, and rejection is always a possibility. This week's episode of Downton Abbey highlights three painful rejection scenarios: Ivy rejects Alfred, Alfred rejects Daisy and Mary rejects Lord Gillingham (yet again). In all instances, these characters demonstrate grace, honesty and dignity.

Rejection is incredibly painful....

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Call in the Auntie Brigade! Lessons from Downton Abbey

(2) Comments | Posted February 11, 2014 | 11:48 AM

Crisis is in the air this week at Downton Abbey, and the decision about whom to turn to seems clear. Whether it is 1922 or 2014, there is no one like an aunt.

Lady Edith is pregnant, unwed, and the father (whom she adores) has disappeared without a word....

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Matters of the Heart: Lessons From Downton Abbey

(0) Comments | Posted February 4, 2014 | 8:05 AM

As Valentine's Day approaches, love is in the air in all shapes and forms at Downton Abbey. When it comes to matters of the heart, Sunday night's episode reminds us that whether it is 1922 or 2014, certain truths about love are timeless.

Never Know You...

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Developing Feelings for Someone New?

(1) Comments | Posted February 3, 2014 | 11:38 AM

When a marriage is going through challenging times, it is extremely common to become consumed with thoughts about how there must be something out there that is better. These ideas can feel especially powerful if there is someone else in the picture. As one of my therapy clients recently described:

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Respecting the Past and Embracing the Future: Lessons From Downton Abbey

(0) Comments | Posted January 31, 2014 | 9:08 PM

As a therapist in D.C., I have worked with many clients struggling to adapt to the Internet revolution and its transformation of the print industry. D.C. is obviously a career-driven town, with many journalists, writers and researchers who must figure out how to make their professional way in this almost...

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On Family Secrets: Lessons From Downton Abbey

(0) Comments | Posted January 23, 2014 | 4:38 PM

From a psychological perspective, Downton Abbey continues to demonstrate that while times may change, many aspects of the human experience remain the same. Family secrets, a standout theme from the most recent episode, were as complicated and problematic 1922 as they are today. Anna and Tom's concurrent secrets and their...

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