Therapists who can handle philosophical unrest?
December 22, 2012 7:12 AM   Subscribe

Recommendations for therapists who are comfortable with atheist and materialist world views in the DC area?

I've been feeling pretty depressed recently, and I think it's about time I seek help. I have a number of problems in my life that I could use help with. Among other issues, it's recently felt like a growing struggle to engage and enter a state of "flow" in my daily activities and hobbies, even though I've felt passionate about intellectual and artistic pursuits in the past; my mother is suffering from a degenerative neurological disease; and, while I have several wonderful friends who help keep me going, I've felt a lack of a strong community and a lack of direction in life since I graduated college and moved to DC a year and a half ago.

But what honestly been bothering me to the point of obsession over the past month or so is the cementing in my mind of the idea that life has no /inherent/ meaning and that human minds are ultimately governed by physical laws. (I don't know why it took me so long to come to this conclusion since I've never been religious; maybe it's just the first time in my life I've had enough time to stop and think about it.) This has led me to troubling thoughts about the lack of meaning and moral responsibility woven into the fabric of the universe, and has also made it feel harder to relate to people who don't share this basic worldview. Now, don't get me wrong, I realize the existential angst I'm experiencing is probably related to the many other more concrete issues in my life, but I would really like to find a therapist who can relate to my basic philosophical perspective since I think it will be important for me to feel open and honest about my views to be able to work through things with them. I tried therapy once before, about nine months ago, but came to a roadblock in my treatment when I discovered my therapist was Christian and she recommended that I try praying, even though she didn't suggest Jesus as the particular god I should address my prayers to.

So, if you know of any therapists who fit this description in or around DC, or have tips about finding such a therapist, I would really appreciate it. Bonus points if they take Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance.

Also, I hope this doesn't broaden the question too much, but if you have if you have ever experienced depression related to existential angst and have advice about how to deal, that would be wonderful too. Thanks so much.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You might look into the secular humanist movement, although for myself I find a non-deistic worldview including the ideals of Buddhism seems to work quite well as a way to live a loving and fulfilling life in the midst of an uncaring physical realm.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:02 AM on December 22, 2012

This answer speak more to your second question. I had this same issue once. I wanted to see a psychologist because I was upset by the inherent lack of meaning in a godless natural universe (I was reading a lot of evolution and a lot of philosophy at the same time. yikes). Never worked up the courage to actually go, and when other circumstances in my life changes (new social group, good times, etc.) most of the angst went away. I still find it utterly insane that we can function in this absurd universe. But on the other hand, cheese is yummy, wine is pleasant, and there's a lot of good movies and books.

My utterly non professional advice would be to get a nice secular therapist (I would have expected them all to be godless heathens!) to work on your real/solvable issues (lack of community, mother's illness) and the diffuse existential angst will likely recede. Since that time, I've become a psychologist myself (albeit an experimental one so I have little knowledge of clinical psychology and therapy, ergo take this with a grain of salt) but my read is, we don't have answers, just tricks to get you to stop ruminating. Which, for almost everyone, is enough to get them functioning again. Not cog in a wheel functioning, but more just enjoying life enough to meet new peeps, try new things and not go crazy and turn into a Dostoevskian underground man.
posted by Smegoid at 8:29 AM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am such a therapist, and I've worked with people in similar situations to you in the past. You can MeMail me, and I promise to keep your inquiry confidential even if we do not end up working together. You can read some of my thoughts about how therapy works best here, and at other places on Metafilter. I'm also happy to just help you find a therapist who will meet your needs. I am connected to many many therapists in the area.

The one name I can offer now, without reservation, it Danielle Goldberg, who you can read about and reach through this listing. I do not believe that phone number is accurate anymore, though.
posted by OmieWise at 4:13 PM on December 22, 2012

I take it back, the listed phone number will get to her.
posted by OmieWise at 6:28 PM on December 22, 2012

it sounds like what you want is existential therapy. existential therapy primarily deals with four main issues which are death, freedom & responsibility, isolation and meaninglessness. i believe many are atheists but there are also those coming from a faith perspective too. irvin yalom, at stanford, is one of the big names and an atheist. he has a great book love's executioner that is a collection of stories about his client case studies. he is a bit preoccupied with death but i guess that makes sense coming from his materialist perspective. you might try searching for an existential therapy association to see if there are any of these therapists in your area. good luck.
posted by wildflower at 5:31 PM on December 23, 2012

Michael Brenneis in Arlington would be a great choice. I am an atheist who has seen him and can say that as a super liberal ordained minister he might be perfect to discuss such things. I have know I have discussed them with him.
posted by callmejay at 6:31 PM on December 23, 2012

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