‘Post-election stress disorder?’ You’re not alone

Psyched out: The Trump presidency is negatively affecting psychotherapy patients and therapists alike, according to Adelphi University researchers.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

If you’ve had trouble dealing with the Trump presidency on an emotional level, you have plenty of company.

And the Fall 2018 edition of Academic and Creative Research Magazine, Adelphi University’s faculty research publication, dives straight into this prevailing malaise, with a cover story titled “Trump in the Therapy Room.”

Instead of psychoanalyzing the president, the article essentially puts the nation on the therapist’s couch, with professor and Dean Jacques Barber of Adelphi’s Gordon F. Derner School of Psychology and Nili Solomonov, a postdoctoral associate of psychology in psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine, exploring the ways therapy sessions have changed since the 2016 elections.

Barber and Solomonov first began discussing the Trump presidency’s negative effects on the national psyche – and in some cases, the practice of psychotherapy itself – shortly after the real estate tycoon and reality TV star defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

That was when a multitude of patients Solomonov – then a PhD candidate at Adelphi – was seeing in her clinical practice began fixating on the president-elect, and not in any positive way.

“There was a lot of talk about it in clinical circles, too,” the psychologist says in the article. “My colleagues were observing the same thing.”

Among the trappings of “post-election stress disorder,” as termed by the duo: therapists who are more likely than ever to reveal personal information about themselves, including their political beliefs.

Solomonov and Barber eventually wrote a paper – “Patients’ Perspectives on Political Self-Disclosure, the Therapeutic Alliance and the Infiltration of Politics Into the Therapy Room in the Trump Era” which was published in May by the Journal of Clinical Psychology and serves as the backbone of the Academic and Creative Research Magazine article.

Billed as the “first quantitative psychotherapy research study that investigates the effects of the 2016 presidential election, Trump administration actions and the current political events on patients’ experiences in therapy,” the research paper explores issues that are rarely encountered in the therapeutic process.

And the Adelphi faculty magazine neatly summarizes them, revealing that “in the face of an unstable and disruptive political climate, therapists are highly likely to disclose their political orientation, explicitly or implicitly,” among other findings.

In addition to the Trump article, the Fall 2018 edition of the faculty research publication serves up discourses on a wide range of other interesting touchstone topics, from sexual abuse to fighting cancer through mathematics.

Among the articles in this quarter’s edition are “Cover Your Eyes: Charting the History of Helicopter Parenting,” by Margaret Cassidy, chairwoman of Adelphi’s Department of Communications; “The Future of Fatherhood: Discovering How and Why Dads Contribute to Positive Childhood Development,” by Diann Cameron-Kelly, associate professor and chairwoman of the university’s Bachelor of Social Work program; and “The Anxiety of Decision,” in which assistant psychology professor Dominic Fareri explores the origins of social interaction.

The full Fall 2018 issue of Academic and Creative Research Magazine is available here.