New Research Sheds Light on How Self-Criticism Damages Social Relationships 

The findings suggest some behaviors that may partially explain why highly self-critical people often experience poorer quality relationships and social isolation. Out of a desire to avoid rejection, self-critical individuals may mute their emotional expressions and conceal thoughts and feelings. Unfortunately, this emotional guardedness can distance others and undermine relationship intimacy and closeness. 

A team of researchers from Portland Psychotherapy recently published an intriguing study that sheds light on how self-criticism can damage social relationships. Self-criticism, defined as the tendency to negatively and harshly evaluate oneself, has been linked to poorer interpersonal functioning and social isolation. However, the specific mechanisms underlying this association have been unclear. In this new study, published in Current Psychology, the research team identified some likely interpersonal behaviors through which self-criticism exacerbates social disconnection. 

The researchers, Jason B. Luoma, PhD and Christina Chwyl surveyed over 300 participants from the community. They measured self-criticism along with three interpersonal variables – expressive suppression, expression of positive emotions, and self-concealment. Expressive suppression involves inhibiting the outward display of emotions. Self-concealment refers to the tendency to hide personal information perceived as negative or distressing. 

The results showed that higher self-criticism was associated with greater expressive suppression, less expression of positive emotions, and more self-concealment. These relationships held even after accounting for the roles of depressive symptoms and emotional intensity. Among these variables, reduced positive emotional expression had the strongest link to lower feelings of social belonging among self-critical participants. 

The findings suggest some behaviors that may partially explain why highly self-critical people often experience poorer quality relationships and social isolation. Out of a desire to avoid rejection, self-critical individuals may mute their emotional expressions and conceal thoughts and feelings. Unfortunately, this emotional guardedness can distance others and undermine relationship intimacy and closeness. 

Suppressing positive emotions, in particular, may deprive self-critical people of opportunities for social connection. Expressing positive emotions promotes relationship development and maintenance. Failing to outwardly share happiness, excitement, and affection could impair self-critical individuals’ ability to form close bonds. This intriguing study thus highlights the importance of fostering positive emotional expression for self-critical people’s social wellbeing. 

As the researchers note, their cross-sectional design precludes firm causal conclusions. Experimental and longitudinal research is needed to further test the study’s model. However, these results move our understanding forward by pinpointing specific interpersonal pathways that may fuel the isolating effects of self-criticism. 

The findings suggest that psychotherapies which help clients express emotions openly, authentically share about themselves, and connect with positive emotions could aid self-critical individuals in building fulfilling social relationships. By targeting key interpersonal behaviors, clinicians may be able to alleviate self-critical people’s loneliness and foster a greater sense of belonging. Remediating deficits in positive emotional expression seems particularly promising based on this study. Overall, these insights enhance our grasp of how self-criticism operates interpersonally and point toward avenues for reducing its detrimental social impacts. 

Portland Psychotherapy’s Clinical Trial of MDMA-Assisted Therapy for Social Anxiety Disorder: Recruitment Underway!

Many have been watching as the psychedelic renaissance has taken off and more clinical trials for psychedelic-assisted therapy have begun. Here at Portland Psychotherapy, our research team has been working tirelessly to prepare for our Clinical Trial of MDMA-Assisted Therapy for Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), recently mentioned in the MAPS Investigator-Initiated Trial update here. Our trial aims to test the efficacy and safety of MDMA-Assisted Therapy for SAD, as well as identify and examine how MDMA-assisted therapy works.

Once screened into the study, participants will be randomized into two groups – one group will proceed  immediately into treatment and the other will receive treatment after a delay. Both groups will receive two MDMA-assisted therapy sessions, as well as preparation sessions before and integration sessions after the MDMA-assisted therapy sessions.

Recruitment has begun!

We recently started recruitment and are screening volunteers to see if they are eligible. If you are interested in looking into being a participate or want to let someone else know more about trial, we have an informational page on the website.

To stay in the loop about our trial milestones and updates, you can sign up for our mailing list here.

To learn more about our study, including our team, how to donate, information about the study procedure, or how to participate, please visit our website.

Showcasing Portland Psychotherapy’s Work at the ACBS Conference 

The Association of Contextual Behavioral Science (ACBS) – a professional membership organization – has an annual conference, where researchers and clinicians from around the world gather to present research related to Contextual Behavioral Science and attend trainings and workshops. For the ACBS World Conference 2022, Portland Psychotherapy has 18 accepted presentations! Below is a list of the presentations we are doing so that people can have a sense of what we do and how our business model supports research. The presentations include, but are not limited to, topics on MDMA-Assisted Therapy and Social Anxiety Disorder, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Exposure Therapy, Values-based Practice, Shame, and Open Science Practices. The accepted abstracts are listed below. 

  1. Let Values Be Your Guide: An Introduction to a Values-Guided Approach to Therapy – Jenna LeJeune, Ph.D. and Jason Luoma, Ph.D.  
  1. How to be Experiential in Acceptance and Commitment TherapyJason Luoma, Ph.D., Kati Lear, Ph.D., and Brian Pilecki, Ph.D
  1. Psychological Flexibility processes in a stigma coping intervention based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for people with HIV who inject drugs: An RCT in St. Petersburg, RussiaJason Luoma, Sarah Rossi, Yulia Sereda, Nikolai Pavlov, Olga Toussova, Marina Vetrova, Sally Bendiks, Tetiana Kiriazova, Evgeny Krupitsky, Dmitry Lioznov, Elena Blokhina, Sara Lodi, Karsten Lunze 
  1. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Mediation and Processes: Problems and How to Address ThemJason Luoma, Ph.D., Joanna Arch, Ph.D., Joel Fishbein, M.A., and Lauren Finkelstein 
  1. Study Protocol and Proposed Processes of Change in a Pilot Study of MDMA-Assisted Therapy and Social Anxiety Disorder – Jason Luoma, Ph.D., Kati Lear, Ph.D., Brian Pilecki, Ph.D., Sarah Smith 
  1. Inflexible self-criticism as shame-avoidance in social anxiety: Results from a daily diary study – Kati Lear, Ph.D., Sarah Smith, Ben Shahar, Ph.D., and Jason Luoma, Ph.D
  1. Experiential avoidance among high self-critics: the role of expressive suppression in response to positive-emotion eliciting stimuli – Meredith Tittler, Ph.D., Kati Lear, PhD. Christina Chwyl, M.S. Jason Luoma, Ph.D. 
  1. Panel: Values, Vulnerability, and Consensual Non-Monogamy – Mathias Funke, Dipl.-Psych. (Role: Presenting Author), Matthew D. Skinta, Ph.D., ABPP (Role: Presenting Author), Stephanie Dreis, M.S. (Role: Presenting Author), Sarah Levinson, LMSW (Role: Presenting Author), Jenna LeJeune, Ph.D. (Role: Discussant) 
  1. Panel: Variation with Vignettes: Responding to Clinical Presentations from Different Points on the Hexaflex – Lou Lasprugato, M.A. (Role: Chair), Richard Bennett, ClinPsyD (Role: Discussant), Jenna LeJeune, Ph.D. (Role: Presenting Author), Miranda Morris, PhD (Role: Presenting Author), Joe Oliver, PhD (Role: Presenting Author) 
  1. Wearing Your Hexaflex Goggles During ACT-informed Exposure – Brian Thompson, Ph.D., Joanne Chan, Psy.D., Brian Pilecki, Ph.D
  1. Processes of Change in Relation to the use of Psychedelics and MDMA for Therapeutic and Healing Purposes: Symposium chaired by Jason Luoma, Ph.D. 
  1. Psychedelics and ACT-Informed Harm Reduction and Integration Therapy (Workshop with Gregory Wells, Nathan Gates, and Brian Pilecki
  1. Getting ACT Out of the Office and Into Life: Novel Applications of ACT and CBS – Panel – Brian Pilecki, Ph.D
  1. Keynote Address: Psychedelics and Psychological Flexibility: ACBS as a Home for Psychedelic-Assisted TherapiesBrian Pilecki, Ph.D
  1. Invited Panel: Epiphany or Practice: Exploring the Processes of Change in Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy – Brian Pilecki, Ph.D
  1. Auditing the Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science for Open Science and Reproducibility PracticesKati Lear, Ph.D., Angelica Spata, Meredith Tittler, Ph.D., Joel Fishbein, M.A., Joanna Arch, Ph.D., and Jason Luoma, Ph.D. 
  1. Invited Panel: Processes Of Change and Mind-body RelationsJason Luoma, Ph.D. 
  1. More Than a Feeling: Contextual Approaches to Understanding and Intervening on Appetitive Control. Jenna LeJeune, Emily Sandoz, Kelly Wilson, and Pat Friman. 

What Makes Us Unique

Portland Psychotherapy is a clinic, research & training center with a unique business model that funds scientific research. This results in a team of therapists who are exceptionally well-trained and knowledgeable about their areas of specialty.