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Description: Of course the holiday period in late December is supposed to be a time away from work and engaged in other activities such as spending time with loved ones, friends and family. This does NOT mean that it is a time to be away from Psychology (in fact maybe just the opposite)! It can, in fact, be particularly important to plan or to consider some of what we might call holiday research. Last week, for example, I posted about some ongoing research into the myth that suicide rates climb during the holiday period (it is NOT true). What other holiday season issues could use a research look? In another post this week I take a look at the social interactional challenges the season places upon introverts (think about it). In this post I want you to take on the role of a therapist (though be clear you are likely not actually qualified to act this way, so this is a purely hypothetical ‘mind experiment’). Perhaps aside from introverts, many people may experience feelings of loneliness during the friends and family-oriented holiday period. What would you advise or help them to do to cope with such feelings? Remember that as an acting clinical therapist your approach to how you engage with your client will need to be supported by research that speaks to its efficacy. Now that is too much to ask of you, given that this is your first day on the job and you are not actually fully trained yet so hypothesize about what some solid (researchable) foundations might be for approaches to things you could help clients with seasonal loneliness work on. Once you have your practice plans in place have a read through the article licked below to see what some researchers and therapists (real ones) suggest.

Source: Simple Steps for Managing Holiday Loneliness, Catherine Pearson, The New York Times.

Date: December 20, 2022

Image by 8926 from Pixabay

Article Link:

As with any clinical interaction, it is important to define terms and assumptions. Noting the differences between aloneness and loneliness is an important starting point. Another standard clinical point is that one size does not fit all which means that an approach to dealing with loneliness that works for one person may not work for another. Given this it is good that the article has 5 suggestions. Your task as a therapist (or as an individual with deep feelings of loneliness) is to find the best fit between approach and individual and then provide support and suggestions for implementation by the individual (client). Oh, and follow up and a check of the efficacy of the intervention (by therapist or by the client) are also an important part of treatment. And if you were careful, thoughtful and it worked, then well done!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are the differences between aloneness and loneliness?
  2. What are each of the suggested intervention/self-help options built upon in terms of underlying psychology?
  3. Which approach to intervention do you think would be most effective if you were the one with significant feelings of loneliness and why?

References (Read Further):

Poulin, M. J., Brown, S. L., Dillard, A. J., & Smith, D. M. (2013). Giving to others and the association between stress and mortality. American journal of public health, 103(9), 1649-1655. Link

Lim, M. H., Qualter, P., Hennessey, A., Smith, B. J., Argent, T., & Holt-Lunstad, J. (2021). A randomised controlled trial of the Nextdoor Kind Challenge: a study protocol. BMC Public Health, 21(1), 1-17. Link

Pauly, T., Chu, L., Zambrano, E., Gerstorf, D., & Hoppmann, C. A. (2022). COVID-19, time to oneself, and loneliness: Creativity as a resource. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 77(4), e30-e35. Link

Heinrich, L. M., & Gullone, E. (2006). The clinical significance of loneliness: A literature review. Clinical psychology review, 26(6), 695-718. Link

Hawkley, L. C., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2010). Loneliness matters: A theoretical and empirical review of consequences and mechanisms. Annals of behavioral medicine, 40(2), 218-227. Link

Cacioppo, J. T., & Cacioppo, S. (2018). The growing problem of loneliness. The Lancet, 391(10119), 426. Link