Peter Goldenthal, Ph.D., ABPP: Child, Adult, & Family Psychology

Selected Works by Dr. Goldenthal

A parenting book providing answers to questions about sibling conflicts
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This book presents the theory, concepts, and techniques of Contextual Therapy, a unique and powerful thereapeutic approach especially suited to helping children and adolescents.

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Therapy and the Human-Dog Bond

Destructive Entitlement

June 29, 2015

Tags: contextual therapy

The concept of destructive entitlement, like that of constructive entitlement arises from Nagy’s thinking about interpersonal ethics. They represent two poles of a continuum. A person’s fund of constructive entitlement grows proportionally to their capacity to consider other people’s needs, and especially to consider how their actions affect other people. In (more…)

Why You Should Stop Trying to be the "Alpha"

June 23, 2015

Tags: dogs, alpha, human-dog bond

This just-published article explains why trying to be your dog's alpha is based on lots of misinformation and is altogether a bad idea. You can read the complete article on the "Books & Articles " page of this website. The article also appears in the summer issue of "The Chronicle of the Dog," the official publication (more…)

Contextual Therapy: Constructive Entitlement

June 22, 2015

Tags: contextual therapy, multi directed partiality

Constructive entitlement is at the core of Nagy’s ideas about personal growth and growth in close relationship. As I discussed in my previous post about entitlement, it may appear to be a psychological concept, and it certainly overlaps with the concept of “feelings of entitlement.,” but it is not the same. A person (more…)

A Father’s Day Game for You and Your Dog

June 21, 2015

Tags: human-dog bond

Games are a great way to strengthen the bond between you and your dog. When your dog is playing with you, he or she is bonding and strengthening your existing bond. Play is a way of affirming that there is no aggression between you and (contrary to popular opinion) no dominance either. For your (more…)

How Your Dog Can Help Your Child be Mindful

June 18, 2015

Tags: children, dogs, therapy

I’ve written previously, as have many others, about the ways in which meditation and mindfulness practices can help children. One built in problem, a sort of Catch-22 is that those children who most need to learn to calm themselves and to focus their minds are those least likely to want to sit still, (more…)

Contextual Therapy: Entitlement

June 18, 2015

Tags: contextual therapy

In Boszormenyi-Nagy’s view, the accrual of and reliance on entitlement have a huge influence on the ways that people relate to each other and to what are often referred to as personality types and disorders. Entitlement is thus a dimension 4 concept, one relating to ethics, and can be seen to parallel a number (more…)

I and Thou applies to you and your dog too.

June 15, 2015

Tags: human-dog bond, alpha

Sasha and her doctor
No, I’m not talking about a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou; that’s Omar Kyam. This I and Thou comes from the writings of Martin Buber, a writer and philosopher who lived from 1878 to 1965. Buber made a huge distinction between I and it encounters (that’s the way we (more…)

People and Dogs: Companions for 20,000 Years

June 14, 2015

Tags: animal assisted therapy, human-dog bond

Dogs have lived around people for longer than has any other domesticated animal: 20,000 years is regarded as a reasonable estimate. That’s long before the invention of agriculture, long before there was any written language. It’s the time of hunter-gatherers; a time before there is any historical record. Current scientific thinking is that (more…)

Contextual Therapy: The Dimension of Ethics

June 14, 2015

Tags: contextual therapy, multi directed partiality

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, CT is unique in explicitly addressing issues of interpersonal ethics and fairness. Many, perhaps most, psychotherapists are concerned about fairness between and among people in close relationships. In general, however, their therapeutic approaches lack a specific language with which to talk about these issues. That is a (more…)

What is Contextual Therapy? Dimension 3: Transactions

June 9, 2015

Tags: contextual therapy

One of contextual therapy’s great strengths is its ability to incorporate concepts and techniques from other approaches. As I’ve said in previous posts, that allows this approach to go beyond an either-or approach–either individual psychodynamics or family systems– and to move into the realm of both -and.

Contextual therapists are trained (more…)

What is a Therapeutic Relationship?

June 8, 2015

Tags: therapy, human-dog bond, pet therapy, animal assisted therapy

The obvious answer to the question posed in the title of this post is: “A therapeutic relationship is the relationship between therapist and a client or patient.” We hope that all patient-therapist and client-therapist relationships are therapeutic, but that answer is, if not circular, close to it: it begs the question. What makes a (more…)

Creating a Mutually Therapeutic Relationship with Your Dog

June 8, 2015

Tags: dogs, therapy, therapy, human-dog bond

Not so very long ago, even the title of this post would have raised eyebrows in professional circles. Times have changed in very positive ways, however, and for the better. My article on animal assisted therapy will soon be published in “Currents” the publication of the Philadelphia Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology, (more…)

Sibling Rivalry in Young Children

June 8, 2015

Tags: children, therapy

Parents of preschoolers are often worried about sibling rivalry. Here I will answer questions that journalists, parents in my office, and those attending my talks and workshops have asked.

My children sometimes squabble just before dinner. Is this normal?

The answer to this depends on how often your children squabble, (more…)

What is Contextual Therapy? Dimension 2: Psychology

June 8, 2015

Tags: contextual therapy, therapy

Of the 4 dimensions of Contextual Therapy (CT), this one will be the most familiar to many readers. The dimension of psychology comprises all those factors that we normally associate with personality, with psychological distress, and with psychotherapy. Unlike many other family systems therapies, contextual therapy pays careful attention to the individual people who make (more…)

Dogs and Therapy#6: What is negative reinforcement?

June 7, 2015

Tags: dogs, human-dog bond

In this post, I’ll continue my discussion of animal learning as it applies to making choices that will make you and your dog happy together. In my previous post about learning, I wrote about positive reinforcers. There are also negative reinforcers. Just as positive reinforcers do, so too do negative reinforcers increase the (more…)

Dogs and Therapy #5: Learning Can be Fun for You and Your Dog

June 5, 2015

Tags: dogs, human-dog bond

People who live with a dog and want to have a great relationship with that dog want the dog to be well behaved, but they don’t want to hurt their relationship to get there. Rather, they would like the learning process to be on that is enjoyable for both human and dog and (more…)

What is Contextual Therapy? : Dimension I –Facts

June 4, 2015

Tags: contextual therapy

Dimension 1: Facts

In this post, I’ll describe the Dimension of Facts, the one that focuses on individual and family history. Future posts will talk about the other dimensions and how they are connected.

A skilled CT therapist learns about each the facts of a person’s history, those things that are objective, that are (more…)

What is Sibling Rivalry?

June 4, 2015

Tags: sibling rivalry, therapy, children

What is Sibling Rivalry?

As some readers of this blog may know, I’ve devoted a lot of time to thinking and writing about this question (Beyond Sibling Rivalry, Why Can’t We Get Along) and have only recently figured out how to share my expertise in bite-sized chunks that you can read while drinking a (more…)

What is Contextual Therapy?: The 4 Dimensions

June 3, 2015

Tags: contextual therapy

Why is it Important to Have 4 Dimensions?

One of the things that I find most useful about the contextual approach is how it incorporates multiple perspectives. The integrative aspect of contextual therapy (CT) runs through the model and affects treatment in many ways. The emphasis on multiple perspectives becomes clear as soon as one (more…)

Children and Families #5: Mindfulness Meditation for Children

June 3, 2015

Tags: children, mindfulness, therapy, anxiety, fears

Helping Your Child be Mindful and Calm

In the past 10 or 20 years, meditation, once associated only with Eastern religious practice, has morphed into “mindfulness meditation,” but it is still the same practice, and it still has the same goals. The practice involves focus, slowing heartbeat and breathing, and observing both internal and external experience. (more…)

What is Contextual Therapy?

June 3, 2015

Tags: contextual therapy

As I wrote in Doing contextual Therapy (W.W. Norton): “Contextual therapy has become a model of human experience, family life, and therapy whose goals are widely admired, whose assumptions are widely endorsed, and whose concepts are widely borrowed. It is difficult to find an experienced therapist who would argue with the notion that knowledge of a person’s past and present family relationships is crucial to understanding and helping the person, or one who would deny that issues of fairness and loyalty are central to life and to close relationships.

But many who would practice contextual therapy, and many more who would incorporate contextual concepts such as loyalty or destructive entitlement, or treatment strategies such as multi directed partiality into their work feel that this practice is shrouded in mystery.” This statement is as true today as it was in 1996.

I am writing this series of posts to introduce the approach to those who are unfamiliar with it, to add to the (more…)

Dogs and Therapy #4: Mindfulness

June 2, 2015

Tags: mindfulness, dogs, human-dog bond, therapy, animal assisted therapy

Many people are interested in learning to be in the moment, to experience their inner life and their surroundings without the intrusion of the constant stream of thought that accompanies each of us everywhere. One path to this kind of immediate awareness is through the increasingly popular practice of meditation. A complementary path involves (more…)

Dogs and Therapy #3: Dog Parks

June 1, 2015

Tags: dogs, human-dog bond

Several months ago, I visited a local dog park with Sasha, the 16-month-old Daschund mix who has become my constant companion and a valued co-therapist in my psychology practice.

We had been enjoying the sunny and mild fall day for an hour or so when I saw an American Bulldog wagging its tail at the other end of the park. (more…)

Dogs and Therapy #2: Dogs and Wolves

June 1, 2015

Tags: dogs, animal assisted therapy, human-dog bond

When I think about how Sasha comforts my patients, and how they speak of their pets with such affection, I am reminded of the often repeated assertion that dogs and wolves are extremely closely related, behaviorally and genetically. And yet, the qualities that make Sasha and other companion dogs so companionable don’t seem (more…)

Dogs and Therapy #1

June 1, 2015

Tags: therapy, children, animal assisted therapy, dogs

I decided to start this series of posts because of what I has observed going on in therapy and counseling between my patients and my dogs: first a small white dog who I still insist was a petit basset griffon Vendeen (PBGV) who had wandered away from home until she found (more…)