On the October 20th episode of Healing America with Dr. Jim White, Dr. White welcomed Dr. Dov Snow to the program. Dr. Snow is a clinical health psychologist and serves as publisher for The Chicago Jewish Home, Chicagoland’s largest Jewish newspaper. He is the founder of Very Good Therapy and he believes there is much more that unites us than divides us. On Tuesday evening Drs. White and Snow discussed truth-seeking and the commonalities between people:
October 13, 2020
JW: How did you come up with the name for Very Good Therapy?
DS: Alright, so Very Good Therapy is a homage to a TV character that I love from a show called Parks and Recreation, and the character is Ron Swanson, and he started a building and construction company called Very Good Building and Construction Company.
JW: I love that. And you also say in your practice “simple solutions to complex problems” and I also love that. What do you mean by that, and how do you go about that?
DS: It’s more about a local approach, I like to call it a bio-psycho-social approach. I’m going to talk to everybody that comes into my office on three levels. I’m going to ask you how you’re simply feeling, I’m going to ask how your biology is feeling, just in general – good, down, energy, no energy. And we will look at your psychology, how you’re thinking. Are you thinking clearly, are you thinking rationally, are your thought patterns helpful? And lastly, we’re going to look at social, you know, are your boundaries healthy? Are your relationships at your work or school or family, are they going well? So, when I say simple solutions to complex problems, we take each problem at its face value, and try to find the simplest solution for that problem. Now, sometimes the problems get complex, and that’s where we have to differentiate how to handle it. But oftentimes, even with complex problems, there are simple solutions, fundamental solutions that most of us inherently know, but sometimes have to be reminded of.
“There’s much more that unites us, than divides us, and the key is commonality.”
— Dr. Dov Snow
JW: Here we are a few days away from the general election. What is this cycle doing for mental health?
DS: I think the hardest part of it is people can’t even talk to each other anymore. People, and I mean myself included- I am guilty of this- are not having civil political discussion, because it does matter to so many people, it’s so dear to their hearts that it’s difficult to have the conversation and not have it spill over into emotion. That is where we can get lost along the way.
JW: My book, Broken America, outlines ten principles, one of which is truth-seeking. How do we go about that?
DS: Well, truth-seeking with integrity is really difficult now. Historically, psychologists will always say that there are three or four truths to every story. There’s his truth, her truth, the actual truth, and the perceived truth of each person who is a witness, and we know people’s truths tend to differ greatly and variably. Knowing that as a background with the advent of newer technology since, let’s say the advent of the internet, it can be even more increasingly difficult to know what’s true. With the ability to have deep fake technology where there’s audio that’s fake and pictures that are fake. And I know we don’t want to get too political, but I remember when there was a running last year of the idea of fake news, that something could be – that you could hear it and have it be fake. So that’s the first part, how do we differentiate real news from actual fake news, and when there’s the deep fake. Step two, the second part, is even if you were able to figure out what was verifiable, per se, there’s so much information that comes out like a fire hose, full of water. You can’t drink anything, there’s so much coming at you at once with the internet and social media and individualized news that it’s impossible to unpack and parse what’s happening on a daily basis, let alone in the bigger part of the world.
JW: Do these conversations come up in your practice. Do people wonder who do I believe, or how do I seek truth, or what is integrity?
DS: So, the truth-seeking has come out much more since the pandemic started. And the differing truths that were being presented. And being a medical professional and being asked and even giving over what was accurate medical information – still is accurate, wear a mask, social distance- that wasn’t always the case with a significant percentage of my clients. I feel that’s not necessarily an aberration from all over. Again, it gets to the point that we spoke about before, the differing truth, if you don’t have advance training in media studies, to talk about misinformation and disinformation. I was thinking about it today actually…I’m not sure if it was Michael Lewis or Malcolm Gladwell who wrote about difficulty with Enron, and how it wasn’t about the fact that they were hiding the information. The information was out in the open, you just didn’t know where to look for it, and if you could find it, you wouldn’t know how to translate it or read it, unless you were a super specialized professional. And I feel like nowadays, news – unless you’re a hyper trained data analyst who knows what to look for – can come almost impossible for the mainstream regular person to know what’s real and what’s not.
JW: In your bio you say, “There’s much more that unites us, than divides us, and the key is commonality.” How do you bring those three together?
DS: With most people who come to my offices over the years -there’s no specific type; all races, all religions, all sizes, shapes and colors – after a course of a minute or two, you pick up on some underlying trends. And what I found unites most people is the need to be accepted, the desire to be wanted, the need to be safe and secure. We all want the same things, we all want safe streets, good roads, phenomenal education for our kids – everyone does – you can’t find someone who says they don’t want a good education for their children. Granted, we argue on how to get there. But first, let’s start by saying we agree on most things. I’m a father, I have children, I see other family men, I want my kids to be healthy and live in a country where they’re not going to have to fight tooth and nail to be successful. The commonality that I find in group therapies with the current themes of the overbearing Jewish mom with the overbearing Indian mom together, they’re fun to see because we’re all living in an immigrant land where we’re all either first, second, third, fourth, or fifth generation Americans. Once we realize that’s everybody, we can start looking towards a common goal, and we can start to have a conversation.
JW: What can we say to Americans to get them involved and get them to reach over and cross the line? How do we start this healing?
DS: I think the question goes two-fold, and I think there’s a deeper question in that. We need to come to a universal truth, a shared understanding, a shared truth. And I think that has to be done on the individual level, and I think that also has to be done on a societal level. There’s been a tremendous attack on institutions in our country over the last couple of years. We may need to publicly say that, we may need to have a truth and reconciliation commission to say, “hey everybody, this is what happened to us.” I have a dear friend who writes about community-based health issues, whether mental health or school-based issues. Many communities tend to not showcase their difficulties, and he has a very strong band-aid approach. He says you have to absolutely rip it off, you have to absolutely see the light of day in order to heal. Our society may need that.
Watch the entire interview at authorjimwhite.com/webinars to catch Drs. White and Snow discuss the advent of social media and the looming election. You can reach Dr. Snow at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to his podcast called Schmoozing with Dr. Dov Snow, or visit www.ChicagoJewishHome.com.
Join Dr. White next week as he interviews Jack N Rakove, Pulitzer Prize winner and Professor Emeritus of Stanford University.
Order your copy of Broken America today!