Not on Speaking Terms

Clinical Strategies to Resolve Family and Friendship Cutoffs

Elena Lesser Bruun (Author), Suzanne Michael (Author)

Overview | Contents

How significant relationship rifts affect people in therapy, and how therapists can help.

Scratch the surface of almost any family and you will undoubtedly find a significant cutoff. Nearly everyone has someone in their lives with whom they stopped speaking for one reason or another, or someone who abruptly cut them off. Often these severed ties are forever unresolved, and the emotional strain and upset they cause—even if seemingly in the background of one’s life—never go away.

Here, Elena Lesser Bruun and Suzanne Michael have gathered many stories about emotional cutoffs from psychotherapists, and personal stories from a host of laypeople they encountered in the course of writing this book. Based on their collective clinical experience spanning decades of work with clients, the authors identify basic themes, categories, and cutoff types. They then offer a set of guidelines to facilitate a deeper understanding of the dynamics of cutoffs, suggesting strategies for clinicians to use as they work with clients to overcome the emotional devastation that this sort of relationship breach can cause.

Given the magnitude of the problem, its ubiquity, and the psychological complexity associated with it, this book is sorely needed. Each chapter addresses a particular cause for cutoffs, such as abandonment, jealousy, betrayal, matters of principle, and mental illness or substance abuse. All types of relationships are considered: parent-child, other relatives, siblings, former spouses, colleagues, and friends. Close analysis of all these scenarios led the authors to reach many conclusions about cutoffs and how to address them in therapy, including:

• Cutoffs are common experiences—prevalent, sometimes embarrassing, and thus an elephant in the therapy room.
• Cutoffs are extremely damaging even though people often tell themselves the other person is expendable. They induce involuntary suppression of feelings.
• The aftermath of cutoffs can include depression, devastation, dismay, shock, isolation, as well as work problems and physical/psychosomatic issues.
• Cutoffs, even decades old, are not always clients’ presenting problem; however, they often surface in the course of therapy..
• Clinicians often fail to identify cutoffs in their clients’ lives, or encourage clients to explore what happened, and to consider taking steps towards reconciliation. The author’s hypothesize reasons for therapists’ hesitancy and suggest ways to overcome it.

Helping clients to successfully deal with emotional cutoffs will lead to reduction in self-blame for any lost relationships, less reactivity, and lower anxiety in general. No therapist dealing with this all-too-common, challenging issue should be without this book.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • October 2014
  • ISBN 978-0-393-70704-5
  • 6.4 × 9.6 in / 272 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

“Along with definitions and theoretical explanations that are used to initiate and build an understanding of significant terms, the book has an abundance of real-life cases to aid therapists in strengthening their use of strategies to help their own clients resolve relationship cutoffs. . . . Although the targeted readers are clearly practitioners, the writing style, inclusive of interspersed theory and scientific research literature as well as real-life cases, and the use of clear headings and sub-headings, makes the book handy for professors, the student community as well as researchers.” — British Journal of Guidance & Counselling

“This book has value for someone struggling with a cut-off from a family member or close friend, in part because it points out how common such problems are and helps the reader identify possible causes. It is of greatest value, however, to such professionals as school social workers and counselors, grief counselors and mental health therapists.” — Parenting Press Newsletter

“[T]his book breaks new ground in how cutoffs and conflict can be defined and resolved. . . . [A] handy guide to how to approach cutoffs within the psychotherapeutic setting . . . it offers many valuable talking points, strategy options, and points of reference.” — Somatic Psychotherapy Today

“A powerful description and analysis of the all-too-common phenomenon of cut-offs. Particularly important and relevant to therapists but also to anyone concerned with the complexity of human interaction. Absorbing, thoughtful, and a compelling read.” — Ruth Sidel, MSW, PhD, author of Unsung Heroines: Single Mothers and the American Dream; Professor of Sociology, Emerita, Hunter College, New York, NY

“This is an amazing book. The stories alone are a rich and moving experience. The clinical challenge is: what is the part that ‘cut-offs’ of family and friends play in your therapy practice, and what can you imagine doing about it? The authors provide abundant material—cases, theory, and literature—to help you decide.” — C. Christian Beels MD, MS, retired Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY

“An intelligent, well-thought-out and researched book that is broad in scope and abundant in its strategies. The authors take an often-overlooked subject and place it front and center. With their rich professional experience, they offer thought-provoking ideas to experienced professionals, in addition to practical advice for the less experienced. I highly recommend this addition to today's professional literature.” — Anita Bardin, MS, accredited supervisor in family therapy, and past director of the Shiluv Institute of Family and Couple Therapy, Jerusalem, Israel

“Those who have a serious interest in family therapy should read this book. Through a thorough, historical, and practical analysis, the authors elevate the therapeutic dilemma of the ‘cut-off’ and provide a road map to working with clients that is both elegant and pragmatic. This book is an invaluable guide!” — Lois Braverman, LCSW, President, Ackerman Institute for the Family, New York, NY

Also by Elena Lesser Bruun All

  1. Book CoverMarrying Well: The Clinician's Guide to Premarital Counseling


All Subjects

Appropriate For