Therapy on the Cutting Edge

Understanding Shame and Using it to Evolve, Open, and Unleash Creativity

Episode Summary

In this episode, I speak with Sheila about her lifelong work of working with clients with shame. She explained that she got interested in this subject from her experience as a child and being shy, but overcoming it by becoming a children’s magician and performing. She explained how she trained in a number of approaches such as Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, Drama Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, AEPD, Accelerated Experiential-Dynamic Psychotherapy, Hakomi and others, but wasn’t finding a particular approach really addressing shame. She discussed how she helps clients to understand that shame has an evolutionary purpose, both in protecting us when we are young, but also helping us to evolve in the present, using it as a signal the client to set boundaries, make changes, and take risks to be more of their authentic self. Sheila talked about how shame is evolutionary by subduing an anger response towards a parent, because it might not be safe, or threaten the connection with parents. She talks about the continuum of shame, which goes from stage fright or imposter syndrome, to never feeling good enough, having a lot of shoulds and perfectionism, and all the way to experiences of humiliation. She discussed how PolyVagal Theory was a great addition to the puzzle, where she was able to have language and a biological explanation for the freeze or shut down that happens for someone when shame comes up. Sheila discussed noticing it in the moment, in the session, when the interpersonal bridge breaks, and helping clients to see the shame, and how it shifts their nervous system. She talked about working with the inner critic, the parent who might have been the critic, using parts work and drama therapy to help clients replay those experiences and becoming the person that could be the hero and protect and save their younger parts. Sheila discussed how helping clients to use mindfulness to notice when the shame comes up, sitting with it, and using compassion for themselves, leads them to be able to be open, rather than shutting down. Sheila Rubin, LMFT, RDT/BCT is a marriage and family therapist and a leading authority on Healing Shame. She developed the Healing Shame Therapy work over the last two decades and is the co-director, with Bret Lyon, of the Center for Healing Shame. in Berkeley, California. Sheila has delivered talks, presentations and workshops across the country and around the world, at conferences from Canada to Romania. She is a Board Certified Trainer through NADTA and past adjunct faculty for the CIIS Drama Therapy Program and JFK University’s Somatic Psychology Department. Sheila's expertise, teaching, and writing contributions have been featured in numerous publications, including seven books. Her writings on shame include the chapter “Women, Food and Feelings: Drama Therapy with Women Who Have Eating Disorders” in the book The Creative Therapies and Eating Disorders, the chapter “Almost Magic: Working with the Shame that Underlies Depression: Using Drama Therapy in the Imaginal Realm” in the book The Use of Creative Therapies in Treating Depression, and the chapter “Unpacking Shame and Healthy Shame: Therapy on the Phone or Internet” in Combining the Creative Therapies with Technology: Using Social Media and Online Counseling to Treat Clients (all books edited by Stephanie L. Brooke). Sheila offers therapy through her private practice in Berkeley and online via Zoom. She also provides consultations to therapists via Skype and leads workshops in Berkeley, internationally, and online. You can learn more about her workshops, writing, and on demand trainings at