In most peoples’ minds, the idea of seeing a therapist has become as commonplace as consulting any other health practitioner when the need arises. Therapy is often recommended by knowledgeable people such as doctors and clergy. It’s quite likely that some of your friends, relatives and co-workers have stories to tell about the role it has played in helping them handle their difficulties. After all, no one gets through life without life’s problems. Despite the commonness of such “rough patches”, old ideas about who “needs” therapy and why still exist. Some people worry what others may think about their decision to enter therapy. The fact that you’re here says you put time and thought into making informed decisions for yourself. I encourage you to follow your mind and heart about this. When a person decides to quit smoking, start therapy or some other personal feat of daring, they often find there is support, understanding, even admiration for taking charge of their health.
Perhaps the greatest gift of the therapy process is greater compassion and respect for yourself: where you’ve been, who you are and who you are becoming. Successful psychotherapy should lead to becoming more effective and empowered by your own abilities, creativity and resilience. I will collaborate with you toward that end.
How I Practice
Psychotherapists study specific ways of understanding mental and emotional development and human interactions. What matters most to me is determining what kinds of theoretic understanding, communication styles and so on best suit a client’s needs, temperament and preferences. For example, some people are most comfortable when the therapist is fairly directive, guiding the conversation, offering more of her perspective or concrete problem-solving tools. Others are more comfortable with slowly paced sessions with ample time to think, speak and ponder. They prefer the therapist to be less active and take a quieter more reflective role. The therapist’s awareness of when to speak and in what way must be sensitive to such needs. I work together with each person to determine what “mix” is most likely to be helpful.
The methods and approaches I use in working with a given client are determined by the issues to be addressed and the strengths and barriers we identify together. In therapeutic language, the main approaches I employ are psychodynamic and cognitive. Each involves speaking from the depths of your experience, gaining awareness, observing what helps and hinders and trying new ways of thinking and acting. In both of these approaches, relationships and thought patterns help to shed light areas of difficulty, but also become allies in creating relief, change and greater well-being.
In brief, psychodynamic therapy focuses on understanding one’s life and difficulties through the lens of early and current relationships. Much of what we feel about ourselves and life in general, we “learned” in relationships with parents and significant others throughout our lives. It is within relationships that our emotions and the ability to experience and direct them are formed. The working relationship between the therapist and client becomes a tool for change. There is great power in feeling heard and supported when past experiences involved being put down or rejected. The goal of psychodynamic therapy is self-awareness and understanding the influence of the past on how you think, feel and act in the present. The insight gained can then be used to boost one’s ability to change unhelpful thinking and action and create healthier more satisfying ways of viewing one’s self and relating to others.
Cognitive theory holds that thoughts and beliefs greatly influence emotion and action and vice versa. As a result, cognitive therapy focuses on identifying and understanding these thoughts. Who among us has never thought “I’m just a failure” at times. When such thoughts occur frequently, they practically become philosophy: a “truth” held in place by old beliefs fueled by strong emotion. They can negatively influence one’s sense of self and even create significant distress in the body and brain. In cognitive work, the therapist and client actively seek to uncover and understand how such beliefs are affecting the person’s life. They devise ways to deflate their power, enabling the client to become adept at generating truer, more beneficial thought, emotions and actions. This work does not stop at mere “positive thinking”. It also focuses on exercises and processes that lead to seeing the proof in your world and feeling the proof deep within.
Part of our initial preparation will be to determine such specifics as the length of time we’ll work together. We do this based on the issues you want to work with and other concerns, including any financial or time constraints. We may agree that a limited course of sessions, a few consultations or longer-term therapy is the best option.