I am a compassionate, dedicated, and attentive professional, committed to helping my clients reach their highest potential for success. My style is collaborative, flexible, and objective, and I give my clients the time, space, and nonjudgmental environment they need to raise concerns, grow, and excel. Additionally, I work from a combined Integrative theoretical orientation in order to accommodate the unique needs and various communication, learning, behavioral, and working styles of my clients.
With flexibility still in mind, I do see powerful and lasting results from certain theoretical orientations more than others; therefore, with individuals, I work mostly from Psychodynamic, Humanistic, and Cognitive Behavioral perspectives, while still borrowing from Client-Centered, Adlerian, Emotionally-Focused, Solution-Focused, and Narrative based principles. In working with couples and families, I tend mostly to employ Gottman Method, and Bowenian, Strategic, and Structural Family Systems approaches. Sometimes, I also coordinate with medical, legal, academic, or other helping professionals as necessary for best results.
I work together with clients using a phase-by-phase approach that makes the helping process as comfortable, practical, and results-driven as possible.
In phase 1, clients share their story, describing what challenges or issues have made them seek out help in full detail. Then, we identify what is specifically bothering them or what they would like changed about those particular circumstances. After that, we make note of any hopes, dreams, potential, or goals that are being hindered, stopped, or obstructed by these bothersome issues. Once we know which issues are present and how those issues effect the client and those around them, we create customized goals and a plan for change.
In the second phase, we dig deeper to discover and understand any underlying or internal blocks that may be contributing to, or maintaining, the troubling or challenging circumstances. Whether issues arise from our own thoughts, moods, feelings, behaviors, patterns, and communications or our reactions to the thoughts, moods, feelings, behaviors, patterns, and communications of others, these common internal processes are often behind what drives our distress. Once we understand those and the distress they may be causing, we move forward to Phase 3.
By the third phase, goals have been set, insight about perpetuating patterns has been gained, and clients have become aware of what changes need to occur to achieve results. Thus, the hardest work begins--the actual change. In this practical phase, clients move back and forth between therapy sessions and the outside world, practicing new behaviors, interventions, and communications based on issues we targeted during the second phase. As they practice, clients bring their outside experiences back into our sessions for processing and feedback. As clients share, I act as a mirror, reflecting their experience back to them in an objective and neutral way. This is done so that they are able to see their progress, or lack of progress, from a nonjudgmental, neutral perspective. Further, they share how their practice is unfolding so that if forward steps are made, they can allow themselves a sense of accomplishment and success, and if backward steps are made, they are able to experience those without feeling shame, inadequacy, judgment, or failure. Any relapses into old patterns of behavior, mistakes, or missteps are taken only as learning opportunities and areas for further improvement. Throughout this phase, I also invite clients to express any fears, doubts, questions, or concerns they have about their progress or the process in general (which are quite normal in the ups and downs of practicing real change).
Finally, when the client and I mutually agree that their goals have been reached, the fourth phase begins. We spend this time looking back on the client's successes, setbacks, insights gained, coping skills obtained, solutions found, and goals achieved. We also check to make sure no goals were left unmet and there are no additional goals the client would like to work on. We review what we did, how we did it, and how the client can maintain their progress in the future (including playing out scenarios to prepare for potential relapse into old behavior or future struggle). This review process solidifies the client's learning, bolsters their sense of confidence, and highlights their awakened ability to self-manage and create change. They are able to see direct evidence and results of their own hard work, and have logically proven to themselves that they are capable of creating the life, relationships, family, or career they desire--in the present and the future. This is the secret to continued success.
My Beliefs About Therapy
WHY CLIENTS ENTER THERAPY
When clients first come to me, it is because they want their life to change in some way (e.g., to feel less stressed, have a better marriage, etc.). This desire for change usually comes about from one of the following reasons: something about their present does not feel emotionally correct to them (e.g., they feel stressed, their marriage feels unhealthy, etc.); they received an incorrect emotional experience in the past (e.g., childhood neglect, a traumatic experience, mistreatment at work, etc.); or, they do not feel emotionally heard in either their past or present (e.g., they feel misunderstood, betrayed, unbelieved, inarticulate, or alone in their feelings). In any case, these situations lead to distress, and ultimately, drive clients to seek help.
I call this driving force the desire for "emotional correction." Clients have come to a point where they no longer believe themselves capable of correcting their emotional circumstances, articulating themselves in a way that will leave them feeling understood, or creating change in their lives on their own. This inability or belief of inability might be because they feel too overwhelmed, depressed, stressed, etc., to cope or change alone, or are facing circumstances beyond their control. When any of those situations are true, asking for help is extremely understandable and should be seen as brave, courageous, and resilient. People are especially bold if they have the wherewithal not only to see and admit they need help, but to reach out during a time of deep and difficult struggle when their energy is already low and hopes are already down. I believe clients have unlimited strength when it comes to their own survival.
HOW THERAPY REALLY WORKS
I believe that therapy provides lasting, powerful, and positive change for clients by giving them the "corrective emotional experience." I believe this corrective emotional experience happens in therapy as a direct result of the therapist-client relationship itself, as well as the process and learning that takes place during the building of that relationship. Forming, and more importantly, sustaining for enough time, an honest, collaborative, and emotionally vulnerable relationship with another person allows the client to step back and look at that therapist-client relationship as real, "in-their-face" evidence that they are actually capable of having a relationship that looks and feels healthy. Out of that relationship and the process of its building, clients learn what elements make up a safe relational experience, and are thus able to reproduce the same happy, healthy, nurturing relationships in their outside lives.
For example, let's say a client was emotionally neglected as a child and thus finds themselves stuck in a pattern of emotionally neglecting relationships (because that is the only example they were ever given). Or, the client may have isolated themselves from relationships out of fear that they would be emotionally hurt like they were in their past. The therapist-client relationship creates an opposite, emotionally healthy environment from either scenario, thus creating a new relationship model (which is what they always deserved and desired). With this new model in place, the client can learn to duplicate healthy relationships, communication, motivation, etc., in their outside lives. A normal, healthy, therapeutic relationship's existence also proves to clients that they are worthy of unconditional, kind, patient, non-judgmental, and non-critical care in their relationships. In other words, whether they progress or regress as they move through the process, they are supported and encouraged until they reach their goals. After a while in this nurturing environment, our brains become retrained and our behaviors start to change (even despite the most difficult upbringings, patterns, relational history, or present situations). This principle--learning from a healthy new model that offers the "corrective emotional experience"--can apply to almost any situation a client brings to therapy (e.g., issues with food, sex, work, motivation, etc.), not just to issues that are relationship-based.
THE NEED TO BE HEARD
I believe one of the most important healing aspects of therapy is that clients are finally being heard and understood in a way that validates their experience. Very often, people are not truly heard or listened to by friends, family, coworkers, and even themselves. People get caught up with life, are too busy surviving their own difficulties, or are even sometimes emotionally incapable or unskilled at listening to themselves or others. How many times have you "spaced out" in a conversation with a friend and needed to ask them to repeat what they said? How many times have you pushed your own gut feelings away in order to give someone or something another chance? These are just a few examples of the ways we do not listen to ourselves and others. People often listen just enoughto get by in a conversation, show reasonable concern, or avoid immediate danger to themselves. I call this phenomenon "fringe listening." We all do it--even if we don't realize we do--and in a lot of cases, it doesn't necessarily turn into a problem. However, when we only fringe listen to (or flat out ignore) our own instincts for too long, or we are chronically only fringe-listened-to by others, we begin to feel like we don't matter. We start to resent or give up on our romantic partner because they "just don't get it" or we don't trust they will really listen. We ruminate about quitting our job because our boss doesn't make an effort to "even hear or appreciate me or my ideas!" Our friends show concern in conversation, but then make us feel terribly unimportant when they pull out their phones in the middle of our story. We can even become angry at and lose trust in ourselves when we ignore our instincts or only fringe listen to ourselves--like that time we "knew that person was trouble," but went for it anyway, and now we're stuck in a toxic relationship or business deal. When that happens, we end up beating ourselves up in our heads with a, "Why didn't you listen to yourself, you idiot?" or an "I should have known when I saw him or her behave that way."
These feelings of anger, sadness, resent, mistrust, under-appreciation, and unimportance, build up over time and are behind a majority of the issues I see in my practice. Even mental disorders like depression and anxiety can be solely caused by being chronically unheard. Very often, as clients share more in session, the fact of their being chronically unheard becomes clear to them. And, believe it or not, therapy can sometimes be the very first time clients are truly hearing themselves. Almost every client says things like: "I didn't realize how much this was bothering me until I talked about it," "I never thought about it like that until I said it out loud to you," and, "I thought I was kind of crazy because no one was really understanding or listening to me." Logically, once clients begin listening to themselves, they become open to possibilities, pathways, confidence, and behavior they once thought were impossible. Being heard by another, and finally hearing themselves, also helps clients to reach new emotional vistas that are calm and peaceful, as well as new rational perspectives filled with solutions and motivation. I believe clients have unlimited potential for change once they start to tune in and finally listen to themselves.
As therapy progresses and clients have taken enough time to hear their own needs, they begin to be able to hear about the needs, suffering, or opinions of others more calmly. It becomes easier to stop taking others' behavior personally, reacting poorly, or becoming resentful or jealous that someone else is being heard instead of themselves. When clients allow themselves to be truly heard, they are also gifting themselves with another corrective emotional experience (i.e., they are showing themselves direct evidence that they not only are capable of creating safe spaces to be heard, but that they are worthy of being heard). Creating a sense of worth thus corrects the excruciatingly painful emotional experience of "never being good enough," and is one of the most important keys to successful treatment.
FOR THE LONG RUN
Because the above processes usually take a while (as true listening and learning do), therapy should generally be thought of as a long-term strategy. Therapy also takes time because it aims to address, improve, and/or fix the underlying causes for a client's distress, not just relieve the symptoms on the surface. For the majority of clients, it takes a significant amount of time to develop new patterns of listening, coping, and caring for oneself and others; though, some clients are able to achieve results in shorter time frames. Regardless of treatment duration, therapeutic benefits are not just an end result. Therapy also helps along the way to reduce current symptoms, alleviate emotional isolation, make healthy decisions, and assist us in breaking out of patterns that no longer serve us.
Therapy is hard work--but, genuine, lasting change usually is. It can sometimes feel emotionally draining or uncomfortable, but, most of the time therapy is enlightening, deeply healing, and truly alive-making. If you find yourself wanting to engage in therapy, but can't tell if it will be worth your while, ask yourself, "What do I have to lose by trying?" We can usually find plenty of "reasons" not to try ("It's a bad time", "My schedule is too hectic right now and I don't want to add another thing on top of it", "What if it doesn't work for my set of problems?", "My issues are probably too severe"), but those reasons are usually backed by fear. And while it's totally ok to be scared when trying something new, especially if a bad experience looms in your history, I encourage you to ask yourself, "Is it ok for my life, relationship, career, etc., to stay the way it is?" If your answer is no, I hope you'll Contact Me, or another helping professional, to start your healing journey. Change is always possible.