Below are some common recommendations I make during counseling:
In the past, psychotherapy was often thought of as a therapy that obligated the client to talk about things they felt were too difficult to bring up. You might wonder how psychotherapy could work if 1) you aren’t clear what’s wrong to begin with, 2) you do know what’s wrong but it’s too painful to talk about, or 3) you don’t want to talk about it. By looking at the meaning of the word psychotherapy, we discover psyche refers to the mind as a part of you that impacts all other parts of the body. Therapy refers to the act of attending and guiding, so psychotherapy deals with tending and guiding the mind in such a way that overall health and development can be supported, and toxic emotions, thoughts, and feelings can be eased.
I believe that in order to bring about life change, psychotherapy must naturally involve your experience—how you process things, how aware you are of what concerns you—so you can better understand the whole of your problem and what options you might have. As the person seeking change, successful growth during psychotherapy (and counseling in general) depends on many things: your full engagement, curiosity, and a willingness to explore. As your therapist, my goal is to help you learn how to focus on life areas that are perhaps already changing, and raise your awareness about what’s falling away (and what’s coming into being), so you can creatively guide your own process of change, rather than have it control you.
In general, psychology asks questions such as, what makes us function? How do we resolve pain and suffering? How can we respond more happily and completely in our lives? Early studies in psychology looked at the behaviors of animals such as rats, mice, and pigeons, and assumed that by shedding light on their behaviors and motivations, they could learn about human functioning. However, others realized that although there is much value in learning about behavior, the study of animals cannot address the complexity of human qualities such as love, self-consciousness, morality, and issues of personal freedom and spirituality. Transpersonal psychology eventually arose to address the problems of focusing only on behavior, . Over time the study of human problems grew to include learning about higher levels of awareness.
Psychosynthesis is a transpersonal therapy that helps you think about how purpose, meaning, and value play out in your life. This type of therapy creates a conversation not only about creativity, spirituality, and spirituality, but also negative life experiences (childhood or adulthood) that block you from manifesting the happiness and life purpose you want. A transpersonal approach, then, supports inner work and growth in many areas, such as trauma, depression, anxiety, questions about identity, current and past relationship problems, work, birth family, and religious and spiritual concerns.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT focuses on interactions between thought, emotion, and behavior. A CBT approach asks, what life situations cause you to feel upset, what thoughts do you have during that distress, and what emotions do you feel at that time? Importantly, what actions (behaviors) do you take when you are feeling and thinking this way? Do they help you, and what do these experiences tell you about yourself? Are you happy with these experiences or do you want to change them?
As it turns out, your beliefs and thoughts about yourself, life, and others, deeply influence any distress you might have in upsetting situations, and can keep you stuck in negative feelings and thoughts. CBT is an empowering technique you can learn to apply in many life areas because it teaches you to become aware of your patterns of thinking and how you respond; once noticed, you can change your response, and learn how to think or feel differently about situations that upset you. Most of the therapies I use, including energy and bodily focused therapies, have a strong cognitive or thinking component.
New brain science shows that healing the mind plays a vital role in healing the rest of the body. Mind-body therapy makes use of two important facts: one, that the thoughts we think are highly subjective, and two, they come from our unique set of beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. Healing can be complicated by the fact that we tend to automatically believe that what we're thinking is fact, whether or not our thoughts are really true.
Based on the thoughts we have, the beliefs we hold, and the emotions we experience, the mind and body respond to each other with feedback that, over time, becomes patterns of the same old habits (ways of thinking and reacting), year after year, decade after decade. Therapies with a mind-body focus are geared toward healing old mind-body conversations that prevent us from resolving past traumas and upsets, and help to make positive change possible. Mind-body therapies help us create change by drawing attention to the negative thoughts and beliefs we have, and help us train ourselves to be more aware of how we respond. An example is suddenly realizing that we're holding stress in our chest (which causes us to hold our breath) when we have to speak in public. It's difficult to change the fear of speaking in public until we become aware of how our mind and body respond to the stress it creates, but once we're aware of it, we're empowered to change it. Mind-body therapies I might recommend during counseling include guided visualizations, body scan, hypnosis, EMDR, internal and external mindfulness, and energy therapies.
In recent years there has been a rise worldwide in chronic physical illness, depression, and anxiety. Not coincidently, at the same time there has been an increased use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the United States, which is used by about 40 percent of Americans. What is CAM? According to the National Institutes of Health, Complementary refers to using a non-mainstream approach alongside conventional medicine. Alternative refers to using a non-mainstream approach instead of conventional medicine. So, for example, some therapists might use hypnosis to complement other forms of therapy, whereas another therapist might use guided visualization alone to help a client better manage pain.
Many researchers argue that conventional medicine, when used alone, does not effectively treat chronic illness, so it’s important to explore additional means of healing. Energy therapies such as acupuncture and qigong use the energetic force in Chinese, Ayurvedic, and Western forms of healing, and have been used successfully for thousands of years for their ability to improve health with rapid results.
One form of CAM therapy I use is an energy therapy called Resonance Repatterning. It follows a structured system of inquiry to help identify experiences, thoughts, or attitudes that are life-enhancing or energy-depleting. Once you identify the experiences, relationships, or beliefs that are causing problems, you can change how you resonate (or respond) to them with energy modalities. Some have found that the process of inquiring and talking about core issues can resonate so deeply that the mind-body system automatically responds, with increased energy and strength, simply by talking about it. Simply put, Resonance Repatterning helps your mind and body to heal by connecting with its innate, healing intelligence. Please note that insurance companies do not reimburse for energy therapies, so I have a fee-for-service policy when using Resonance Repatterning.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is a form of therapy that makes it possible for people to heal from distress caused by traumatizing or otherwise disturbing life events. Francine Shapiro, the founder of EMDR, compares the brain’s response to healing from trauma to that of the body’s response when it is cut. She says “When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a wound is repeatedly irritated, it festers and causes pain. Once the irritant is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar process occurs with mental and emotional responses.”
EMDR is used to help the brain recover from past traumatic experiences that have, for one reason or another, been blocked from healing. Often, the block to resolving trauma involves how we think about the experience, or the meaning it holds for us. EMDR makes it possible for the brain to reprocess traumatizing information so that it is more adaptive, which allows your traumatic or stress response to heal.
Mindfulness is perhaps the most often-used approach I offer to teach better control of state of mind. You might have noticed that a common thread throughout this presentation of healing strategies is consciousness, awareness, and focus. Consciousness in this sense refers to the present level of awareness you have of your thoughts, and the judgments you hold about those thoughts. The less aware you are, the lower a level of consciousness you have, and the more you are at the mercy of your unconscious, automatic thoughts, automatic judgments, and the emotions that come with them.
Since mindfulness first came to the West in the 1960s, it has grown in popularity as has the understanding behind why it works. Left to its own devices, the mind wanders, and rapidly transmits random thoughts and observations that are guided by our judgments and beliefs. Brain research shows we have from 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day, which comes out to 38 to 45 thoughts per minute!
Brain studies show that we literally become what we think (this is no longer just a phrase from the sixties!) because brain and body responses are at the mercy of our mental and emotional habits. Depending on what we're thinking about, our brain/body can respond with either neurotransmitters of stress, or those of calm and relaxation. If we want to change how we think and feel, about anything, we must first take control of our state of mind and teach ourselves how not to focus on what’s negative in our life (while at the same time, taking whatever actions we need to take to change it). Emphasizing what is positive (even about the things that are negative) has the potential to dramatically change habits and improve mental and physical health. Practicing mindfulness teaches us how to do that.