My number one goal is to help relieve your most debilitating symptoms. After all, you come to therapy because you want to feel better.
When you think about going to talk therapy, this is most likely the type of therapy that you envision in your mind. It draws from classic psychoanalysis that will help you to understand your own unconscious thoughts, feelings, and motivations. Understanding is the foundation for change.
Some of the core beliefs of psychodynamic therapy include:
- Your life experiences, including very early childhood, have helped shape your adult self
- We often bury our most painful experiences, especially as children, but they continue to affect us well into adulthood
- Pain isn’t always obvious; uncomfortable thoughts and feelings can also be painful
- We build up defence mechanisms and patterns of behavior in response to this often-unconscious pain
- We can learn to understand our unconscious motivations and thus to change them
- The relationship you develop with your therapist often points out dynamics you have in other relationships
Therapy helps you bring the unconscious into the light. I create a safe environment for this exploration. We may use longer sessions to uncover and process challenging emotions. This work relies on deep empathy and a strong therapeutic relationship. As you work through what you uncover, you become free to choose your actions for the future rather than being held captive by the past.
Whereas Psychodynamic Psychotherapy is often a long-term approach to therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a short-term, solution-focused therapeutic technique. The primary goal is to quickly recognize your negative thoughts (cognition) and the behaviors that reinforce thoughts thoughts so that you can implement changes. This is a widely used, evidence-based, well-established technique for resolving a wide range of common issues including:
- Eating issues
- Impulsive / reckless behavior
- Relationship challenges
Basically, CBT takes the approach that how you think about a situation affects your feelings and actions. The situation isn’t the problem, and you’re not in control of the situation; the problem, and what you can control, is your thought process around the situation.
CBT is a structured therapeutic approach that will help you make changes by confronting your belief systems, correcting beliefs that aren’t serving you, and altering your behavior accordingly.
There are several established variations, or offshoots, of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. They all work along the same principle – that you can identify then change your thoughts and behaviors to overcome your own challenges. However, they each have their own strengths for particularly people and issues.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy adds the element of mindfulness practice to traditional CBT. Mindfulness is about seeing how things are in this moment without judging them. When you apply this to CBT, it gives you the opportunity to see your own maladaptive thoughts and behaviors without getting down on yourself for them. This can offer powerful breakthroughs in therapy.
DBT has been proven effective for treating a wide range of different issues, including those often addressed by traditional CBT. In particular, DBT is helpful for people working through:
- Eating disorders
- Low self-esteem
In addition to utilizing CBT principles and mindfulness, DBT works with emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness. In other words, you learn to sit with uncomfortable feelings, respond emotionally the way that you truly want to, and improve your relationships as a result.
DBT is a common form of treatment for people diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) but is also useful for anyone who struggles with the disorder’s main characteristic: black-and-white thinking. DBT helps you see the greys and accept them while also working towards change.
Like DBT, ACT has an element of mindfulness practice to it. This technique emphasizes learning to accept what you cannot control while committing to actions where you do have personal control. ACT aims to improve psychological flexibility with attention to the following six principles:
- Presence: being open, interested, and curious about the present moment without judging it
- Cognitive diffusion: learning to step back from unhelpful thoughts or worries, not avoiding them but attaching less focus to them
- Acceptance: openness to painful feelings or sensations
- Awareness: using mindfulness to attain the goals of your higher self
- Values: getting clear about what matters most to you
- Committed action: applying your values towards taking actions that will allow for long-term change
The primary distinguishing element of ACT, as compared to other forms of CBT, is a heavy emphasis on acknowledging and accepting that negative things do happen. Instead of avoiding them, we can accept what we can’t change and focus on those things that we can control, starting with our own responses.
Schemas are deeply-rooted thought patterns. When we have painful experiences, particularly in childhood, we can develop a pattern of distorted thinking accompanied by destructive coping strategies. Schema therapy combines CBT with insights from other therapeutic techniques, particularly attachment theory, to help you dig deep into these patterns. The better that you understand why you act the way that you do, going back to those deep thoughts inside, the more capable you will feel of approaching challenges in new and healthy ways.
Motivational Interviewing is often used in conjunction with traditional CBT. It is a goal-oriented, conversational and collaborative approach. The primary goal is for you as a client to become increasingly open to change. Furthermore, it helps increase the internal motivation for you to make that desire for change a reality.
MI might be the first step in ongoing treatment, giving you the foundation and motivation for deeper therapeutic approaches. Alternatively, it might be sufficient on its own as a therapy that leads to lasting change. Either way, your choices, resistance, motivation, and goals will be at the center of this work.
In addition to my experience and ongoing education in individual therapy techniques, I draw from established couples therapy techniques. I am member of the Gottman Referral Network and draw heavily from the science of relationships uncovered by Drs. John and Julie Gottman in their work with The Gottman Institute. I also draw from other key couples’ therapy approaches.
The Gottman Method, which requires intense training and supervision (which I have completed) is a research-based approach to understanding the science of relationships. It is a structured approach that begins with a deep assessment of the couple’s strengths and weaknesses (all couples have both). This information is approached with specific techniques and research to help create the kind of marriage that you want to have.
Some of the goals of Gottman Couples’ Therapy include:
- Managing conflict; conflict itself isn’t a problem but how you handle it in your relationship might be. In fact, Gottman is well-known for identifying the five most common predictors of divorce. This method provides antidotes to those problems.
- Coming together as a team in myriad ways including stress-reducing conversation and enhancing friendship
- Better understanding each other wants and needs, giving and getting “bids for connection” and expressing fondness and admiration for one another
- Emphasizing the positive: what does work in the relationship?
- Creating shared meaning, building your relationship together, and growing your intimacy
All of these goals are rooted in what Gottman calls The Sound Relationship House Theory, a set of nine components of healthy relationships that therapy can help you embody in your own relationship.
Collaborative Couples Therapy is an extension of one specific area of Gottman Therapy: the idea that there are both solvable and perpetual problems. This therapy takes the approach that any problem – whether perpetual or solvable – can be dealt with together in a way that creates intimacy. This intimate conversation is the goal of CCT. Working on problems together, through conversation, improves the relationship.
Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy is often a terrific complement to Gottman Therapy, adding in elements of attachment therapy. Each person in a relationship thrives when they feel secure that the other person will be there for them. When we don’t feel safe and secure, we react and act in ways that damage our relationships. This therapy helps couples break out of common negative relationship patterns (such as the pursuer-distancer pattern) and to learn healthy dependence.
Contact me today and get started on your first steps to wellness and recovery!