First, let me emphasize that while theory provides a framework and guide for the therapist, psychotherapy itself is fundamentally a person-to-person experience. It is a hopeful setting where problems and emotions are expressed, and where commitment and courage are often called for. Therefore, it is the therapist’s responsibility, my responsibility, to provide a stable, thoughtful, genuine, caring, safe, and confidential space where your concerns can be articulated and addressed. It is my highest priority to create this environment, whatever your concerns may be.
Following is a more academic description of what theories have influenced me most as a psychologist. But how do I actually practice? How am I when seated before my client? While I do a good deal of listening, I am generally pragmatic and collaborative, meaning that I will at times ask questions, and make observations and suggestions, while working with you to find your way through your concerns and life. I will ask you to share your dreams and to use your imagination. I usually say little about myself so the focus stays on my client. However, our reactions to each other are an important part of this process because they may say something about how you interact with others. Depending on the needs and situations of my clients, my approach will vary, sometimes listening more, sometimes commenting more. All in all, my purpose is to understand and do what will be most helpful.
Because I believe that all schools of thought and approaches to psychotherapy have value, and because each person is unique in his or her experience, capacities, and personality, I work from an Integrated Approach. However, I am more influenced by some theoretical orientations than others, and how I practice is informed most by the following perspectives (not in order of importance):
Contemporary Psychoanalytic Thought emphasizes the importance of primary relationships in our development, as well as the value of insight, and the influence of unconscious motivations. For these reasons, the client-therapist relationship itself is taken seriously as part of the therapeutic process, as history and current experience are explored. This theoretical orientation includes Attachment Theory, Self Psychology, and Object Relations, among other perspectives.
Depth Psychology shares the values of the Contemporary Psychoanalytic schools but emphasizes the universality of human experience and the psyche, as demonstrated in literature, myth, and story telling across cultures and eras. Dreams are highly valued as a resource for self-discovery. As well, Depth Psychology highlights cultural difference and values, and was founded on a perspective of “normal” psychology, versus abnormal. That is, the emphasis is on the various capacities and styles each person has for coping and for creating his or her life.
Existentialism/ Phenomenology both have come to psychology via philosophy. I find the relevance of Existentialism in its emphasis on the reality of our human condition: that ultimately we must make choices in life, and must do this with only the knowledge we have at the moment, as uncertain as it may be. Existentialism also asks us to come to grips about what we believe, what are values are, and their implications for our lives.
I find the relevance of Phenomenology to be the counter-force role it plays to theory. Phenomenology asks us to let things and experience (phenomena) speak for themselves. While theories and diagnoses are important, they can obscure the person behind them. A phenomenological awareness in psychotherapy helps to insure that the meaning of images, ideas, and experiences is not assumed, and that persons do not become categories.
Mindfulness/Body Awareness have come to psychotherapy via meditation practices. In the simplest terms, it is a form of observation without judgment. Mindful awareness can be directed toward any object or experience, but in psychotherapy it is a way of observing one’s own experience, with equanimity, helping us to avoid becoming identified with or overwhelmed by assumptions or emotions.
While our thoughts and feelings play fundamental roles in our development and personality, Body Awareness also plays a crucial role in expressing who we are and in helping us to cope with trauma. For this reason, I find it important to pay attention to body states and what they can contribute to self-awareness and healing.
In addition to these major influences, I have training in and utilize Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, including Stress-Reduction Techniques, and Gestalt Psychotherapy.
in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.