Approach

Since each client and situation is unique, I start where they are and serve as a consultant in the healing process. Research indicates that among the various factors that go into therapy outcomes, it is the quality of the relationship between therapist and client that seems to have the greatest impact. This appears to be more of a factor than things like level of therapist experience and actual methods and techniques used. With that said, the information on this page is designed to give clients a flavor for how I work and how I formulate an understanding of human behavior, in the hopes that having this will provide a sense of how I may be of help.

In my work, I apply social work and psychology theory and methods to help clients achieve their goals. I take an integrative approach that unifies mind, body, spirit and socio-cultural factors. Utilizing the methods that serve the client best, I tend to emphasize cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness-based therapy techniques, as these have proven to be effective in formal scientific studies and my professional experience.

Internal and External Strategies to Make Change
When working with clients, I utilize both internal and external strategies that foster healing, growth and improved functioning. Internal methods of change include things like “cognitive restructuring” and mindfulness exercises.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (also known as CBT) emphasizes the role of thinking (cognition) in how we feel (emotions) and what we do (behavior). Cognitive restructuring is a traditional CBT technique that involves identifying automatic and repetitive thoughts that may be contributing to emotional distress or unwanted behaviors. Automatic thoughts or beliefs that contribute to emotional or behavioral imbalances tend to come from hurtful experiences early in life that leave a strong imprint or from messages reinforced over years of conditioning. They can also come from more recent painful experiences – such as experiencing or witnessing violence; getting diagnosed with a major illness; or losing a loved one.

Automatic thoughts occur in the form of self-talk, which is an inherent part of being human. As a matter of fact, scientists estimate that we have between 12,000 and 60,000 internal thoughts per day. Unfortunately, most of these are repetitive, what some have referred to as the “top ten tunes” that get played over and over again in one’s mind. Becoming aware of this recurring self-talk is a powerful first step in making change. The next step is to evaluate these thoughts for their veracity and to replace the less rational, unfounded or non-supportive thoughts with more accurate and realistic appraisals. This process can be quite effective with increasing positive emotions and desirable behavior.

Cognitive restructuring is one of many types of CBT tools that clients find helpful.

Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapy
Mindfulness-based psychotherapy is derived from Buddhist psychology - a field that has existed, albeit in a less formal way than Western psychology, for over two thousand years. In simple terms, “mindfulness” refers to paying attention to the present, with a sense of openness and non-judgment to whatever arises. Rather than focusing on pathology or “what’s missing,” Buddhist psychology focuses on strengthening healthy mental qualities, such as generosity, wisdom, integrity, compassion and flexibility. Mindfulness practices are designed to cultivate these positive and useful states that are part of our inherent nature.

Through scientific inquiry and my own professional experience, mindfulness techniques have been shown to be useful for a variety of difficulties, including anxiety, depression, stress management, low self-esteem and chronic pain. When appropriate, I teach clients exercises like mindful breathing and mindful body awareness. While these require effort, many clients have found these practices to be extremely helpful with their healing process. Feel free to read my article on mindfulness to learn more about what it is and how it can help.

External Focused Strategies
External strategies refer to outer focused actions the client can take to help meet their therapy goals. Examples include: changing one’s daily routine; increasing assertive communication; developing more social skills; and participating in community activities. Internal processes effect external actions we take in the world and vice versa. For example, implementing a health and wellness plan that involves daily exercise will likely have a positive impact on one's emotional life as well as physical energy level.

Behavioral focused therapy strategies are commonly used to help people overcome issues related to anxiety, such as phobias. For difficulties like these, just talking about the issue only helps so much. Participating in exercises involving exposure to the feared situation is often an integral part of healing. This typically involves taking small, slow steps toward exposing the client to the triggering situation, first in the safety of the office setting, then gradually working toward more challenging experiences in the “real world.” In traditional psychotherapy language, this is often referred to as “graduated exposure therapy” or “systematic desensitization.”