THERAPY 101 People seek therapy because they desire change. The clients who enter my office want something to be different—an aspect of their lives, a relationship, or themselves. Many of them have tried very hard to make these changes on their own but feel stuck. It happens to the best of us.
As a therapist, I offer clients three basic things: a workspace, a relationship, and a laboratory of sorts. My therapy office provides a safe place for clients to think aloud, sort through their feelings, and stand back and see their situation differently. Despite the busyness of life, they at least have one hour in which it’s OK to focus on and invest in themselves.
During this hour, they receive support, guidance, feedback, and encouragement. It helps to hear someone else’s perspective--especially an objective one. I fill many roles: guide, teacher, coach, cheerleader, consultant, and companion on the journey.
I believe therapy works best when therapist and client put their heads together, join in exploration, and exchange ideas, each one drawing on their resources. The client’s resources include self-knowledge, experiences, and reactions. My resources include professional training, knowledge, a range of techniques, and experience, as well as my observations, reactions, and intuition.
Talking with a therapist helps clients get out of unproductive ruminating and move into new ways of thinking, feeling, and acting. With guidance, clients can creatively explore and discover better ways of being in the world. In this sense, my therapy office serves as a laboratory. Often the relationship between us provides clients with new ways of relating. This alone can be healing for clients who have found relationships to be hurtful.
Because every client is unique, I believe that therapy must suit the client. One size does not fit all. Therapy provides a template that, with the client’s ongoing input, I design to fit his or her needs. As the client changes over time, so does the therapy.
I believe that everyone contains the capacity for growth and healing—for abundant flowering. It is my job to provide a protected space, a rich soil, where clients’ potentials can be cultivated and nurtured. If something blocks this potential, it is my job to help clients discover what that is. Then we can remove it or work with it.
To do this work, I draw upon the following approaches:
Cognitive behavioral therapy to help clients notice and alter unhelpful or self-defeating ways of thinking and acting. Schema therapy to help clients identify and change dysfunctional core beliefs and feelings about themselves, others, and the world. Mindfulness training to help clients focus in the here-and-now, better manage thoughts and feelings, and live more fully. Psychodynamic therapy to help clients recognize and integrate different parts of themselves.
I am willing to discuss spirituality and/or resources such as a church, prayer, or meditation for clients who want this to be part of their therapy. I am a practicing Christian who appreciates other religions, and I would never force my personal beliefs on anyone else. For clients who hold spiritual beliefs, bringing this part of their lives to therapy can be helpful.
The benefits of therapy are many, and depend upon each client. Some benefits include the following:
Increasing insight and awareness Gaining knowledge and helpful information Overcoming helplessness Discovering new options and choices Finding creative solutions Acquiring new coping skills (such as relaxation skills and handling feelings) Developing other needed skills (such as assertiveness and communication skills) Increasing effectiveness in living Setting and working on goals Reassessing and changing old beliefs and counterproductive ways of thinking Assimilating upsetting events (such as divorce, losses, accidents, violence, and abuse) Developing healthy self-acceptance Growing in self-respect Improving relationships
Many studies indicate that the most important variables in therapy outcome are: the quality of the client-therapist relationship and the degree of client participation.