About The Process
Over the course of the past two decades, I have assisted many individuals, couples and families. In the process, they have talked with me about their lives and their longing for more self-acceptance and closeness with others, a stronger sense of their own inherent goodness, the freedom to express themselves more fully or relief from sorrows or despair that had darkened their lives unbearably.
I've listened attentively, as they've shared stories of their often brave efforts to navigate a chapter of their lives, for which they have had no modeling or mentoring, to wrestle with conflicts that have wreaked havoc in their lives, to courageously acknowledge the harsh realities of the pain, suffering or fear they have experienced and pursue changes in their lives, even without hope that such changes were possible.
Sometimes their stories have been stories of profound sorrow and loss, and at other times, stories of lives overshadowed by fear. Sometimes, their stories have spanned generations, unfolding against a backdrop of poverty, racism and addiction, or experiences of heart-wrenching neglect and abuse. At other times, they've been seemingly less tragic, but no less important stories of the inability or failure of loving parents to provide them what they most needed.
The telling of a story is just the beginning, as the process of psychotherapy unfolds, and my clients and I try and understand what they most need and want, and join together to create and foster a therapeutic experience focused on their needs. Sometimes it can be the beginning of an in-depth process of self-exploration, of examining not only a client's experience of their lives, but the influences that have most imprinted their emotional and psychological being, and the way they regard themselves, others and the world in which they live. At other times it can be the beginning of a period of learning, focused more on the need for change and adjustments in ways a client perceives and responds to persons or events in his or her life, or the way a couple or family relates to one another.
Whatever the focus, I will listen to you thoughtfully, with an intention to understand you, your life and your experience of living, and create an experience that attends to your psychological needs, whether focused on specific goals, your larger life or a need simply to explore your psychological world more openly.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to share our inner lives, especially if we've learned to judge or censure ourselves. Even with an invitation, the process of sharing may not feel natural --- I understand! By the time we become adults ... long before we reach maturity ... many of us become unsure, afraid or ashamed by parts of ourselves. We may share some aspects of ourselves with the world and conceal others, and although this may seem imperative for our safety, it often costs us our authenticity, and with it, our capacity for spontaneity, self-expression and joy.
In the context of the therapeutic process, it can be both relieving and liberating to acknowledge our most vulnerable feelings, especially feelings that may evoke feeling of shame or fear in other contexts or situations. The presence of someone caring and empathic, offering therapeutic encouragement and support for the emergence of the self, can often help persons begin to relate to themselves more compassionately. The experience of such therapeutic support can also help facilitate the development of a more secure, safe, cohesive and integrated sense of self and heightened well-being.
Many child development theorists have speculated that as children, we only need one thoughtful and attentive adult to care for us to help us learn and grow. Often I believe that a corollary can be true for adults. The experience of attunement and empathy that can be offered by a sensitive, caring and skillful psychotherapist can be profoundly reparative. It can provide a frame of reference for experiences of closeness, as well as help alter, revise or reconstitute interpersonal “templates” of experience based on historic relationships which may have been neglectful, abusive or unresponsive.
Many similar processes like this can occur during the course of psychotherapy. Often complex and nuanced, these processes may include an exploration of any associations, thoughts or feelings evoked or generated by either the content or process of the psychotherapy experience itself. These association, thoughts, feeling or emanations, will serve to guide us, as we seek to understand the source of the discomfort or distress you may be experiencing, and its historic links to your early years or other influential times or moments in your life between then and the present.
Often the impact of painful or difficult experiences continue to echo in some form in our lives, evoked by analogous or seemingly unrelated or random events or interactions which are somehow linked to the original injury we sustained. Understanding the influences and magnitude of these injuries in the presence of a trusted therapist can help quell their lingering or residual after-affects, especially when this understanding is accompanied by the release or expression of feelings which may never had an opportunity to be fully felt or known.
Sometimes, to retain our psychological equilibrium, or sustain our well-being in the face of overwhelming or traumatizing circumstances, our feelings can become encapsulated, buried or sequestered, and elude our active awareness. While originally in the service of our survival, this kind of adaptation can often outlive its purposefulness and impinge upon our life and development, especially when it’s become adopted universally or rigidly in our lives as a patterned way of relating to ourselves or others.
Often leading to a loss of “contact” with the self, and its own inherent value and goodness, these impingements can also lead to isolation, self-reproach, anxiety, the fragmentation or splintering of our emotional and cognitive responses, or other symptoms of dis-ease.
As we meet, we will try and identify those influences that may have detracted from your sense of worth and well-being or contributed to any of the difficulties you may be experiencing and try and explore if the responses or approaches you have developed to these influences are truly helpful to you in the present, or contributing to the development of problems or difficulties in your life.
As the process of therapy unfolds and we begin to understand these responses and approaches, we can help explore what new or different formulations may be needed to help you experience more joy, satisfaction and ease in your life.
While intuitive, windy and often circular, this process can be healing in itself, restoring optimism, hope and a sense of meaning to your life, as well as a sense of power and agency to influence your destiny. Experiencing this in a collaborative, caring relationship can also be profoundly healing, especially if your needs for support were not attended to earlier in life.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
- Mary Oliver