My Approach to Helping
I became a psychologist because I believe that psychotherapy is effective in helping people who are struggling or wanting to grow. I am as excited to be a part of this process as I was when I began my practice 40 years ago.
What I have learned is that enduring change happens in a therapy relationship that is felt to be safe, supportive, and one that honors the goals and working pace of each person. Effective therapy and true change also needs to attend to the emotional, cognitive, and behavioral dimensions of our functioning.
There are no perfect parents or childhoods. We need to understand our history and the forces, both positive and negative, that have shaped us. Understanding our past is not about blame or questioning the motives of those who raised us; we need to take responsibility for what is inside of us presently and the life we lead.
Before our capacity to think, we process our experience emotionally. Throughout our life emotions are at the center of intimate relationships, family, and friendships. What makes a movie or piece of music great are the emotions these art forms evoke.
We all have had painful emotional experiences growing up. When there is no one fully present and capable to help us identify our feelings, understand us, soothe us, and help us to integrate these feelings, they are suppressed in their current state and become magnified and toxic over time. It is my clinical belief that these unintegrated painful feelings are a major source of psychological and relational problems.
In the context of our early relationships, we can also form unhealthy beliefs about ourselves and the world that further interrupt healthy and effective functioning and lead to low self-esteem, depression, unhealthy guilt, anxiety, problems with assertiveness, destructive anger, substance abuse and other compulsive behaviors, and relationship problems. The early source of these belief systems needs to be understood in order for the beliefs themselves challenged and modified.
Behavioral experimentation is the third necessary component of change in therapy. It is both an outgrowth of healthier thought patterns and greater emotional self-support, and successful behavioral experimentation in turn galvanizes new ways of seeing ourself and the world.
The emotional, cognitive and behavioral work of therapy are necessary to help us separate the past from the present. This new awareness brings the choice and freedom to develop a healthier self-experience and capacity for relating to others in our present life.