My Approach to Helping
Hello!. The prompt I've been given here is to tell about "my approach to helping." To be honest, writing things like this feels a little cringey, because it’s one, hard to boil down an approach to psychotherapy, when psychotherapy is first and foremost client-centered--that means rather than coming in with preconceived ideas of what will work for you in therapy, instead I am informed by what you share--i.e., how and what you communicate in terms of life experiences, as well as what is currently taking place. After this, it’s less about ‘finding the right therapy’, you are not clothes shopping after all, but rather using evidence-based practices, because it just makes sense to start with something that already has a record of working, and then tailoring these practices into a treatment plan designed for the individual you are. Describing my approach though doesn’t really explain why my therapeutic style works, and I believe you want to know why therapy works more than how it is crafted, so more on that in a moment.
But first, or secondly, I should say, such prompts provoke the type of anxiety that is inherent to anticipation of mistakes. I've done enough of my own therapeutic work to know that just because something doesn't feel great, it doesn't necessarily mean to avoid it, and that it’s ok to still feel anxious, natural in fact, because we are associative learners…and well, mistakes are going to happen, and some are downright essential. The motivation for me to approach what is necessary, but also taxing, comes from putting forward facing what I want—and in this instance, it is for you to know why therapy works.
What works in therapy is sticking to the fact that people can and do get better when engaged in the process of therapy. It is a recursive truth that yields tangible hope not based on wishful thinking, but by the very fact that ample evidence shows that it works. Therefore, my focus is on treatment rather than management. It means then if you are not getting better, I want to explore why and assess what needs to be addressed to get you there. My goal is to get you to a place where you will ultimately graduate from our episode of care, because without that pursuit, there would be no reason for me to do this work. Fortunately, though it is a pursuit that can also be realized because the very things needed to achieve this are already possessed within. They are your character strengths. And so then I get to be the guide who hands off new tools, validates the weight of what is being expressed so that it doesn't continue to fester or go unrecognized, offers challenge, advocacy, or a new point-of-view, etc., so that you can know you are capable of dealing with your obstacles, as well as getting to a place of not just feeling better, but experiencing life with more meaning.
Even though ‘why therapy works’ is simple enough, the barriers to engaging in this process are significant. The material ones are well known in discussions addressing our national mental health crisis. However, even for those who have access to services, there is still a pivotal requirement for it to work—that is trust. However, by way of both instinct and imprinting, the default of ‘stranger as danger’ is a hard-wired survival mechanism, resulting in a sense of mistrust that will be reinforced or dampened via the environment and lived experiences that are filtered, labeled, and collected as automatic, binary associations that both shape our perception and forecast our emotions and behavioral responses, regardless of actual awareness of these associations.
It means then if you distrust me upon our first encounter, well then you might just be a member of the human race. We are also a race that suffers major ramifications to sanity and life expectancy if we isolate for too long, and so to be in relationship to one another, trust must be risked. The safer someone feels, but more importantly, the safer someone is, the more likely they are to venture into trust, and so this is the primary specialization of therapy, to create a space that is safe. There are varying degrees of safety, but for the most part it comes when: you can be yourself, feel acceptance and positive regard, do not have to protect yourself from abusive behavior, experience confidentiality and kindness, a willingness by someone to help, and that the person before you is authentic. The highest levels of safety though come with a few additional factors: when someone also demonstrates in their life, craft, or profession, excellence, yet not perfectionism, sound judgement, yet not condemnation, and upholds the ethical practices surrounding whatever avenue this expression takes. To me, this is a sacred space, and one that I am passionate about creating and protecting, because from here, and joined by you in a willingness to engage in the process, healing can begin.