What is Psychotherapy?

Millions of American adults at some time experience depression, anxiety, workplace difficulties, and relationship issues. Many others struggle with emotional aspects of a chronic health condition, physical pain, loss and grief as well as other concerns. Psychotherapy provides supportive, non-judgmental guidance in figuring out for yourself what is best for you. It aids in identifying and changing maladaptive thoughts and behavioral patterns. It is a process based on the partnership created between the patient and therapist with your job being to (1) develop goals you wish to accomplish in therapy, and (2) share and reflect upon your experiences, thoughts and feelings you are having both in and out of the counseling room. My job is to mentor and sometimes teach, helping you increase insight and self understanding along with improving skills that you use to resolve present and future concerns. The process does not “change” you but leads you to build understanding, empathy and acceptance of yourself and others.

How does psychotherapy work?

I use a variety of theoretical approaches to help you understand and develop solutions to your concerns. These methods were created over decades of research and application. One such is the psychodynamic approach. It aims to identify and understand the sources of your concerns through a process of self-exploration. This ultimately reduces troubling feelings, aids in improving relationships and increases coping skills at home, work and in the community. Another widely used approach is called Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy [CBT]. It helps you develop skills such as recognizing and changing “errors” in thinking or reducing anxiety with relaxation and other techniques you will learn.

There are generally three phases in psychotherapy. Each is essential for success, and each builds on the preceding one. Underlying the entire process is the therapy relationship that is built on collaboration and trust and is called the “therapeutic alliance”.

  1. BEGINNING-During the first stage we mutually define treatment goals and the means to achieve them.
  2. THE “WORKING THROUGH” PROCESS-Clarification of which past influences led you to present day conflicts. You will begin to feel better about your life.
  3. ENDING [Termination Phase]-As important as the preceding stages of psychotherapy are, during this period you will consolidate what you have learned assuring you have integrated new ideas skills such that you become in a sense your own therapist.

During all phases of this work you are encouraged to ask questions in session, to check in with your therapist if you feel a session didn’t go well, and to think about sessions during the week. In addition, apply what you have learned, and bring in to session your thoughts, actions, and feelings.

Treatment of Anxiety and Stress Management

There are different kinds of anxiety and while many people experience nervousness, worry and self doubt from time to time, consider treatment when feelings of dread become overwhelming and continuous, interfering with daily life. It is important to remember that anxiety can be overcome. Some symptoms of anxiety include intrusive, repetitive thoughts, racing heartbeat, discomfort around crowds, and sometimes a sense of difficulty breathing. Anxiety may lead to physical problems such as insomnia, digestive difficulties and headaches. CBT is often recommended. This approach includes relaxation techniques, self-care, nutrition and similar interventions. Another important method of treatment is psychodynamic therapy.

You can take charge of your stress. It’s about lifestyle, thoughts, emotions and how you deal with problems. Stress management teaches healthier ways to cope, changing the stressful situation when you can, changing your reaction when you can’t, taking care of yourself and making time for rest and relaxation.

Treatment of Depression

As with anxiety, depressive symptoms are more pronounced and longer lived than everyday feelings of sadness or “blueness” that might typically occur for a while after the loss of a loved one or when daylight lessens in the fall for example. There are different types and degrees of intensity of depression. It is important to evaluate symptoms to determine which type of depression is being experienced. Symptoms range from chronic feelings of sadness, loss of appetite or overeating, insomnia or sleeping too much, irritability, self-doubt and sexual issues, among others. A highly depressed person will have more severe symptoms. Usually CBT, and interpersonal, insight-oriented (psychodynamic) treatment methods, among others, help alleviate depression.

Treatment of Relationship and Marital Issues

No two marriages are the same, nor are happy marriages without strife. John M. Gottman, Ph.D., a prominent researcher, educator and writer about couples, both thriving and struggling, speaks of “emotionally intelligent” relationships in which partners employ seven key behaviors that ailing partnerships fail to incorporate on a daily basis. He says “the heart [of happy marriage is a] “deep friendship”. By this he means a mutual respect and enjoyment of each other’s company. These couples maintain positivity rather than negativity, both when thinking about and interacting with their partners. Dr. Sue Johnson, a clinical psychologist who developed “Emotionally Focused Therapy “[EFT], writes about the fundamental need we all have of being in an emotionally secure, nurturing and attuned relationship.

(See my “Resources” section for some relevant self help books).