Theory

My therapeutic approach is humanistic, person-centered and grounded in the fundamental principles of human development, motivation and growth-throughout-the-lifespan. While my work is deeply informed by a broad understanding of 'theory', I seek first to be grounded, down-to-earth and human.

People have a lot going on in their minds and emotions when they initially come to therapy so my first priority is to be an active, caring and supportive listener. That said, I also know that human beings need much more than just a good listener. Thus, I am well versed in and make extensive use of ideas and methods from the range of well-respected theories: cognitive behavioral, attachment, modern psychodynamic, systems, relational, existential, brain plasticity, etc.

The core principles of my practice are:

  1. Human beings are fundamentally creative. But due to a combination of influences we can get mired and stuck in uncreative patterns of thinking, feeling, behavior and circumstance—and these patterns form the foundation for depression, anxiety, relationship conflicts and self-defeating behaviors. Therapy can be an extremely robust tool to help us identify, understand and turn these patterns around.
  2. All human thinking, feeling and behavior develops (and can be re-shaped and re-conditioned) throughout the entire lifespan. And this all occurs in the context of interpersonal relationships. Thus, forming and maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships is a core dimension of psychological/emotional well-being throughout our lives.
  3. Our emotional and relational lives are highly dependent on our habitual patterns of thinking (i.e. our 'explanatory styles', habits of self-talk, core beliefs, the stories we tell ourselves, etc). Fortunately, each of us can learn to monitor, influence and make positive changes to our own habits/patterns of thinking. When we make this part of our recurrent routines, the results multiply exponentially over time.
  4. The past is always present. It is commonplace for people to believe that "leaving the past behind" is foundational to emotional well-being. This is a very significant misunderstanding. When we face our past and deal with it effectively, we integrate it into (rather than amputate it from) our lives. The depth, richness and internal sense of security that flows from this process of "knowing and owning your history" is quite profound. When this occurs, the past becomes a non-threatening dimension of our lives and there's no longer a need to "forget about it." Instead, it becomes a source of self-understanding and personal growth.

beyond theory

While the above principles form the theoretical foundation for my therapeutic work, it is also my belief that there are no simple answers to life’s challenges and no single 'school of thought' that eclipses all the rest. It is crucial for therapists to read widely and often, across disciplines and theoretical orientations, and to view professional learning/growth as lifelong endeavors.

If we are to support our clients in thinking for themselves and cultivating independent minds, then we therapists must do the same. Dogma or rigid adherence to any school of thought has no place in effective psychotherapy. What is primary is the building and maintenance of a therapeutic relationship that the client can use for his/her own learning and growth. Relationship building in any context is beyond theory.

the therapeutic relationship: integrating professionalism and personability

A therapeutic relationship characterized by safety, comfort and reliability creates the context that best supports human beings to make the positive changes, internally and externally, that they desire. Thus, our professional posture as therapists must be open, down to earth, engaged and transparent. The distant and passive therapist who "just sits there" analyzing you is no longer acceptable, nor is the excessively empathetic therapist who "feels your pain" but has little else to offer in the way of guidance and direction.

As therapists we must always be increasing our skills not only in the art of listening and understanding, but also in the art of giving direct feedback and providing new perspectives that open doors of possibilities for the people we work with. In truth, there is no single school of thought that has cornered the market on that.

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