Here are five organizing principles that characterize the kind of work I do:
Many psychotherapists apply cookie-cutter approaches regardless of the client sitting across from them. But there’s an old adage that says for each client, the therapist must invent a new therapy. I tend to focus in a particular way on helping clients access their emotional intelligence, but truly effective therapy requires that clinicians use specific interventions based on their experience, knowledge of the client and what he or she needs therapeutically. The nature of those interventions emerge over time within the context of an authentic connection. I’m specifically trained to provide “optimally responsive” treatment so that lasting change takes place.
It is now well established by research in infant-caregiver interactions, attachment styles and interpersonal neurobiology that we learn how to be in the world from our earliest relationships. Self-defeating patterns in adulthood were once crucial strategies in childhood to deal with both subtle and/or epic failures in emotional attunement. Psychotherapy is not about blaming our parents, but rather understanding the effects of this misattunement. I’m trained to listen deeply, to share what I am observing and to help clients become more self-aware. In the process clients gain access to their emotional intelligence, clarify their purpose and develop more constructive ways of being.
Emphasis on Harm Reduction
Harm reduction is a therapeutic approach that views addiction as a fluid, pattern of experience with different meanings, rather than a discrete disorder or disease. The goals of therapy are therefore determined by the client. In other words, if a client wants to moderate their alcohol or drug use instead of quitting completely, then we would work together to understand the nature of their use and devise a plan to use in a healthier way. The point is that I do not have any pre-conceived notions about whether clients should stop or moderate specific behaviors. I’m trained to help clients understand the meaning and functions of their addictive behaviors, develop greater emotional flexibility and to collaboratively decide what is the best course of action.
Narratives are Co-created
Clients are often desperate to find out why they act the way they do. Although I agree with the importance of this question, I don’t necessarily believe there is one “true” answer. Rather, the answer is more like an evolving “narrative” that is co-created between psychotherapist and client. I’m trained to “make sense together” of self-defeating ways of being in the world and to co-create more adaptive ones. The value of this approach is that narratives are substantially more transformative and long-lasting when they are co-created, rather than simply imposed by the therapist.
The Importance of the Relationship
It is also well established that the therapeutic relationship is responsible for better therapeutic outcomes more than any other variable. So all the cutting-edge therapeutic techniques in the world are relatively useless if they are not provided within the context of a genuine, personal connection. I appreciate the courage it takes to open up to a complete stranger and I use both my extensive training and personal experience as a client to ground a therapeutic process that can at times feel unpredictable and daunting. Equally important is the fact that self-defeating patterns can emerge within the relationship itself. I’m trained to use the relationship as a vehicle to help clients identify how they impede their progress “in the moment”, which leads to significant therapeutic shifts.