My approach to therapy is informed by who I am as a person as well as by what the research shows is most effective. In summary, this approach consists of genuine acceptance; respect for your strengths; focus on a strong relationship between us; flexibility in both goals and treatment; and finally, a sense of humor.
Almost everyone comes into therapy feeling critical of themselves. I believe every behavior and every feeling, no matter how “bad”, has a reason for being there, and a function in my client’s life. My focus is always on understanding that reason and function. With that understanding comes genuine acceptance, and with acceptance comes the possibility for change.
Life is not easy for anyone, and I firmly believe that we are all doing the best that we can. As I get to know my clients, I invariably see the strength, courage and persistence that enables them to keep going in the face of tremendous difficulties. The simple fact that they have chosen to seek help, rather than resign themselves to unhappiness, demonstrates a measure of heroism. (That heroism is useful too: Research shows that people who make the decision to come for therapy experience improvement between the time they made the appointment and their first session.)
The single most important variable affecting outcomes in therapy has been shown to be the therapeutic alliance — the working relationship between the client and the therapist. Research shows that regularly measuring the strength of that relationship improves it, and results in better outcomes. At the end of every session we review whether you felt heard, whether we talked about things you felt were important and whether my approach and method suited you. And I’m delighted when we find something that needs changing, because then I can be better at helping you.
There are many routes to happiness and contentment, and my role is to help you find your own route, rather than to tell you what to do. You may find that your goals change through the course of therapy. Whatever the case, we will be working on whatever you feel is most important.
It is questionable whether any particular type of therapy works better than any other. However, for any single individual or couple, certain types of therapy will suit their personality, world-view and way of approaching problems. If you already know how you want to work, great. If you’re not sure, want more information, or feel you may change your mind, then it will become apparent over a few sessions what therapy approach will resonate best with you. For some people that approach will focus on insight into their life, while for others, an appeal to reason and cognitive restructuring will be most effective. Some people might respond best to connecting more with their emotions and others find that behavior modification complete with homework assignments is most useful.
Therapy is generally seen as a very serious business, but many of my clients find a shared smile or laugh to be very helpful. In order to see humor in something painful or difficult, a client has to step back from the situation and see it almost as an observer. That ability to get perspective can be very important in effecting change.