Welcome. Beginning a new therapeutic relationship can be a difficult step. It takes a great deal of strength to recognize when we are going through a hard time, and even more courage to reach out for a helping hand. Counseling is unique because it provides a safe and secure environment that allows individuals to set goals, identify barriers to those goals, heal from past hardships, and build upon internal resources, such as coping skills.
When deciding on a therapist, it is important to consider their theoretical orientation and approach to working with clients. All of the important components of my therapy approach have been supported by research to effectively create long-lasting positive changes in individuals' lives. This is an important consideration because what works for one person may not always work for another; however, evidenced-based practices tend to be effective for everyone.
Six main components make up the foundation of my theoretical approach. Underlying all of these components is the notion that the client is the expert in their life, and while I may have helpful tools and expertise, it is ultimately the client who knows what does and does not work for them. Additionally, it is the client who chooses to implement the knowledge and skills gained in therapy.
While interventions and methods of case conceptualization are important, the factor that best predicts the success of therapy is the quality of the therapeutic relationship. Please contact me if you would like to schedule a free 15 minute consultation to ensure I am a good fit for your personality and needs. I hope to meet you soon!
EMDR (Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) efficiently reduces the negative impact that adverse events have on our quality of life. Our brains have a natural ability to “adaptively” process experiences (i.e., keep the good information, such as memories and lessons, while getting rid of the bad, such as symptoms and negative thoughts patterns). However, when the experience is adverse or traumatic, the information does not get adequately processed. Instead of working its way to the outer cortex of the brain (the human—intelligent—brain), it remains stuck in the midbrain (the lizard—unintelligent—brain that is responsible for basic survival behaviors). Not only that, but the logic in the left hemisphere of the brain does not connect and integrate with the emotions and images in the right hemisphere. EMDR uses protocols that target the maladaptive neural networks and a bilateral signal that facilitates communication between the hemispheres, which allows our brains to naturally reprocess information and heal.
While many clinicians conceptualize their clients through an individual lens, many of us conceptualize our clients in the context of the various systems in their life. This is known as a systemic approach. Systems involved in an individual's life include family, friends, work/academic environments, spiritual communities, society, etc. I believe it is crucial to address all systems because this is the way to understand the important influences and pressures in a person’s life. It is also an effective way to reinforce change, thus leading to longer-lasting positive results. Humans are social beings and we need to feel connected to others in order to thrive and live life to the fullest. This tenet is core to the systemic approach.
We are human and as such, suffering and change are inevitable. Various external factors (such as adverse events) and internal factors (such as neurochemical imbalances) can lead us to experience distress. While it is important to address root issues of our distress, it is just as important (if not more important) to enhance our ability to cope with those sources of distress. Sources of resilience are all of those internal and external resources that bring us happiness, health, and fulfillment. They are the “pillows of life” that help break our fall when we are faced with adversity. Examples of internal sources of resilience are coping skills and nutrition. Examples of external sources of resilience are interpersonal relationships and hobbies. I help my clients identify those “life ingredients” that when present, create a better quality of life. This, in turn, has a natural way of decreasing their level of distress.
From the moment we enter this world, we hear stories, or narratives about ourselves, which we then integrate into our self-identity. An example of this is the person who has been told they are a failure and ends up believing they are a failure. Their narrative biases them to the point that they are only able to perceive information that confirms the notion that they are a failure. Narratives are strong and often developed over the course of many years, so they inhibit an individual's ability to perceive information that contradicts their narrative. We all have many narratives that drive our behavior and it is beneficial to identify negative narratives and adjust them to be more accurate reflections of ourselves. We all have strengths and sometimes it takes a neutral professional to help us identify them.
Mindfulness is an invaluable source of resilience. The secret to life is being mindful in as many moments as possible. While regrets and losses from the past or worries and uncertainties about the future can take up a lot of our mental energy, it is important to remember that joy can only be experienced in the present moment. Mindfulness is a way of intentionally experiencing the present moment. It is a skill, and like any skill, takes practice. Mindfulness can be done by bringing your attention to the senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste) or to some other anchor, like your breath. It can also be done by “stepping back” from your thoughts and observing them with curiosity and compassion. Mindfulness can lead to a natural ability to think (and thus live life) in the present moment. Mindfulness has been shown to have a multitude of positive effects on our mental health. One such effect is it enhances our ability to perceive beauty and joy in the little things this world has to offer, which in turn, can promote gratitude and a deeper, longer-lasting sense of well being.
Cognitive-behavioral techniques and interventions have a great deal of empirical evidence supporting their efficacy and ability to create positive and long-lasting changes in a person's life. This theory enables negative patterns in thinking (such as those making up a problematic narrative) to be replaced by positive and more accurate patterns of thinking. These cognitive changes typically occur as a result of intentional changes in an individual's behavior. The behavioral changes may be difficult at first, but if the individual is persistent and consistent, they will see them occur more naturally and comfortably.