My approach & other articles

What's my approach?

People sometimes start by asking, "What is your approach?" Which isn't a bad place to start. There are some distinctly different approaches, and it's worth knowing the general ground rules a therapist works by. 

One key difference is between behavioral and psychodynamic approaches. Behavioral approaches tend to have highly structured sessions, with the therapist mainly in the roles of teacher and coach. Behavioral approaches work on the assumption that we don't need to understand why we do things in order to start changing what we do. 

My approach is psychodynamic, not behavioral. I do use behavioral and cognitive-behavioral tools when they help. But I'm interested in helping people achieve lasting change not just in how they behave but also in how they feel about themselves and their lives. And I'm very interested in helping people improve the quality of their relationships over time. Research shows that people remember much more of what we discover for ourselves than of what we are told. Learning is a process of discovering.  

So I believe that, to be most effective for lasting change, a therapy session needs to have room in it for you to discover something you didn't already know about yourself--at your own pace, and in your own time. A discovery which you experience as helpful, even satisfying. My job is to have a conversation with you in which we both learn about you over time in ways that enrich your sense of who you are, and help you grow your emotional resources. 

I don't believe there's a cookie-cutter approach that will work for everyone. Some people respond well to exploring the past; others do better by focusing on the present. Some are verbal processors, others tend to feel emotions without words. I use psychodynamic insights about personality development to help me get a sense of how to work well with different people and different age groups. I respect that we all really do have our own personalities and ways of learning.

So that's a bit about my approach. But I want to add a note about this whole question of "approach": I think we therapists have unfortunately confused everyone by generating way too many labels for the work we do! Good therapists learn from their clients, and I think experience tends to wear off the sharp corners of theoretical differences between different approaches. 

In fact, the approach may not be the most important question when you're looking for a therapist. Research consistently shows that in most cases, the brand of therapy matters less than the quality of the therapeutic relationship. Therapy helps when the therapist is well trained, and the person who’s in therapy feels well understood by the therapist.  

Other articles:

Neuroscience and "The King's Speech"

Tips for interviewing a therapist    206-390-7875