What to Expect from Therapy
Whether you come to therapy on your own or with a partner, you want to leave therapy feeling energized and secure – both within yourself and in your relationships
In our first session:
- In addition to touching on all the general areas of your life, we will do an exercise to identify the root causes of your emotional reactions
- If you have come with a relationship concern, we will map out the cycle of disconnection between you and your partner (or child, friend, colleague, etc).
- Where helpful, we will add baseline assessments for any anxiety, depression, anger or interpersonal problems you are having
- We will begin to clarify your vision for your life
Future sessions will then be spent:
- Working through root causes (such that you are no longer activated to the same level of intensity in your current life)
- De-escalating cycles of conflict and withdrawal/avoidance in your relationship
- Building skills where needed
- Creating and enhancing the positive cycles that enable you to move forward with greater clarity, confidence, ease, and compassion for self and other
How Intensive Counseling Helps:
With reduced reactivity, restored connection(s), and enhanced skills, clients are able to get to know themselves (and their partners) during the session in positive new ways they haven’t been able to before. This new learning through experience (not just cognitive understanding) then carries forward in their lives
Longer sessions give us the time we need… for deep listening, healing the impact of past events in a focused way, and bringing your hard-earned wisdom into your current life.
We will assess for root causes, including trauma and environmental stressors, in our first session. Trauma is any event that overwhelms the nervous system at the time. These events can be the kind that:
-make the news (e.g. wars, fires, floods, or car accidents)
-happen within close relationships (e.g. verbal, physical, or sexual abuse; divorce, witnessing domestic violence, or being made the scapegoat of the family)
-occur at key times of development (e.g. being bullied in childhood; not knowing the answer to a teacher’s question; or experiencing a stressful event during pregnancy or childbirth when hormone levels are high)
-occur at key times in relationship (e.g. when you or your child is sick, or you’ve lost a loved one, and your partner’s not there for you).
Sometimes the trauma is what didn’t happen, as is the case with emotional or physical neglect.
The story itself may seem small, or it may seem big. What matters is how the trauma lives in memory and the body, and how it impacts the way we perceive our world – as if the past is still here with us. If current life moments either consciously or unconsciously “touch” old memories, the reaction can be disproportionate to the moment.
Many stressful and traumatic events heal on their own. Some get “stuck”, and over time morph into PTSD, depression, anxiety, anger issues, low self-esteem, reactivity in relationships, obsessive thinking, feelings of powerlessness, etc. Over time, we might forget the event even happened or think it no longer impacts us.
Using proven trauma therapies we will do an assessment to identify how much of your trauma remains, then engage your own internal healing processes in an integrated way that clears the blocks and naturally restores balance and health. From there, new skills, connections, and ways of thinking can be adopted with greater ease.
For Couples and Families:
When a relationship is in distress, very often a difficult negative cycle of conflict and withdrawal is repeating, regardless of the topic. Sadly, the more each partner tries to reconnect or fix the problem, the worse the cycle can become. Intense feelings of anger, sadness, anxiety, and fear can escalate and fuel behaviors such as blame, criticism, stonewalling, passive-aggression, affairs, etc. , causing deep emotional pain. Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples, developed by Dr. Sue Johnson, is a well-researched and effective form of therapy that focuses on strengthening and repairing the relational bonds between partners.
The first stage of EFT involves de-escalating the conflict. As your therapist, I will work to help you understand your cycle as a couple and see more clearly how each of you is coping with the distress (and underlying vulnerability) you are feeling in the relationship. Very often it’s hard to believe (or to allow yourself to care) that your partner is actually feeling hurt and missing the connection with you if all you see is lashing out or turning away.
EFT slows things down, creates safety, and allows for access to the softer underlying feelings that were hidden beneath the coping. Here, partners can experience and respond to each other in ways that create new positive patterns of sharing, responsiveness, closeness, and intimacy.
Since at least some part of the pattern of emotional reactivity has often begun for individuals long before they meet as partners, there can be great benefit to healing the reactivity from these earlier root causes (i.e. traumatic or stressful events) within the couples session. Doing so builds compassion and understanding; allows partners to support each other in new ways; and lets us move directly back into the primary reason you have come for therapy: to heal and improve your relationship.
Important Note: Especially with regard to working through past trauma, I want to be careful not to imply that the stress, anxiety, or depression you are experiencing now is based solely on what is happening inside of you due to something in the past. Of course, current life stressors matter, and we are all impacted by events unfolding in the news – and in our own neighborhoods. The work my colleagues and I do, helping to heal trauma and restore relationships, makes one better able to respond to all of our present moments and possibilities.