Most people seek psychotherapy because some aspect of their life is painful, troubling, or not what they wish it to be. People sometimes approach psychotherapy from the perspective of a problem that needs to be “fixed”, or a troubling symptom that needs to be eliminated. What is harder to see is that what we identify as a problem or symptom may be the result of a “fix” or adaptation to an earlier circumstance. Often happening outside our conscious awareness, many of our earliest “fixes” occur as a result of the necessity of accommodating to those on whom we depend: parents, caregivers, siblings, extended family, and teachers. Sometimes these “fixes” take place before our awareness is grounded in words, such that their impact continues to reverberate in the form of physical reactions and symptomology. At times accommodation is not an option, such as when trauma leads to the need for more than a “fix”, but rather to a distancing or dissociation from memories of painful experiences. In these instances, images and bodily feelings and responses often provide clues about where a person first needed to adapt to the expectations, intrusions or dismissals of others. The experience in psychotherapy of perceiving similar dynamics in the relationship with one’s therapist is common. Using this information is akin to following Hansel and Gretel’s trail of bread crumbs, a path to rediscovering the aspects of one’s self that had to be hidden or jettisoned to protect one’s self in the process of development and maturation. Understanding more about one’s original “fixes” and traumas helps a person to consider their present-day circumstances, responses and relationships through a different lens, with the therapist’s help.
I also specialize in working with patients who want to understand their dreams. Understanding the meaning of one’s dreams is often a springboard for understanding the lesser-known aspects of who one is. Even dreams that seem threatening or negative often provide useful information, from a perspective to which our waking consciousness may not have access. For more information about working with dreams, click here.
My approach to helping someone who works with me is to listen closely and sensitively for the patterned responses that may be beyond your awareness, and also to maintain and foster an attitude of curiosity about what may be revealed. I sometimes think of therapy as a dance, with shifting roles of who is leading at any time. I am respectful of a patient’s timing in terms of choosing what they wish to share at any point in time, and this is an example of how a patient can be leading in the dance. Other times I may be leading, in terms of aiding the process of not letting something valuable that has come to the surface of our awareness sink back into obscurity. The work of therapy requires two people, so it is important that there is adequate trust between the patient and the therapist. This often takes time to develop. Many peer-reviewed studies of the effectiveness of psychotherapy have demonstrated that the relationship between a patient and a therapist is the most significant predictor of a successful outcome in therapy.