Do I really need therapy?
What I’ve learned from helping hundreds of clients with anxiety, panic, PTSD, depression and other problems is that there are a lot of common struggles that people go through – self-doubt, embarrassment, isolation, feelings of helplessness, lack of confidence . . . If you’re feeling this, it’s normal and it’s a sign that you want something to change but don’t how to make that happen.
Many people wait years before they finally get help. They tell themselves things like, “I shouldn’t make a big deal about this . . .” “I should be able to get over this . . . ” “There isn’t anything I can do . . .” Getting help doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It takes a lot of courage and a lot of guts to reach out for help.
You can improve if you get the right help. That means finding working with a helping professional who understands your problem, knows the challenges you are going through, and gives you steps to start to building your confidence again and proving to yourself that you can start living life.
Think of me as a coach . . .
I think of myself as a coach – not just a therapist. What does a coach do? He takes a complicated set of tasks and teaches you the fundamentals. He strengthens you through training, develops complex skills through simple exercises, and helps you set realistic and achievable goals. Most importantly, the coach has been here before. He knows what works and what doesn’t. He understands what gets results fastest and leads to a dead end.
I’ll coach you through your problems. I understand that things are overwhelming and I’ll figure out how to take that problem and figure out what is the first step you need to take. I’ll give you specially designed exercises to help you build your confidence and get back your self-esteem. I’ll help you figure out what you want to get back and what you deserve.
When we meet, here are some of the things that I’ll work on with you:
I’ll listen to you fully. Most people I see come to therapy because they just don’t have anyone to talk to. If they do have someone, they don’t feel comfortable sharing. You can trust that I’ll give you the support and encouragement to say whatever it is you’re struggling with. You’re not the only alone and I’m here to help.
I’ll help you take that first step. Even in the first meeting, I’ll be thinking about what is something you can do to start getting your life back on track. What small, but significant, step can you take after our meeting to get things going. This is the process of getting back in control and we’ll do this step by step.
- I’ll help you face your biggest fears. It takes courage to deal with low self-esteem, past abuse, and self-criticism. But I’ve helped many people face these and other issues. But we’ll work on building you up, strengthening your confidence, and taking small and progressive steps to getting better. By the time you’re facing insecurity, overwhelming anxiety, feelings of helplessness, or other problems, you’ll be a different person. What was once unimaginable can be possible. You can get back your life again.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
I use a variety of techniques and my approaches will often depend on the client but I have two main approaches that I use in therapy: cognitive-behavioral therapy (sometimes called CBT) and mindfulness therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is an approach that looks at the way we think about problems as a major reason those problems cause emotional distress. For example, when people go through a trauma, it often causes people to think about life in a more fearful and cautious manner. This kind of reaction is actually adaptive in certain circumstances. A lot of my clients suffered childhood abuse. Children living in abusive homes actually need to be fearful because that fear keeps them away from and avoiding abusive caretakers or others. In that context, what I call survival thinking develops. The problem is that it doesn’t go away. That survival thinking occurs in all kinds of circumstances in life, such as the work setting, romantic relationships, parenting, and other areas. I would use use cognitive-behavioral therapy to identify and then change negative thinking related to a trauma.
Mindfulness therapy is an approach that is based on Buddhist philosophy but is non-spiritual in practice. Mindfulness is a way of approaching life that is so desperately needed into American society, which is so focused on over-stimulation, excessive consumption, and uncontemplated action. Mindfulness involves slowing down and living in the present moment but doing so with a sense of awareness about one’s thoughts and sense of self-compassion and acceptance.
Mindfulness is often associated with meditation but mindfulness is not a single technique but an approach to life. Meditation, yoga, and other practices can cultivate a sense of mindfulness, but mindfulness is how you live life and the way you experience reality. I teach my clients meditation but also teach mindfulness in other ways, such as how to approach your morning routine more thoughtfully, interact with children in a more engaged way.
To give you a better understanding, let me explain how I treat panic attacks with mindfulness. First, I see panic as a way of over-reacting to experiences inside one’s own body. That’s not to say they can help it and often they don’t realize this is what is happening. People become hyper-sensitive to certain feelings in their body, such as tightness in the chest or knots in the stomach. When these sensations occur in every day life, they react (or have been conditioned to react) to them with fear, feelings of helplessness or vulnerability. One client I worked with felt that whenever she noticed herself sweating she was going to have a full-blown panic attack and would end up.
What I've learned about effective therapy
Some people seem to be looking for a specific technique in the hopes that it will solve their particular problem. Sometimes there are techniques that seem to fit for one person vs. another. That’s important but research shows us several things about what makes therapy effective and it isn’t the newest technique you saw on the news or see books about in Barnes and Noble.
The therapist is far more important than the techniques. Yes, despite all the new techniques being talked about in the media, most therapies (granted they aren’t doing anything off the wall) tend to be about equally effective when carried out by competent practitioners. So when someone tells you there is only one way to treat an anxiety disorder or Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or depression, you should be very skeptical. Research from hundreds of therapy studies shows that the best predictor of how much clients improve in therapy is best predicted by who you work with – not what the therapist does. If you feel supported, understood, and encouraged by your therapist, that is the most important thing. You need to find someone who you feel comfortable with, trust, and have good rapport.
Therapy needs to work on the biggest problems. If you suffer from childhood abuse, you should be talking about that and not about why your mother-in-law validates you. Your therapist’s job is to make sure that you are dealing with the issues that are holding you back. It’s OK to talk about the day-to-day stresses but they shouldn’t be the sole focus of therapy if other issues brought you in for help.
Therapy should teach you skills. You should be learning cope skills, strategies, and gaining new insights into your problems. Getting things off your chest can feel good but you should also be leaving each session of therapy with something more than what you came in. You need to learn tools to take into your everyday life. I find that most clients who have therapists who almost exclusively listen and offer little advice or feedback tend to find that therapy less helpful. Your therapist needs be giving you tools to use or new insights. to approach life.
Therapy isn’t forever. If you’ve been working on the same problems for years with the same therapist and you think of your therapist as more of a friend or confidant than a helping professional than therapy has probably lost its edge. Based on research, most problems significantly improve in 10 to 20 sessions, with additional benefits from periodic sessions afterwards. That doesn’t mean all the problems are solved in that time frame but most people need time to put the insights from therapy into practice and change the way they approach life. After they’ve tried that, more therapy may be helpful to address further stuck points. But if you are seeing the same therapist for 10 years every week for the same problems, you should really reconsider what you’re getting out of that process.
My other work and me . . .
If you want to read some of my online articles for professional publications click on the icons below and it will take you to my articles. A lot of my work involves training other therapists. Even though my work is for professionals, I try to make it understandable for everyone. You can listen to my podcast for therapists [HERE], which I interview experts about various therapies. I also have trained hundreds of professionals in the use of [mindfulness to treat panic]. If you are interested in talking, I would be happy to discuss what I might be able to do for you.