Everyone’s individual therapy is different, my role is to help clients focus on the issues they find important. Over the years I’ve noticed themes in my practice, common reasons people come in for counseling—perhaps your reason relates to one or more of the broad categories below. I’ve listed Personal Growth first because in my experience most clients have some focus on personal growth. Sometimes that focus is primary, sometimes it develops after they have tackled the original issue that brought them in the door—such as a breakup, depression, trauma, family issues, or tough transition.
Self-actualization is the drive to confront gaps between how we are and how we would like to be. Unfortunately, the stress of life often interrupts this natural drive. Therapy is helpful in two main ways: Healing emotional wounds and restarting the natural growth process. In therapy, getting back on track with your personal growth begins with an exploration of your needs, feelings, and values. The awareness that something in your life needs change is basic but powerful. This process continues with the development of a focus or direction, often fueled by your passion, creativity, and commitment. Many find this process clarifying (it can also be scary at first!)—how often do you speak your dreams and aspirations out loud with someone else? As clarity develops people are empowered to experiment with action and change. When we confront the sources of our pain, boredom, isolation, fear, and quiet desperation we free up energy that was formerly being used to suppress these feelings. Self-actualization is a life-long practice of living in line with your core self. It is a process we are all engaged in at some level and individual therapy makes the process conscious.
Breakup and Divorce Recovery
I have helped many clients recover from breakups and divorce. I will encourage you to express your feelings in therapy and do your grieving now–suppressing your feelings during this time will only lead to protracted grief and less personal growth. As you are ready, I will encourage you to branch out and lead an active life. Working through a breakup or divorce is painful but it will open you to the world and to yourself if you let it. It may also help you to redefine your concept of strength, I invite you to try out this idea: Resilient people practice both feeling their feelings and living their lives. In the wake of a breakup many of my clients find that they want to try new things: Take a class, join a hiking group, start an exercise program, improve their diet or living situation. It’s a perfect time for it! The loss of each relationship is unique, recovery is the process of validating your feelings and reinvesting in your life. I will support you to express your experience and together we will work in a way that works for you. If you are currently in the midst of a breakup or divorce, click here for the full article.
The variety of transitions that bring people in for therapy is too great to list, but if you are feeling stuck or scared at a crossroads in your life, therapy can help you clarify your situation and provide the support to unfreeze and start moving again.
Fear of Intimacy
Many people would like to feel emotionally closer with others than they do. The fear of intimacy is one roadblock to such closeness, usually with roots in the past. In the present, the fear of intimacy manifests as a pattern of difficulties in relationships. In therapy, I can help you explore your patterns and change the way you connect with others. For a discussion of common relationship roles such as the “active runner” and “passive runner,” click here for the full article.
Depression is a common experience and a good reason to seek therapy. Depression robs people of their spark and enjoyment of life, it deadens a person’s vitality, making it harder to engage in the very things that would help them feel better. The causes of depression are many, but two main causes should be mentioned here: Highly stressful life events and a lack of meaning or purpose in life. I take an integrative approach to helping people who are experiencing depression that preserves their complexity and does not reduce them to a set of symptoms or a diagnosis. This approach focuses in two main areas: An exploration of the context in which the depression occurs, and a concrete plan to help people reactivate in their lives. To read more about Therapeutic Lifestyle Change for depression, click here for the full article.
Trauma and PTSD
Trauma is horror frozen in memory. The symptoms of trauma are wide ranging but often include obsessive thoughts and worries, nightmares, difficulty sleeping, changes in eating patterns, a general sense of vulnerability, and a persistent desire to avoid painful thoughts, triggers, and memories. These symptoms often keep people from living the life they want and once a cycle of avoidance gets started it can be tough to break. In therapy I will help you to face the source of your trauma as you are ready to. We will work together and take it at your pace, without pressure. As you feel more and more comfortable leaning into the source of your trauma it will gradually lose its power over you. The combination of support from your therapist and exposure to your fears is strongly supported in the research, therapy helps many people move on from their traumatized feelings.
Anxiety and Panic
Anxiety is the body’s reaction to stress that has built up over time and has not been adequately released. An anxiety attack is a period of intense discomfort during which a person’s ability to bottle up their anxious feelings is temporarily overwhelmed. A panic attack is a sudden and frightening release of anxious energy all at one time. I take a holistic, wellness-based approach to working with people experiencing anxiety that is effective and supported by research. I will help you examine your exercise habits, diet, social interactions, sleep patterns, and coping style with emotions. Many people oscillate between using an avoidant coping style with unpleasant emotions and a style in which they fuse with their emotions and become overwhelmed. This pattern is often labeled “bottle up and explode.” The good news about anxiety and panic attacks is that there are typically many lifestyle changes you can make that will help you feel better. Click here for the full article on anxiety and panic.
Thanks for reading. I hope this overview gives you a sense for the issues I typically work with in practice. If you’d like to work together please email or give me a call.
Phone: (503) 757-6259
3050 SE Division, Suite 260, Portland, OR (In the ‘D Street’ building.)