Therapy is a process that requires a commitment from both client and therapist. Unfortunately, there are no magic solutions to the problems many people face. The good news is that research has shown that therapy can be an effective means to address these problems and enrich people's lives. However, this process often takes time, and always requires effort.
When prospective clients come to my office who are ready to make a commitment to therapy, my goal is to understand their experience as best as possible. Initially, this entails a great deal of active listening on my part. This is important because the client's goals are derived from their experience. This understanding facilitates an atmosphere of empathy, which has been shown to be an essential ingredient in effective therapy. During the early stages of therapy, clients discuss their concerns and the therapist works with them to outline relevant goals. As the therapeutic relationship progresses, the client and therapist develop a deeper understanding of each other.
When I conduct therapy I attempt to conceptualize the nature of the 1) presenting problem (why the client is coming to therapy), 2) client's goals, 3) client's readiness to make changes, and the 4) client's personality/learning style. Client and therapist develop a unique match between each other and the therapy. When done collaboratively, it is likely that an effective client-therapist-therapy match can occur.
Many people are interested in what a psychologist's "theoretical orientation" is. In other words, what theory does he or she use to guide and inform their treatment? The approaches that largely define my orientation are the 1) Psychodynamic, 2) Existential, and 3) Cognitive theories.
- Psychodynamic Psychotherapy looks at how clients' early experiences and relationships guide and influence the decisions they presently make. Exploration into these experiences can often shed light on current thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Psychodynamic theory suggests people are guided (and sometimes governed) by thoughts and feelings that often reside beyond their awareness. One of the goals is to bring these thoughts and feelings into focus and process them so the client can make healthier decisions.
- Existential Psychotherapy arose from Existential philosophy. This approach asserts that no one chose to be here (we didn.t), but now that we are, we have to make daily and difficult choices (we do). Many of our choices are influenced by our unique experience. This theory also suggests that change is an inevitable process in each of us. This is a positive notion from a therapeutic perspective. In this respect, all therapies have an existential component to them because they believe in change. Although change can be positive, it often evokes considerable anxiety. Existential therapy seeks to help clients confront this anxiety in order to make positive changes in their life.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) posits that emotional experience is the product of one's interpretation of a given event. If one's belief about an event is inaccurate, anxiety and/or depression can follow. The cognitive approach (Beck, 1976) holds that psychological dysfunction is both established and maintained by one's thought process. Self-assumptions originate in childhood and are maintained via negative thought patterns. These self-assumptions can be seen as core beliefs about oneself and the world. Therapy is oriented toward changing the client's problematic thoughts into healthier belief systems.