Working primarily with adults (with special exceptions) I approach therapy with the bedrock assumption that it is the therapeutic relationship itself that is most essential to healing. Why? We are, above all, relational beings: Our lives, our brains, and our deepest needs and wishes — and their painful denial — all revolve around our life relationships from Day One. So it only makes sense that we heal in that context, as well, achieving the corrective emotional experience often long missing. Sometimes it’s as simple as being truly heard by me as an individual; for others, group work (below) offers relationship of another kind with profound benefit; for still others, improving their connection with their primary partner make life more livable. So we start here.
Research in the world of psychotherapy has proven that within that relationship, some routes are simply more efficient than others. Two techniques I find particularly helpful are Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Brainspotting (BSP). These are considered “neurobiological techniques” and use recent insights into how the brain holds and processes painful events to dramatically increase the speed and depth of resolution for PTSD and less overt trauma. I am amazed at least weekly at what is possible in even a single session of this work.
Woven in with this cutting-edge technology, I also (internally) rely on my training as a Practitioner of Medical Qigong, a traditional Chinese way of understanding physical and psychological health, to better understand what I’m hearing. I am constantly surprised by the value of this ancient perspective. Perhaps the way the perspective of a second eye allows depth perception, something about this wholly different point of view can simply help things pop.
More than comfortable working with straight and gay couples alike — and even non-romantic pairs in conflict, such as friends or adult siblings — I approach conjoint work with this awareness: Within all healthy relationship, we have to be strong not only as a pair but as individuals. So there’s work to be done on both sides: both to build the union — e.g., improving communication, learning to work and/or play together, or rekindling the sex life — and also the differentiation, that is, our valid separateness. The latter is harder work in a way, and less obviously needed: discovering the power and healing nature of (healthy) anger; defining healthy boundaries; making time to be apart and foster friendships, too; doing our individual work to address the parts of our pasts that are getting in the way now; and so on. But each side deeply feeds, nourishes, and depends on the other.
More than any other, I use the principles and techniques of Imago Relationship Therapy in couples work, the creation of the famous Harville Hendrix that brings together Cognitive, Systemic, Jungian, Psychodynamic, and many other systems of thought brilliantly. I was fortunate to study with him and others in 2006 during the 100+ hours of training required for certification and have been using those extraordinary insights ever since. However, I bring to the table other perspectives as well and appreciate that this keeps me light on my feet when couples get stuck.
One very powerful way to better know ourselves and make lasting change is through weekly group psychotherapy. I’ve often remarked on how much faster clients tend to grow when adding this wonderful medium. But it is not for the faint of heart; it takes (and builds) great ego strength to hold our material not in isolation but in relationship — to rise to the eternal relationship challenge of balancing being both IN TOUCH and INTACT at the same time. Groups cost less than half as much as individual work, last nearly twice as long (90 minutes vs. 50), and add the wonderful aspect of supportive peers as well as a prolonged experiential study of a particular subject. But make no mistake: this is the advanced, not remedial, psychotherapy, and the rewards are significant.
I work with businesses as a consultant much as I work with clients. There are always the aspects of building safety to really look together at what’s happening; of listening intently, long after it seems we have reached the bottom; of clearing debris and quieting noise; of following and leading in turn to allow the truest expression of an organization and all who work there to emerge. These are different projects from clinical work, of course, but every bit as precious and meaningful to those involved.