I would never claim to have all the answers to your problems, or to be able to fix them all. However, I do believe in the power of talk therapy to make a profound and positive difference in people’s lives, and to help them move towards their goals. I see four key factors that make therapy helpful (below) and I draw on multiple theories to address each client’s unique issues.
1. Therapeutic Relationship: First, having a supportive and trusting relationship with a counselor can be therapeutic in and of itself. Knowing that I won’t be judgmental, and that I accept you as you are, even while helping you work towards your goals, can be a new experience for people. This can be especially important for people who have been hurt in the past, who have difficulty trusting or feeling safe, and who have relationship issues.
2. Emotional Experiencing: Second, therapy offers an opportunity for emotional experiencing and processing. Research has shown this to be a powerful and useful experience. For some this comes naturally, and it’s comforting to have a place where they can safely process their emotions. But it is especially useful for people who tend to avoid their emotions (and therefore avoid dealing with their issues). Fear of emotions is an important obstacle to overcome, and learning to manage them is an important skill to learn.
3. Learning: Another crucial element of therapy is the opportunity it creates for learning. This may be the kind of learning that naturally comes out of reflecting on your life events, and suddenly having an insight. Or it may be more didactic, as in the case of coping skills, communication skills or any set of skills. It is especially important to learn about yourself by observing your emotions, thoughts and behavior patterns, or by reviewing past events that affect you to this day. Learning psychological principles about what is healthy versus unhealthy can also be helpful when applied to your specific situation.
4. Practicing New Behaviors: Lastly, therapy gives you the opportunity to practice new behaviors. Whether you practice them in session or between sessions, new behaviors are how you translate what you’ve learned into action. It’s easier said than done, and takes time and patience, but practicing healthy new behaviors can have a lasting influence on your life, emotions, and relationships. Of course, it’s up to you to decide what behaviors you want to change and how. Ultimately you are in charge of your own life, and only you can steer it in the direction where you want to go. Each time you practice a new behavior, you are taking a step towards your goal.