How Psychotherapy works
Awareness is the only medicine
that accomplishes its healing
the natural functions of the organism.
Psychotherapy is a collaborative, co-created process that develops in unique ways with each person. How long it takes, and how frequently we meet depends on the needs, goals, and contexts of each patient. It also depends on both therapist and patient being able to trust the patient’s own timing and pacing. Timing is one area in which it is important to see both conscious and unconscious needs, and to honor them.
Answers hidden in problems
People tend to know what they need, and what will help them, and to make the best choices for themselves that they can. Their choices can be hampered however, when a person can’t dialogue with, and so be informed by their own unconscious. When someone feels stuck, or "keeps making the same mistakes" or just can't get out of the mood or attitude they're in, it is often a sign that some aspect of who they are has been left out of consideration, or has become unconscious. What is judged or ignored can become protectively unconscious until we can find a way to look at it with curiosity and acceptance rather than criticism.
Very often, what we judge or ignore in ourselves (or what others have judged and ignored) holds the key to a solution we're looking for, to a way forwards when we feel stuck. This may be to do with somatic (body) experiences, feelings, thoughts, attitudes, or matters of the soul.
Process: Your role
Opening up takes time, safety and trust. In the beginning you may want to feel your way, to see how comfortable and safe you feel talking about different things, and how I respond to you. As you come to feel more comfortable in therapy, and with me, you'll be able to talk about more troubling experiences, thoughts and feelings. It is important that you take your time, and do this your own way.
Generally, it can be helpful to allow yourself time, particularly at the start of a session, to notice what's most present to your attention. Then you could say whatever you are noticing, whatever is on your mind. You can speak without concern for being linear, logical, or grammatical, or even for making sense, but just allowing yourself to talk freely. In addition to noting any pressing concerns on your mind, you might reflect on images that come up, or sensory experiences, or music that comes to mind, or dreams, as well as thoughts and feelings. You can talk about anything.
How we work together will depend in part on what you seek from psychotherapy, how you understand your difficulties, abilities and available support, and any time-constraints you have. Any or all of these factors may change over time. Also over time, your sense of trust in the psychotherapeutic process, in yourself, and in your therapist can evolve and deepen. As this happens, the psychotherapy itself will deepen and develop so that you will be understanding and addressing your difficulties from new perspectives.
Process: My role
Although I have over 30 years of experience and training, as a relational psychotherapist I do not believe that I know you and what you need better than you do. Rather, I want to help you know yourself more and more deeply, so that you can feel more confident addressing whatever problems and circumstances you have.
My role is one of an engaged witness, drawing on everything you're letting me know, and using my experience and understanding to help you to find your own way. I do this by attending carefully to all you’re expressing verbally and non-verbally (the language of your body) and to your silence. At times I may ask questions to clarify (perhaps for both of us) a sense of what you’re about; at times I may reflect my sense of what you’re letting me know, so we can both tell if I’m on the same page as you or not. At times I may stay quiet while I listen deeply with all my senses, as you find your own voice to express yourself.
Some people are uncomfortable with silence or being the focus of attention, especially in the beginning of therapy. I am always ready to talk with you or to provide more structure to help you find your way in to what you want to bring up.
I’m very comfortable answering questions about how I work and why; I especially want to hear from you if something's not working, or if you want something to change in the therapy. Psychotherapy works best when such things can be talked about.
Most of all, I will be helping you to develop your awareness of how you feel and think, and of what's contributing to problems or blocks in your life. I'll be helping you to notice and engage with both your conscious and unconscious processes. In this way, you can deepen your trust in yourself and your experience, access more of your own wisdom, and develop more emotional resilience. As you do this, you will develop your ability to bear with, and find your way through your life, relationships, and difficult issues.
Talking about the therapy itself
Therapy is a collaborative process. There may be times when you want or need to give me feedback about the therapy, or how I'm being with you. I welcome this. When you let me know how the therapy is going, particularly if something is isn't working for you, I'll be better able to help you.