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How is psychotherapy helpful? 

Through psychotherapy people can become less anxious and depressed, more sensitive and caring to others, more thoughtful about their lives, and learn to live and make decisions for themselves with freedom and confidence.  

Know Thyself

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”— Carl Jung

Amazingly, there is much about our minds and ourselves of which we are not conscious.  This often surprises people. However, as humans we focus on what we need to survive, and often there is other inner long-term programming - developed in childhood -- that affects how we behave and make decisions -- that we can become more aware of and learn to manage. 

How many of us come to find that we have some of the same problems at each job, or we find ourselves with the same type of problems in many relationships? Sometimes this is due to our unconscious effort to ‘fix’ something that didn’t go well in our early history. A woman whose parent gambled away the family money may pick a spouse who is addicted to a substance. A man whose father left goes to extraordinary lengths to be a good father, but nevertheless he is no longer with his children. How do these scenarios occur and how can people learn to resolve them?

Psychotherapy allows people to examine themselves in a supportive, non-judgmental relationship. In psychotherapy, we learn to let go of judgment and instead become curious about ourselves. Socrates wrote: "I must first know myself, ... to be curious about that which is not my concern, while I am still in ignorance of my own self, would be ridiculous.”
(Socrates was referring to Apollo’s temple at Delphi on which is written “Know Thyself”) .
Socrates recognized the importance of looking inwards. It is by examining ourselves that we can avoid being tripped up by our own flaws.

George Santayana wrote, “Those who do not learn the lessons of history are destined to repeat them.” Nowadays we use this quote to describe what happens to us personally, not just in the history and politics of society. Our past is very important in shaping how we experience and interact with the world in our adult lives.

What happens in a talk therapy session?

In a talk therapy session, you and I talk over what is bothering you. We talk over feelings of anxiety, sadness, grief, boredom, anger or other problems like sleeplessness, recurrent unwanted thoughts, destructive behaviors, relationship difficulties, career issues or creative blocks. We find ways to resolve the situations and answer the questions that cause these problems.

Psychotherapy can help with relationships

In individual, as in couple therapy, we look at how you develop relationships with other people. What are your expectations and hopes? How do arrange to have your needs met? How do you handle conflict and disappointment in relationships?

We might look also at how you and I relate in the session, as this can give us an awareness of what it is like for you to to be in a relationship, and how to help you to develop the kinds of relationships you want in any situation. 

How does psychotherapy work?

In psychotherapy, we explore through talking, to understand the underlying feelings and thoughts that lead us to think and do certain things. Often we are not fully aware of all of our feelings and beliefs. Our unconscious mind ‘protects’ us from certain memories, long past the time we may need to be ‘protected’. When we are no longer children, we can tolerate memories that were once too scary to process as a child. We may not remember for instance why we are afraid of dogs, elevators, success or certain types of people. However, with psychotherapy, we can develop this understanding and then free ourselves from our entanglement with the past.

What kind of psychotherapy? 

In most of the talk therapy I do, I use both psychoanalytic psychotherapy and transpersonal therapy. Both are based on the idea that people are complex and that what makes us unique is our intricately woven thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Transpersonal therapy focuses on the understanding that we are more than our bodies and minds. In transpersonal therapy there may be an integration of the spiritual elements of one's life.  I also use cognitive therapy (to change negative thinking) or behavioral therapy (to change destructive behavior) when I feel it will be most effective. Hypnotherapy also uses many of these same approaches.

Why do we have to look at our past and our childhoods?

Some people are concerned that in psychotherapy we learn to “blame our parents.”  Blame is never good psychotherapy.  Psychotherapists (many of whom are parents themselves) realize that all parents are doing the best they can. Parents, like other people, can get stressed. When we are children, we are very vulnerable, and very sensitive to our surroundings. We are affected by what we eat, what we see each day, by what we hear. Our parents are very important to us. Being loved by them, and having their attention -- especially when we were young children -- is all important. We are very aware of how they relate to us, and to the world. They are our environment, they are the soil we grow in, so to speak. So, in psychotherapy we might look at  how we were affected as children by our parents’ stresses and stressed reactions.

We must learn how our own early experiences are getting in the way of being the most caring, responsible, creative, and most socially and intellectually free person we can be now. 

What is important about dreams?

In psychotherapy, sometimes we look at our dreams. Dreams are a way for our unconscious mind to process our inner struggles.  Dreams are like a foreign language, and once we learn to read them, we can know ourselves even more deeply. Like art and literature dreams use metaphors and symbolism. When we look at a dream in a session, we look at its personal meaning to you. There may be references in the dream to what happened the day before, or 20 years ago. People who appear in dreams may symbolize other people. A dream is like a gift from the unconscious, and by unwrapping a dream we can gain the wisdom the unconscious is sharing  with us.

What about goals in psychotherapy?

Psychoanalytic psychotherapy is an insight oriented therapy, and the goals may be different. Insight into ourselves and the effects of the past can free us to change our thoughts and behaviors. Understanding may in fact even lead to a positive change in the goals we originally thought we wanted to achieve.

For instance we may come to therapy because we want to stop feeling anxious and depressed. Our goals may broaden once we begin to feel less anxious and depressed and see what many other things are possible for us to reach for in our lives.

Or we might come in to deal with the feelings resulting from the break-up of a relationship. We may not want to share so much private information with friends, or we have worn them out with talking, or we need a more objective view on the situation. Once we are in the therapy, and we begin to go over what happened in the relationship and why it broke up, we may begin to understand more about ourselves and how we might better handle many things in our lives.