My therapeutic style is best described as eclectic, which means that I draw from a variety of theoretical perspectives. Often I’ll match the theoretical structure of therapy with the individual needs of a client. Interestingly, research about therapeutic outcomes strongly indicates that clients tend to progress at equal rates, regardless of the theoretical approach used in therapy. Sometimes I’ll give the client choices about which approach they feel might be the most productive. That being said, I rely most heavily on client-centered (also called Rogerian and humanistic), cognitive behavioral, and psychodynamic orientations. What follows is a limited description of these approaches.
The most fundamental concept in client-centered therapy is that people have the resources to heal themselves and are free to use these resources in environments that promote and maintain their safety. In therapeutic relationships, this concept manifests itself in my accepting clients' struggles without moral judgments but with the assumption that they are fundamentally capable and empowered people.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is founded on the assumption that the problems we experience in our lives are often the result of maladaptive thought patterns. For example, a man who is struggling with angry outbursts can identify thought patterns that precede the outbursts. Often these thought patterns are irrational and sometimes even surprising when uncovered, but with time and effort these can be replaced with more adaptive thought patterns. These patterns are sometimes referred to as our “tapes”; when irrational or unrealistic tapes are substituted with more healthy tapes, people’s behavior and emotional wellness usually change as well.
There are many complex facets to psychodynamic theory, but the ones that most inform my practice include the following. Psychodynamic theory assumes that we are not always conscious of the reasons for our choices and feelings. We also at times react to concepts from our past instead of present stimuli. This is especially true when the concepts from our past involve unresolved and/or unconscious conflict. This theory is also helpful in conceptualizing the unique pattern of defenses each of us uses to protect ourselves from uncomfortable material. Though we all use psychological defenses, there are more and less healthy defense mechanisms. Sometimes it’s helpful for a client to examine their system of psychological defenses, especially if the defenses are preventing their own path to health.
These approaches, as well as others, may be used during the course of therapy.