Therapy, what is it?
For me, being at the beach feels therapeutic. I love a good massage or a really hot bath or a belly laugh that brings tears. Those are all therapeutic. And, honestly, engaging in psychotherapy, even as a counselor, is therapeutic for me, too. What do we mean by that?
Good question. When I go to good old Google, I find these sorts of definitions for therapy:
a treatment meant to alleviate or cure an illness or injury;
a curative power or quality;
any act meant to relieve tension.
Those all work for me. Psychotherapy, by it's very nature, is a relationship-based treatment. It is two or more people interacting with the purpose of bringing about some kind of relief and healing for the client. So, the treatment itself is embedded in the relationship you have with your counselor. That's why it's important to work with someone you have a good rapport with. Beyond seeking relief, psychotherapists are dedicated to transmitting skills, perspectives, and teachings that will assist the client to learn new ways of being so that they might, in the future, relate with their thoughts, emotions and experiences in more flexible and adaptive ways, without so much suffering. Because humans are involved and because each person is unique, therapy in one room can look very different from the therapy in the next room, or even in the next session in the same room. So, since this is a website about my practice, let's look at what therapy might be like for you at Counseling Austin.
Referring back to the definitions above of "alleviate or cure", you should know, when it comes to mental and emotional suffering, I am in the alleviate camp. If you are secretly hoping to never feel sad, scared, anxious, stuck, lost, grief-stricken, or heart-broken ever again, I want you to know that I am not a cure-promising counselor in those regards. Emotions are the basis of what fills us with purpose, desire, passion, creativity, caring, generosity, understanding, and meaning. I don't want to help you get rid of any emotions, nor could I. All the emotions in the rainbow are going to keep coming around for all of us throughout our whole lives. Having an emotional body, as well as a physical body and a mental body, is a big part of what being a human is all about. What I do want to do is help you relate and react to your emotions in ways that don't get you tangled in anxiety or weighed down by depression. I want to help you learn to be with your emotions in ways that don't create ruptures in your relationships, but do help you connect more genuinely and deeply with the people important to you.
So, how do I do that? I get to know you, your story, your history. I listen closely and really tune in. And, as I tune into you, I tune into myself as well. This level of attention to what's going on for both of us is key to the psychotherapy process. (To learn more, see the videos about Mindsight and Interpersonal Neurobiology. To get even deeper, read this.) So, this deep tuning-in to you and to myself is going on every time we meet. As we progress, I will be sharing with you the observations I'm making and the thoughts I'm having about your situation and about how you relate to your mind and emotions and to the people in your life. Sometimes it will be useful to take time for practical problem-solving; other times I may be guiding you to pay attention to yourself in ways you aren't accustomed to (See Mindfulness, and Focusing); and, other times I may be challenging you to change your habits or your perspectives through relating to your thoughts differently (See ACT Therapy and CBT.) I don't use many overt techniques, with protocols and such, but one I have used with success for more than a decade, especially with traumatic experiences, is EMDR. If you're a candidate for that, I might suggest it.
Each week we meet, I follow you where you want to go. In my practice, therapy is absolutely 100% collaborative. We are working together; it is not about me doing something TO you. I offer you my presence, my self, and my expertise. You show up thoughtfully, with intention to be a major player in your own healing process, and outside of session you practice and follow through on the things we discuss. If, at the beginning of sessions, you don't know what direction you want to take that day, I always have something I'm curious about and can kickstart us. If "where you go" habitually in session seems to be part of the cause of your suffering or keeps us from engaging therapeutically, I'll talk to you about it. If all goes well, you will soon begin to experience the same types of things in the counseling room that cause you distress outside the counseling room, such as feeling misunderstood, being chronically late, or wanting something that you're not getting. Why would that be good? Because, then, we can have an in-the-moment view of what triggers you, and you can explore it with an objective person who was also involved subjectively. You might even be able to have a different outcome with me that could be emotionally healing. If all goes well, that's what can happen, over and over again.
If you are a reader, I might suggest books. If you don't move your body much, I'll definitely talk to you about that. If you are on medication or interested in considering medication, we will discuss that. If you don't keep up self-care, we will explore what keeps you from it. Mostly, though, we will be honing in on what is important to you, what you value, and ways to get you more and more in alignment with that. We may set tasks for you to try during the days between our sessions. In the process we will be shedding light on the habits of thought and action that you employ that are no longer working for you.
If all of this makes you think, "Okay. I'm really curious and I'm game," please reach out.