In my work with adults and children in individual therapy, I specialize in Self-Compassion Psychology, Mindfulness and Acceptance, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Narrative Therapy, Attachment Therapy, Psychodynamic Therapy, Creative/Child Therapy, and Self-Compassion Psychology.
Self-Compassion is the means by which we alleviate pain or distress by acknowledging its cause, making room for it, and finding ways to direct kindness to it. Many people find themselves avoiding or trying to dull stress with other means, which makes sense, but unfortunately just makes the stress worse over time.
Much distress is caused by or heightened by the inability to identify the source of stress and address it in a way that decreases shame, guilt and feelings of powerlessness.
Research supports self-compassion techniques as effective means for resolving stress and increasing self-agency (empowerment and stress management skills) (Neff, 2003; Fredrickson et al, 2008).
MINDFULNESS AND ACCEPTANCE
Mindfulness and Acceptance Based Practices play a key role in self-compassion practices and are key components of many popular therapies (e.g., DBT, ACT). They develop our ability to be with and process experience as it comes up, which we can use to understand and pursue our goals as well as manage difficult emotions, thoughts, or body responses.
A well-known exercise for explaining the importance of mindfulness is asking someone to try not to picture a pink elephant. As you might have guessed, the pink elephant is the first thing they picture! Stress and distress of all forms respond similarly to avoidance. The more we avoid or ignore them, the stronger their influence over our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and the more often they seem to be trying to push their way into our current thoughts.
Mindfulness and Acceptance Based Practices simply short circuit the problems caused by avoidance. By observing our experience, and our natural human response, we turn down the volume on our problems and begin to process them. It is simple and effective, but like any skill takes some time to learn. Some people assume that it is a passive process, but I assure you it is quite active!
COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY
Often in our history (or even at present), experience is too overwhelming to deal with, and we come up with behaviors and thoughts that help us deal with one or several similar experiences. This way of responding may work for the time.
However, as time passes these old ways of coping (including our thoughts and behaviors) often stop helping us and can complicate new experiences. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps us look at these thoughts and behaviors and find new ones that help us to live a less stressful and more successful present.
Narrative Therapy acknowledges that as we experience life, we create a story about ourselves. If we have lived through a lot of suffering or are currently suffering, our minds tend to remember all the other times we suffered, and slowly persuade us that our story is about being powerless, stressed, and suffering.
Narrative Therapy retraces our steps in history, keying into places where we were successful and able. You might be surprised that some of these times of ability and success even include times of suffering. This work builds towards an empowered identity that can replace the old helpless narrative with one of skills and resources.
Research has shown that, since birth, our connection to other people has enabled us to tolerate stress, develop a meaningful identity, and move from stressful states to states of ease.
A strong support system and healthy relationships have long been supported as helping people live longer, healthier lives. Relationships also help us better understand ourselves, our goals, and how to include others in a way that brings us well being, meaning, and joy.
Psychodynamic Therapy deals primarily in identity and identity structure. Our ability to set goals, move towards a preferred identity, and give and receive the necessary supports to live a happy life often can be traced to how our original identity was built.
Looking back helps us get unstuck from feeling like we cannot change our current identity to one that works for us. It gives us the road map to moving towards a preferred identity (an identity in line with our goals), while handling potential roadblocks set by our current identity.
CREATIVE THERAPY/CHILD THERAPY
Creative Therapy includes art, music, acting, poetry/bibliotherapy, and play therapy. Children’s primary mode of expression tends to be through symbols before they are old enough to make sense of and develop language for their feelings, thoughts, bodies, and the environment.
Creative therapies make sense because they use symbolic mediums. In other words, they use therapies that allow children to use their symbolic thought to create things. Therapeutically, we are able to get at what children are trying to express through the patterns that emerge from these therapies.
Creativity is important because it highlights to each child how they are unique and valued collaborators. Its spontaneous component gives children a reason to be consistently excited or at least curious about therapy. It is also empowering for children, since they are using their greatest skill- creativity- to understand and cope with things that are causing them stress or anxiety!