What is therapy?
The American Counseling Association defines counseling (or mental health therapy) as, "a collaborative effort between the counselor and client" and goes on to say, "Professional counselors help clients identify goals and potential solutions to problems which cause emotional turmoil; seek to improve communication and coping skills; strengthen self-esteem; and promote behavior change and optimal mental health."
Therapy primarily focuses on what has happened in the past and what is happening in the present, in order to better understand our subconscious patterns in order to improve mental health and emotional wellbeing. This healing can then move us toward becoming the most effective version of ourselves.
What will therapy look like with Abbie?
In their words...
In their words...
This depends largely on who is seeking therapy and what they're looking for.
I believe in a few absolute truths about therapy - it is a sacred journey on which I am grateful to be part of, everything you share in therapy is a gift, and we can't expect to make real progress unless you're vulnerable and honest. The journey is yours, I happen to have a few extra tools to help you write a more effective roadmap than what you've been following so far.
Session time will be divided between sharing what brings you to therapy - what challenges you're facing and the successes you've had, determining where your challenges are coming from (internal or external) and collaboratively problem-solving ways to more effectively meet your needs.
I'm not one to sugar-coat or beat around the bush and I genuinely care about improving your wellbeing. If you're minimizing your needs or spinning a story (because let's be real - we all do it sometimes to look better), I'm going to call you on your BS. If you're talking crap about yourself or putting yourself down, we're going to talk about it, because I believe you deserve whatever a positive outcome looks like for you with a healthy sense of inherent self-worth.
Because research shows one of the main predictors to therapeutic success is the relationship between the therapist and client, making sure we're the right fit is essential for the process. I require a free 20 minute audio/video consultation for all potential therapy clients. If we determine we're a good initial fit, the next step is an intake session. Intakes are scheduled for 90 minutes and are all about information gathering to best collaboratively plan for our future sessions. If we determine we're not a good initial fit, I'll gladly provider referrals for providers who I believe will better meet the skills, experience, and training that will benefit you the most.
What is your theoretical orientation and what will this mean for our therapy?
Essentially, I draw from Psychodynamic Theory, Rational-Emotive Behavior Theory, Attachment Theory and Polyvagal Theory.
You may be saying, "Okay - well what the heck does that mean?".
This means that I believe:
The successes and failures of our early childhood relationships shaped the way we approach relationships as an adult, even in so much as trying to recreate relationships to "do them better".
Our life experiences shape our worldview which shapes the way we think. The way we think then shapes the way we feel and behave in response to difficulties in life. The result of how we respond, the consequences whether positive, negative, or neutral informs our worldview and the cycle continues.
It is important that as humans we have a close and trusting relationship with at least one other person, on whom we can rely for emotional support. The way we form bonds with others as adults depends largely on our early life experiences with our caregivers. The way we connect with others as adults can affect a variety of aspects of our life including school, work, and intimate relationships.
Trauma literally re-wires our brain. From the beginning of our life, our brain is recognizing and storing patterns. Trauma, disrupts our known patterns and rewrites the "script" in our head. This script also cues in our body about how to respond in particular situations. When trauma re-writes the script, our body stores this trauma and it may show up in a variety of ways.
How do you believe change happens?
I believe growth comes from discomfort. If you think about it like P.E. class, when the teacher would say "Stretch until you feel it, but not so much that it hurts", this is the same philosophy I apply to change. This means allowing ourselves to sit in the "I don't particularly like this" of a new experience and letting the uncomfortable newness or differentness be okay. Uncomfortable doesn't have to be an unpleasant feeling and it's valuable to learn to move through it.
I've heard people say "feel your feelings". What does that mean?
It's interesting that there's been so much conversation around normalizing feelings, but so little explanation of what it means to feel ones feelings.
Feelings or emotions are neither good nor bad - they just are. They exist as a way to cue us in about what's happening inside of us and in our environment. Our responsibility to them is to listen and try to be present.
My favorite explanation is to allow yourself to notice the sensations that happen in your body while you're experiencing an emotion. This may be a temperature change (hot or cold), emptiness or fullness, pressure, tension, tingling, feeling stiff, or something else entirely. As you allow yourself to notice the sensations, don't get caught up in describing them (this takes us from our body into our brain), just let them move through you. After a while, you'll notice them begin to fade until eventually they dissipate to being unnoticeable.
Allowing yourself to notice the sensations without getting caught up in them and noticing that a) they fade in time and b) you survived feeling them, makes it easier to identify emotions in the future and lessens the fear and power emotions have over your life.