Philosophical Outlook & Approach
Negative self-talk develops at a young age and can be detrimental for healthy thinking and perspective. Therapy assists in bringing greater awareness of self-talk, but it’s difficult to sustain this process without an equal amount of self-kindness. My approach seeks to emphasize both aspects of self-kindness and awareness when working with self-talk. I’m a firm believer in the benefits of positive self-talk and positive thinking. However, I acknowledge that it works best when it’s authentic. I ask my clients, “What do you want to create for yourself in the world? What do you want for and from your life?” A person who believes that one can get what one seeks stands a better chance of attaining it. It begins with taking steps to bring intention into your life.
My primary theoretical approach is Compassion Focused Therapy, which is similar to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Both focus on the inner thoughts that drive behaviors. The process involves uncovering thoughts, examining what motivations might inspire them, and questioning whether they are still relevant to the current situation.
Traditional CBT seeks to then change these thoughts. However, I diverge from CBT in that I don’t ask my clients to directly change thoughts. I encourage clients to see how these thoughts might have served them in the past, even if they are no longer appropriate, and gradually accept them as previously helpful.
We might hear a voice inside ourselves that puts us down, but we might associate this voice with strength and power (after all, we submit to it!) It might also be encouraging us to “up our game”, to do something better, even if it’s going about it in a way that we don’t appreciate.
Psychologist Carl Jung referred to this concept as our Shadow. The Shadow is a part of ourselves that we tend to keep hidden from the world, whether it represents something we are ashamed of or otherwise want to deny exists. The Shadow could also be our unrealized potential that might frighten or overwhelm us. In either case, we fool ourselves into thinking we can escape our shadow. After all, it is called our shadow because it follows us everywhere we go!
It can be difficult to let go of something we understand, whether it is a way of thinking or a way of being, even if we know it doesn’t work for us any longer. After all, a faulty belief system can feel safer than having nothing at all, or venturing into the unknown. Unconsciously, we may want to hold on to this part of ourselves, or this part of ourselves doesn’t want to let go. Change can present a paradox, by trying to get rid of an aspect of one’s self, one can cause it to grow stronger. We might be more likely to let go of an outdated way of thinking if we have a budding part that can approach the world, ready to take its place.
I choose to see the Shadow as existing to teach us something. If we can learn what it is trying to share, and we can absorb its wisdom, it begins to lose power over us. Thus, by accepting this part of ourselves and working with it, and eventually incorporating it, we can overcome and change.
Inquiring into what is working for us, and what we no longer need is a healthy process that allows us to move on, change and grow. Through accepting and growing, our awareness of how this aspect might have once served us, and coming to accept it as a part of ourselves, we invite and allow change to occur. It’s important to combine one’s growing awareness with self-kindness.
I strongly value the practice of mindfulness for the calmness and presence I generate from it. I prefer to bring a mindfulness meditation into my sessions with my clients, and I will often teach my clients to meditate. Meditation is a secular practice that can co-exist with any religious background as well as the absence of any religious beliefs.
Many previous clients have reported a greater sense of inner calm through this practice. Within the therapy session, it can assist when bringing up issues that can raise one’s anxiety level. Eventually, meditation can bring a greater awareness of the present moment, as well as a greater mind-body connection. This skill is invaluable in examining the origins of thoughts and feelings. An awareness of the present moment can allow for greater self-confidence.
My theoretical orientation with children is also influenced by the work of Jean Piaget. Piaget developed a unique synthesis of biological and sociological contexts for a developing child. As a result, I feel it is important to understand what a child can and cannot biologically and cognitively be able and expected to understand.
I’m greatly influenced by myth and symbols from both Jungian Psychology as well as the work of Joseph Campbell. Campbell’s Hero’s Journey presents a cycle of challenge, sacrifice and growth common in stories throughout the world as well as the lives of everyday people. I’ve taken the symbol of the labyrinth for the backdrop of the website pages as well as my business cards. The labyrinth appears in the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur as well as one of Joseph Campbell’s most popular poems:
We have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us, the labyrinth is fully known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.