Individual Therapy | Conjoint & Family Therapy | Groups
Individual TherapyAllowing you to ventilate distress about your condition or situation that may block you from effective problem solving and coping.
Reducing anger at yourself and your body, facilitating a sense of being supported by the body in your intentions.
Helping you resolve emotional conflicts that you may be expressing through your body and reduce physical complaints.
Exploring and challenging any beliefs that contribute to pessimism, feelings of helplessness, and passive or negative coping.
Helping you discern what you can and cannot control, so that you can use your energy more effectively.
Identifying emotionally "toxic" situations and relationships that trigger stress reactions, and helping you minimize or eliminate them from your life.
Resolving past trauma events that affect your current health, including developmental and shock trauma.
Desensitizing you to traumatic experiences, including invasive or painful medical procedures, or shock trauma, to reduce anxiety, dissociation, and negative coping.
Recovering developmental deficits.
Teaching you relaxation techniques that can reduce pain, enhance your medical treatments, and facilitate your recovery process.
Discovering new meaning in your condition or situation that comforts, encourages, or inspires you.
Improving your communication skills with your partner, family friends, or care providers so that you can experience more support.
Connecting you with information, resources, and others dealing with similar problems.
I work with adolescents twelve years old and older, and adults, in individual therapy. Individual somatic psychotherapy can facilitate the recovery and healing process of medical and mental disorders by:
Conditions that can be helped by Somatic Psychotherapy:
Anxiety Depression Bipolar Disorder Trauma Reactions & PTSD
Dissociation Eating Disorders Character Style Medical Conditions
Psychosomatic Conditions Pain Management Life Transitions
The Process of Individual Treatment
The process of treatment begins with an initial meeting in which I learn about your reasons and objectives for seeking help, your personal history, and current health status. Sometimes a personal history takes more than one session to complete. Some clients prefer to draw or write their own histories as a way of creating their story and letting me get to know them.
The treatment process is always collaborative. Together we will decide what treatment techniques and what pace work best for you. For some examples of Somatic Psychotherapy techniques, see Somatic Psychotherapies. Often, Somatic Psychotherapy looks like "traditional" talk psychotherapy. Even though we are talking, we are also tracking your reactions on multiple levels: thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. In this way, all aspects of your Self join in our dialogue, in an integrative fashion. Most clients meet with me once a week, but sometimes it is necessary to meet more often for better containment, regulation, or depth work.
I am often asked, "How long will this take?" I do not have a standard answer to that question. Most clients want to work quickly to be relieved of their symptoms, but this is not always possible nor advisable. The body can experience any sudden change, even a change for the better, as a shock, and it will not hold the change over time unless it is gradually prepared for it. Whenever a positive change is introduced, there is always some "negative feedback," an effort for the old pattern to reassert itself. We work in increments, and most likely you will experience periods of feeling better and expand those over time. Termination occurs when your goals have been met and you feel that you can maintain the progress on your own.
Conjoint and Family Therapy
Conjoint therapy includes spouses or unmarried partners. Family therapy may include two or more family members, other than spouses or partners. Usually family therapy involves parents and children, and sometimes extended family members.
Typically couples or families seek help when there is a conflict between members, a crisis, or a severe medical or mental disorder in a member. In all cases, the integrity of the couple or family feels threatened, and members are looking for a way to feel safe in their most intimate relationships.
The Process of Conjoint and Family Treatment
I usually begin conjoint or family therapy by meeting individual members first and getting a good history of the relationships and problems from different perspectives. By meeting individually first, family members often feel less defensive about being exposed or attacked by others, and can often speak more freely. I can also see what challenges there are to healthy connections and change.
Each partner or family member usually fears being identified as "the problem" or "sick one." Most of the time, however, "the problem," as identified by the couple or family, is actually a symptom of another dysfunction. In working with couples or families, I am not looking for "the culprit." My role is not to judge individuals as good or bad. I am looking for faulty interactions and unproductive patterns of communication. To correct these patterns, I am looking for flexibility and "agents of change" in the partnership or family system. People are usually relieved when they discover that the treatment process does not replicate the conflicts and patterns at home.
Somatic psychotherapy enhances conjoint and family treatment by teaching individuals how to monitor their reactions on multiple levels before making a response to others. This tracking allows individuals to use more internal resources; when they feel "stuck" or impaired on one level, they can often make movement on another level to create a new pattern of interaction.
We don't often think of the body as having a role in family or conjoint therapy, except in cases of physical or sexual abuse or violence. However, the body is always affected by our interactions and relationships, and forms the foundation of the unconscious. I like the way Jon Kabbat-Zinn and his wife Myla describe the energetic domain of families in their book, Everyday Blessings: The Practice of Mindful Parenting:
When a tuning fork vibrates, it will cause other tuning forks in the vicinity to vibrate as well, especially if they are related, that is, tuned to same wavelength. This process, whereby the activity of one vibrating body brings another body into sympathetic resonance with it, is called entrainment. A piano's A strings will be entrained to vibrate when A is played on a violin across the room.
Parents and children also constantly influence each other's resonances. Our lives orbit within each other's force fields, physically, emotionally, and psychically, and we are continually interacting and influencing each other in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, sometimes known, sometimes wholly unconscious.
Entrainment happens on a lot of different levels in families, but often we are not aware of it, and it can take us places we may not want to go, without us knowing how we got there. If we aren't aware if the energy of the moment, it catches us, ensnares us. It often pulls us down as well as in, such as when we fall into depression, anger, or anxiety, or any number of other feeling states after spending time with another person. In a family, we are constantly caught up in an ever-changing energy dance with each other, putting out vibrations at different frequencies and interacting with each other's energy in the form of thoughts, feelings, and their expressions- verbal and non-verbal - through our bodies, our actions, and our reactions to events and other people's actions, even tiny ones. If we know we are resonating with forces from elsewhere, we can learn to dance skillfully with these rhythms. (pp. 187f)
I like how the Kabbat-Zinns put words to experiences that we all have had: the "felt sense" of ourselves in our families. Their description of entrainment gives us a way of talking about family relationships that includes the body as a full participant. It also helps us understand why we can feel and behave like different people when we are away from family members, and how we can suddenly "regress" to old patterns upon returning home after years way. In conjoint and family therapy, we use the awareness of "vibration" and entrainment to identify projections ("Is this my feeling or your feeling?"); to define and strengthen boundaries where needed; and to track and slow down reactions in order to develop new resources and responses.
As with individual therapy, it is difficult to determine how long the process of change will take. When the presenting problem is a crisis, the process of treatment can be relatively short, a matter of six to twelve weeks, as the crisis is resolved and the family moves to a new level of functioning. When the problem is more chronic, involving character issues in individuals, the process of change can be slower and may involve some individual therapy as well. Meetings can be less frequent, often every other week, and then decrease over time, with the family coming back for "tune-ups" as needed.
Some groups that I have developed and led include:
- Women's Mental Health Support Group: ongoing support for women with chronic mental illness.
- Women's Trauma Group: a ten-week support group for healing from trauma.
- Women's Alcohol and Drug Recovery Support: a ten-week group for women recovering from drug and alcohol abuse.
- Stress Management: a ten-week group for Mental Health Clinic Patients.
- Stress Management for Social Workers: a six-week group for VA health professionals.