How Therapy Works
As you consider therapy, you are likely wondering how the healing process might unfold within the therapeutic relationship. So that you might better understand the intentions, contours, and outcomes of psychotherapy, I offer the following sketch:
As your therapist, I am concerned with reducing your suffering and maximizing your potential for success and fulfillment.
I understand that the quality of your life depends on the quality of your relationship with yourself. I, therefore, guide you to explore and work within the many dimensions of that relationship: the experiences that shaped it; the emotional and cognitive patterns that have emerged from those experiences; how those patterns express consciously and unconsciously, harmfully and beneficially, in your present relationships; and how you relate to the full spectrum of your inner life. In short, I am concerned with how you hold yourself, especially during times of hardship, loss, and transition.
As a Contemplative Psychotherapist, I view the quality of that holding through three principal lenses:
Warmth I wonder if you tend to be hard on yourself or patient with yourself; if you forgive yourself easily or if you suffer in guilt; if you allow yourself to feel challenging emotions, like shame or anger, and how your allowance or avoidance of them influences how you participate in relationships…
Wisdom I wonder if you can see the relational forces that have shaped you and might be shaping you still; if you can recognize the emotional and cognitive patterns that have arisen out of those forces and if you can make decisions based on those patterns that reduce suffering and deepen happiness…
Spaciousness I wonder how strongly you identify with the thoughts and emotions you experience; if you let them express within an allowing psychic space or if you contract around them, letting them define who you are…
As a Contemplative Psychotherapist, I understand that you are naturally loving, wise, and spacious. One of my goals is to guide you to resource in that nature and relate to yourself and your life through it. Obstructions to accessing your nature, however, are also useful, because they point to the aspects of you that carry wounding and the adaptations you have made to protect that wounding. In other words, knowing your obstructions defines vital areas of our work, and together we can invite in those aspects of you and explore them with kindness, curiosity, and with the understanding that they are discrete parts of a vast system of self. The therapeutic relationship, therefore, functions as a model for opening and relating to broader expressions of self with warmth, wisdom, and spaciousness.
The understanding presented here is that by bringing those aspects into consciousness and integrating them into a fuller sense of self, you prevent them from continuing to express in your life in covert and harmful ways. But because those aspects often carry ‘dangerous’ emotions like shame, grief, and rage—intensities you learned to protect against in the first place—the process of opening to them needs to proceed at a pace commensurate to the trust you feet in the therapeutic relationship and in your own inner capacities. The therapeutic process, therefore, is one of resourced deepening, in which broader expressions of self are encountered and
integrated through the slow but steady unfolding of trust, connection, and insight.
The process of resourced deepening often involves grieving past losses and disappointments. Because unprocessed grief often expresses as self-aggression, the therapeutic process involves understanding why and how that grief became misdirected and how to direct it in ways that promote resolution and growth. Some therapists call this 'developmental mourning' because such deep encounters with self facilitate the emergence of inner worth, and the release of unmet longings. Developmental mourning is a process that serves to free you from masochistic repetition patterns and deepens your capacity to be with yourself in kindness and compassion.
When you trust in your capacity to tolerate grief and other painful emotions, you help disempower the role that fear plays in your life because you understand that regardless of the nature of the fallout, you will be okay fundamentally. As a result, you learn to take the kinds of risks that engender growth and fulfillment, and you come to enjoy a sense of freedom that infuses your life and relationships.
The processes sketched above describe significant psychological movements:
• Toward the toleration and expression of
challenging emotions, which help
dissolve painful relational patterns.
• Toward the capacity to hold yourself and
others in a complexity that brings a new
richness to living and fosters understanding
• Toward a relationship with self based on
warmth, wisdom, and spaciousness, which
helps you live a life of connection and
My hope is that by understanding how therapy works, you will make the most of your time in session; and in glimpsing the depth involved in the kind of therapy that produces psychic change, you will hold yourself with added patience and kindness. The process is challenging, but it serves to remove the blocks that keep you from living life on your own terms.
If you would like to schedule an appointment, please contact me here.