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Green Hills with Blue Sky

My Approach to Individual Therapy

Each course of therapy is unique: based on your particular concerns, needs, circumstances, and goals.  In general, though, my approach draws broadly from many orientations including cognitive-behavioral therapy (often referred to by its initials, CBT), mindfulness, psychodynamic, Emotion-Focused, Motivational Interviewing, solution-focused, gestalt, and existential orientations.  My approach emphasizes:

  • Listening to you attentively, supportively, non-judgmentally, and respectfully.  I believe this is a central core of good psychotherapy: that being listened to well is therapeutic in and of itself, is a basis for a good therapeutic relationship, and is the foundation for other therapeutic benefits.
    • It helps you feel more at ease, and makes therapy an emotionally "safe" place where you feel (at least relatively) comfortable talking candidly about what's bothering you
      • It is not uncommon to feel nervous at the start of therapy; over time, you come to trust me and the therapy, even though some topics may still be difficult (e.g., painful or scary) to talk about
    • It helps you to feel understood, supported, accepted, and "validated": you get the message that, however overwhelmed you may feel,  your experience is understandable, you are not 'crazy'
    • It helps you feel less alone and more hopeful 
  • Enhancing awareness and understanding of your feelings, including:
    • the important difference between feelings and thoughts
    • how your feelings, thoughts, and behavior affect each other
    • the role that each has in your reactions to people, events, and circumstances, and how they contribute to your difficulties and distress
  • Identifying and challenging unreasonable and counterproductive thoughts, and helping you develop helpful alternatives
    • Not everything that comes to our minds is reasonable and helpful.  I saw a bumper sticker that sums up an important part of psychotherapy in a nutshell: "Don't believe everything you think" (!!!).  You may have thoughts about or reactions to yourself or others that come naturally to you - "automatically" - but that are not realistic or reasonable or helpful.  I help you identify if and when you are having such unhelpful "automatic" thoughts, coach you to "divest" from them (i.e., to stop treating them as if they are worth "listening" to), and help you to develop new, different "internal conversations" with yourself.
  • Helping you to develop new ways of dealing both with your internal experiences (feelings, thoughts) and external events (things that happen, what other people say and do).  Life events are often stressful, and as discussed above, an emphasis in my work is supportive listening and understanding.  However, how one understands and interprets an event or circumstance, and the meaning one attributes to it, is often more variable than we realize, and as important as the event itself in determining how one experiences it and how distressing it is.  Beyond listening, I help people (i) better understand their initial or "default" cognitive and behavioral reactions to stressful circumstances, events, relationships, and interactions, and (ii) learn new and more helpful ways of interpreting and responding to them.


To put an important part of what I do a bit differently, and in terms of what you might hear me say and experience with me in therapy: I often encourage people to "slow down" and pay a bit more attention to what they are experiencing in the present moment.  Often people are most aware of what they are, or have been, thinking (important, but not the whole story!).  If they give themselves time - and with guidance and encouragement from me - they become more aware of feelings "underneath" and related to the thoughts; and this enhanced awareness changes experience, and opens up new options for responding. 

Click here Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence for some related ideas and books that may be helpful.

If you are looking for counseling or therapy help in the Madison WI area, good for you for considering it.  Please feel free to call me at 608-271-8799: I would be happy to try to help.