Storm front over the horizon?
Something is coming your way, but you’d rather not think about it.
When you DO think about it, you try to imagine telling someone about it, someone who cares about you, but you struggle for the words. Why bother if I can’t even find the words to describe this feeling of being wrong inside?
So, you go on, but your face feels more and more like a mask draped over something that has no shape, no name.
A sense of urgency develops, and you find yourself lying awake with scary thoughts, turning down good friends, pulling away.
There’s a disruption in your relationship with your life partner. He or she has asked more than once, “Are you sure there’s nothing going on with you? I’m worried about you.”
And then, it happens. The thought comes unexpectedly out of the blue. “She’d probably be better off without me.” As quickly as it came, it left, leaving behind ice cold fear, or, even worse, a sense of comfort.
Some part of you rises and says, “Enough!”
Before that voice goes quiet again, you flash that you need help, want help, and you’re ready to turn and face that storm front.
You call that number you got. When I pick up, I say “Sure, let’s get together and talk for 20 or 30 minutes. We’ll see how to go forward. I’d like to help.”
Already, relief starts to flow….
Therapy – what does that mean?
In Good Will Hunting, Robin Williams portrayed a kind, courageous therapist who compassionately stood up to Will’s insults. In The Sopranos, Dr. Jennifer Melfi showed the internal conflicts therapists can experience in the presence of extremely powerful personalities like Tony.
Barbra Streisand played Dr. Susan Lowenstein n The Prince of Tides, allowing her patient, played by Nick Nolte, to fall in love with her, which she reciprocated. Incredibly, the movie did not show what all was wrong with this.
An HBO series called In Treatment had some overly dramatized situations, but for the most part was one of the most accurate portrayals of what therapy is about that I’ve seen on screen.
These fictions, and many more from movies, television and popular culture, might swirl in your head if you’ve never been in therapy and are about to step into my office.
If you have seen a therapist before and it was a good experience, your previous therapist did us both a big favor by smoothing the way. But, let’s say this is your first time.
What can you expect?
When we meet, you will find someone who cares deeply about doing this work in a way that is not formulaic, or rote, or out of a manual of one kind or another.
We set the appointment, you arrive at my office, we sit down, I close the door, and we begin. You can expect to have my complete attention.
Perhaps you worry, “Are you the kind who never says anything? My friend went to someone who never said anything and finally got frustrated and left – you’re not like that, are you?”
At the beginning, I like to listen a lot and ask some questions; but, no, I am not the kind that never says anything – our sessions will quickly evolve into conversations.
It is not your job to carefully organize and bullet point your thoughts unless that makes you more comfortable. It is my job to follow along and organize them for myself.
As I’ve said in the FAQs, you might think of it as taking a walk with an old friend, maybe a mentor or teacher, and the conversation turns to what’s been going on with you lately. You start to lay out your troubles, and your companion asks questions that take you deeper and deeper into the story.
Ah, but you ask, ‘How to begin?’
Individual therapy begins with the story. I will ask you to tell the story of how you decided to see me. From there, I will want to learn about where you come from, who were your parents, and how are your siblings doing, and what kind of relationships do you have with them.
I will ask about your work. I might want to find out about your religious upbringing.
I will want to know what, if any, traumas you may have experienced – emotional, physical, sexual or otherwise. Sometimes, people have been traumatized in their religious upbringing, so I ask about that, too.
My job is to learn your story, looking for discrepancies and hidden parts and blank spots, because those elements are where the value is.
I will begin to tie what’s so troublesome now to those early learnings, traumas, experiences, and will ask, ‘Is this how you want to keep on living, or can you maybe see a different path?’
So, often, these stories are loaded with all the reasons why you struggle to feel good about your life, as they help explain the otherwise mysterious, often hurtful actions of those who raised you, abused you, or exploited you.
My job is to help you devise an alternative to this tale of woe, bring it up to date, and make it more reflective of the way things really are now.
What my job is not…
It is not my job in individual therapy to tell you what you should do with your life, but rather to help you find the courage to go forward with new energy, ideas, and commitments.
It is not my job to tell you what is wrong with you, but rather to help you find out how what is troubling you makes sense, and then apply more reality-based solutions.
You are in charge.
A quite common question is, ‘How long will this take?’ and the answer is ‘who knows?’
It’s wise to consider that weekly meetings for the first six to eight weeks will set the course for success, and from there we will re-evaluate. I have had therapy relationships that have lasted as few as three or four sessions, and others have gone on intermittently for over 25 years.
You may want to know if I give homework assignments, and the answer is ‘occasionally’ – more often if you ask for them.
Along those lines, you may have heard of therapists giving reading assignments. I don’t typically do that, but I do have a handful of books I’ve read over the years that I find extremely valuable. These are not your average self-help books, and we can discuss them if you wish.
Good individual therapy consists of regularly held meetings over time. As a result of those meetings, you will find many memories stirred: stored feelings of anger, grief, loss, resentment, hurt, outrage, joy, gratitude. It will be a roller coaster, but I work to make sure you arrive safely.
Along the way, though, you will experience resistance. Resistance is that in you that prefers to remain in the habitual, because that is where the familiar lies. All your carefully developed defenses are located there.
Resistance often comes up at the exact point a crucial issue has come fully into view – you can either run from it or deal with it. Obviously, you are free to stop at any time.
I am in charge of what I do while you are there with me. If you wish to quit, I certainly won’t try to stop you, as that would be counterproductive. If you want to spread out your meetings, again, that is your choice. My job is to be the best I can be while you are there.
When the Queen Mary leaves port, she is guided by tugboats toward her eventual crossing of the open ocean.
I see myself in therapy as one of those tugboats. As a result of our sessions, your course may shift one or two degrees toward a more desirable destination. However, the trip is always yours to take – not mine.
Most likely, I will travel with you only a relatively brief time, but you will have my full attention while we are together.
Let’s get together.
If you’re tired of the way things are now and are ready for a change, please give me a call or send a text to
We’ll figure out a time for a free 20-minute consultation.
From there, we’ll both know if we can work together on your journey to a more joyful life.