My Philosophy of Care

In my opinion, "to be in a doctor's care" means that the doctor cares enough to get to know the real you and develop a true understanding of how you feel and think. My philosophy is grounded on principles that emphasize your inner strengths and your inherent potential for growth and resilience. In our time together, we will be searching for all that is authentic in the core of your being.

I am genuinely interested in how you have become who you are, how it feels to be in your particular body, with your particular personality and mindset, raised in your particular family and cultural community, doing your work, with your friends and lovers, after being exposed to the diversity of life experiences: love, loss, obligations, changes, accidents, the combination of joys, traumatic events, and stressful experiences that have contributed to your being and influenced you.

Most of the time we must present a certain image to maintain favorable impressions or conform to family, work, or social standards. Many people must hide essential aspects of their true selves. Some people have the sense that no one knows any part of "the real me". Other people have completely lost touch with their authentic selves or wonder if they even have one.

Many people have never had anyone who truly understands how they feel and think in their deepest hearts, minds, and souls. Or they may have had someone who died or who is no longer involved in their lives. We are alone in this world in many ways. But research shows that if we have at least one person who truly understands us and gives us emotional support, we can survive and thrive despite adversity.

Allied with the right therapist, with whom you feel a strong sense of trust, safety, and comfort, you can explore places in yourself that you dare not enter alone and find peace that you never expected to find. I have seen it happen. I am an eyewitness.

Attunement is the process by which one human being uses emotional intelligence and sensitivity to accurately grasp and comprehend the inner experience of another human being. In this process, the other person feels known and understood and feels a sense of relief. Attunement is only the starting point in psychotherapy. But in my opinion, it is critical.

Due to my own experiences of suffering, I have an instinctive ability to attune to another human being who is experiencing emotional pain. I know how it feels to need a sense of safety, trust, and comfort with another person in order to open up and confront your vulnerabilities.

I focus on helping you to increase your knowledge, skills, and abilities to better integrate and process complex emotional experiences. I believe in your ability to learn and to relearn when necessary throughout the lifespan.

I will accompany you on a journey of self-exploration. Together we will discover the paths upon which you are ready to walk, paths that lead you to new awarenesses and insights, and to changes or resolutions that evolve naturally.

I have helped myself and others to make changes and I know how difficult it is. I also know that at first you cannot imagine all that is possible. The journey requires an attuned guide with knowledge about the natural process of psychological change, a sense of patience, and a welcoming attitude towards all that emerges and unfolds.

I will help you put your problems into perspective, help you focus on what is urgent and important at this time in your life, and on what you can control and choose to think, feel, and do. The human condition involves both a lack of control and the overwhelming freedom and responsibility of so much choice and control. Together we will prioritize what really matters to you and what needs your attention at this time in your life.

I consider this work my calling in life. I also consider myself an activist who is helping to improve the world one person at a time. So many people are not able to give their gifts to the world because of a lack of emotional support and understanding in their lives. If I work with you, it is because I can sense what is alive in you and what is struggling to bloom or heal. For me, it is an honor to be a facilitator in your growth and development and a witness of your progress and evolution.

Psychological issues are at the heart of all human experience. I believe that psychology is a basic subject that should be taught in school along with reading, writing, and arithmetic. To me, it is a travesty that most people suffer in silence and in shame when so much suffering could be alleviated with psychoeducation and open, supportive acknowledgement of the psychological difficulties faced by every human being.

There is so much more than I can say in this website. When we meet, we will begin that long dialogue together.

What You Can Expect When You Work With Me

We will talk and listen to each other. We will ask each other questions. We will explore your preferences and what you believe you need. We will review your life history so that I can put your current problems into larger context. We will discuss what you have already figured out is helpful and not helpful. We will collaborate on goals and a structure for achieving them.

I am likely to suggest that you consider different perspectives on your situation. I may suggest that you write in a journal or do other forms of creative expression. I may ask you to monitor and track your behavior. I may teach you relaxation techniques or other ways to process your emotional experiences and integrate body-mind connections. I may recommend that you read certain books or articles, see certain movies, or listen to particular music. I may ask you to reconsider some of your beliefs, expectations, and assumptions about life. I may come up with little mental experiments for you to try. I may ask you to take some risks when you are ready.

We are likely to laugh more often than you might expect. I have a strong sense of humor and believe that the human condition is intolerable without an appreciation for the absurd. You are more likely to persevere in the therapeutic process if you enjoy coming to our sessions and experience our time together as an opportunity to let your hair down, relax, have fun, and be playful when you feel that way. Someone once said that people have even less opportunity to experience true joyfulness than sadness. Our sessions will be a place where you can celebrate, share your achievements, your glee, your goofy or silly moments, your secret thrills and delights.

We are also likely to share times when you cry sometimes, are confused, scared, in despair, angry, or uncertain. Many human beings do not allow themselves to fully experience painful emotions, especially in someone else's presence. However, for many people, this is the essence of healing in the therapeutic relationship. There is no way around painful experiences. The only way to find peace is to go all the way through to the other side.

With me, you will have an ongoing relationship with someone who really cares, who really listens and gives you her full attention, is nonjudgmental and informal, and easy to talk with. I will use language that is easy to understand and demystify psychological concepts. With me, you will feel safe and comfortable, have a sense of trust and intimacy, and a sense of security, consistency, and reliability. If you don't feel that way, we will not continue to work together.

The Therapeutic Relationship

The therapeutic relationship is unlike any other relationship. There is intimacy, but it is not romantic or sexual. It is like a friendship in some ways, but it is a one-way friendship. The intimacy is not mutual. It is all about you. For some people, this is unfamiliar and uncomfortable. You may be accustomed to exchanging and sharing intimate details by turn, first you, now me. You may be embarrassed to be the only one making personal disclosures.

It is necessary for you to understand and accept that there are important reasons why the therapist does not routinely share personal information or have a relationship with you outside the therapy sessions. It is part of the therapeutic process.

The focus must be on you alone to facilitate the work to be done. For that reason, despite warm feelings towards you, because of the need to have professional boundaries around those feelings, an ethical therapist does not casually hang out with you, does not go out on dates or to parties with you, and does not have sex with you. An ethical therapist does not become your casual buddy or friend after therapy ends because there is always the possibility that you may need to return to therapy at some later date. Your therapist is always your therapist.

When a therapist shares personal information, as I have done in some places on this website, it is done consciously, for therapeutic purposes. On this website, for example, I have made some personal disclosures to help people feel willing to trust me enough to contact me for the first time.

I am a doctor, but you do not come to me naked. Just emotionally naked. Gradually, as you grow to trust me. But I will not be emotionally or physically naked to you. This may feel painful because it is natural to desire a mutual openness in intimate relationships.

I am more like a special kind of teacher or mentor in whom you can confide. But I do not grade you or give you a report card. I am not your mother or father, though you may sometimes treat me that way. I am not your soulmate, though you may sometimes feel you are falling in love with me or may imagine that I am in love with you.

To open up is to expose yourself to the power of love. In the opening of yourself in therapy, you are opening up to the awareness that you can be loved, that you can be known, understood, accepted, and appreciated for who you are. This is part of the therapeutic process.

When you open yourself through personal disclosure in therapy, and are accepted, known, and understood, it is common to interpret this type of love and intimacy as romantic or sexual love and intimacy. Over time, you will learn to understand the differences. I will remind you if and when necessary.

The therapeutic relationship can also trigger feelings of rage, hatred, criticism, or nitpicking irritability that may be associated with intimacy. You may sometimes feel you want to destroy or diminish who you love if you feel suffocated by that person, overly controlled by, afraid of, or dependent upon that person. We are typically ashamed of such feelings and try to hide them if we are aware of them at all. They may only emerge in dreams or symbolic actions.

These are all common experiences and should be discussed in our sessions if and when you feel them, even if they seem like just minor annoyances. They typically signify that there is something important going on, something that you may not yet have words for, something that wants to be known, something that you are on the verge of being ready to recognize.

So please tell me whatever you feel about our relationship. Everything has meaning. Together we will figure out what is important and what can be learned from your experience.

Theoretical Orientation

Every psychologist has what is called a "theoretical orientation". This refers to training, beliefs, and approaches to psychotherapy that guide them in their work. People who have some psychological training may be interested in my theoretical orientation so I will articulate that here.

In traditional formal language, my theoretical orientation is eclectic and integrative. I am grounded in existential-humanistic principles and values. I integrate cognitive-behavioral approaches and psychodynamic theories of attachment, of basic anxiety, of self, of defense and fantasy. I also use practical techniques from other perspectives such as solution-focused therapy, interpersonal therapy, Gestalt theory, family systems theory, narrative theory, and Gendlin's Focusing technique.

Overall, I maintain a biopsychosocial perspective. This worldview recognizes that psychological experience is influenced by both internal and external factors. Internal factors include genetics, biological predispositions, personality, temperament, etc. External factors include the family environment, peers, cultural community values, religious beliefs, media influences, social pressures such as poverty and discrimination, exposure to traumatic events such as rape or war, and historical contexts such as medical knowledge during the time period.