The first time we meet for our 50 minute session, we'll go over some logistics. I'll have two forms for you to fill out, which you can print out beforehand and bring with you, or I can provide them to you when you arrive. Once we've done that, we will begin what is called The Intake Session.
The Intake Session
Before we begin, I will lead you through a brief, sensory based meditation, where you will have a moment to really arrive. During the meditation you will check in with your body and mind, and noticing what is happening in your system. This gives us a grounded start to therapy, and begins the process of forming new neural pathways.
During our intake session, I will ask questions about your family and personal history, as well as current lifestyle, in order to give me a sense of the backdrop of your life. I will take notes during this time - something I will not do in further sessions. The questions and note taking are important, because it will give me information about subjects that may not come up in the natural course of therapy, but that may be relevant to current situations or problems.
This initial session will also be an opportunity for you to express what is bringing you into therapy at this time, and for us to formulate both short and long term goals. What do you want to get out of therapy, and how will we know when that has been achieved?
Our Work Together
Each session will begin with taking a moment to fully arrive. This can be done with a variation of the mindfulness meditation that you learned in our intake session, and is important for practicing the type of awareness that will facilitate your psychological healing and growth. Some clients have spiritual practices that they like to begin with, and those are welcome too.
Often, this initial check-in will highlight what is "up", or most present for you, and will be our jumping off point for the session. You may also have something already on your mind that you want to work on.
The rest of our session will be catered to you and your individual needs, both in terms of long-term goals, and also what may be urgent that day. Here are some examples of the ways we will explore and facilitate your healing:
Traditional Talk Therapy
This is the stereotypical therapy that we often see in the media. It has been portrayed as being laughable or strange, but I have found it to be profoundly life changing for clients. The stress relieving experience of feeling heard and seen, plus gaining immediate perspective just by externalizing our problems verbally is incredible medicine. Very few of us have someone in our lives who will listen without turning the conversation back to themselves, who views us as someone with basic goodness and can provide feedback from a place of deep insight and clear perspective. Talk therapy also is one way that we develop a strong, trusting therapeutic relationship. This relationship, and our interpersonal work, is arguably the most healing aspect of seeing a therapist.
Gestalt therapy focuses on the Here and Now, emphasizes the importance of awareness and action, and moves away from mere talking with a focus on experiencing. This can happen through mindfulness, experiments (trying new responses and behaviors in the safety of the therapy session), dream work and techniques like "the empty chair." Gestalt also focuses on personal responsibility, which helps get us out of the blame game, heal relationships (both past and present) and into feeling empowered and able to create real change in our lives. My favorite part of Gestalt is the underscoring of authenticity - both of the client and the therapist.
Another Gestalt technique that I utilize frequently is "voice dialogue" - having one "part" of the self speak to another part. A healthy psyche is made up of subpersonalities that come together to make up a whole. We often run into feelings of confusion, stuckness, depression or poor decision making when an overbearing "part" is always running the show, while the other parts (the inner child, the rebel, the good girl etc.) are blocked from being part of the conversation. Using Psychosynthesis, we get the parts talking to each other, and decide who would be the best director of our lives - usually the part of ourself that is empathic and kind.
Somatics / Focusing
Our culture holds the mind as omnipotent and we are encouraged from a very young age to disregard the messages that our body sends us. This is a travesty because our bodies hold wisdom and can be a source of guidance - in a sense, our bodies "never lie". Our body also becomes the repository for the experiences, emotions and traumas that we are not able to process at the time that they occur. Either because of overwhelm, or because we have internalized messages that tell us that feeling sad or angry is bad, our emotional experiences get stuck in our body, almost as if on a loop reel, because they have been interrupted. An easy way to think about it is that e-motions are Energy in Motion - energy that wants to move through, and out of, our body, but gets blocked. That lump in your throat, the gnawing in your stomach, the tension in your jaw - these are common examples of emotions like anxiety, grief and fear that have become somaticized. Using somatic awareness, we bring compassionate attention to different areas of your body, creating a stronger connection between mind and heart and allowing your emotions to release. We titrate your experience so that you are able to integrate and are not re-traumatized. I use a variation of a technique called Focusing, a psychotherapeutic method developed by Eugene Glendlin .
Guided Therapeutic Imagery / Journeying
Sometimes what you may need is a way to bypass the mental rut. Guided Therapeutic Imagery (similar to guided visualization) engages different parts of the brain involved in creative problem solving, and is relaxing and rejuvenating. These guided experiences also help create new neural pathways and help us "remember' what it is like to feel joy, pleasure, calm or hopefulness.
Some clients are drawn to work with their experience in primarily intuitive way - through images, metaphor, art, creative writing and spirituality. Journeying - a light trance induced by a soft, steady drum beat, helps the client enter a liminal space, where they may explore the landscape of the psyche and discover new resources, insight and spiritual stewardship.