I like to view my role as collaborating with you to achieve a greater awareness of yourself, to develop more effective patterns of behavior, and to resolve undesirable or troubling emotions and interpersonal conflicts. I will listen to you carefully and deeply. During our work together, we may explore patterns of thoughts and feelings derived from your family of origin that affect your current life and relationships. Within the structure and support of the therapy relationship, these patterns become more apparent and conscious, and are thus more easily understood and changed.
Psychoanalytic therapy is not an intellectual exercise. The therapist does not primarily teach the patient. The patient does not cognitively understand a new way of being and transform him/herself thereby. What happens is grounded in the experience of unconscious patterns that are actually lived out in the therapeutic relationship. The therapist interprets in the transference the immediate and primal emotional experience of the patient and it is through the new experience of old emotional patterns that insight is meaningfully achieved. The therapeutic frame, those restrictive rules limiting the nature of the relationship between the patient and therapist, creates a holding environment within which such experiences, often quite painful and anxiety provoking, can be contained, endured safely, and overcome. The therapist’s office should be the safest place the patient has ever experienced.
Establishing the “frame” of the therapy is critical for success and begins with the first phone call. Trust cannot happen quickly. It develops over time and the accumulation of experiences that the patient has with the therapist as a reliable and safe person. There can be no contact outside the clinical office other than coordinating or emergency phone calls. Therapists do not and should not make house-calls or meet anywhere but the therapist’s office. With the possible exception of an initial handshake, there is absolutely no physical contact between the therapist and client at any time for any reason. This last rule is inflexible and necessary for everyone’s protection.
The two necessary elements that every client needs to bring to therapy (or at least be able to develop) are honesty and courage. They are inextricably intertwined. Psychoanalytic therapy has been called “the habit of honesty” (McWilliams, 2005) and it is always surprising how much courage it takes to be honest. Reality is not entirely malleable and without allowing the therapist to know what actually happened and how it actually effected you the therapy cannot be effective.
The goal is always to help the client become stronger in every aspect of their being. Happiness, endurance, courage, honesty, resilience, and other characteristics most clients want are all just synonyms for strength of character and will. You can become powerful with this method.
My Approach to therapy
Self Made Man
The magnificent works of art on this page by American sculptor Bobbi Carlyle express the spirit behind my approach to therapy better than any thousand words could. “Self-Made Man” and “Self-Made woman” show the heroic efforts of each to fashion themselves out the marble and clay. They epitomize the virtues we struggle toward — realizing that we can only struggle towards them, never ceasing in that struggle.
“Self-Made Man” is carving himself out of the stone and “Self-Made Woman” is carving herself out of clay. They cannot choose the medium. They do not work off of the plans or models of others. What they achieve in their heroic efforts gives them a quiet and profound joy that is theirs alone and cannot be taken from them. And so it is with each of us. Although we can change neither our biology nor our history, we can fashion what we have been given into something beautiful and powerful and new.
Self Made Woman
As Hanna Segal said, “The human mind is an achievement, not an endowment.” When you want to go beyond feeling helpless and achieve the power necessary to create yourself, to make your life its own aesthetic event, it can be done. It is not an easy or a fast process. Small steps and little victories are the core of the work.
Because it is based on accessing the deepest levels of your being, this work requires a level of honesty and courage you may find daunting. We all suffer from pain and the repetition of old ways that simply don’t work anymore. We often find ourselves at a crossroads — accept the way things are because we are afraid of change, or face the difficulty and fear inherent in change. Many therapies offer superficial tools or techniques to make things a little bit better, or a little easier. Such efforts do little more than manage the difficulties your life brings.
Psychoanalytic therapy offers the chance to rework the deepest inner structures of your self. It moves people not just toward change, but more specifically, to strength and power. It is simply not enough to change ways of thinking or behaving without addressing the deeper structures of self and personality. Beliefs and behavior are always derivatives of character structure. We must strive to overcome, to achieve a power in body, mind and spirit that lets us create and nurture the true and authentic self. From a place of power we can then enter relationships, physical and emotional intimacy, careers, physical endeavors, and even rest and relaxation in a way we have never before experienced.
Be inspired by these sculptures to become your own work of art, your own aesthetic event. Become who you are. Will your own becoming.