Philosophy of Treatment

   

Counseling Philosophy

 

Therapy is a process of healing and discovery for the whole person...... body, mind, behavior, emotions and especially spirit. Therapy can help us bring out that which is already within....it can, in some small way, improve our journey in this life and help us empower, rediscover or reconnect with ourselves and therefore with others. 

 

Therapy can be used in a variety of ways. The reasons a person seeks therapy can range from needing a place to go to talk things through with an objective person to working through painful or traumatic issues.  Contrary to what many people believe, a person does not have to be sick or depressed or mentally ill to seek treatment.  Sometimes, a person seeks therapy to improve or develop self-esteem.  Other reasons might be to deal with issues related to relationships, families, careers, parenting, major life changes, world events, losses, transitions, substance abuse, the every day stresses of life or even a vague sense that something just is not right.  Seeking support is a positive, healthy step and a sign of strength.  Realizing that we cannot always navigate through life alone is wisdom not weakness.  Being fortunate enough to have support from friends and family is wonderful but sometimes, that support might not exist or even if it does, we might want feedback from a more objective source.

 

When seeking counseling, it is important not to allow "horror stories" or prior bad experiences deter us.  In the field of counseling, as in any profession, there are people who are not qualified. The client is, after all, a consumer looking for a service.  It is not only the right but also the responsibility of the client to ask questions and to shop around.  The client and the therapist interview each other, it is not a "one way street."  If something does not feel right, as clients, we must honor that feeling and move on until we find someone with whom we feel safe and comfortable.

 

I believe therapists or counselors serve as facilitators, guides or coaches who have hopefully learned ways to improve the quality of their own lives and can share that knowledge and experience with clients and thereby contribute to their process of growth and recovery. Therapists are fellow humans, imperfect and fallible, on the same journey in life as their clients. I believe therapists must continue their own process of growth and self-examination, both personally and professionally, as they facilitate that process in others.  Therapists are not experts who have all the answers.  It is not the job of the therapist to tell clients what to do or how to feel but to support clients in that process.

 

As we pass through different stages of our lives, our needs, beliefs, perspectives, relationships, etc. may need to be re-examined or changed. Therapy can provide the opportunity to have a witness to this process of change and can guide us to a new and healthier place to allow the innate wisdom of the self to emerge.

 

One of the most important aspects of therapy is for the client to tell his or her story and for the therapist to listen and bear witness, without judgment.  The story is told not to assign blame or to make excuses but rather to look at where we come from and where we have been, in order to decide where we are going. If nothing else is accomplished in therapy, simply telling ones story can promote clarity and healing.

 

 The relationship between the client and the counselor is the most important part of therapy, therefore it needs to be repairative, healing and based on mutual positive regard.  The therapist must create an atmosphere of empathy, support, respect, good humor, safety and acceptance without judgment.  If for any reason this atmosphere does not exist, the client and therapist must honor each other enough to make a change.

 

 I believe the focus in therapy needs to be on health and a positive attitude rather than on disease or diagnosis.  If a condition such as depression or anxiety does exist, that condition can be improved upon or changed by increasing awareness and exploring feelings, beliefs, and underlying issues.  Then changes can be made in coping skills, perspectives, attitudes and behaviors. When appropriate, the option of medication can be explored.  However, ultimately, the decision to take medication is always up to the client. 

 

Crisis or pain is often the impetus for seeking therapy and can serve as an indication that change is needed.  Processing that pain can create transformation and that transformation can lead a person from merely surviving and coping to living a joyful and spiritual life.

 

Therapy is where a person goes to be heard.  It is a place to express joy and humor as well as pain. The therapist must first, and most importantly, listen, with the heart as well as with the ears.  Clients need to be met wherever they are in their journey, not where the therapist wants them to be. Therapists are not there to impose their beliefs and morals onto clients but to help clients clarify or discover their own.

Therapy is a place to learn to identify, express and sit with feelings, if a person is yet unable to do so.  Although some people are uncomfortable with silence, periods of silence need to be provided to allow the opportunity to recognize or process feelings or to figure out what the next step is. And more often than not, those feelings will be mixed or will conflict with or contradict our thoughts. We can learn to recognize and honor the difference between emotion and intellect or "head vs heart" and then base our actions on what is in our best interest.  At the very least, we will then know that any decision we make is informed and thought out. 

 

Therapy can also help us learn to improve the way we communicate. The therapist must be skilled enough in healthy, effective methods of communication in order to teach these skills.  It is not the responsibility of the therapist to give advice or to solve problems but to support the client in that process.  Therapy is also a place to learn about boundaries and setting limits, in life and in the therapy itself.  These boundaries need to be clarified and honored throughout the course of therapy.  There must be an atmosphere of openness and honesty, so that a client feels safe enough to ask any question, yet boundaries need to be respected when a response is provided.

 

It is also vital for therapists to assist clients in identifying and working through any feelings of shame that might exist, because the recovery process cannot begin until shame is healed.  Therefore, therapists should have healed any of their own feelings of shame so that, even inadvertently, they do not add to or create shame for the client.

 

Another important aspect of therapy involves connecting with, healing and nurturing the inner child, especially if that inner child has been wounded along the way.

 

Therapy serves to remind us to take responsibility for ourselves, our words and our actions, to explore thoughts and feelings, to respond rather than to react, and to learn to step back when necessary, to look at our own process, and without judging ourselves or our feelings, see things from a different perspective. One way to achieve this is for the client and therapist to work together to establish goals for therapy and to reassess these goals on a regular basis.  However, this involvement must be balanced with gentle guidance and pacing by the therapist so the client does not feel overwhelmed or unsafe, especially if dealing with powerful content. 

 

The process of therapy can help us to develop our ability to quiet the mind, to notice and to become more mindful, to bring what is unconscious into conscious awareness. This process is where the power lies because the first step to change is awareness.  And when that change occurs, therapists need to remind clients how the process of change occurs and how change affects us and the people in our lives. 

 

Anyone seeking therapy is in a vulnerable state, whether slight or extreme, and it is the responsibility of the therapist to help the client eliminate that vulnerability and replace it with a sense of empowerment, self-love and the knowledge that we no longer need to be victims, if that is how we see ourselves but can awaken the power that is already inside us.

 

The needs and feelings of the therapist must never take priority over those of the client, otherwise, the therapy will be compromised.  Therapists need to be willing and able to identify and process any transference issues that arise and to examine feelings and expectations about their clients and the therapy itself.  This is done through supervision, and when appropriate, with the client.

 

If the above conditions and behaviors do not exist or, if for any reason a therapist behaves or speaks in a manner that confuses or upsets the client, it is the clients right to ask questions or to express feelings of discomfort or pain. Hopefully, if this occurs the therapist and the client can work things through.  If, however, an impasse is reached, changing therapists is the right of the client.

 

By doing all of the above and more, trust will develop, and trust is vital to the process of therapy.  Once trust is achieved, it is the responsibility of the therapist to intervene and/or confront when necessary, especially if the client is in an unsafe situation or at a place where he/she is unable to be objective enough to see things clearly.

 

Through therapy, we can learn that we can achieve new skills and attitudes and beliefs that we can empower ourselves with new tools to cope with whatever occurs in our lives...that we can learn to know, love, respect and nurture the different parts of ourselves and our spirits and live a more mindful life.

 

Some other important concepts that can be learned or validated in therapy are that

 

It is not what happens in our lives that determines our overall health but IT IS OUR ATTITUDE TOWARD WHAT HAPPENS THAT IS IMPORTANT

 

It is not who the OTHER person is or what they do or do not do but rather IT IS WHAT WE OURSELVES CAN OR CANNOT TOLERATE

 

Our feelings may often be mixed or conflicted and this is a natural occurrence, few situations are black and white.  These mixed feelings need to be allowed and not judged they are not good or bad or right or wrong.  IT IS THE ACTION WE TAKE ON THE FEELINGS THAT COUNTS

 

Therapists must apply all of the above ideas and model the behaviors in order for therapy to be worthwhile.  We must act as we believe and as we speak in order to be effective therapists.

 

Therapy can facilitate a connection or re-connection to or validation of our spiritual lives.  And whether that spirituality is through nature, religion, music, our belief system or whatever enhances our sense of spirit, it can lead us to a more fulfilling life.

 

The process of therapy can be so many things - exciting, scary, joyful, painful, frustrating, fulfilling, and even fun and, if conducted appropriately, will lead to a greater sense of health, well-being and connection to ourselves, to others and to the universe.                                                                                                      Rev 2011                                                              

                                                                                                                         

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