As a therapist, my goal is to help you to answer the questions that have been plaguing you and negatively affecting your life. This can be best accomplished by being honest with ourselves (what you avoid imprisons you) and learning how to not let our past control the future. With these, our path to effectively deal with our problems is easer to navigate.
Since receiving my Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work in 1992 from Walla Walla University, I have discovered that insight can be found in almost every area of our lives, if we know where to look for it. My approach to therapy has been influenced greatly by Carl Rogers, Aaron Beck, and Pema Chödrön. My training includes CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) for treatment-resistant depression and anxiety disorders from the Beck Institute as well as completing Level 2 Training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy. I am licensed to practice therapy in both Oregon and Arizona.
Approach to Therapy
I believe that each patient already has the innate skills and potential for tremendous growth, and is not “defective”. When doing therapy, I follow these guiding principals:
- It’s important to understand our thoughts, motivations, and behaviors in all things.
- How we respond to a situation is just as important as the situation itself.
- Personal growth can be difficult to achieve when pursing dreams rather than goals.
- How we talk to each other is more important than what we talk about.
In a nutshell, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) assumes that what we think and how we act can affect our emotions. Specifically, the assumption is that it is our thoughts and behaviors, not other people, situations or things, that make us feel bad. The goal in CBT is to help you identify faulty thinking and challenge these beliefs against the available evidence. This is the primary approach that I use in working with my patients.
By helping to modify a person’s thoughts and behaviors, a different outlook can be achieved. You might be tempted to think that this is a fancy way of saying, “just get over it”. Ironically, that isn’t the case (or the goal) at all. The focus is on encouraging patient empowerment and logical thinking skills.
As a therapeutic model, CBT assumes that behavioral variables are specifically influenced by the type of cognitions, or thinking styles, that are utilized by the patient. Dysfunctional cognitions, distorted cognitions, including negative and positive automatic thoughts and attributional styles (attributing negatives events to themselves and their actions), are seen as having a major impact on the ways in which the patient functions and responds.
Negative cognitions, and cognitive distortions, are seen as directly related to depressed functioning. The cognitive-behavioral therapist is more active in assisting, and challenging, the patient to examine the various negative cognitive distortions which impact functioning. The patient is challenged to check out issues in their environment, such as asking others not involved in the problem about how they perceive the situation. The goal is not only to change cognitions, but to make the patient an active participant in their own healing.
Gottman Method Couples Therapy
While many of the techniques listed here are used in marital counseling and couples therapy, they don’t specifically address communication skills, relationship patterns, and friendship/intimacy. Dr. John Gottman’s research and methodology in understanding and identifying issues in couples counseling is one of the more popular approaches in the past decade. Much of his approach is supported by evidence-based research.
I have completed Level 2 Training in the Gottman Method and use a modified version of the Gottman Method Couples Therapy in my private practice. Officially, the Gottman Method of Couples Therapy relies on a specific structure and approach. Which is interesting in that Dr. John Gottman is also a vocal advocate for making modifications and adaptations to his techniques as each therapist sees as appropriate. The structure involves a series of assessment phases, followed by treatment and then specific termination sessions phased out over a period of time. During different phases of therapy, the therapist works with the couples together to help them appreciate the relationship’s strengths and to gently navigate through its vulnerabilities.
Two of the main reservations that I have about this technique are that it is built upon correlational-based evidence (as opposed to cause-and-effect) and that in its popularity, it has become somewhat “larger than life” (emphasis is often placed on the brand name itself rather than the specific techniques involved). However, it is a solid and well-founded theoretical framework that I have found to produce reliable and consistent results.
Mindfulness is a lot like walking across the room with the lights off. You end up bumping into the furniture and stubbing your toe if you don’t walk calmly and carefully. Mindfulness is when you’re able to walk through life as effectively and as skillfully as you can. This is, in a nutshell, the essence of both Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).
Mindfulness is, however, only effective when you are taught how to use the skills effectively during times of stress and unexpected life events. Part of being mindful involves the ability to survive an emotional crisis without making things worse.
If all you want to do is escape, scream, hide or get in bed and pull the covers over your head, that’s not survival. This group focuses on teaching you the skills to survive a personal crisis. These essential life skills are for anyone feeling overwhelmed. We need to be able to survive the problems we face on a daily basis without falling to pieces.
Acceptance & Commitment Therapy
Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) is often misunderstood. While it does involve making a commitment towards making more positive choices in your life, many people forget the “Acceptance” part of the equation. If you do not accept your situation, condition or limitations, your progress will be difficult.
More interestingly, if you do not accept that you are valued, “good” and worthwhile, your attempts at getting better will be cut short. In order to use this approach, non-judgment and acceptance of both the situation and yourself are important; belief in your potential without cutting yourself down is even more urgent. One specific aspect of this type of therapy involves regulating your emotions by defining and committing to goals. No one can live their entire life in “survival mode”.
It’s important to find out why we always end up being in a crisis and how to keep from ending up there in the first place. Living in a life full of crisis is no way to survive. We need to learn how to adjust and react without letting ourselves spin out of control. This is the goal of regulating our emotions.
After the completion of therapy, I ask my patients to anonymously rate their experience. This helps me to gauge and adjust my style and approach to therapy. These are the results from last year:
- I felt heard, understood, and respected by David: 96%
- I have been able to talk about what I wanted to talk about with David: 94%
- David’s approach is a good fit for me: 95%
- I am able to accomplish the goals I want through my sessions with David: 98%
- Overall, I feel like I am getting something out of my sessions with David: 96%