Therapy Methods and Tools
Internal Family Systems Theory (IFS) is a collaborative, integrative approach to therapy in which the different "parts" of a person (aspects of oneself) are explored and understood in the context of the “internal system” (thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about oneself, others and the world) and the “external system” (other people, family, society). A basic tenet of IFS is that all people have at their core a wise Self that is composed of qualities such as curiosity, compassion, clarity, and confidence. The IFS model helps to relieve problems and alter unhealthy behavior through the use of practical, user-friendly techniques that help bring awareness, understanding and balance to the internal system by utilizing the inherent wisdom and capabilities of the Self. This model views problems as difficulties to be understood and worked through rather than as sickness or inherent "badness". Clients are able to apply what is learned in sessions to their everyday life outside of the therapy office which helps
to effect the changes they want to make.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention, on purpose, without judgement, to what is happening in the present moment. Meditation is the formal practice of mindfulness, but one can practice mindfulness informally simply by bringing awareness and attention to the body or to one's activity during the course of every day living. Research has found that therapy that uses mindfulness is particularly effective for reducing anxiety, stress and addictions. Sometimes just remembering to pause and breathe can help to disrupt habitual ways of thinking and behaving. I often use mindfulness practices in sessions and teach techniques to be used outside of therapy. Dropping into a sensation in the body is a technique I use frequently to help clients identify emotions and foster insight into the origins of the distress. It's particularly helpful in creating space (objectivity) between a distressing emotion or memory and the present moment so that a shift in understanding, coping, or healing can occur. It is the best method I know for helping us all to be less reactive to challenging experiences.
Body-Centered Psychotherapy describes a variety of approaches that integrate a client's physical body into the therapy process. Also referred to as Somatic Psychotherapy, this practice recognizes the intimate relationship between the body and the mind which directly impact the psychological well-being of a person. Psychological pain is most thoroughly healed when we involve and tend to the experiences in the body. It is essential in treating trauma.
Buddhist Psychology The goal in Buddhist psychology is to alleviate suffering which is seen as being directly related to how we live, what we think about ourselves and others, and how we relate to difficulties in life. Buddhist teachings on consciousness, mind, behavior, motivation, and psychopathology are explicitly concerned with the causes of emotional suffering and offer remedies for being happy. Tools for working with difficult emotions are taught that help to alter unhealthy/unhelpful thoughts and behavior.
"Our own worst enemy can not harm us as much as our unwise thoughts.
No one can help us as much as our own compassionate thoughts."
~ The Buddha The Dhammapada
Psychodynamic Psychotherapy is a form of depth psychology, the primary focus of which is to connect unconscious material from the past with conscious thoughts and behaviors that may be causing pain and difficulties in the present. The interpersonal relationship between client and therapist is integral to the work. We are all influenced by events, relationships, and the environment in which we grew up, so it's helpful to understand how these have impacted our personality, current situation, relationships and present day functioning.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a tool used to address disturbing memories and related negative beliefs. The goal of EMDR is to reduce the lingering effects of distressing memories and allow clients to develop more adaptive coping mechanisms. This is done using a protocol that includes having clients recall distressing images while receiving one of several types of bilateral stimulation (which can include side to side eye movements). The device I use has been designed specifically for bilateral stimulation in EMDR and is sold only to professionals who have received training in its use. EMDR was originally developed to treat people suffering from PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), however, it is used to treat other conditions as well. I will use EMDR only after I have taken a thorough history and we have established that it is safe to use.
Psycho-education is used as a means of providing concrete information for the client to foster an understanding of a behavior or reaction. For example, I often use visual aids to explain the basic neurobiology of trauma; what happens in the brain and body during trauma and the subsequent behavioral implications. This can be particularly helpful when clients have seemingly random reactions to people, places or circumstances for which they have no explanation. It can be comforting to understand that there are good reasons and sound explanations for some of our reactions and behaviors.
Mindful Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (MCBT) is an approach that addresses dysfunctional emotions, and maladaptive thoughts and behaviors through various procedures. MCBT is "problem focused" (aimed at specific problems) and "action oriented". Mindfully identifying and altering negative or erroneous cognitions (thoughts/beliefs) helps to change problematic behavior(s).