I am a Ph.D. psychologist
working with adults in individual therapy, couples therapy (sometimes called marriage counseling), group therapy and sex therapy for 25 years. My patients are straight, gay, single, married, divorced, and remarried and range in age from younger to older adults.
New patients are often surprised during the first session to find they open up more easily than they expected and are able to talk about very personal subjects. I create an atmosphere in which patients feel safe and supported so that they can talk about the most vulnerable issues.
Compared to most therapists, I am very active, involved and personal in therapy. I do not just sit back and listen and I do not just give advice.
I listen to patients with empathy and caring, but I go beyond listening to confront and motivate patients to change. It is relatively easy to listen, support and give "fix it" advice. It is much harder to confront someone with the truth about their problems and to get them to actually change. My patients would tell you that I am caring but tough. I do not hold back from telling patients the truth they need to hear to change their lives. I have a reputation for working well with CEO's, lawyers, and other people who are used to being in control because I am not easily controlled and I am willing to take them on.
In my office, I have a sign which says "Mostly, people change not because they see the light but because they feel the heat" with a picture of a lightening bolt striking someone in the butt to get them moving. Understanding problems is necessary but not sufficient for change. Therapies which are focused mainly on insight such as psychoanalytic approaches often leave a patient with an understanding of their issues but without the means to change.
True change requires not only insight but also the motivation or drive to make the change happen. The source of the motivation is what I call "the heat". It is the fuel that empowers us to change. Internal heat includes: passion, desire, self-respect, a need for connection with self and others and a need to be well-treated in relationships. When people are stuck in their problems, their natural internal "heat" has been shut down or dampened and they cannot get out of the rut. Consider, for example, the spouse who has lost the heat to work on their relationship and passively tolerates a life without passion and connection. Or the obese person who knows he or she needs to lose weight but will not exercise or diet to make that change. For change to happen, something needs to generate sufficent "heat" to empower the person to overcome their ambivalence and change.
In my therapy approach, I help patients restore their natural internal "heat" as I confront their denial and defenses and join with the healthier part of them that wants to change. I generate "heat" by giving honest, direct feedback in a powerful way that confronts the patient with their behavior. For example, in couples therapy, I might say, "While I realize you feel badly treated by your spouse, the way you are responding is awful. You are blaming and hostile and it is only serving to alienate your spouse more. If I was your spouse, I would be tempted to walk out of the room. Now, what if you tried responding in a different way..." I might then ask the spouse why they allowed the blaming diatribe to continue and describe what they needed to do to confront their spouse in a more powerful and effective manner. In couples or group therapy, heat is also generated by the feedback and reactions of the couple’s partner or group members who are taught by me to be direct, honest and powerful in their feedback.
My approach to therapy reflects my belief as an athlete that success in any endeavor requires pushing ourselves hard to overcome our limitations and problems. Like an athletic trainer or coach, I push patients to dig deep to find their "heat" and work hard to change and realize their goals. Patients who have worked with passive therapists are often amazed at how much faster they change when they have a more active "coach" pushing them to be their best.
To understand a patient’s problems and help them change, I use the relationship between myself and the patient as both an assessment and teaching tool. The way patients interact with me in therapy shows me a lot about how they interact with others and create problems in relationships. In my relating to a patient, I am often modeling more effective ways for the patient to do their own relationships.
I also use my own life experiences or those of people I know to illustrate something I want to teach a patient. In teaching a patient to confront their parent, I might talk about the time I confronted my mother for not telling me she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. My mother is a very giving person, who is not very good at letting people care for her. When I learned after the fact that she had had surgery for breast cancer, I told my mother that I understood that she was trying to spare me from worrying, but that she was actually depriving me of something I needed to do. I had the right to be informed about her illness and to worry about her. "Mom, it is crazy for me not to worry about you. In fact, it is selfish of you to not allow me to worry. This is one of the times, when I get to be someone who helps you instead of you always being the helper." Being willing to share my own struggles in relationships has proven to be one of the most effective ways to teach and motivate patients to work on their own struggles.
To help balance the hard and painful emotional work that is a necessary part of therapy, I use a great deal of humor in therapy. I am able to laugh at my own issues and teach patients to be able laugh at themselves and to use humor to as a means of coping with life's stress. We humans are the only animals who truly cry and laugh and this is not a coincidence.
I am invested personally in the work that I do as a therapist. I am committed to doing whatever I can to help a patient achieve change which endures. It is enormously rewarding for me to know that I have been able to help someone change their life. If we work together, you can be assured I will give my all to help you.
I show people what they do that causes their problems or prevents them from getting more out of their lives.
I help them work through their ambivalence and resistance to changing their lives.
I teach them what they need to do to find their natural "heat" so they can make lasting changes in the way they do relationships and live their lives.