Why Would Someone Visit a Therapist (or Counselor, or Mentor)?
People come to us when something isn’t quite right in their lives; when they’ve tried to “fix” the problem themselves, yet it lingers. However, there are as many variations on that theme as there are people with unique, complex, emotionally colorful lives. Sometimes they call us when they feel confused or upset about dating or relationships and don’t know how to work their way through it. Sometimes they come in when a relationship goes wrong, or ends, and they are coping with the break-up. Sometimes they reach out as they begin to face a major life transition and they want to talk to someone who has the training, skill and experience to help them navigate that passage. Over the years I’ve worked with highly creative people who came to see me because they felt stuck, or had lost the inspiration that always came so easily (or at least reliably) before. In almost every case, people call because they are trying to cope with distressing situations and feelings that last too long: anxiety, depression, compulsive behaviors, trouble coping, or an inability to connect to others at home or work.
Because I am also trained and certified as a sex therapist, people often come to see me when they’re concerned about an aspect of their sex life—including their experience of sexual pleasure, functioning, or identity. Quite often, people contact me when their libido has become lackadaisical, or the sexual side of their relationship(s) isn’t working too well. It’s especially common to have concerns if someone feels that her/his sexual experiences, fantasies or thoughts don’t quite fit whatever they think of as “normal” or “mainstream.” In that situation, it can be extremely helpful to talk to someone who has both expert knowledge and a genuinely non-judgmental perspective. (You can view more on this under Sex Therapy).
How Long Does Therapy (or Counseling, or Mentoring) Take?
Helping you make sense of what’s going on inside you and getting your life back on track can sometimes take just a few sessions, or it can require a longer term commitment. Usually, we don’t know exactly how much time it will take until we begin the process. Of course, the first order of business is to help you gain relief from the most troubling symptoms; then the task is to assist you in making life-changes that create real healing—not just slather on some salve or slap a bandage over a deep wound to ease its pain temporarily.
How Do You Help People?
I always meet my clients exactly where they are. I work with them to solve existing problems and to help them open up their lives; make their world a bigger, more inviting place.
The people and problems that come to me are so diverse that the “how” is quite varied. In general, though, I believe I help people because of two key elements. One is the content of the work, i.e., what we talk about, what steps we take to solve problems, what new knowledge, information, insight and experience clients gain and build upon. The other is the nature of the relationship between the client and me. The therapeutic process can be life-changing because it stems from a relationship unlike any other.
Part of what makes this kind of work different from talking to a very smart friend or concerned partner is that the focus is entirely on you. Your well-being is primary. I have no personal agenda other than your growth. The boundaries of the relationship are clear, solid, and unbreakable, making my office a safe place for you to speak honestly about difficult subjects that may dredge up strong feelings. I’m there to:
- help you put into words what might have been amorphous wisps of emotion before,
- assist you in attaining new perspective as you actually hear yourself speak of these things,
- respond, offer feedback, and ask the incisive questions that help you reframe and illuminate issues.
As an active, engaged helper I’m completely unlike the cliché of the shrink who mostly nods and mumbles “uh huh” while you ramble on without direction. I believe that a guided and mutually participatory process is essential. While there will be times, of course, when you might just need to talk . . . and I might just need to listen . . . the success of any kind of personal growth work relies upon two attentive and involved people, both committed to seeing you reach your goals.