Depth psychology is a psychological approach that sees the unconscious and what lies below the surface of our awareness as having a major influence on our lives, the way we relate to the world, others, and ourselves. In fact, it is often things that we are not even aware of that lie at the root of our symptoms such as anxiety and depression, failed relationships, career blocks, and other places we find ourselves stuck in our lives.
As a psychodynamic approach, depth psychology sees many of the issues that we encounter as being rooted in early life experiences. In exploring and coming to understand how formative experiences continue to affect the way we think, feel, react, and behave, we begin to notice repetitive patterns we engage in that are at the core of our suffering. As we begin to become aware of ways that we repetitively engage with life that cause us pain or unwanted results, we can then start to make different choices, creating lasting change and transformation both inside and out.
Carl Jung, the founder of analytic psychology, saw the dream as an “emissary of the unconscious, whose task it is to reveal the secrets that are hidden from the conscious mind.” Because of this, dreamwork is an integral part of working with the unconscious. Dreamwork involves adopting an attitude of curiosity in relation to the images and figures that show up in our dreams, trusting that they are there for a reason, perhaps telling us something we may not yet know or understand about ourselves.
People seek therapy for a lot of different reasons. Some are facing a particular crisis, while others have a more general sense of feeling stuck or lost, or find themselves engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors. While two individual's anxious or depressive symptoms may appear similar, at the root of each issue lies a person’s unique history and experiences. In the context of a person's life story, all behaviors begin to make sense. Coming to know and understand the internal conflicts that fuel symptoms of sadness, frustration, apathy, anger, or hopelessness is foundational on the path to personal transformation and lasting change.
The following is a list of the issues I have helped clients cope with and overcome: anxiety, depression/sadness, grief/loss, life transitions, low self-esteem/insecurity, mood swings, intimacy/trust issues, infidelity, acute trauma/PTSD, complex/developmental trauma, childhood issues, peer relationships/peer pressure, teens/family conflict, mindful separation/divorce, academic struggles, career or creative blocks, spiritual crisis/growth/awakening, midlife crisis, anger management, coping skills, conflict around sexual orientation, lack of boundaries, and co-dependency.
Research shows that our immune and nervous systems become distressed when we experience ongoing conflict within our primary intimate relationship. In contrast, when we experience harmony, closeness, intimacy, and connection with our partner, our entire well-being is strengthened, supporting research that shows we are hardwired for strong emotional bonding with others. Unfortunately, even couples that love each other can end up in repetitive struggles and conflict. Until fairly recently, it wasn't clear why so many couples with good intentions ended up in unsatisfying and conflict ridden relationships. Recent studies on adult bonding and attachment provide some answers.
My approach to couple’s counseling is specifically informed by Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), a structured model for couples counseling based on the scientific research on adult attachment and bonding. According to EFT, couples encounter relationship distress when they have experienced emotional disconnection with their partner at key moments. These “misses” then lead a couple to engage in repetitive and reactive negative cycles of criticism and anger, or shutdown and withdraw, leading to further breakdowns in connection. EFT provides a clear map for couples to find their way out of discord and assists them in reestablishing their connection and the strengthening of the quality of their emotional bond. If you are interested in reading more about Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, please go to the ICEEFT website.
Body based (somatic) therapy
Somatic or body-centered therapies see the body and mind as inextricably linked. Whereas traditional talk therapy is focused on insight via cognitions, somatic therapies look to the body as a means of revealing important information. Body-oriented therapies rely on neurophysiology (the nervous system), posture, gestures, movement, bodily tensions, and sensations to access the unconscious and promote healing. In essence, body based therapies offer an alternative entry point to ourselves, offering us a subtle and gentle way to look inward and come to know and understand ourselves better. I am a certified Somatic Experiencing practitioner (SEP) with 3 years of post graduate training in a somatic therapy developed by Dr. Peter Levine. For more information see below regarding this specific approach and its unique benefits.
Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a powerful body-oriented approach for the resolution of trauma symptoms and chronic stress. According to SE, when the physical body gets stressed as a result of a perceived threat, the survival instincts take over in the form of a "fight" or "flight" response. If the body is not able to express this fight or flight energy, the nervous system can enter a state of "freeze," with the body's survival energy becoming locked or frozen in the nervous system. This locked energy results in nervous system dysregulation, causing the brain to send messages of danger/fear (fight or flight response), or helplessness/hopelessness (freeze response). The nervous system becomes stuck in either a state of hypervigilance or a frozen “numbed out” state or it can oscillates stormily between the two. SE works slowly with a person’s body awareness to increase their capacity to tolerate strong sensation and emotion through somatic resourcing, gently allowing the client to discharge stuck energy and stabilize the nervous system. It is a profound way of safely helping client's access their body's innate capacity towards self-regulation, wholeness, and healing.
For more information about Somatic Experiencing, please visit www.somaticexperiencing.com.
Trauma is the psychobiological response to the acute stress from a perceived life threatening event (physical or sexual assault, invasive surgeries, car accidents, physical injury,natural disasters, exposure to violence, war) or the result of long-term chronic stress (emotional abuse, neglect, ongoing fear or conflict, domestic violence). As Peter Levine, PhD explained, both types of stress, acute or chronic, can impair a person's ability to be present, to be in the here and now, and function with resilience and flow.
Trauma symptoms can include but are not limited to: anger, irritability, mood swings, guilt, shame, self-blame, confusion, difficulty concentrating, dissociation, anxiety, fear, feeling disconnected or numb, insomnia, nightmares, panic attacks, fatigue, being startled easily, flashbacks, chronic pain and illness.
Adolescence is a unique phase in life. Developmentally, it is time to move away from the comfort of the parental safety net into the new and less certain world of peer relationships. Research has shown that the teenage brain goes through significant growth and changes, contributing to what can feel like cataclysmic behavioral shifts that can be experienced as confusing to both teens and parents. As the teen pulls away, parents watching their child navigate uncharted territory can be left feeling helpless. And while it can be an exciting time, for a teenager, this time can also feel confusing, overwhelming, and even lonely. The pull to experience things for the first time is developmentally appropriate but often there is no context to normalize their experiences. Take all of that and add to it the new level of pressure kids feel to excel in and outside of school, it is no wonder that so many teens are struggling these days. Having an adult in their life that they can turn to and trust that is not a parent can be invaluable, even life saving.
Working with adolescents, teens, and young adults is a passion of mine. It is a time in life that kids are ripe to learn tools, and connect to themselves in a way that will serve them for the rest of their lives.
Benefits to therapy at this stage in life...learning to identify and tolerate strong emotions, increase awareness and understanding of how emotions contain information to help make good decisions, understand self-destructive and self-sabotaging behaviors, increase self-esteem, improve communications skills, understand what is at core of anxiety or depressive feelings, learn how the teenage brain is changing and how to give it the stimulation that it craves in ways that don't put a teen in danger, address substance use/abuse, manage and decrease social anxiety and more.