My Approach to Psychotherapy
Blending Science and the Art of Connecting with Clients
I am a doctoral-level psychologist trained in both empirical research methods and clinical practice. I draw from the psychotherapy research literature in devising my interventions, integrating methods that have been proven and empirically validated. And because the research suggests that the most important aspect of successful psychotherapy is developing a safe and trusting therapeutic relationship, I pay particular attention to forming a respectful, non-hierarchical, interactive and engaged connection with my clients.
Teaching Useful Skills
I primarily use Cognitive-Behavioral techniques, including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and other Mindfulness-based techniques, which have been shown to be effective in hundreds of studies for a wide range of psychological problems and life transitions. This approach emphasizes teaching clients useable skills to change unproductive or self-limiting ways of thinking and behaving. I teach clients in effect to become their own therapist, practicing the techniques they learn outside of sessions as well. Such work is usually structured, short-term and problem-solving oriented, also making room for open-ended exploration and movement beyond cognitive insight.
When appropriate and with a client’s collaboration, I also utilized EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy) to more rapidly help clients heal from trauma, loss, painful memories or overwhelming emotions (see Specialities & Expertise to read further about EMDR).
Collaboratively Defining Therapy Goals, Activities and Length of Therapy
I typically begin by helping clients define goals for our work together (such as lessening anxiety or depressive symptoms, overcoming self-defeating behaviors, or improving relationships). My clients and I then collaboratively devise strategies to achieve these goals, jointly decide what self-help activities they want to try between sessions, determine how long therapy should last, and so on. Since change isn’t always easy, I encourage clients to observe and discuss the blocks that get in the way as they implement change in their lives, so that we can fine-tune our strategies, using ongoing two-way feedback about the process. I will pay particular attention to creating such an open partnership with you, with the understanding that we check in regularly about progress and the usefulness of our work.
Weaving Western Pragmatism with Eastern Wisdom
My work is also influenced by Eastern wisdom regarding the need for a holistic approach to the mind-body healing process. Both documented research findings and my own personal experience highlight the powerful role of stress reduction and calming techniques (such as meditation, yoga, relaxation training, simplifying ones life, etc) in improving ones emotional well-being. I often teach interested clients specific relaxation and stress reduction skills, including ways to slow down and dwell more mindfully in the present moment, helping clients find what methods work best for them. In taking a holistic view, I also encourage clients to approach their challenges from multiple perspectives (physical, emotional, interpersonal, spiritual, and so forth). For example, if worry and nervousness are the complaint, we might examine everything from the withheld feelings underlying this emotional state, to techniques to center and calm, to the role of nutrition and exercise, to ways to create greater meaning and purpose in life.
Education and Training
Having worked in various hospital and clinic settings since 1986, I launched my independent private practice in 1996. I received my doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology from the Pennsylvania State University in 1994 and went on to complete a postdoctoral fellowship at the Kaiser Permanente Outpatient Psychiatry Clinic in Martinez, California in 1995. Prior to graduation, I completed a predoctoral fellowship at the Stanford Medical Center in Palo, Alto. During my graduate training, I was awarded a National Institute of Mental Health Graduate Training Fellowship and later received a Fulbright Doctoral Fellowship, which allowed me to conduct cross-cultural research in Germany. Prior to my doctoral work, I completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology in 1985 at the University of Texas at Austin, where I graduated with Highest Honors and Special Honors in Psychology and was nominated to Phi Beta Kappa.