My Approach to Therapy
Multi-Dimensional Therapy: Six Resources for Health and Healing
I utilize a multi-dimensional approach for overcoming problems that integrates work to strengthen self-care behaviors, access body wisdom, improve skills in relationships, cultivate emotional intelligence, develop open, flexible, and creative cognitive processes, and deepen spiritual understanding and practices.
The multi-dimensional approaches provides a menu of options for working to resolve problems. We work collaboratively to clarify the various options for resolving problems and define the priorities and focus for your therapy.
Our health and mental health are directly impacted by our behaviors with regard to diet, exercise, sleep, work, play, and other aspects of self-care. Our health is also impacted by how we manage time: our ability to define priorities and to set limits. We need the capacity both to say ‘yes’ and to say ‘no’. Working initially to become more aware of current self-care behaviors, we then clarify goals as a basis for developing a practical, step-by-step program for achieving those goals.
We live in our bodies. Through our bodies, we sense the world and experience our emotions. We respond to our environment with our bodies. Developing and strengthening one’s capacity for deepened, moment-to-moment awareness of physical sensations is a foundation for recognizing, interrupting, and modifying previously unconscious or subconscious, inefficient, stress-based physical habits. This process involves a dual focus:
- Time Out – taking periodic time-out from normal activity to focus on heightening body awareness and use a variety of methods for calming stress-reactions and return to optimal movement function, and
- Awareness in Activity – cultivating a capacity to self-monitor and maintain optimal posture and movement function while engaged in activity.
This approach to accessing body wisdom is based upon the theories and methods developed by F.M. Alexander, Moshe Feldenkrais, Milton Erickson, and Ilana Rubenfeld.
We do not live in isolation. We experience problems in a social context. The impact is not only upon the person with the problem, but also the other people in our lives – intimate partners, children, families, friends, community, health care providers, etc. The quality of our relationships not only affects our quality of life and our ability to cope with the problem; healthy relationships strengthen our immune systems.
Healthy relationships are characterized by the ability to relate in different ways at different times. As a result of our life experiences, we develop strengths with regard to some social skills, but we also have some deficits: we may not have had the opportunity to learn to relate in some ways and we may have also learned to relate in some ways that are ineffective in our current relationships.
We do not have the power to control how others relate to us. If we are unhappy with the way someone interacts with us, the only power we have is the power to become aware of how we respond and the effects our behaviors have on others.Based on that understanding, we can strengthen ways of relating that are effective and develop new ways of relating that will be more successful.
When we experience problems, the ways in which we have related to others may no longer be effective. Based upon our particular situation, we may focus on improving relationships with our intimate partners, with our families, friends, community and others – building upon our strengths, developing new skills, and correcting dysfunctions. We will work to improve our ability for the following types of relationship skills:
- Connecting – not isolating ourselves; developing relationships; creating rapport and trust
- Communicating – our experience, thoughts and feelings to others
- Listening – to the experiences, thoughts, and feelings of others
- Assertiveness – to let others know our wants and needs; to set boundaries and limits effectively
- Responsiveness – to yield to others’ appropriate requests and limits; to accept the realities of our powerlessness to make others do what we want them to do
- Getting help – to recognize when we need help, to clarify and ask for what we want while also taking into account our helpers’ needs and limits
- Giving help – to respond to others’ needs for our help while taking into account our own needs and limits
- Leading – to take the initiative with regard to completing a task or project, to clarify what each person can contribute and what each person needs to accomplish their part of the task, and to coordinate the process of working together
- Following – to accept the leadership of others, to communicate what I can contribute and my needs, and to follow the guidance and direction of the person who is leading
- Collaborating – co-creating with others, working together to define goals and tasks, to understand what each person needs and can contribute, to brainstorm new possibilities for achieving goals and commit to a specific plan
Ideally, as infants, when we experience distress, our caregivers respond. They hold us, they talk to us in a soothing voice, and they attend to our needs. We respond to their touch, to their physical warmth, to their breath and and heartbeat, to the energetic contact, to the soothing sound of their voices. Our nervous systems are calmed, and we return to a balanced state. Gradually, we respond to the mere sight of our caregivers or the sound of their voices; we are able to become calm more quickly and efficiently.
Eventually, we learn to soothe ourselves in the ways we have been soothed, to hold a stuffed animal and talk to it as our caregivers talked to us. We are able to calm our own feelings, a process known as affect regulation. We are able to clarify our underlying needs and develop constructive strategies for satisfying those needs.
To the extent that we have had less than ideal experiences of affect regulation, we may have difficulty as adults in managing our own emotions. We may have learned to block awareness of our emotions; we may have learned to express our emotions in ways that are destructive to ourselves and to others; we may have developed unhealthy ways of calming ourselves. We may be unaware of our deeper needs or not have effective ways to meet those needs
To improve our emotional intelligence, we begin by heightening awareness and understanding of our feelings, of the ways in which we manage our feelings, and of how we attempt to satisfy the underlying needs. We clarify the historical roots of these habits of affect regulation and are then able to develop new approaches.
In this work, it is often helpful to utilize the concept of internal parts or sub-personalities, sometimes described as ego-states, or the ‘inner-child’ and ‘inner-parent’ using visualization, psycho-dramatic enactment, transactional analysis, internal family systems, and/or hypnotherapy.
Open, Flexible & Creative Mind
In coping with challenges, each of us has developed perceptual and cognitive habits – what we notice and what we ignore, how we interpret what we sense, our attitudes, and our beliefs about how to respond. These perceptual and cognitive habits may be conscious, subconscious or unconscious. They are based upon what we have learned through our experiences in the past.
These perceptual and cognitive habits enable us to respond efficiently and effectively to the extent that they are consistent with current reality.
However, when we experience difficulties in coping with situations, it may be that our understanding is based upon past experience or dysfunctional beliefs and understandings of others.
We begin the process by working to become aware of our current perceptions and cognitive processing of those perceptions. We heighten awareness of our interpretations and our beliefs, clarifying ways in which our experience and understanding of reality may be distorted.
As we interrupt these distortions, we then have the opportunity to open our perception and expand our awareness, to have the flexibility to explore new ways of understanding our situation, and to have the creativity to discover new possibilities for responding more effectively.
Humans are the only species who have the ability to imagine the future. That ability gives us the capacity to understand how current actions may affect us and gives us the ability to plan effectively.
However, that capacity also results in our being aware of our ultimate vulnerability and mortality.
Our spiritual experiences, beliefs, and practices provide a way for us to cope with mortality, vulnerability, and powerlessness. They help us discover meaning, purpose, and direction for our lives. Our spirituality may be based in traditional religions or in a more personal experience. According to Robert Fuller,
“Spirituality exists wherever we struggle with the issues of how our lives fit into the greater scheme of things. This is true when our questions never give way to specific answers or give rise to specific practices such as prayer or meditation. we encounter spiritual issues every time we wonder where the universe comes from, why we are here, or what happens when we die. We also become spiritual when we become moved by values such as beauty, love, or creativity that seem to reveal a meaning or power beyond our visible world. An idea or practice is “spiritual” when it reveals our personal desire to establish a felt-relationship with the deepest meanings or powers governing life.”
When we experience a crisis, our spirituality is often a crucial resource. In working to strengthen spirituality, we begin by identifying the strengths, deficits, and dysfunctions in our current spirituality and then work to build upon the strengths, develop new resources, and repair the dysfunctions.