"To begin is no more agony than opening your hand..."
— June Jordan

How Does Therapy Work?

When you come in for therapy, you and I begin by talking. I need to learn about how you see your life today and your struggles. If you can tell me where you’d like to be, that becomes our primary goal; if you can’t, we’ll explore outcomes and set up goals together.

While working on goals, you and I will also discover other issues that you probably aren’t aware of. These hidden issues often fuel the problems that you’re experiencing.. With that in mind, we work on these hidden issues too, by talking, discovering, practicing new behaviors, working out the tough stuff, and taking some risks.

Let me give you some examples of how this works. These stories are all real, but I have changed the names of my patients and some of the details, to ensure confidentiality.

Therapy Success Stories

Kathy and Phil

Kathy and Phil have been married for 12 years. They have two children, ages 8 and 4.

When Kathy started, she was sad, angry and overwhelmed a lot of the time. She thought that Phil didn’t care. In the beginning, Phil didn’t understand why Kathy either yelled at him or clammed up completely. Each of them felt lonely, unloved and unappreciated by the other. They had different parenting styles and felt hopeless about their future together. Despite all this, they both wanted the marriage to work.

Working together, we developed strategies for change. Phil set limits on his work hours and his projects so that he was home more often. He began talking with Kathy about his struggles at work and his fears about parenting. Kathy stopped yelling at him and began to understand Phil’s feelings. She began asking him for his time and help. They developed their own code words for times when they were stressed and couldn’t talk about something. They also began having regular date nights and family game nights.

Kathy and Phil have learned to take risks with each other and to be more vulnerable. Both of them had to be less reactive, and now they understand that while their attempts aren’t always perfect, that if they try, things can and do improve.

Leah

Leah is a 59-year-old woman with a successful career and a long-term marriage, who came to therapy feeling helpless because despite her work success, she had what she called “low self-esteem” and would go to food anytime she felt stressed or bored.

Working together, we looked at her low self-esteem, and discovered how her fears and guilt kept her saying Yes to her job, church and friends, even when she wanted or needed to say No. Her anxiety and boredom kept her going to food even when she wasn’t hungry.

She began to keep a journal, she took little risks by saying No to a few friends, and then was often able to speak in her own authentic voice. She felt more in control around food and began to lose weight.

Julianne

Julianne is a 34-year-old single woman who really wants a relationship that works and a job that she doesn’t hate going to. She stays in her current job because she needs the money, and is afraid to quit. She has had a few relationships, but never felt loved.

We looked at her job and relationship issues, and found a similar thread – she didn’t believe she could have a good paying job she likes or a relationship that works.

She began working on changing her beliefs, she looked into new career possibilities and is thinking about going back to school to get training in a new field. She has also begun dating, and continues working on what she brings to a relationship and discovering what she is really looking for in a partner.

Brad

Brad is a 42-year-old engineer who is divorced and is struggling with how to raise his two “moody” teenage children half-time. He wants to remarry, but doesn’t know how to begin dating.

Together, we looked at Brad’s marriage and history, and uncovered his role in the dissatisfaction and loneliness that caused the divorce. He saw how his behavior and his withdrawing from conflict got in the way.

Brad began to relax more around his children, didn’t take their rejections so personally, and began to manage his fear about being a “perfect dad.” He is also spending more time connecting with friends and practicing conflict resolution with his kids and co-workers. He is looking forward to dating soon.