My Philosophy of Psychotherapy
What do therapists do? We provide a safe nonjudgmental place to encourage you to reach your potential and authentic self. We hear, search, and understand your needs, feelings, and experiences. We listen and intervene when appropriate and helpful. With the mutual participation and earnestness of both client and therapist, a greater chance exists for you to move forward to reach your desired goals.
Please note that some of these comments below may not apply in brief therapy, consultations, or couples work.
I often encourage you to spend some time during the week between sessions to slow down the mind with body - mind- spirit modalities. They can be tools to reduce stress and anxiety. They can facilitate the functioning of intuitive faculties and help to clear the mind about therapy matters. Such activities may include exercise, walking, deep breathing, massage, meditation, gardening, yoga, qi gong, and t'ai chi chih.
The duration of therapy is up to you. Ideally, however, both you and I should be in agreement as to when to end the therapy. It should be discussed at least over a few sessions. Premature and sudden endings should be avoided. They often prevent the analysis of important material, the opportunity for honest communication, and understanding the ways to address conflict by means other than withdrawal.
For those interested in reading about improving individual and couples relationships, I recommend the following books:
Howard Markman, PHD: “Saving Your Marriage”
Marshall Rosenberg, PHD: “Non Violent Communication”
Eugene Stehura, PHD: “Love Talk”
I have learned that underlying guilt often play an important role in psychological problems. When addressed and worked through, it can often it can lessen self-punishment and feelings of inadequacy. I recommend this book:
Lewis Engel, PHD, and Tom Ferguson, MD: “Imaginary Crimes”
If interested in adding a dimension to traditional psychotherapy and the areas of philosophy and spirituality I recommend the following books:
Thomas Hora, MD:“Existential Metapsychiatry", Gerald G. Jampolsky, MD:"Love is Letting go of Fear," Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.:"Nonviolent Communication," Joel S. Goldsmith:“The Art of Spiritual Healing," and Sam Menahem, Ph.D.:"When Therapy Isn't Enough."
There are three stages of consciousness: daily experience consciousness, subconscious, and super consciousness. Conscious mind is daily mind and feelings. Subconscious mind is a repression of facts and emotions that we are not aware of. Superconscious mind is the dimension of intuition, creativity, wisdom, philosophical insights, and spirituality. It is possible in therapy to grow in all these modalities.
I see adults of all ages- young adults, midlife, and seniors. I particularly like working with clients on relationship issues, those dealing with loss and grief, and those with gender issues. I also like to work with students. I have a specialty in adding a spiritual dimension to the therapy, when appropriate.
There are two forums for my psychotherapy sessions: in person and telephone. Telephone sessions are especially practical for busy business men and women, seniors, and those with travel or health limitations. As to telephone session benefits, although I moved to California from New Jersey more than fifteen years ago, I still continue regular sessions with three of my New Jersey clients by telephone.
It is important to remember that the therapy path usually includes plateaus of emotional growth and temporary sadness. Look at the big picture in order to stay on track. The therapeutic experience mirrors life. As you negotiate through the process, you can move towards more understanding, maturity, and equanimity. Insights and breakthroughs unfold only when you are ready to deal with them.
This next commentary is only for those clients who may be interested and open to adding a spiritual dimension to their therapy process. This is a possible adjunct to the main purpose of the therapy. My definition of the word “spiritual” is a very broad one that includes metaphysical, philosophical, universal truths, and wisdom. My broad view of spirituality can be observed in articles in the article section of my website.
Many universal spiritual truths and principles have helped people with many of the physical and mental problems that are being brought up in psychotherapy. After all, spiritual paths have been in existence more than 4000 years ago while psychotherapy was started by Sigmund Freud only 160 years ago.
Spiritual understanding reflects characteristics of love such as: mercy, kindness, unselfishness, compassion, and forgiveness. It also can open avenues of wisdom, creativity, honesty, and integrity.
Among religious seekers truths reaching heights of spirituality are Buddha, Jesus, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Moses, the Dalai Lama, and Thomas Merton. Some other seekers who I believe were atheists or agnostics with a deep awareness of spiritual truths were Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Walt Whitman, and Socrates.
There are many practices, techniques as a way to bring on spiritual growth, among which are serving others, meditating, and intellectual readings and study.
I am by no means a scholar of religion or philosophy. But I have had the opportunity to read books, scriptures, and hear tape recordings from many cultures. I have attempted to extrapolate from the illumined and enlightened ones universal truths that can be very practical to add a dimension to problem solving.
How can the above be incorporated into the psychotherapy realm?
One technique that I often do before my client comes into my office is a brief meditation. This puts me in a peaceful mood. By empting my mind I become a better listener and have a better clarity and ideas as to what interventions I should or should not make.
Another private method in my spiritual toolbox is looking at my client and thinking and connecting silently with an uplifting truth that we both share. For example, we both embody an invisible goodness and love. An example of this internal understanding comes from my awareness of the greeting in ancient India where one Indian says to another Indian, “Namaste” and the other echoes the same greeting back. It means the soul of me greets the soul of you. Even in modern India this tradition continues. It is a tradition where one walker in the street saying “hello” to one about to pass him and the passerby repeating the same greeting. It can be vocal or done in silence.
Here are some examples of how I have brought into the session a spiritual reference to hopefully inspire the patient to move forward.
For a client to overcome impatience I might say: “Buddha is known to have said that the highest form of prayer is patience.”
For a client trying to overcome criticism and judgment of others, I might quote the words of Sarada Devi, a sage from India: “My child, if you want peace of mind do not find fault in others. See your own faults instead. Learn to make the world your own. No one is a stranger. The whole world is yours.”
For a client who is having difficulty with a partner by being excessively needy, demanding and clinging, I may bring up a quote from the Lebanese poet, Kahil Gibran in his book The Prophet: “Let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you, for the pillars of a temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
For a client who is having difficulty as a result of having a selfish, distant, and abusive parent. If the client is ready to forgive, I may relate the story of Joseph and his brothers in the Old Testament of the Bible. Here Joseph forgave his brothers who had attempted to kill him many years ago. This is a powerful and very touching story. Another inspiring reference to forgiveness is the story in the New Testament of the Bible about the prodigal son.
For a client having problems controlling anger I may bring up words written by Pema Chodron, a current Buddhist mystic in her book, Practicing Peace in times of War. In the book she writes the following paragraph: "Have you ever had an itch--and not scratched it? In the Buddhist tradition this points to a vast paradox: that by refraining from our urge to "scratch," great peace and happiness is available. This passage by Pema Chodron is to encourage people to withhold out of control anger. This restraint allows the person time to calm down, and gives him or her the option of expressing the feelings in a loving way.
Click here for some of my favorite quotes