Depression is much like a wet blanket, dampening the resources we typically need to get through the day – thinking, feeling, confidence, energy, interest and pleasure. Day to day living can begin to feel burdensome, overwhelming and painful. Relationships also suffer, as depressed individuals often feel misunderstood or struggle to reach out to others. A vicious cycle emerges: Isolation increases painful feelings, and vice-versa. Once established, this cycle can continue to the point where one feels like giving up.
Depression has many roots, including recent loss, the beginning of a life transition, trauma and existential concerns. Sometimes, even a great accomplishment can trigger depression. Physiological factors often play a part in depression, and may require specialized medical care.
Given that depression involves a ‘dampening’ process, my general approach involves sensitizing one to his or her thoughts, feelings and behaviors. My first goal in working with those experiencing depression is to reduce the intensity of painful feelings, so that day to day life can become more tolerable. At times, simply feeling heard, understood and accepted can make an enormous difference. At this point, I will begin to work collaboratively with my client to uncover the origins of depression.
Separation, Grief and Loss
Loss, and the process of mourning, are near universal experiences. At one point or another, most individuals must adapt to the absence of an important person in their lives. Anger, sadness, confusion, sleep problems and fear of further loss are relatively normal grief reactions. We tend to think of grief reactions as associated with the death of a significant person – a friend, family member or partner. However, a breakup or separation, or a major change in one’s life can certainly result in an experience of loss, and the corresponding need to mourn.
The grief process can become prolonged and complicated by multiple losses, or by sudden, unexpected and traumatic loss. Counseling and psychotherapy can facilitate and ease the process of letting go.
My approach to grief and loss involves the belief that to truly mourn, an individual must successfully complete a series of specific tasks. After an exploration of the impact of loss, I then work to facilitate the achievement of these tasks.
While usually unavoidable, and often necessary, change and transition tend to leave people feeling ungrounded and uncertain. While intellectually we may acknowledge the value of change, the experience can be difficult and unsettling. Anxiety, frustration, feelings akin to existential angst and a desire to cling to the ‘status-quo’ are all normal reactions to change.
All individuals face expected, age-related transitions that usually involve a significant realignment of roles and responsibilities. Examples include the young adult leaving home for the first time; the college graduate seeking employment; the first time parent; the older adult entering retirement. Events in life associated with success and accomplishment are often tinged with a sense of fear or anticipation regarding imminent transitions.
Unfortunately, not every transition can be anticipated. Loss, illness, accidents, termination from employment, divorce or breakup can radically alter one’s sense of security and stability.
When working with clients, I am sensitive to experiences of ambivalence, uncertainty and confusion often connected to change. In fact, I feel that the exploration of these experiences is vital aspect of transition, and can assist an individual in finding personal motivation to align him or herself with change.
Put simply, people are born with an inherent need to connect with others. From birth onwards, we rely on relationships for support, sustenance and growth. The significance of affiliation with others in terms of emotional well-being can’t be understated.
Despite this need, forming and maintaining healthy, fulfilling relationships can be a complicated, frustrating process. Some may struggle to develop relationships, experiencing anxiety, fear or ambivalence. Others may have a difficult time ‘hanging in there’ when conflict emerges. Equally, it is not uncommon for people to simply feel unfulfilled with the relationships they have. Whatever the case, many people have the sense that they want more out of the social world, but don’t quite know how to proceed.
I provide both individual and group psychotherapy, each of which can address relationship issues in different ways. A combination of the two can make enormous inroads into growth and development in this area.
People are shaped by the cultural expectations and role definitions of the society in which they develop. The masculine identity has historically been identified with strength, stoicism, action, performance and success. Even further, it has been noted that masculine identity is not a given, but instead, must be continually proven in the eyes of others.
Given the combination of high expectations and restrictions on identity and behavior, men may find themselves in a ‘no win’ situation. To put it plainly, simply acknowledging that one is struggling in some area can be a risk. Many men grow up believing that emotions portray weakness, and failure is unacceptable.
I am mindful of the unique concerns that some men may experience when entering psychotherapy. My approach involves assisting men in claiming a healthy masculine identity through the development of self-awareness and self-acceptance.
Professional Development for Early Career Therapists
The transition from the academic environment to clinical practice can be difficult for the new professional. Uncertainty regarding the tasks and skills inherent to psychotherapy is a given. For some, this can be especially upsetting and isolating.
Given my dissertation work and my experience in conducting psychotherapy groups with young clinicians, I am especially suited to assisting early professional and emotional development for psychotherapists.
In addition to providing a therapist growth group and a workshop for young clinicians and supervisors, I am available for consultation.