It is important to note that, while one's early childhood experiences are foundational to one's experience of the present, therapy is most helpful when the patient feels the freedom to move between the present and the past and into and out of emotional places in the course of treatment. This freedom creates confidence in the patient because it conveys that the therapist believes that the patient knows better than the therapist what he needs in a given moment. Through a process in which the patient's self engages and interacts with the self of the therapist, the patient's self feels protected as the therapist helps the patient from becoming affectively overwhelmed, allows the patient's needs to come into the relationship, and allows the patient to mold and shape him into what he or she needs him to be in any given moment. When one experiences empathic failures as children, he develops defenses to protect himself from being emotionally overwhelmed instead of being protected in the relationship with his parents. The defenses one develops are for the purpose of connection. In other words, if a person appears controlling, demanding, needy or some other seemingly unbecoming way of being, I will understand this as this person's way of regulating themselves and connecting with others. For instance, if a child has a father who relates to him in an angry way, he may learn to connect through arguing and conflict or withdraw from male relationships because he anticipates the relationship not going well. Or, if a child has an emotionally-cold and detached mother, she may present herself as independent and aloof to other females because this keeps her from wanting relationship and identifying with the disappointment she initially experienced in her relationship with her mom. In time, therapy helps the patient let go of the defenses she developed early in life and seeks to create a new way of relating for the patient through his relationship with the therapist. The empathy the patient experiences invites and welcomes the patient's self back into an emotionally-protected relationship where the now unnecessary defenses can fall away over time. This happens as I understand your behaviors and words in your present, everyday life as helping you to maintain your sense of self and to maintain connection with others. I will relate to you with an empathy that allows a genuine connection to form between us that you can then carry into your relationships and life outside of therapy.
Some of the areas in which change and growth occur as a result of therapy are:
decreased anger, irritability, and worry
increased energy and improved sleep
feeling more present and engaged in your relationships
increased capacity for stress
improved ability to comfort yourself
increased sense of contentment
increased feelings of worth and value
increased ability to empathize with others
You can learn more about my approach to therapy, self psychology, in this article.
Creating safety and trust is central to the effectiveness of the therapy process. Safety and trust develop as you experience me being consistent, constant, attentive, engaged, and understanding. You must genuinely feel that I am with you and get you as you open up. You feeling comfortable with me as someone with whom you can open up is foundational to the therapeutic process. As we meet together, we will explore how your experience in the present is linked to experiences in the past. Anxiety and depression are strongly related to the ways one's needs, feelings, and ways were responded to as a child. If a child has to adapt and accommodate to her parents in too big of ways instead of parents validating, acknowledging, and understanding all aspects of the child's self, a dynamic develops in which the child learns that he exists for the parent. As a result, the child goes into and seeks out future relationships with this same perspective of taking care of the other while his own needs go unmet. He tries to please others, hoping his own needs for attachment and connection will get satisfied, but this doing for others fails to meet his needs as deeply as they were intended to be met. He develops defenses (striving for success, busyness, workaholism, addictions) to protect himself from being emotionally- overwhelmed and to manage the affects that developed inside of him as a result of his needs not getting the attention, emotional engagement, and validation they need. Therapy seeks to access and release the energy created inside by creating a space in which the patient opens up and is validated, acknowledged, and understood by the therapist so development can get back on track. As one's early needs are responded to, defenses diminish and are no longer needed.