When I do individual therapy with children, adolescents, or adults, I certainly integrate ideas from family systems theory. Even individuals can be seen as “systems,” with emotions, experiences, and motivations that interact with each other in important ways. Learning to coordinate and manage different parts of ourselves can be a key ingredient to social and emotional health.
I also integrate aspects of other therapies in my practice, for example, I incorporate parts of:
Behavior therapy: Helping people discover important reinforcements for new behaviors they want to consider. Behavior therapy involves aspects of coaching, rehearsing, and rewarding new, more adaptive behaviors. This mode of treatment has been well-studied for decades and has made important contributions to therapy for all kinds of difficulties.
Cognitive -behavioral therapy (CBT): A central tenet of CBT is that one’s feelings and behaviors are strongly affected by one’s interpretations and attributions about events. A CBT therapist helps a client become more aware of adaptive and maladaptive thought patterns that enhance or interfere with healthier functioning, and then helps the client to change those thought patterns over time. Again, CBT often involves coaching, rehearsing, and rewarding new, more adaptive thought patterns. CBT has been well-studied in the psychology literature and I find it especially helpful for “internalizing” conditions such as anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Mindfulness/Acceptance and Commitment therapy (ACT): These newer therapies complement other treatments. Mindfulness stems from Eastern traditions, with a focus on staying in the present, and focusing on immediate sensory experiences, rather than staying too attached to thoughts about the past or future. ACT is an offshoot of mindfulness and CBT, with an emphasis on tolerating and managing uncomfortable feelings, to enable new experiences and important psychological growth. Mindfulness and ACT approaches come along with many exercises to help individuals practice staying with, instead of straying from, one’s lived experience. I utilize many of these exercises in my individual, couples, and family therapies.
Humanistic therapies: As the name implies, these approaches to psychology and development take into account the untapped potentials for greater living embodied in any human being. A therapist from this orientation sustains a belief in the greatest strengths of each client coming into treatment, even when the client has a hard time believing that themselves. Techniques are intended to elicit those untapped potentials, and help people discover positive aspects of themselves that they didn’t know were there. Carl Rogers, Virginia Satir, and Milton Erickson are famous progenitors of this approach, and each have had a great influence in the field of psychotherapy. Narrative therapy, developed by Michael White, integrates a humanistic approach with a CBT approach, helping people separate themselves from their problems, and develop new ways of seeing how active they can be in fighting “oppressive” problems. I am well-versed in each of these therapies, and incorporate them into treatment.
Psychodynamic therapy: Psychodynamic therapists are influenced by ideas that people often have internal conflicts related to their connections with others. A psychodynamic therapist also tries to understand current and past relationship histories, to help uncover why an individual tries to solve problems in certain ways, and how those attempted solutions can shift. Psychodynamic therapists also pay attention to aspects of the relationship between the therapist and client, to help uncover patterns of relating that have positive and negative effects on functioning. This therapy adds a great deal of depth to our understanding of the human condition, and can sometimes have a unique impact on the deepest and most profound internal human conflicts.