Play is the language of children. I have an office full of toys, games, art supplies and a sand tray to facilitate the play process. The children I work with often need a safe place to explore and work through their feelings related to an impending or recent divorce; they may also be experiencing difficulties in school, making and keeping friends, or knowing how to manage strong impulses and feelings. During sessions, your child and I may spend our time acting out stories, building things with blocks, playing made-up games or drawing together on the floor. I see children as young as age 2, both with and without the parent(s) or caregivers present. Since successful play therapy necessitates parent contact, it’s important that we schedule regular family and/or parent sessions or find other ways to stay in touch such as phone calls or emails.
Adolescence is a creative, critical time in human development. Prefrontal brain growth kicks into gear which is responsible for the extreme highs and lows in the emotional lives of teens. Many adolescents end up in therapy due to overwhelming moods and feelings; unsatisfying or difficult peer relationships; social uncertainty; pressure to perform in school, sports or extracurricular activities; difficult or high-conflict divorce; use of alcohol and drugs; authority issues; and the family dynamics that often result. Some of these problems are developmentally-mediated and resolve fairly quickly, while others might signal unresolved past hurts, an underlying psychiatric disorder or emerging personality disorder and thus take more time to unwind. I am active in partnering with parents and caregivers as well as school counselors and other treating professionals, such as psychiatrists, testing psychologists, educational consultants and occupational therapists, so that your adolescent has a fully-functioning team working on his or her behalf.
Human problems exist as part of a relational system, which is another way of saying our difficulties don’t occur in a vacuum. This is why I’ve found that getting all members of a family together in the same room at the same time is often the most effective and efficient way to effect change. It also may be the most anxiety-provoking since most family members expect to be be blamed, by each other and even by the therapist. If we agree that problems have multiple sources, then no one is to blame and we can proceed like detectives. I like to enlist everyone involved in formulating hypotheses about the problem and then work together to unpack, reflect upon and feel through its various components. I also like to use as many aspects of human expression as possible, such as attending to physical sensations, making room for the emotions that show up or noticing the irony or humor in it all and laughing a bit so that difficulties can resolve, integrate and disappear into the family story. Since problems come in all shapes and sizes, we may only need to meet a few times or, conversely, set a course for the long haul.
The adults I see grapple with all kinds of internal and external stressors. Many have a long-standing mood disorders, chronic illness or attentional problems or are dealing with a new baby, demanding career, or mentally ill family member. Most have problems regulating their emotions and tend to rely on strategies that cause more harm than good such as isolating, avoiding feelings, engaging in excessive self-blame, compulsively pleasing others, over or underworking, and indulging destructive impulses and addictive behaviors. You and I might have to build, from the ground up, a way to live that is somewhere in between rigid adherence to these strategies and the chaos that occurs when they fail. We might have to meet once or twice a week or every other week depending on how much you’re suffering and where you want your therapy to take you.
Every couple is unique and marked by its own collection of delightful and painful idiosyncrasies. However, I believe most couples operate according to a similar set of non-conscious rules stemming from our primary need to feel safe, both physically and psychologically. I practice a very active form of couples therapy called PACT, which stands for a Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy, developed by Stan Tatkin, PsyD. It keeps the focus on the present moment between partners and uses behavioral enactments rather than lengthly parsing of problems to give couples an experience of something new. Based on the belief that an adult primary attachment relationship can foster both love and war, it moves quickly to create security so couples can function with greater psychological flexibility and sophistication.
Because group therapy contains multiple players with multiple perspectives, life experiences and relational styles, issues arise in group that rarely emerge or resolve in individual therapy. This is why I believe that group therapy is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to reveal the what, why and how of your particular problems. It also tends to trigger tremendous fears of being judged, misunderstood, disliked, shamed or rejected. I aim to create a safe container so these core relational anxieties can be laid to rest.
I currently offer the following group: TUESDAYS 10:30am – 12pm Mixed-gender group for young adults with difficulties launching into the greater world of education, work and relationships.