Foundations of Psychotherapy

I view what you bring to therapy in the broad lens of your life historically, from your birth onward into your adult life stages, to the present moment. I see you as a person who has many tasks—learning about yourself and environment and trying, as we all do, to feel competent, safe, have good enough relationships and create a meaningful life. I am interested in helping you understand the issues you bring to therapy in the context of your lifelong emotional, intellectual, social, occupational development and your life current circumstances, interests, relationships and work. I am also very interested in your sense of purpose and your aspirations and the choices you make in the present, today.

People are born with biological temperaments and dispositions, physical characteristics and family histories of various kinds that we do not choose. Nonetheless, we can choose and change our views about ourselves, other people, the world, our current circumstances and we can effect a future that suits us better than the past. Through this process you really can change the ways you think and feel and behave.

What’s it like, specifically, in mindfulness-based, existential psychotherapy?

In this kind of psychotherapy, an hour at a time, you  pay attention to the stream of your thoughts, the qualities of emotion and the behaviors that are linked with your thinking, emotion and mood. You can become a keen observer of yourself from the inside out, skilled enough to “decenter” from your usual stream of thoughts and images and emotions and begin to watch them. Watching, naming, you  begin to know yourself as an observer and differentiate yourself from the habits of your thinking and feeling and acting. With this mindful attention, you understand that certain experiences are mental representations, thoughts and feelings, and not always solid facts. You will begin to realize that you are not your thoughts, your feelings, and that you have choices about some of this experience.

You don’t have to be commanded by those mental representations. When you practice being aware and know what you are feeling and thinking, and choose to be in current, direct contact with yourself, people and events in the “here and now”, and you work with how you interact with your internal states and your relationships with other people, you can begin to authentically live your life.

What are “mindfulness-based” contemplative psychotherapy practices not just from psychology but from the area of Buddhism, and where do they come from? Also, how does an existential focus in therapy figure into Buddhist-influenced mindfulness practices in therapy?

If you like to read about psychotherapy, which is certainly not necessary to do therapy, I am happy to share that the mindfulness-based/existential therapy I practice is influenced by the works of Marsha Linehan, Pat Sable, John Bowlby, Donald Winnicott, Arya Nagarjuna, Soren Kierkegaard, Paul Tillich and Rollo May. These writers and thinkers have much to say and offer on the topics of emotion regulation/attachment, human development, faith, courage and choices. Further, you might be interested to know that the mindfulness-based/contemplative movement in psychology includes very well-regarded contemporary scholars, researchers and psychotherapists such as Jack Kornfield, John Kabat-Zinn, Mark Epstein, and Daniel Siegel. You may want to look at these authors and review their work.

In mindfulness-based therapy, being curious, we can experience the thoughts and feelings, notice the perceptions, and make this process of observing and inquiring and noticing our daily practice. It’s very interesting actually! And it becomes a different way to live. We can see into depths we used to be ignorant of, no matter how smart we were, and we can make important choices. As we become choice-making actors, we can live in a generative, creative way. It’s amazing that the life we thought was “just the way it is” is really a big, open book and we can revise, create, write a different story.

The existential part of this therapy concerns the—let’s call it—“project” of creating a meaningful life, realizing that what your life means to you is an ongoing project based on what you choose. I can help you to direct yourself by your skills, talents, insights, imagination and desires and circumstances.