I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, LCSW-R which means that I have met the criteria of the New York State Department of Education to be certified to do clinical psychotherapy and submit billing to Third Party payers (insurance companies).
Webster’s dictionary defines psychotherapy as the “treatment of mental or emotional disorders, or of related bodily ills, by psychological means”.
I think that is an accurate definition, but it doesn’t wholly describe how I think of what I try to do with clients, who come to see me for psychotherapy. Not everyone who comes to me for psychotherapy has a “disorder” per se. Lots of people have “life problems” or “issues” that are holding them back (or holding them up) but that doesn’t mean they have pathologies in the clinical sense.
In other words, you don’t have to be “mentally ill” from the standpoint of qualifying for a clinical diagnosis, to benefit from psychotherapy. On the other hand, if you want insurance to pay for your sessions, you might need to agree to accept a diagnosis for which you could qualify (anyone would qualify for some diagnosis or another at different times in his/her life). Insurance companies will only pay to treat “illnesses” not to talk about “issues”. So this may be an “issue” that you’d like to talk about early on.
How I think of it, is that I help people get unstuck. I try to help them figure out where they are and how they got there. What’s working in their life and what isn’t? What’s their part in a problem and what parts actually belong to other people? And finally, what can you do about things to shift in a positive direction?
A lot of what I do is educational and another large part is motivational. You may have come by your problems as a result of other people’s actions or behaviors but you’re the only one who can fix them (a therapist can often help).
There are many schools of thought and traditions in the psychotherapy field. I have studied many of them and I use an integrated approach when working with my clients.
The underlying theory base that I use is called Family Systems Theory, as described by Murray Bowen. In simple terms, what that means is that when I am working with someone, I focus on both the “intrapsychic” (inside the person) aspects of the individual and “interpersonal” relationships of the person. The idea being, that we don’t end up who we are in a vacuum. And, quite frankly, if you think about your life in the context of your relationships with others, rather than simply your relationship with yourself, it gives you a LOT more to work with to foster change.
I am also greatly influenced by the work of Milton Erickson MD, and his students. Dr. Erickson was the grandfather of about a dozen schools of therapy that are in use today. He was a psychiatrist and a hypnotherapist. Many people studied his techniques while he was alive and many of his students developed theories and techniques that were informed by various aspects of how Dr. Erickson worked.
His students have had a particular influence developing short-term therapeutic modalities and solution-oriented techniques. Their names read like a who’s who of published professionals; Haley, Rossi, Bateson, O’Hanlon, Gilligan, Lankton, Bandler and Grinder, and many others. I do my best to follow, as well as I can, Dr. Erickson’s philosophies and approaches while working with clients.
Alcohol and other Drug Abuse, Alcoholism/Addiction and other Obsessive-Compulsive pastimes
Many people in our society are negatively impacted by alcohol and drug abuse or addiction. Some of these people are substance abusers themselves. Others suffer the consequences of a parent’s, spouse’s, child’s, or another’s substance abuse.
I view the alcoholic/addicted family to be a certain subset of Family System’s. They all seem to have certain characteristics in common, many of which are laid out in books about Adult Children of Alcoholics, Co-dependency and other Recovery oriented literature.
Each person who has an abuse problem has her/his own path of recovery. If you are suffering from an Addiction, I am going to recommend that you work towards total abstinence from your drug of choice and other mood altering substances. However, I am not a fundamentalist. Each person needs to discover their own truth for themselves and if you really need abstinence it will become clear over the course of our work together.
I encourage clients to read current research about alcohol and other drug abuse. I generally prefer to use a 12 Step approach when working with substance abuse. The way I think about that includes a large amount of Cognitive-Behavioral work with a focus on education; increasing one’s self-awareness, and helping a person more accurately communicate with themselves about the impacts of alcohol and drug use in their life.
I also use this approach when dealing with other, related disorders, such as compulsive gambling, sex, eating, spending, workaholism and other methods that people use to distance themselves from their feelings.
Carl Jung was a famous psychiatrist who strongly believed in the importance of the spiritual aspects of life. I share his view. Many people in this world suffer because they are not living congruently with their beliefs or because they truly have no sense of there being a meaning, or purpose, to their life. I work with people to help them open up a dialogue with themselves about these issues.
No one needs to believe what I believe, but you’ll be better off if you’re aware of what you do believe. My work is influenced by both Judeo-Christian belief systems and those that are commonly called the Eastern Religions. It’s all good.