Psychodynamic Therapy: Talking about the Problem
Traditional talk therapy can be very effective for exploring the difficulties that individual clients face. Current problems can be the result of past experiences that affect us subconsciously, sometimes going as far back as childhood. Some difficulties are easily remedied just by figuring out where they come from. Other times thoroughly understanding a problem still provides no relief. However, the sharing, witnessing, and acceptance that is the basis of Psychodynamic Therapy can create the basis of trust and collaboration that is the basis for further healing. Research has shown that how comfortable someone feels with the therapist is the single most important factor in whether the therapy is successful. No matter how good a therapist's techniques are, if a client does not feel comfortable talking about difficult issues not much progress can be made.
Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT
EFT is a relatively new way of healing many kinds of problem. It is fast and effective for a variety of situations, ranging from unpleasant memories to deeply traumatic experiences. It can be effective for depression, anxiety and fears, inner critics, and a host of other problems. I often use this with clients to deal with the strong emotions that can arise with other techniques. An advantage of EFT is that clients can learn to do this at home.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR
Like EFT, EMDR is relatively new and very rapid way of healing problematic memories and experiences. It can take more preparation than EFT but may be more powerful in some situations. It can be used for a range of problems from old, annoying memories up to full blown Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. The department of Veterans Affairs has approved EMDR for combat PTSD.
My EMDR training was through a program approved by EMDRIA.
Meditation can be very useful for managing stress in daily life, and can also provide a relaxed mental state for exploring emotional reactions. I start every group with a short meditation, to help the members leave their stressful day outside the room. I also provide clients with a short recording of a guided meditation so that they can use it when they go home.
Dreams are often useful to find out what our subconscious is trying to tell us, and provide a guide to what material needs to be worked on. I do not believe that there is a single interpretation of the symbols that appear in dreams, because every person may place a different meaning on those symbols.
Guided imagery, together with meditation, can be useful to create a kind of "waking dream" in which the subconscious tells us what it is important to it. Unlike dreams, in a guided imagery the client can control what the images do, ask them what they mean, and interact with them consciously.
Sand Play, Play Therapy, Art Therapy
These forms of therapy are useful for both children and adults. They are essential for therapy with children because they often do not have the words to talk about what they are feeling. Instead, their feelings are expressed in their play. This can be confusing for the parents of children in therapy. Surprisingly, these forms of therapy can often be very effective with adults, as well. They allow the subconscious thoughts and feelings to come out indirectly, symbolically, using our feelings as a guide.
Sometimes keeping a journal can be very helpful in therapy. Writing down what happens in your life right after it happens can provide better perspective than trying to remember it days later. Dream journals can be especially effective for remembering dreams, because they often fade away soon after waking.
It often takes courage to face deep fears, and some people already have the courage they need for that. For the rest of us, courage is like a muscle that can be strengthened even while we tackle the deeper fears that derive from inner conflicts. Groups seem to be especially powerful in strengthening people's courage, in different ways. People can strengthen their courage by simply doing things that are out of the ordinary, and practicing stepping out of their comfortable habits.
Support and Guidance
One of the most basic needs in life is support when dealing with a difficult situation. Often people under stress have spent less effort on maintaining their relationships of all kinds, from intimate confidants, to bowling buddies. Having a support network can be extremely helpful when dealing with painful and stressful issues.
An important factor in therapy is to have a non-judgmental, compassionate witness to your struggles. Knowing that you are not alone can make a difference.
As a transpersonal therapist I encourage clients to strengthen what they find most meaningful in their lives. This can be anything they find inspiring or comforting, such as family, music, creativity, nature walks, service to others, spirituality, or religion. Often when people are under stress or suffering, they neglect the activities that bring them comfort and satisfaction, making the situation worse.
The support that one receives in a group is different from that which one receives from a therapist, and different people react to it in different ways. For some, a group is a more powerful support, and for others it is a very difficult environment. I have found that group therapy is often very effective as a addition to individual or couples therapy. Groups can provide many of the needs that people have while they are focusing on deeper issues with a therapist.
Many therapy techniques are effective. I will use whatever I believe is appropriate and effective for any given situation. I find that starting with Psychodynamic therapy provides a good foundation for branching into whatever is needed, such as EFT, EMDR, and group therapy.