Individual counseling or psychotherapy can allow you to lead a more insightful, fulfilling, and conscious life. Together, we will work towards increasing happiness and sense of control in your life. My approach is integrative in nature. I use a contemporary psychoanalytic framework to help you to make sense of your past and it’s impact on your current difficulties, present and future relationships, and sense of self. By integrating cognitive behavioral, mindful, and humanistic techniques, I am also able to help you learn how to effectively problem-solve, make decisions, gain clarity, and cope in healthy ways. I believe that balance is an important aspect of life, relationships, and our personal identities. My goal is to guide you in gently exploring your inner world to identify and understand the sources of your emotional pain and distress, while also challenging those parts of yourself that may be more difficult to face or feel to dangerous or painful to confront on your own. At times counseling and therapeutic work can be challenging, but it is ultimately rewarding. Only by knowing and loving the darkest parts of ourselves can we change, grow, and truly accept and offer love to others.
While there are many specific reasons individuals may seek counseling or psychotherapy, most people seek help due to problems they are experiencing that are related to unhappiness, worry, relationship difficulties, or identity struggles. Below you will find some descriptions and experiences that may resonate with you in each area.
Unhappiness, Sadness, and Depression
Unhappiness is a broad category that includes feelings of “blah-ness,” unhappiness, sadness, and depression. Some of the common symptoms of this broad category include: fatigue, lack of motivation, difficulty concentrating, over/under-eating, insomnia or oversleeping, isolating oneself, and feelings of guilt or worthlessness. Those who predominately experience “blah-ness” may not say they are unhappy or sad, but have a vague sense of “blah-ness” that predominates their life. They may have lost interest in things that once were exciting or enjoyable to them and/or feel stuck, lost, or uncertain about their lives or their future.
Somewhat similarly, there are those who come to counseling because of a general feeling of unhappiness. They may or may not be able to pin-point what is wrong but do know they are unhappy in a way that is making life more difficult. Then there are those who are acutely aware of feeling sad most of the time. It may or may not be related to a triggering event or change. Their sadness hangs over them like a dark cloud, raining down on their lives in a manner than puts a damper on most experiences. Sometimes life may be experienced as if it isn’t real, like they are a character in the movie that is their life, or that life is being lived through a somber filter. They may at times even find themselves wishing that they could just disappear.
If one’s “blah-ness,” unhappiness, or sadness starts impacting their attendance or performance at school or work, or effecting the quality of their relationships or social life, it may have reached the level of an experience that is labeled as depression. When it becomes hard to take care of yourself in the most basic ways — such as showering, eating, sleeping, or dressing yourself — the level of depression may be severe.
Stress, Worry, & Anxiety
Most people do not think of stress as directly related to fear, but stress actually activates the same response in your body as fear; when you are stressed your body reacts these feelings as if you are being threatened. Stress activates the flight-or-fight response in your nervous system, just like worry, anxiety, and fear. We can think of all of these feelings, including stress, as being some form of worry. Some of the common symptoms of worry include: fatigue, procrastination, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, over/under-eating, insomnia or oversleeping, fear of failure, feeling insecure, irritability, headaches, stomach aches, difficulty going to the bathroom, nausea, shakiness, or rapid heartbeat.
Many people describe feeling stressed as being overwhelmed, having “too much on their plate,” or simply feeling tired all of the time. However, people have different reactions to feeling stressed. Some may tend to find ways to avoid their responsibilities or procrastinate; it just feels overwhelming to think of adding another thing to their checklist or they may fear failure. In an effort to soothe their worries, others may try to tackle their responsibilities head-on, but end up waring themselves down physically and emotionally, and/or neglecting their personal care, interests, or relationships. Some of these people may also tend to be perfectionistic as a way to quell their worries or reassure themselves.
Other individuals may identify more with being worried than stressed. The worry may be experienced on a daily basis or only when big events or particular types of situations happen, for example, social situations, presentations at work/school, moving, or starting/trying something new. These people usually know that they tend to worry more than most and experience a great deal of discomfort that can be accompanied by embarrassment or even panic. However, many of them can and do push through their feelings. These people are experiencing “high-functioning anxiety.” Despite their distress, they are still show up to work/school and they are able to take care of themselves and their responsibilities. Often times those with high-functioning anxiety may not be fully aware that what they are experiencing is anxiety; those around them may have no clue as to the level of suffering or distress that is experienced or the efforts these individuals take to control or soothe their worries. High-functioning anxiety is very common in intelligent, ambitious and successful people, including capable and accomplished adults and college students.
Unfortunately there are times when anxiety can reach a level when it feels it has taken over someone’s life. Anxiety at high levels can be debilitating, as it may feel as though anxiety has taken over one’s body; experiencing a multitude of physical symptoms can make even leaving the house feel like a chore. The source of the anxiety may be ambiguous or connected to a specific event. Either way, those with high levels of anxiety are likely to have difficulty attending work or school, and/or have great difficulty being social in the way they would like to.
Relationships: Creation, Management, & Maintenance
As naturally social creatures, relationships tend to take center stage in our lives. They are strong contributors to our sense of happiness and well-being. Nevertheless, relationships are hard. Even the healthiest of relationships takes time, attention, dedication, and effort. There are many different ways that we each struggle in relationships, and relationship difficulties may morph and change over time, depending on life circumstances, personalities, and individual needs.
Starting relationships is harder for some than others. Some feel that their biggest hurdle to relationships is meeting, finding, and/or starting a relationship. This may be because they never quite learned or grasped the social skills that are required for finding and meeting people to start relationships with. Or, they may feel they have no trouble meeting or finding people they want to be in relationships with, but for some reason it just never seems to work long enough to turn into a relationship. Others may find themselves living a life filled with a series of short-lived relationships, but feel they are really want a long-term relationship.
For some, starting relationships is easier but managing them is harder. There are many different reasons why we have difficulties managing relationships. Perhaps you have no problem during the honeymoon phase of a relationship and get along great when things are good, but when difficulties arise you feel at a loss or tend to handle the situations poorly. Maybe your relationship has experienced a trauma, such as cheating or abuse, and you’re not sure if/how to move forward. Or, you could be one of many who feel that they keep picking the wrong people or experiencing the same patterns or chaos in their relationships.
Once we are in a relationship, part of the challenge is maintaining that relationship over time. This can be particularly difficult, given that life is filled with unexpected events and individual feelings, needs, and wants can change over time. It is not uncommon for long-term partners to describe waking up one day and realizing their feelings have changed or that they feel like roommates living in the same home. Or, you or your partner may experience a major change and it’s unclear how it may impact the relationship. Figuring out personal wants and needs and learning how to communicate about them is vital to maintaining relationships.
Most of us do not like the idea of ending a relationship. We don’t like the idea of ending a relationship with someone or it someone breaking up with us. And for some of us, the idea ending a relationship may be what needs to happen in the name of health, happiness, or even safety… is terrifying. The fear of being alone, fear of hurting someone’s feelings, difficulty with making decisions, or difficulty standing up for oneself are just some of the reasons people have trouble ending relationships. With the guidance and support of counseling, we can make better choices for ourselves in our relationships.