Typically, people come to counselling because they have emotional problems. They may:
- feel depressed and/or anxious
- experience grief and loss
- have been traumatized in childhood or adulthood
- struggle with addictive behaviour
- want help dealing with anger
- suffer from low self-esteem
- experience crippling guilt/shame
- desire help dealing with stress
- struggle with relationship conflict and want better communication
- want to feel more trusting and intimate
- feel trapped in an unhappy relationship
- have sexual problems
- have self-defeating/self-destructive behaviour
- have difficulty adjusting to life events or changes
I use a depth-cognitive-affective-behavioral approach to assist people with their emotional problems. This approach is influenced in particular by Vancouver psychologist, Dr. Geoffrey Carr, and Santa Barbara psychologist, Dr. Robert Firestone, the originator of Voice Therapy. Both emphasize depth issues (distressing, early feelings and the defenses we use to avoid these feelings), and the role of cognition (thoughts), affect (feelings), and behavior in change. Although I assist people in changing behaviors and thoughts, I give particular emphasis to changing the feelings that underlie our emotional problems.
In his book, Making Happiness, Dr. Geoffrey Carr theorizes that distressing, early, trauma feelings underlie our unhappiness by intruding into the present when triggered and causing us distress(see the article, Intrusive Feelings. He shows how the psychological defenses that we form to avoid these distressing feelings from intruding compound our unhappiness further (see the article, How We Avoid Our Feelings Can Also Hurt Us). He suggests that the path of healing and growth is gradually to relinquish our defenses (see the article, Relinquishing Ways We Avoid Our Feelings), to listen to our intrusive feelings from a wise perspective (see the article, Listening to Our Feelings from a Wise Perspective), and to feel happier by resolving these feelings and pursuing what matters to us (see the article, Alive to Feelings).
In helping people to resolve their emotional issues, I draw upon whatever intervention is appropriate to the situation from other approaches as well: Person-Centered, Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Gestalt, Marital/Family Systems, and EMDR. I use my core training in Person-Centered Counselling, which emphasizes listening with acceptance, respect, and positive regard, in order to establish a warm, compassionate, therapeutic relationship.
In addition, I combine both challenge and support. On the one hand, I challenge people’s defenses by pointing out the ways – such as the use of addictive behavior, pride, and fantasy – that they avoid their feelings. On the other hand, I support the person by empathizing with their emotional struggles and validating their efforts to change and become happier.
In summary, generally people are unaware that what underlies their unhappiness are distressing, early trauma feelings that intrude into the present and the ways they attempt to avoid these intrusive feelings. Regardless of whether I am working with individuals or couples, I assist people to listen to the intrusive feelings that underlie their emotional problems rather than to avoid them. Feeling our feelings reduces our distress and informs us about what matters to us, enabling us to increase our happiness by pursuing our goals and risking love.
For a detailed description of my approach to individual counselling, including the clinical case of a man experiencing anxiety and depression, see the link Counselling with Individuals in the sidebar directory.
For a detailed description of my approach to couples counselling, including the clinical case of a distressed couple, see the link Emotionally Focused Therapy in the sidebar directory.