I have been practicing psychotherapy for over 3 decades and my Ethical Culture religion as a life-long journey. My religious belief in the worth of all peoples is given dynamic-expression in my work as a therapist and social activist. Living close to nature near a 2,000 acre preserve, I observe its flow and rhythm as well as its ambiguities, trying to glean valid meanings for my own life. I have 2 daughters and 3 grandchildren.
I believe in the sanctity of every person, that each is a treasure, a unique work of art with her or his own inherent abilities, potential, and founts of creativity. I have faith that people can make a difference in their own lives. As a therapist, my role is to help patients discover and mobilize their capacities and inner wisdom to make that difference. I believe that ordinary people have extraordinary possibilities.
I use a health and growth model, one positively oriented to what is nutritiously alive in patients. Some see themselves largely through prisms of negative qualities such as ineptness or hateful anger, dismissing their fine capacities. I try to help patients achieve a more balanced view of themselves and their lives, testing reality as we go. The strengthened observing ego fortifies the patient to grapple more effectively with the shadow part of the self that can haunt and impede the satisfying life.
In therapy as a journey of discovery, I navigate with patients between the Scylla of their complacency and Charybdis of their anxiety, either one presenting serious obstacles to the therapeutic work. My role is to steer a course that prods complacency and calms anxiety so that the work can progress. For this journey I try to build a sound foundation of trust that helps patients find the courage to engage the struggle. This allows teachable moments to emerge. I fill various roles—as teacher, parent, partner, healer, mentor, privileged participant, clinical philosopher. Sometimes I am a warrior, fighting for patients' health when they insist on holding tenaciously to destructive patterns. Sometimes I am a midwife present at a birth.
My theoretical foundation is psychodynamically based but always illuminated by humanistic, ego psychology, cognitive, feminist, Jungian, and body/mind ideas. I treat anxiety as an ally, as one of many symptoms that can provide clues to discovering the patient's underlying conflicts.
Body ills often are seen as metaphors, expressing feelings somatically as a substitute for handling them appropriately in the emotional/cognitive life. In making therapeutic interpretations, I seek the language of poetry, words that marry the image to the emotion. I utilize the transference phenomenon that can dramatically promote the work or, if knowingly neglected, can backfire with detrimental results. My own countertransference is to know and analyze.
I remain a student always, trying to stretch my understanding of the human condition as gleaned from literature, religion, nature, Eastern thought, the arts, and philosophy. Even then, as Shakespeare states through Hamlet: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
Life happens in a relationship and whatever the patient's presenting problem, most often the underlying difficulties center on the relationship life. Most people have "heart trouble," problems with spouse, lovers, parents, children. The therapeutic relationship evolves as a "laboratory" in which there is rich opportunity-for the patient to achieve understanding of why tender feelings can be accompanied by pain, jealousy, and anger. Patients discover that the learning occurring in the relationship with the therapist can remarkably enrich the relationship life beyond the consulting room.
I help patients learn that change is a constant component of life, not to fear it but see it as an opportunity, that reasonable risks can be taken to improve one's life, that there is never any growth without some pain. And when painful change is imposed from outside such as losses, illness, and death, there can be the possibility of acceptance, finding a measure of peace and occasionally, transcendence.
Acceptance and compassion lead to an understanding heart, which is the strongest heart of all—its capacity for caring is infinite. As patients learn, I learn as well, affirming what is best in being human, and bringing renewed appreciation of a profession that allows me to bear witness to quiet miracles.