Anxiety and Stress
The most frequent reason people come for consultation is anxiety and stress management. Anxiety may be present at a moderate level, sort of all the time. Worry is a constant. Or it may be acute and result in episodes of panic. Stress may come from a single incident or build up over time with repeated exposure to stressful incidents. Finding methods to manage stress and anxiety is essential to living a life that is satisfying and productive. The good news is that anxiety responds very well to psychotherapy and most people achieve relief relatively quickly.
Hopelessness and Despair
Our moods can change if we are exposed to difficult life circumstances. These may include childhood experiences or complex chronically stressful circumstances in our current lives. Balancing financial, emotional, and family issues can take away our energy or cause us to alternate between episodes of despair or hyperactivity and irritability. We live in an unpredictable world facing new challenges each day. When depression or a lack of interest persist over time, it may be useful to seek consultation. Whether we need to uncover the origins of these symptoms or make changes to everyday life,
psychotherapy is effective in resolving mood issues.
Trauma comes in many forms. Any experience that overwhelms our ability to cope can be traumatic. Typically we think of trauma in traditional definitions: combat, sexual, physical and emotional abuse, or exposure to a life threatening event. However, trauma can visit us in more subtle forms such as needing medical care or treatment of a serious illness, career conflicts, abusive relationships, loss of career identity, experience of a house fire or car accident, divorce, death of a loved one, or financial insecurity. Recognizing and treating trauma related symptoms is important so that you become 'unstuck'. Although life will be different after trauma, traumatic experiences can be put in perspective and no longer occupy a destructive place in your life. We become able to experience "Post Traumatic Growth".
Addiction in our society is pervasive. It is human nature to want to escape pain and unpleasant emotional/mental states. Our culture encourages us to seek quick relief. I have never known a single human being that has not been effected by addiction either in themselves or in a family member or close friend. Addiction comes in many forms and each person who struggles has unique concerns. However, there are some commonalities in the experience of addiction, and finding recovery is easier in consultation with someone who understands the nature of addiction. Recovery is possible. Living sober is an opportunity. It is possible to "Embrace what is real, no matter how bad it is." While the path toward recovery may look different for each person, there are some commonalities. Psychotherapy can help you design a program for living, happily free from addiction.
Communication and Relationship Concerns
We are hard wired to be in connection with others. We learn about ourselves in relation and feel a sense of satisfaction and security from close personal ties. Yet relationships often give us so much trouble. Couples come in most often stating that "communication" is their biggest issue. Learning to listen and accept your partner rather than attempting to 'change' them is key. It is amazing how many folks start off a relationship with the idea "I met the perfect person!" and quickly it devolves into a constant mission to change that perfect person. Love is a behavior, not a feeling. Looking for someone to 'complete' you is a fools errand and counterintuitively working on yourself gets you ready for a relationship that is respectful and nurturing on both sides. Home and your chosen family relationships should be the place you go to feel accepted and at ease, where you can be completely yourself. Achieving that becomes the goal of couples therapy.
Frustration and Anger
Emotions are complex and varied. Developing a vocabulary for emotions is a challenge for many people, particularly if our family of origin struggled with emotional expression or destructive anger. Anger can become a default emotion because it's easy to recognize. If you're getting feedback at work or at home that "you're always angry", it may be a sign that there are underlying conflicts. The good news is we can deepen our understanding of emotions and communicate our reactions before they become intense feelings of anger. When anger is present and appropriate,
learning how to express it non-destructively can be achieved with the help of therapy.
Illness and physical challenges
Coping with a medical diagnosis can be life altering. Fears rise to the surface, daily routines are disrupted by unexpected appointments, all at a time when we may not be feeling well. In optimum circumstances, we may be able to muster social support at a time of crisis. However if conditions persist or treatment is prolonged everyone in the family system and social network can become fatigued. Coping with chronic illness in yourself or a loved one can be lonely. Clients benefit from support in psychotherapy during these times. Having a safe place to express reactions to a health situation and mobilize additional resources is often the focus of our work when medical concerns are at the forefront. Because of my background in nursing, my perspective is informed by experience, and I am often able to offer suggestions that make coping with an illness more manageable.
This is probably the second most frequent reason people come for consultation. At every phase of life, finding satisfying work and sustaining relationships is necessary for optimal mental health. Young clients wonder what they should study in school in order to get a job that sustains and interests them. Questions about gender and sexuality or finding a life partner may become a focus in therapy. Reproductive choices may give rise to conflicts at different phases of life. Miscarriage can be life altering yet the family is expected to pick up and carry on without adequately acknowledging grief. Clients trying to nurture a marriage, run a home, develop two careers and nurture children as they grow face enormous stresses. 'Having it all' can be overwhelming.
As life matures I often hear concerns such as "I want to make lieutenant (substitute rank of your choosing)" or conversely, in despair "I can't be lieutenant for one more single day!!!" Some clients may consider changing careers entirely. For first responders cumulative stress can create feelings of hopelessness, and they come in saying "I just can't do it anymore" and may need help finding the energy to complete one career path before authoring a new chapter. The phase of life we neglect the most is retirement. "The golden years" might as well be the "irrelevant years". However, clients in their 70's and 80's are vibrant and energetic and must find a path that is both productive and satisfying. Unexpected financial stresses might mean that retirement isn't really an option. A path that allows for self-interests, changes in family structure, second chapters, and for teaching and shaping younger generations is essential for a rewarding retirement.