Ask a therapist: “Do you constantly analyze your friends and family members?” (answered by Kendra Doukas, MS, LMFT)

Kendra Doukas, MS, LMFTToday, we continue our popular series “Ask a Therapist” with one of our therapists, Kendra Doukas, MS, LMFT answering one of our most commonly asked questions: “As a therapist, are you constantly analyzing your friends and family?”

This is one of my favorite frequently asked questions. Most people assume therapists are continuous judges on others’ behavior. It seems to be generally assumed that therapists are going to feel the need to jump in and analyze or give you their feedback on everything. My friends and family will make jokes such as, “Oh, what she must be thinking” or “Watch out, she’s a mandated reporter!”

The ironic thing is that therapists are some of the most non-judgmental people around. Most of us become therapists because of some internal belief that all humans are good and are trying their best. Therefore, we actually give you the benefit of the doubt far more than most others will. The other thing to consider is that as therapists, we see a wide array of human behavior and you kind of can’t shock us. Facts that may be appalling to some folks seem almost standard to us.

There is an inherent second part to this question that is critical: the incorrect assumption that therapists can analyze their own relationships. Having a true and accurate analysis of a relationship requires a neutral perspective. Therefore, we cannot establish a fair or accurate assessment of our own relationships because we are half of the equation! So, the next time you wonder if your therapist friend of family member is secretly judging all of your choices, remember that this is most likely the furthest thing from the truth. In fact, you might turn to this person during times when you most need a forgiving opinion.

~ Kendra Doukas, MS, LMFT

Kendra is a therapist at The Catalyst Center. Her specialties include:

Interested in learning more about Kendra’s work or booking a free consultation with her? Kendra Doukas, M.S. LMFT can be reached by calling the Catalyst Center main office at 720-675-7123 or by emailing us directly at CatalystCenterLLC@gmail.com

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Ask a Therapist: “How Does Therapy Work?” (answered by Dr. Rohini Gupta)

Rohini Gupta, PsyD

Today Dr. Rohini Gupta continues our popular “Ask A Therapist” series by explaining her perspective about how and why therapy works.

I strongly believe that a combination of factors lead to profound change in therapy. In my experience, the factors that help people change include a strong relationship with the therapist, self-awareness, and willingness to make changes in your life.

A strong relationship between you and your therapist is one in which you feel safe to be who you are and trust that your therapist genuinely cares about you and believes in you. This relationship creates a context where difficult conversations can happen. Therapy works best when the relationship is collaborative and respects the expertise of each person, the therapist’s clinical expertise and your expertise about yourself. Although the focus of therapy often begins with looking at what is not working, it can be just as helpful to talk about what is working and what has worked in the past. This can help you and your therapist to draw on the resources you already have, maybe even surprising yourself with the strength and resiliency already within you.

Therapy allows you to reveal things that have remained hidden. Bringing into awareness beliefs and feelings about yourself, others, and views of the world can help you give voice to what may have been operating under the surface. You can make known what has long been unknown.

Insight and awareness can help you have empathy for yourself and others. This kindness towards yourself and others can be a powerful agent of change. Having awareness helps you figure out ways you can take tangible steps toward the changes you desire.

There is no such thing as a “cookie cutter” approach to therapy. What may work for one person may not work as well for another. There are certainly factors that help us understand why therapy might work. If you have been in therapy before, I ask you to consider what has worked for you and what has not been so helpful. Communicating this to your therapist can be a good place to start therapy and help you understand what your unique needs might be.

~ Rohini Gupta, Psy.D.

Dr. Rohini Gupta is a therapist at The Catalyst Center in Denver, CO. Her specialties include:

Ask a therapist: “Why is therapy effective?” (answered by Kendra Doukas, MS, LMFT)

Kendra Doukas, MS, LMFTToday, we continue our popular series “Ask a Therapist” with one of our therapists, Kendra Doukas, MS, LMFT answering one of our most commonly asked questions: “Why is therapy effective?”

Unconditional Positive Regard: The Key to Connection

I often get asked the question, “Why is therapy effective?” Those of us that are therapists think long and hard about this question. We know that it works because we see the evidence first hand; However, the concrete reason can be (or at least for me was) quite difficult to articulate. Research in “common factors” looks across different models and structures of therapy in an attempt to answer this very question: Why is therapy effective? This research over and over again indicates the “goodness of fit” between clinician and client is a critical factor. I got to thinking, what does this really mean? What can I do as a therapist to improve the chances of a good fit? Is it just some mystical connection that will either be there or not, or is there more to it?

Session after session I started to think more about why and how I am successful with my clients. One day the answer made itself abundantly clear: Unconditional positive regard, a term I had learned long ago in my training. One of the most fundamental human needs is to be truly witnessed by another. For someone to say to us literally or figuratively, “I hear you, I see you, I understand you, and I’m not going anywhere” is incredibly powerful. Imagine a world where every child got a constant message of an adult truly witnessing him or her.

Many of us did not get this message as children, or at least not consistently enough, and still do not get it today. My job as a therapist is to be this missing witness; to send the message that I care about your well-being, no matter what and with no strings attached. Is this not what a healthy partnership provides us? Is this not the ultimate goal of parenting? Is this not what we all seek out in our friendships?

Once I had this eureka moment, it became the number one goal in my therapy and in my life. Please do not misunderstand me and think I am saying that this means we should accept everyone’s choices and behaviors unconditionally. Challenging my clients unhealthy choices and behaviors is critically important to helping them grow and change. I would not be a good therapist if I just smiled and nodded and told my clients they were perfect. Unconditional positive regard comes into play here, too; I am able to challenge my clients on anything I need to because they are secure in the knowledge that it is coming from a place of love and acceptance. Since my clients know that I genuinely care about them, when I challenge them on something they are much less defensive and are able to really hear my feedback.

In a world  where space between us seems to grow wider and the true connections between us seems to be dwindling, it makes sense that many of us feel a huge lack of connection. There is good research to suggest that humans have been so successful due to our use of social connections, playing an even more critical role in our evolution than our big brains or critical thinking skills than we once believed.

Let’s do more of what we as a species do best. I challenge each of us to work to truly bear witness to one another and send the vital message of unconditional positive regard.

~ Kendra Doukas, MS, LMFT

Kendra is a therapist at The Catalyst Center. Her specialties include:

Kendra Doukas, M.S. LMFT can be reached by calling the main office at 720-675-7123 or by emailing us directly atCatalystCenterLLC@gmail.com

Ask a therapist: “Why does therapy heal?” (answered by Dr. Erin Jacklin)

Dr. Erin JacklinIn my work as a psychologist I often get asked the question: Why does therapy heal?  My answer is quite different that you might think.

We all desire a witness, someone who sees us in a way that feels true, and accepts us as we are (even as we struggle to accept ourselves as we are).  We recognize the feeling of being truly witnessed, and it is transformative.  In my experience as a therapist, when I am fully present and connected with a client, and truly bear witness to them, something incredible takes place.

It is hard to describe, but impossible to miss when it happens. Even in the depths of a terrible life event, being witnessed makes us feel lighter somehow and less alone. Having someone with us, feeling what we are feeling, trying to look through our eyes and be “in it” together with us is something we are all yearning for and rarely get.

Having a trusted confidant who you know cares deeply about you, doesn’t need you to be perfect or to sugar coat the truth, and is able to witness you and accept you with all your strengths and all your challenges changes you in a profound way. I feel incredibly blessed to be able to bear witness to my clients in this powerful manner. Every time I am privileged with the opportunity to truly witness someone it transforms both of us.

The spiritual side of me believes this is an example of the power of seeing the divinity within each of us. This makes me think of one of my favorite quotes by Marianne Williamson from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

The transformative power of being truly witnessed in therapy is actually less about having someone with you in the toughest moments, it is more about having someone who can see your light shining through, even when you cannot. Your witnessing therapist sees it all, not just how stuck you are feeling in this moment, but the beautiful, magnificent part of you that wants to shed your darkness and fly.

~ Erin Jacklin, PsyD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist