Many people seek therapy when feelings become overwhelming or coping mechanisms become counter-productive and begin to interfere with life functioning.
As a therapist, I am first a teacher. The feelings and behaviors that are troublesome today may, in fact, stem from protective devices adopted to deal with threat or pain or hurt or rejection in the past. Because they worked well back then, they were overpractised, and reliance on those limited tactics prevented learning new life skills or expanding the coping repertoire. Once the significance of old behaviors is recognized, they can be gently relinquished by the client from a position of strength and compassion rather than fought against and condemned as "bad". Clients need to understand the historical significance of their maladaptive patterns and the neuropsychological dynamics behind their depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and eating disorders, both to reduce self-blame and shame and to establish a framework for developing a plan to address the issues. My role is to explore with the client new approaches to problems and to make the therapy session a safe place to practise looking at and doing things differently.
However, thinking and talking about the problem is not enough; it takes “doing” to catalyze change. The old patterns were learned through action, and they must be actively unlearned and replaced. Empowering in session exercises, like re-scripting an event, reenacting or role-playing a situation, writing a no-send letter, communicating with tensions held in the body or drawing a series of pictures, adds profound learning to the therapeutic process. I encourage homework to be done between sessions, because practice reinforces the therapy and progress becomes more rapid for the client. The client and I both share responsibility for growth and change.