When people come to work with me, they have often tried a lot of different approaches to deal with their issues. They have tried to lecture, shame and bully themselves into changing their lives. They have tried prayer, affirmations and self-help manuals, but nothing has worked–or if it has worked, it has only worked for a short time before new and sometimes even more troubling symptoms emerge. These unsuccessful attempts often lead to a deeper sense of shame and failure, because now the person has failed at “getting better” on top of all their other issues. What a conundrum!
However, the problem is that they are doing things backwards. They are trying to control their behaviour and feelings with their thoughts, when research tells us that long before the thinking part of our brain kicks into gear, the emotional and behavioural parts of our brain are already taking action. For example, if we see something dangerous, like a snake, long before the thinking part of our brain has figured out exactly what is going on, our heart, respiration and other physical responses have already kicked into gear.
So, when I work with someone, I use what is called an “Emotion-Focused” approach. My goal is to really understand what they are feeling—to try to put myself in their shoes and get a clear sense of how they see their situation. Many of my clients say they feel truly understood, without judgment or criticism, sometimes for the first time in their lives. This sense of being “seen” with compassion gives them courage to deal with the dilemmas that have troubled them for so long.
From this place of feeling safe and understood, we can begin to work with the emotions that drive the thoughts–and the resulting behaviour–which has caused so much havoc in their lives. The approach is very easy and natural; we simply begin talking about what is of concern to the person, and then, at the appropriate time, we go deeper into the roots of these feelings and begin to unravel the often twisted and confusing consequences they have had on our lives.
As the weeks go by, my clients often report how surprised they are that things just begin to change in their lives, without having to bully themselves or really try in any conscious way. They notice old habits just falling way. This is because we have changed or even removed the emotional motivation which drove the problematic behaviour in the first place. There is now no reason to do it anymore. I call this “The Natural Approach”, because it works with our mind and emotions in a manner consistent with the way they actually function.
Most of my clients say this approach gives them new tools to deal with their problems and new understanding of when and how old habits get triggered. With some intractable issues such as addiction or other compulsions Emotion-Focused Therapy also has a considerable cognitive component which helps us recognize, and change, the toxic inner dialogs that have been running our lives. Where useful, I also employ “Mindfulness” techniques to help people recognize and change self-destructive behaviour.
The same natural, or Emotion-Focused techniques are used for couple’s therapy, although this approach is much more structured. However, the results are the same–couples report that they are more conscious of the destructive dance between the two of them and have new tools which enable them to interrupt the “demon dialogues” which result in so much strife and conflict.
If this approach sounds like something you would like to try, give me a call and come in for a free consultation. You have nothing to lose and perhaps your whole life to gain.
If you would like to learn more, just give me a call @ 416-363-0065 and we can talk in person. If you feel comfortable, you can let me know a littie bit about your situation and if I cannot help you, I will try to refer you to someone who can.
If you would like to meet me, you may request a free, half-hour consultation to give you a chance to meet me and see if we can work together. If you decide to leave at that point, you may do so with no cost or obligation.