Our Approaches to Psychotherapy:
We apply effective and evidence-based psychotherapy methods in our work. These include:
Compassion Focused Therapy
Developed by Prof. Paul Gilbert, compassion focused therapy (CFT) is a approach to psychotherapy. It works to help decrease shame, self-criticism, and fear of giving and receiving compassion. At the same time, it works to increase self-compassion and compassion directed toward others. CFT is a complex approach that includes elements of neurobiology, evolutionary and social psychology, attachment theory, and cognitive-behavioral therapy.
CFT work engages three hypothetical “systems” in the mind and body. The threat system is on the lookout for danger in your environment. Your drive system is focused on getting you access to things and experiences you need and want. And, finally, your safety system works to help you seek closeness with others and soothing peacefulness. Unsurprisingly, our threat and drive systems can often get stuck in the “on” position while our safety systems can sit idle, collecting dust. CFT works to bring these three systems back into balance. Sensing danger and getting our needs met is important. Most of us, though, need a little help returning to restfulness, ease, and contentment.
Like ACT (see below), CFT is less concerned with reducing specific symptoms than some other approaches. Rather, CFT is grounded in the idea that, as compassion increases, particular mental health symptoms will improve, resolve, or be reframed to the extent that they are no longer major barriers. Many cases seen in our office will include at least some form of CFT as part of treatment.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
First set forth in the book by the same name by Steven Hayes, Kirk Strosahl, and Kelly Wilson (1999), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a rather unusual approach to psychotherapy. ACT grew out of an unique interaction between the disciplines of clinical psychology and applied behavior analysis (ABA) that existed at the University of Nevada, Reno, from the 1980s until will into the 2000s. Like CFT (see above), ACT is rarely directly concerned with reducing or eliminating particular mental health systems. Rather, ACT works to increase psychological flexibility, a state in which the stuff you do each day is progressively done in the service of things you care about rather than in reaction to things in your world that you don’t like—the things that make you want to run, fight, and hide.
ACT is uniquely adaptable to the needs of particular individuals, since you and you alone get to decide what it is that you care about. With more than 400 published clinical studies to its credit, ACT is a very well-supported model of psychotherapy. It is applicable to, well, all issues and problems, since it is designed to help humans lead richer, more fulfilling lives. Particularly if you’ve tried therapy before and been disappointed with the results, ACT may offer new promise for making lasting change in therapy.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy
In the last few decades, formerly non-clinical techniques like mindfulness and meditation have made an appearance in psychotherapy. In the 1990s, researchers Phillip Barnard and John Teasdale proposed a mental model they called interactive cognitive subsystems (ICS). This model contrasted the “doing” mind subsystem with “being” mind subsystem. Like the threat and drive systems posited by CFT, the “doing” subsystem in ICS is engaged when we sense a discrepancy between how things are and how we would like them to be. On the other hand, the “being” subsystem in activated when we are willing to experience life as it happens, without judgment. When the “being” subsystem is in balance with the “doing” subsystem, the relentless drive to “be better” is balanced with periods of open attention and ease.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) draws on the ICS model and works to bring the two subsystems into better balance. Originally developed to treat recurrent depression, MBCT, like CFT, can be an effective intervention for a wide range of problems.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) refers to a very broad group of therapy approaches. Growing out of the interface between psychoanalysis and behavior therapy in the 1960s and 1970s, CBT was popularized by the early work of Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis. In contrast to earlier approaches, CBT was particularly adapted to laboratory investigation and is primarily responsible for the evidence-based treatment movement that is strong in the field of clinical psychology today. While CBT now the most commonly identified theoretical orientation among American psychotherapists, there is no longer one single for therapy that “is” CBT. Rather, the term covers all approaches that utilize cognitive and behavioral techniques at the instruments of change in psychotherapy. While CBT is best known as a brief therapy (at least as compared to the much longer arc of most psychoanalytic and psychodynamic treatments), it also can foster insight and deeper change in people who receive it. The pace of most CBT therapy is quick, and the treatments often focus on developing new coping skills and testing new approaches to older challenges.
Most couple work in our practice is grounded in Gottman Method, which was developed over many years by Drs. Julie and John Gottman. Gottman Method has the distinction of being one of the most extensively researched and empirically supported approaches to couples work as the result of the Gottmans’ “love lab” in Seattle, WA, where thousands of hours of couple interactions have been filmed and analyzed to help determine what sorts of issues place couples at the greatest risk of separation. Well-know for its focus on the “Four Horsemen” that predict relationships ending—contempt, criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling—Gottman Method is an effective brief therapy that can make a big difference in couples’ lives, and it includes specific techniques for dealing with substance use and infidelity in relationship contexts.
More Than Just a Theory or a Style
We consider ourselves therapists, scientists, humans, and spiritual beings. We actively engage in research and latest literature to provide the most up-to-date and evidence-based interventions. Our approaches are also influenced by our Zen and other forms of spiritual practices, as well as our interests in Buddhist, Existential, Humanistic, and Psychodynamic philosophies.
Our Areas of Expertise Include:
- Loss and grief
- Hoarding and cluttering
- Anxiety and stress
- Life transitions
- Emotion regulation and acceptance
- Self-worth, self-love, and self-expression
- Relationship challenges
- Attachment and emotional intimacy
- Sex and sexual identity
- Acculturation and immigration adjustment
- Loneliness and isolation