You enter our cozy office…
… and you aren’t sure what will happen.
Maybe this is your first time in therapy, or perhaps you’ve been to therapy many times before. Whatever your experience, you may feel a bit uncertain right now.
We know that’s unsettling, so let’s talk about how we approach therapy and what you can expect.
Therapy’s never the same for two people.
That’s because therapy is tailored specifically to you and your needs.
But one thing is true across the board: Human connection is the key to your success.
While we are strangers on the first day, our patients often share how they felt heard and understood in the very first session.
Vulnerability is required for great change.
As we work together, you’ll feel deeply listened to as you share the details of your past and present life with your therapist. You’ll feel vulnerable on occasion, but, over time, you will feel more comfortable being open.
We recognize that to be vulnerable, you need to feel safe to share anything with me. At the core of that safety is the human connection that’s foundational to our professional relationship.
Research shows that this connection must be present and felt for therapy to be effective (no matter the therapist’s skills).
“But… what if I don’t feel that connection right away?”
Over the first few sessions, we will form a therapeutic relationship as you begin to trust and work with your therapist. And like any relationship, building a connection takes time and effort.
You will see that we are compassionate, caring, and encouraging. And, although your therapist might challenge you at times, it will be done with care and support. We’ll always believe in the best in you, even when you can’t see that yourself.
So, give it some time. We will get there.
“Okay, but what will we DO in therapy?”
Therapy is designed to target your specific challenges, problems, or issues. So, there is no cookie-cutter answer to this question.
While we will be talking – usually for an hour at a time – the content of the discussion varies from person to person. And the prompting questions or activities we do will be based on what you need to meet your goals.
“Goals? That sounds scary…”
Will I need to know what those are before I come in?
We know it can sound a little scary, but don’t worry… your therapist will guide you through.
Plus, if we’re guessing, it’s likely you already have an idea about how you want to feel or what you want to be doing when our work is done.
As we determine your goals, we will explore what you want out of life: what’s important to you, what matters most, and what you want to be doing (or not doing).
We’ll also look at what’s stopping you from living the life you want.
When you know what you want and don’t want in life… and can identify what’s getting in your way… we can partner to make your life meaningful.
We’ll go ahead and let you know this: Identifying these barriers (or even what you are avoiding) means that we’ll sometimes have to talk about painful things. At times, that’s scary, but it’s how we’ll be able to work past the obstacles.
Imagine you are in an unlit cave and you walk into something. It stops you in your path. Until you figure out what it is, you cannot get past it. Let’s say that you figure it out – maybe it’s a wall, a rock, another person, or a hibernating bear. Each of these barriers would have a different solution… and yours may be different from the next person. But once you know how to get through, you can.
A plan for getting to those barriers…
You wouldn’t go to a medical doctor with a broken leg and expect that they ice your shoulder to heal the leg. They would test or assess what is going on and diagnose the problem. Then they will tell you what the plan is.
We’ll do the same. In our first session or two, your psychologist will provide you with a working diagnosis. That diagnosis is what will guide your work together.
As psychologists, we diagnose the problem and create a treatment plan to help you heal and meet your goals.
Our team has special training for many of the things you might be seeing us for.
If you have OCD, certain phobias, or PTSD, we will likely engage in something called “exposure therapy.” In non-nerdy terms, exposure therapy is a way of gradually learning to experience (or expose) and tolerate difficult situations so they feel easier.
For OCD, there’s a specific type of exposure therapy called Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERP). You may have landed on this page after finding one of our providers on the International OCD Foundation site’s directory as a certified ERP provider.
When we do ERP, we will teach you about OCD after assessing your specific type. Then, we will develop a plan of mini-experiments to build upon your success gradually. We will talk all about what OCD is stopping you from doing as well. Along the way, we will guide you and support you because it can feel scary to face your fears.
Similarly, for PTSD, some of our providers are trained in Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE), which is the gold standard for PTSD treatment. In the first few sessions, a background of your experiences will tell your doctor the level and severity of your reaction to past trauma. From there, we will provide some education on trauma and common reactions before we develop a plan to change your relationship to your trauma – safely.
“What if I don’t need exposure therapy?”
Well, then we won’t do it. It wouldn’t make sense to use a hammer when you need a screwdriver. So, the screwdriver is what we will use.
That screwdriver may be an integration of approaches. We often draw from various proven methods and our skills from training, work, and continuing education.
While that list includes an alphabet soup of therapies (DBT, CBT, humanistic psychology, etc.), Dr. Dean largely draws from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
A little more about ACT…
First of all, it’s pronounced like the word “act.”
It’s an approach that focuses on living your most meaningful life, which is done by changing your relationships to painful experiences. Here are its tenets:
Uncomfortable feelings and experiences are unfortunately part of life – and unavoidable at times.
You have been struggling with emotional pain and maybe even suffering. We, as humans, want to avoid these experiences.
But, sometimes, that avoidance (physical or emotional) can make our pain worse. It may feel like suffering. We may even believe every thought we have to be true.
The way we deal with or react to those experiences and thoughts gives them power.
But there’s good news: ACT (and other therapies) teaches us different ways to cope with, react to, and pay attention to (or not) those thoughts.
Learning to live in the moment…
Part of this approach addresses the fact that we often fail to live in the moment. Our thoughts usually focus on the past or the future.
As we work together, you will learn to live in the moment. That’s not to say that the past and future don’t matter. They do, of course, but when we are distracted by or overfocused on them, life is less than enjoyable or meaningful.
By interacting with the painful experiences in new ways, focusing on what matters most to you, and being present in the moment, you will be better equipped to cope and heal when difficult things happen in life.
Let’s work together…
This is just a brief overview of our approaches, but we hope it gives you a feel for what it will be like working with us.
We’re ready to meet you… listen to you… understand what’s going on… connect to you… and help you overcome what’s causing you pain.
Are you ready??
Call us today, and let’s get started! (724) 271-8503