Psychotherapy has been around in some form since the late 1800’s. Throughout this period, it has gone through numerous evolutions. Although Sigmund Freud was not the first to explore the complexities of the mind, most in the general public view Freud as the father of psychotherapy.
Freud, and those who followed him in his psychoanalytic school, were able to help patients to a certain degree. But we now have learned many of the principles of their model were incorrect. Then came the Behaviorists, such as B.F. Skinner. They viewed humans as being motivated by reinforcement, such as the desire to gain pleasure or avoid pain.
For the most part, they discounted any freedom of choice (free will) individuals had. In their view, humans were basically thoughtless robots driven by positive or negative reinforcement. Then came cognitive therapy as a counterpoint to behaviorism. The cognitive therapy school asserted we were not mindless robots, but in between a stimulus and our response was reflective thought.
Their model went something like this: an event creates a thought that generates an emotion, which then leads to a behavior. We have since learned this view is inaccurate and only partially correct at times. Subsequently, the cognitive and behavioral schools began to merge leading to CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy).
On the surface the CBT model makes sense and does hold a degree of value. Insurance companies love CBT because it espouses a short-term approach in most cases. Professors have an affinity for CBT because it is easy to teach. I myself was an adherent to this view until I actually began working with clients and found it to be ineffective in helping people change at a deep level. My apologies to all my CBT colleagues.
The majority of therapists still utilize approaches that, in my experience and opinion, are outdated and minimally effective. It is nice to be listened to by a caring person, and you can also feel a temporary sense of relief when you are able to connect some of the dots so to speak of how your past is influencing your present. However, you will most likely continue to struggle with your presenting issues and become even more frustrated now that you ‘know’ where they are coming from.
Over the last two decades, psychology has now become more biology. With fields such as, neuroscience, neurobiology, and interpersonal neurobiology, we no longer need to relay on theoretical speculations but actually have learned what is occurring neurologically in the brain and nervous system and how to resolve clients presenting issues at a transformational level.
Real psychotherapy is not about receiving a bunch of information but having an experience. Neuroscience has shown you cannot heal things such as trauma and addiction through talk therapy; you have to work with the body and create what is referred to as neuroplasticity: the brain’s ability to change itself with new experience. Therapy must be experiential.
The most exciting thing in psychotherapy is we have learned how to harness the body and the brain’s innate capacity to heal itself. As a practicing psychotherapist, my main role is to create a safe relationship and environment to help my client’s access their own internal system that knows how to release their blocked emotional energy, reset itself, and unlock their greatest capacities.
Psychotherapy is not going to change you at the deepest level if I just sit there and listen to you for an hour every week or provide common sense advice. In most cases, you can get this for free from family and friends. I am not saying I don’t listen to my client’s or give feedback at times. Nonetheless, if that is all I do they will leave pretty much the way they came. Unfortunately, this is what occurs in far too many therapies.
I receive regular feedback from clients who had previous therapies, such as, “The therapist was a very nice person, but I didn’t feel I was actually getting anywhere,” or, “They would encourage me to do certain things, but I was unable to actually do them.” Therapy is primarily about two things: helping you learn how to stop using emotional defenses and start feeling and dealing with your core emotions; and assisting you in developing healthier ways to connect with others, rather than using relational defenses.
Both of these aspects have to be experienced, not just understood. This is what creates real and dynamic change. If you are considering obtaining a therapist, or are currently in therapy, ask your prospective or current therapist what type of experiential therapies they use. Some of the ones I use on a regular basis are:
- AEDP (Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy),
- IFS (Internal Family Systems),
- EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing),
- SE (Somatic Experiencing), and
- Sensorimotor Psychotherapy.
If your therapist does not take and experiential approach, I would definitely look for one who does. No matter what you have been through, how long you have been struggling with your current symptoms, or how many approaches you have tried to get help, I promise you are capable of healing and change; you just haven’t had the right type of therapy or been ready to do the work.
If you would like to learn more about these types of therapies, have any questions, or would like to schedule a time to meet, contact me at 561-468-6464 or Schedule A Session.