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Dr. Irene's Virtual Office: 845-774-4393

Questions: What does therapy do? What does the therapist do? How long does therapy take? How do I know I need help? I find the idea of therapy scary... What is the most common problem you see? How can you listen to people gripe all day?  

What does psychotherapy do? Therapy gives you more control over your life. You become more conscious of your self and your behavior. You become more honest with yourself. You begin to take the driver's seat in your life and take control - rather than be controlled by other people or events. Your personal power increases. You become aware that you have choices. You run the show!

I practice cognitive behavior therapy. Essentially, that means I help you become aware of the underlying assumptions or "scripts" that run your life. These assumptions operate "automatically," that is, beneath your awareness. Yet they have an enormous  influence over your emotions and behavior. In treatment, first you identify and articulate the rote thoughts that may get in your way and create problems. Then you look at them - objectively. Most people  believe in the validity of their scripts without question. Yet, these underlying assumptions are often irrational and/or untrue! Once you get clear on what assumptions are running your life, you are in a position to choose whether or not you will act on them and whether or not you wish to modify them.  

This puts you in control of your life - relatively quickly. By becoming more aware of your thoughts and identifying situations in which you behave automatically (usually out of guilt, anger, or another negative emotion), you empower yourself to take control of your life. Your behavior is no longer a knee jerk reaction; it is chosen.

What does the therapist do? I am a consultant and a teacher, as opposed to an "expert" on your psyche. No one knows yourself better than you do: you are the expert on yourself. However, a trained, impartial observer is in a better position to spot problem areas than you are, and to help you stay out of guilt, depression, etc. traps in the process. Since it is your life, you choose whether or not you want to deal with a particular problem area. I point out why I think it may  be in your interest to take charge - and how to do so. As a teacher, I help you learn  new skills (such as sticking up for yourself, calmly expressing your anger, etc.) that you will need to accomplish the changes you are after. 

How long does therapy take?  It depends on you, the problem you are dealing with, how deeply embedded the issue is, and what you want to do with it.  Some people live, breathe, and sleep the principles we discuss, moving very, very quickly. Others approach therapy more casually. No way is "better" or "worse." Each individual is unique and learns in his or her own way. Some problems are more difficult to deal with or are more ingrained than others. The more "on the surface" the problem is, the more quickly it can usually be resolved. Deeply embedded thought processes (called schema) are more difficult to modify and treatment takes longer. The length of therapy depends on what you want to accomplish as well. This can range from symptom reduction to an understanding of how to spot problem areas and fix them on your own, to philosophical change.

My personal view is that it is totally unnecessary to be in therapy for years and years. What you want to accomplish may take 3-6 sessions...or few years. Especially with more embedded or longer-term problems, I find it useful for the client to take "therapy vacations." That is, after you have gotten a handle on things, it is neither necessary nor productive to continue meeting regularly. You need time to practice your new skills on your own! Sometimes monthly or "as needed" sessions are useful during this phase. You may find that the problem you came in to deal with is  resolved to your satisfaction and you no longer need any assistance. Or, you may decide that you want to deal with the next level of issues and come back for some regular sessions for a while.

How do I know I need help? This is hard to answer. Most people come for treatment when they are hurting, have been hurting for a long time, or have been unsuccessful in dealing with their problem on their own.  Sometimes people find that the same types of negative feelings or consequences keep reoccurring. A problem is a problem when you perceive that your life is being negatively affected. Sometimes, loved ones will suggest that you have an issue to deal with. Often, you just don't feel ok about your life, or you manifest symptoms such as depression, anxiety, binge eating, guilt, anger outbursts, addiction, etc. Basically, you probably need help if whatever you've been doing doesn't work and you haven't been able to fix it yourself.

I find the idea of therapy scary... You are not alone in feeling frightened of the therapeutic process. People are afraid to look inside when they have avoided knowing their inner selves. They are often terrified of what they might find! Or they may have glimpsed inside and found depression, anger, anxiety, or other negative feelings. Your fear of what you may find is almost always much greater than the reality that you are likely to encounter! Looking inside is about becoming friends with yourself. Looking inside is about accepting and integrating all that you are, even parts you do not like. It is about not judging yourself or beating yourself up. It is about being your own best friend. The goal is to take charge of your life while fully appreciating all the wonder that is you! 

I often tell my clients that guilt, self-recrimination, and the like are "not allowed" in my office! Not that these feelings don't exist; they are all too real. But in most cases they are symptoms of what's wrong as opposed to an accurate judgment of the self. At other times they are symptoms of not acting in one's own best interests.

Personally, I find it scary not to know oneself!  How can you deal with life if you are running from what is or fooling yourself? After all, the stuff you run from only gets bigger and bigger until you face it! When you know who you are, honestly, without judgment - and with self acceptance, you are in a position to make the most of what you have. You are likely to choose to step around your own personal pitfalls rather than blindly walk into the same traps time and time again. 

When you accept yourself, you are more likely to accept what is.  You can appreciate the wonderfully imperfect individual that you are. You can trust your intuition and let it guide you. Rather than trying to control your world, you have learned to control yourself. The result is inner peace and a sense of "knowing."

What is the most common problem you see? Probably guilt, shame, self degradation,  unrecognized rage, self recrimination - a general tendency to treat oneself disrespectfully as well as to "accept" disrespectful treatment from others (mostly without awareness!)  Many people seem to have two sets of standards: one set for self and one set for others. Self-standards are almost always different (and usually more stringent) than standards applied to others. These are the ingredients for low self esteem and low level depression. 

I ask people why they feel it is ok to accept "crumbs" from others, as opposed to expecting the whole cake!, I usually hear that it is "OK," it is "just me,"  "I understand," etc.

Well, I don't understand!  I teach my clients that they are as important and worthy as any other living, breathing human being on this green earth. It is their personal responsibility to themselves and to their Maker to treat themselves and others with respect and to expect respect from others at all times! By the end of treatment, people are  not only amazed that respect was not seen as an issue, but that they unknowingly operated in a "disrespect is OK" mode!

How can you listen to people gripe all day long? Easy. I don't tolerate griping!   There is nothing boring or disheartening about connecting with another human being in pain. I am grateful to be in a position where I receive gratification in helping others help themselves. I love what I do! 

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