Click on a topic below to read about some of the areas I can work with you on. And feel free to call me about your particular situation to see if I may be helpful and have the right approach.
This is a major focus of my practice. Problematic substance use is usually a symptom of a deeper issue or a set of issues. (This is true for all kinds of addictive behaviors, not just the misuse of substances.) Imagine the leaves on a cheerful houseplant or on a healthy tree near your house. Now think of the once hardy and healthy leaves unexpectedly turning brown and brittle. Is the correct solution to pour water on the browning tips? Not bloody likely. The ailing leaves are a symptom of a much deeper problem far from plain sight. Yelling at the leaves to stop being brown won't do much either. Blaming the leaves for their selfish choice to turn brown also has no use.
The stakes are often high with addiction and problematic substance use, especially over time. By the time you contemplate the seriousness of your situation, much damage may have been done. Since the underlying causes lie out of sight, families and loved ones don't understand. Their reactions to feeling hurt by you can make your symptoms or behaviors worse. Thoughts of suicide or not wanting to live may become pressing realities. You may have work or legal problems. You may have faced (or may be about to face) divorce, imprisonment, DUI, loss of custody, or charges of criminal negligence.
While these outward consequences often come after years of internal struggle (or in less dire cases may not come at all), you may be one of those people still hiding your problem effectively. If so, you may be exhausted from your double life and consumed by the shame of your difficulty coping more effectively with life. No matter how much it shows, the internal realities of substance abuse and addiction feel the same: numb, hollow, ashamed, exhausted, and completely alone.
Several approaches may be appropriate, depending on you and the specifics of your situation. However, at the core of these treatments is the belief that substance or behavioral addictions was at one time a brilliant solution and means of self-regulation. The solution worked until it didn't, but the wisdom of that solution remains. Treatments should help build on that innate wisdom and strength; ironically, the deeply addicted often have huge amounts of will power and endurance. Treatments may involve total abstinence or take a harm-reduction approach. They might be twelve-step or entail other models for recovery and self-regulation. You may come seeking help for other issues, and you may need help uncovering hidden resentments that lurk in your blind spots. My job is to accompany you while we shine the light of awareness on these areas, help you develop new skills, and move towards a new way of regulating that is more effective and healthy.
Solutions can include individual therapy, group process therapy, group support, and/or other types of support. Couples and family therapy is often warranted to repair important supports after years of erosion. We figure that out together and come up with a plan, continuing to assess how well treatment is working for you. In all cases, I favor treatments that are evidence-based, integrative, collaborative, and trauma-informed.
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Anger can be a healthy emotion that lets us know that a boundary has been transgressed and some repair may be in order. A new boundary may need to be created; an existing boundary may need to be reinforced with purpose. So many people have difficulty allowing anger because we are often encouraged to "don't worry, be happy" instead of being joined in battle: "Hell yes, be angry because you're human and something important is happening!" The result of accumulated and unexpressed anger can be all-consuming and undifferentiated rage coming out every which way. Seeing red, wishing violence, losing the plot, acting aggressively or actually harming yourself or another seems like the only solution. Therapy can get to the root of the impasse and hopefully reduce the toxic stress and the social effects of long-term anger and rage. The work I do intends to honor anger and move towards making anger a consenting ally rather than crushing dictator.
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Years ago in London, a bizarre set of weather conditions caused a concentration of air pollution to hang over the city like a heavy blanket. The poisonous mixture of gases seeped into homes, businesses, and hospitals, causing thousands of deaths. Anxiety can creep in like this-at first seeming to be a typical haze that constricts around the heart and lungs like our own personal Great Smog of London. Sometimes, we know the causes of the anxiety: performance, past failures, imagined losses, trauma. In other cases, we are left alone to wonder what is real because the cause of the anxiety is not clear at all. We question, minimize, and push on, hoping that the anxiety will lift (and if it does, we fear the day it will return). Working through anxiety in a complete way is important, but even more important is learning what the anxiety is coming from and what tools or changes we need so that we can deal with the anxieties in life without fearing the fear itself.
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The poet Kahlil Gibran wrote that "work is love made visible" and I have always aspired to this ideal. Gibran also died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1931 at the age of 48 after a lengthy relationship with alcohol. By all accounts, Gibran struggled personally despite the early success of his famous book, The Prophet. Perhaps he could not figure out the "next phase" for his life and development. He wound up living alone and drank himself to death.
Career transitions are an inevitable (and sometimes life-saving) part of making our way through life. Sometimes they are forced on us and sometimes they are deliberate. These transitions come with challenges: sometimes we must confront heavy fears, and sometimes we need to re-evaluate our own worth. And how we view ourselves determines how we make decisions and take action. Are the obstacles in our way signposts to turn back, or are they imagined dragons standing in the way of fully realizing a dream?
Right Livelihood is the idea that we make our living in the world by using our gifts, experiences, and circumstances in a way that benefits our community the most. Often what keeps us from fully exploring our right livelihood are the big 'shoulds' we hear (or fear hearing) from others. In making these transitions and exploring our options, we need encouragement and the time and space to clearly evaluate our next move with a neutral third party. So, I listen, challenge, and ask good questions without pushing an agenda or clouding the issues.
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