Great Falls Potomac River landscape image
Insights into Therapy

4 Existential Truths – How Modern Life Makes Them Harder & How Psychotherapy Can Help or Hurt

1. Freedom When people first learn about existentialism, it can seem like a depressing, boring, or hopeless philosophy. But for those practicing existential psychotherapy (or at least addressing existential themes in therapy), dealing with some of the difficult or terrible stuff in an authentic and brave way can help people experience the most precious gems of life: real joy, love, desire, wildness, belonging. Here is a list of what Irv Yalom boiled down to the four “existential givens” that we wrestle with: our essential freedom and ultimate responsibility; our isolation and unavoidable loneliness; the meaning we must provide or find in life’s meaninglessness; and the inevitability of our death and the deaths of everyone we love. People often come for psychotherapy to deal with one or more of these existential givens without even realizing that is what they need to do. Unless you studied philosophy or psychology in grad school, you probably didn’t come across these concepts. But they are everywhere, and these 4 existential givens are a very helpful way of seeing the fundamental struggles we all face (or avoid facing). We each get to make choices and deal with the consequences, never knowing what will actually happen as

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live black and white photo of joni mitchell performing on stage
Psychology & the Arts

How Running Away Can Help Us Return

Song featured in this blog:Hejira (live performance by Joni Mitchell, Shadows and Light, 1979) Coping with this crazy life—and feeling sane—comes partly from accepting how impossible it all is. This is the kind of paradox that makes ‘achieving’ mental health so difficult. As Rumi put it, “Who makes these changes? I shoot an arrow right. It lands left.” Joni Mitchell understood this quite well at the age of 30, and it was likely her visit to Colorado in the mid-1970s that helped it sink in. Joni met up in Colorado with Chögyam Trungpa, who founded Naropa University in Boulder, and Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes, after touring with Bob Dylan, and while doing some cross-country road trips. She wrote an album during that time, and called it Hejira, an approximation of an Arabic word for exodus, or as she put it: “running away with honor.” She had just broken up with her boyfriend. There’s a paradox in that idea of running away with honor, so we may as well start here. In therapy, how might we talk about running away with honor? By accepting how impossible it all is. This may be a literal walking away from something

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Sankofa bird art
Psychology & the Arts

I’m Right Where You Left Me

Songs featured in this blog: She Used to be Mine (by Sara Bareilles, What’s Inside: Songs from Waitress, 2015) right where you left me (by Taylor Swift and Aaron Dessner, evermore, 2020) Song to the Self (by Shawn Mullins, Eggshells, 1996) Outside my office door, there is a small quilt hanging on the wall with the image of a Sankofa bird stitched as the centerpiece. In Ghanaian culture, the Sankofa bird represents the importance of going back to retrieve what was left behind. The bird’s feet face forward, but its head is turned backward as its beak fetches an egg from the top of its own back, or places the egg on its own back, to bring it along. The bird turns to reclaim what it needs from the past. The bird makes sure to bring its past along with it. The paradox in the image is that it has been carrying what it needed the whole time: It is the bird’s own beginning (an egg), and it only has to turn around to find it. The Sankofa is a powerful and ancient symbol of the Akan tribe which is not only important to that culture, but is also the

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couple on couch in therapy session
Insights into Therapy

11 Things to Remember When Searching for a Therapist

I have been a therapist in private practice for 25 years, but I was in therapy for about 15 years before that. I started as a client when I was 11 years old; and over the years, I had great therapists and terrible therapists. Here is what I learned from being a mental patient and from working with (and witnessing) a wide variety of colleagues for decades. 1. There’s no need to be defensive or awkward about needing help and support. I called myself a “mental patient” above, on purpose. Look, I seriously needed therapy. I had to see a shrink. A check up from the neck up. Some serious psycho-archaeology. Where is all this shame about needing therapy coming from? I grew up in the D.C. area where a ton of people (kids and adults) were in therapy in the 70s and 80s. It seemed totally normal and lots of people could get it (insurance paid for it much more freely than it does now). It’s sad how awkward people are about it, and it’s now 50 years later. 2. Everyone is different, and no therapist or therapy is the “best”: There are approximately 1.7 trillion different “approaches” to therapy, and each of these

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close up of the hands of a couple in therapy
Insights into Therapy

Building Emotional Intimacy: How Couples Therapy Can Strengthen Your Bond

Emotional intimacy is the glue that keeps relationships strong, vibrant and fulfilling. It’s about understanding, accepting and connecting with your partner on a deep, psychological level. However, building and maintaining emotional intimacy can be challenging. At the Colorado Center of Clinical Excellence, we understand this challenge and are committed to helping couples foster stronger bonds. Before we delve into how therapy can help, let’s first identify some signs that you may need to build more emotional intimacy in your relationship: Feeling Disconnected: Experiencing a sense of isolation or disconnection, even when sharing the same physical environment, could be a potent sign of dwindling emotional intimacy. It’s like you’re co-existing rather than truly connecting on an emotional level. This situation often implies that you and your partner are not emotionally synchronized, which can gradually erode the fabric of your relationship if left unaddressed. Lack of Communication: Maintaining regular, open and sincere communication is a crucial pillar for any relationship. If you notice that your conversations have dwindled down to surface-level exchanges or have ceased entirely, it’s a significant warning sign that should not be overlooked. Avoiding Conflict: While it may be natural to want to steer clear of disagreements or heated

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