A Conversation That Changes Us
It’s natural to wonder how therapy works: “How is this going to make me feel better?” or, “If I’m really sick, what’s talking going to do about it; why not just take a pill?” Underneath these questions lies a deep-seated puzzlement about the separation between body and mind. Where is the mind? Isn’t it the same as the brain?
On my business card, I use the symbol to the right. It is Chinese calligraphy of the word “xin”. Most literally, it means the heart, the physical organ. Because the ancients believed thoughts and feelings were located in the heart, the word came to mean “heart/mind” or even “spirit”. I think it’s an apt symbol for psychotherapy because it addresses the ambiguities of mind and body as well as thoughts and feelings.
I don’t approach my clients believing that I know what healing will mean for each of them. If we can work together, we might slowly learn what suffering has meant for you and what you want healing to mean for you.When our “heart/mind” is ill at ease, how do we heal? In the last decade, tremendous progress has been made in neuroscience, in our understanding of how the brain works, especially in how the signals between nerves are mediated by chemicals called neurotransmitters. We actually can “take a pill” and change the way our brain works, how we think and how we feel. We shouldn’t forget that our knowledge of these processes is still rudimentary. Still, when our anguish is truly great, or our ability to function is deeply compromised, we need to attack the problem chemically even if we know we aren’t using a perfect instrument. Suffering too much can be dangerous. If you decide to work with a psychiatrist or are already working with one, I will assist her or him in finding the right medication and dealing with any difficulties that arise.
the brain, the mind and psychotherapeutic healing
Another scientific advance in brain research has been our ability to observe the functioning of the brain in living subjects as they have different kinds of experiences, feelings, or thoughts. We have seen, for example, that as people think certain kinds of thoughts, very specific parts of the brain became active and energized. We also know that the electrical functioning of the brain is changed in different mood states. It’s wonderful to see these things proven by science, but we shouldn’t forget how obvious these general results are, how much the core of them is simple common sense: if you do something to your brain, it’s going to change how your mind works. Equally obvious: If you think and feel differently, it’s going to change the brain (or the heart, or the rest of the body). Psychotherapyis a method of learning how to use the heart/mind to think and feel differently.
Psychotherapy works through the interaction between me and you. I bring to this interaction many years of training, lots of life’s joys and sorrows and, I hope, my compassionate heart. I don’t approach my clients believing that I know what healing will mean for each of them. If we can work together, we might slowly learn what suffering has meant for you and what you want healing to mean for you. In the practice of communicating with each other — within the nourishing safety of a compassionate connection — about what loss and change mean to you, the very process of revealing to yourself what has been hidden becomes the healing itself. If you want to begin this process, please contact me.