I practice psychotherapy from an existential (sometimes also referred to as phenomenological) perspective. From this perspective, people are meaning-making, meaning-responding kinds of beings. Meaning is the basic "stuff" of our psychological lives. We are always involved in making sense of ourselves, of others and of the world around us.Therapy is an aid to this project of finding meanings in our lives, helping us get unstuck from the kinds of relating that limit and constrict us, and then discovering ways of connecting that allow us to feel more alive, have greater vitality, and a deeper sense of purpose. Therapy is an aid to this project of finding meanings in our lives, helping us get unstuck from the ways of relating that limit and constrict us, and then discovering kinds of relating that allow us to feel more alive, have greater vitality, and a deeper sense of purpose. The choices that you make in living life are definitely your business; our goal in therapy is to enhance your engagement with life so that you have a greater array of choices.
Because meaning-making happens over time, it has a narrative character: meanings + time = story or narrative. Therapy is a kind of intense conversation in which we work together to help you generate a genuine and realistic narrative that gives you the past you can live with, a present you can live in, and a future for which you can strive.
Of course no one can change the "facts" of their lives, but the significance of these facts can shift when we consciously and deliberately sift through our experience with sensitivity, honesty, compassion, and courage. In therapy, we pay attention to what anxiety or depression tell us about ourselves, to what our dreams reveal about what we have overlooked or fail to see in our waking lives, and to acknowledge the reality of familial, social, and economic influences that we haven’t chosen but nonetheless affect our lives.
One of the things that I find most challenging for people in this process is the confidence that they can bear the sorrow that invariably is a part of all of our stories. I firmly believe that happiness and sorrow are interwoven in our existence and a measure of our humanity: if we cannot find joy in love or achievement, or feel sad when facing our own or others' losses, what kind of person would we be?
From the perspective of archetypal psychology, a perspective that I also find insightful and highly relevant, psychotherapy is in the service of soul-making: the deepening of events into experiences, the encounter with mortality and finitude found in love and religion, and a sense of the metaphorical, poetic side of things (Hillman 1975). This is dimension of life that connects us to what matters, provides depth in our stories, and gives meaning to our existence.