Your self-image develops from your traits, environment, and experiences, and it influences many aspects of your life. A realistic and positive self-image contributes to your ability to exert control over your life, to reach your personal and professional goals, to build friendships or relationships, and so much more. However, a maladaptive or negative self-image can mature into fear, anxiety, depression, and other distressing psychological symptoms.
I specialize in using cognitive-behavioral therapy and solution oriented approaches to help people make lasting changes to their thoughts and beliefs that lead to real changes in their lives. I work with adults who struggle with general anxiety or worry, fears, social anxiety, obsessions and compulsions, attention deficit, impulsivity, depression, bipolar, and chronic physical illnesses. I also work with children aged 5-12 struggling with school attendance or performance related to anxiety, selective mutism, attention deficit-hyperactivity, low self-esteem, learning disabilities, and bullying.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy and solution oriented approaches are also helpful when your life situation is the root of your distress. I also treat individuals experiencing changing life circumstances, trauma, or life transitions like coming out as LGBT, adjusting to being a new parent, going through a divorce or break up, or being diagnosed with an illness.
What is Cognitive-behavioral therapy?
A main feature of CBT is its emphasis on working in the "here and now" to help individuals learn how to recognize and change the way their thoughts and beliefs influence their emotions and behaviors. This isn't the lay on the couch, tell me about your dreams, and I'll analyze them type of therapy. It is much more direct and requires people to be motivated and to actively participate in therapy.
Anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses develop from a number of factors: genetics, the way we were raised, our experiences, etc. But the majority of mental illnesses are transient, meaning that they can go away, especially with treatment.
So, how does CBT work? When people feel anxious or depressed, they view themselves and their world in ways that are biased towards pessimism or in ways that maintain their negative beliefs. Sometimes, this is adaptive. Imagine you are a student who struggles with math. You may have the belief that you are "bad at math." Now, this thought by itself is not bad. It could help motivate you to study a little harder or go to tutoring. However, thoughts sometimes evolve into maladaptive patterns. For example, "I am bad at math" can become "I am bad at math, so I'm not going to pass this test. If I fail this test, I am going to end up failing college and won't be able to get a job or pay my bills and I will have to live under the Manhattan bridge with my two cats." This thought, understandably, increases anxiety and depression. If it were true, it means that your entire future depends on passing this test. That's a lot of pressure! That kind of thought might lead a person to feel so overwhelmed that they can't study for the test. They might procrastinate and watch an entire season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer instead of studying or going to tutoring. The effects of not studying may then very well make the person fail the test. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy and it is ugly.
CBT helps people view themselves, others, and the world more realistically by directly challenging maladaptive thoughts and beliefs. What about things that are realistically bad, like getting a divorce, or losing a job? CBT can also be used to help find realistic solutions to real problems. Either way, the result is that you feel more autonomous or in control of your life.