What we believe about health
"Psychotherapy" or "Counseling" or even "coaching" involves two major questions that we must consider:
1. How do you define the problem?
2. How do you create change?
After all, if you are seeking any of these, you have come to realize that you are stuck, struggling, and/or in need of help either for yourself and/or your loved one. How you see the problem, your understanding of how you are stuck, and how you view your efforts to overcome the problem can bring about a lot of pain, confusion and hopelessness. Furthermore, we can be very influenced by how others see and define our problems and efforts, what our culture and the world says we should do... or not do. With the Pacifica Group, we seek to step out of old conversations that keep you stuck and feeling hopeless... and into new conversations that give you a sense of connection, power and purpose in your life.
What is the Problem?
First, we do not believe our problems lie with inside of us. When a person, a couple or a family is struggling, we do not believe there is something wrong with a person, that the problem is inside a person, or that a person is the problem. We believe problems lie outside of people and it is how people relate to those problems and issues that affect them on the inside. In exploring problems and issues, we do not believe we should go about it like a doctor, looking at the symptoms, making a diagnosis, and then peeling back the mental and emotional layers of the brain to figure out what then is wrong. Instead, we explore relationships, how they work, what kinds of meaning we are creating through them, and how they affect us emotionally and physically. Most often times, the symptoms of depression and anxiety are the body's natural reactions to the fear, sadness and pain of harmful meaning and negative beliefs. Over time, these symptoms can root themselves and our body struggles more and more, working at a major deficit to what it needs to live in vitality.
Born to Relate
I believe a person is understood in a context, through his or her relationships with others and the outside world. In other words, we cannot understand who we are, how we work, or the problems and struggles we have without looking at the relationship systems we live in. There are small systems, like our marriage and our family, and there are big systems, like our school, our workplace, our city... our country. We have interactions with everyone, with various agency , power and resources at each level. The closer the system, the more important the person, the greater the meaning and affect, mentally, emotionally and physically in our lives. The less agency we feel, the less power and resources we have, the more intense the issues can be and the more hopeless we may feel.
What separates Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) from the rest of the helping professions in psychology is their grounding in this philosophy of Systems Theory. It is a theory of relationships.
I believe that people are not born to be independent, self-sufficient beings. Rather, we are from the moment of our birth in need of other human beings. In short, we were created for connection, made to be in relationship. It is the type of relationships that matter. When we live with relationships of safety and security, of trust and dependability, we are more autonomous, free to explore our gifts, our abilities, and what life has to offer. Indeed, research has even shown that our physical health, our capacity to learn, and our lifespan are improved with strong relationships.
How do we change?
What then, does this mean when we go about looking to change something? After all, most of us would describe success in therapy as having been able to change something... to overcome the problem, heal, find new meaning, or live differently.
Often times, when we look inward, we treat only the symptoms of the problem. We learn coping skills, correcting thoughts, communication skills, and strategies to deal with our struggles... but we don't change the problems. Even medication, which can definitely help, doesn't actually fix the problem. Change comes when we are able to first understand how we are relating to the problems that affect ourselves and our relationships and with that understanding work together to relate to the problem differently. This means we can access different parts of ourselves that are overlooked, utilize resources outside ourselves, and most of all find the support of those we need to help us see things differently. It is not just understanding that brings about change, but experience... and connection.
Connection is key
Connection can often be the hardest part. It is the parts of ourselves that are afraid to reach out, to open up or to share, that get in the way. We can be afraid of what others think of us, especially those most important to us, and we then don't believe that they will care or that we matter enough to them. We won't believe they will be there for us in our need.
We will then isolate ourselves, withdraw and shut down... or we find ourselves increasingly frustrated, negative and critical, anxious and ready to fight. Sometimes both. Ultimately, this means we never experience the deepest parts of those we nee and love who love us, need us, and truly want to be there for us in taking on the problems and issues we confront. Even if we do see signs of their love and care... we don't trust it. We don't believe it. And so we live alone in our hurt and pain.
Vulnerability and steps to change can be extremely scary. We we most want in life... we are most afraid of. It requires great courage to step forward in vulnerability, to take chances, to reach out. As your therapist, I am your companion on that journey, a guide and support that will help you and your loved ones come to a deeper understanding of what you are experiencing, discover what really is needed to overcome issues, and provide a safe place to take those risks in vulnerability. To realize in those moments that you are not alone, that you are loved, that you do matter to those you need can be powerful and life changing. More so, to experience repeatedly their love for you brings you to a place where you can trust and believe in them. You become empowered in connection, free to be who you are and safe to ask for what you need.
You are no longer alone. And that changes everything.