Thank you for taking the time to learn about me and my approach to psychotherapy and life coaching. Finding the right therapist or life coach can be a crucial step toward establishing an integrated, peaceful and embodied lifestyle and experiencing richly rewarding relationships and meaningful work. So, it can be a good idea to do some research and get a feel for the person you are about to engage in this dance of healing, transformation and growth. I trust you'll find the following information helpful in guiding your decision.
Let's have a Zoom call! If you find that what you read below resonates with you, I invite you to join me for a 20-30 minute conversation via Zoom (similar to Skype only better). Or, if you prefer, we can have a phone chat (no charge either way). This is a great way to get a feel for me and my approach while exploring how I can best support you on your path. Drop me a note and we'll find a time that works for us.
My approach to psychotherapy and life coaching is grounded in a holistic wellness model, the belief that we all carry within us the wisdom and tools needed to be the very best human being possible. And we all need a little help from time to time to connect with these inner resources. From a place of open-hearted curiosity, we can discover how our higher self is being hijacked by past conditioning and current ways of thinking and being in the world. Then with courage, discipline and skilled guidance, we can bring resolution to these issues and put them and their associated anxiety, depression, damaging habits and general dissatisfaction with life behind us. My orientation expands beyond traditional approaches such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to include the more advanced approach of Meta-cognitive Therapy, looking beyond the content of our thoughts to the process of our thinking. This is one of the key skills developed through the mindfulness practices I often share with clients.
Integral psychotherapy and Life Coaching are rewarding paths of psychological and emotional healing that can lead to a life of integrity (being, feeling and acting like the person we really are), spiritual connectedness (realization of our relationship with all creation) and freedom (to reach our highest potential). This process positively impacts our overall quality of life, interpersonal and intimate relationships as well as career or life's work. The integral approach is quite useful in working with individual issues as well as intimate relationship issues, giving a couple a common language and perspective for fostering clear communication, deep understanding and heart-felt appreciation.
I have learned from many clients that a combination of perspective broadening/shifting (insight) and traditional forms of psychotherapy (changing thought patterns and behaviors, understanding family dynamics, etc.) can lead to significant improvement in functioning. I draw upon a wide variety of theories and therapeutic techniques in this work to find a system of therapy that resonates strongly with my client. When the usefulness of one system fades, we shift to another in order to move into the next layer of the healing process. It is sometimes helpful and even necessary to consider the foundations of attachment which were laid down during the early months of life in order to fully resolve current issues. For others, a single session is all that is needed to break through the barriers that are keeping them locked in a difficult dance with life.
From some clients I have learned that for many of us it is not only our mind and related emotions that are conditioned in ways that limit us, but our bodies also hold memories and associated reactive patterns that keep us caught in the past. For example, trauma-related somatic memories, which are encoded at a pre-verbal level, cannot be completely resolved through talk therapy or insight. These issues may manifest in something as simple as an inability to stop smoking, lose weight, or ask for a well-deserved raise or as complex as going into a freeze response at the slightest night-time noise, riding in a car or the sight of a red sweater (11-minute video about Polyvagal Theory). For these types of issues to be successfully addressed, we must work (verbally, not physically) in identifying bodily sensations that arise when traumatic memories (e.g., physical attack, accident, abusive childhood, shaming experiences) are triggered. The somatic portion of these past experiences are observed with mindful (non-reactive) awareness and allowed to physically and emotionally release (For more, watch this 27-minute video with Peter Levine). Then the full experience can be processed at a conscious, verbal level and integrated into a stabilizing, current reality-based life story.
Integration of Psychedelic (and other Mystical) Experiences: There is a growing awareness among therapists and clinical researchers that psychedelic substances (e.g., psilocybin, ayahuasca, mescaline, peyote, ibogaine, MDMA, LSD, DMT) can have both positive and negative impacts. Research shows that these substances can be detrimental to some, especially when consumed without careful attention to "set and setting" - preparation and environment. On the other side of the coin, folks like Timothy Leary, Ram Dass and Alan Watts proposed 50 years ago that these substances could lead one to an "awakening experience" of a deeper reality. Psychedelic experiences are often compared to transcendent or mystical experiences that can result from intense Zen practice (see Zig Zag Zen). Currently, respected institutions including John Hopkins, Harvard, Standford, UCLA, and the Veterans Administration are conducting research and on-going clinical trials into how these substances may be helpful in addressing challenging psychological and emotional issues including PTSD, chronic depression and substance abuse. MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) has been supporting these interventions for the past 30 years and the results are quite promising. For many, including some of my clients, psychedelic experiences are transformative and lead to freedom from years of confusion, pain and suffering. This interview with Michael Pollan provides an interesting perspective on this research as does this short TED talk and this one. For a more personal perspective, check out this blog posting about my experience in Peru with Ayahuasca. And there are those who point to common issues that arise when such experiences become "commercialized" - here is an excellent example.
My interest is in supporting those who have had psychedelic experiences in the past or plan to have these experiences in the near future - hopefully in a legal way ( e.g., this center in Guatemala). Research has clearly shown that integration is the key to getting the most from these transcendent experiences while avoiding a spiritual crisis which if not handled properly, can lead to a stay in a psychiatric hospital and other unpleasantness... Many folks give credit to their psychedelic journeys for their larger, clearer perspective of the world and their place in it. For some, it was an exciting time, just a fun thing to do. And for others, seeds were planted of profound questions - meaning and purpose of life. Seeds that were difficult to ignore. Check out this podcast by one of my integration clients disussing our work together. Here's some info on careful preparation for a Psychedelic Journey. It's becoming clear that it's time to honor psychedelic experiences by giving them a respectful role in our part of this amazing unfolding Mystery...
A growing number of my clients have had profound mystical experiences without any help from psychedelics. Their reports of the experience, the nature of the insights they gained and the shifts of perspective they now enjoy are remarkably similar to what I hear from clients who took the psychedelic route. On the other side of the coin, the disturbing issues and struggles to integrate these higher perspectives and transformative insights are also quite similar regardless of how the mystical experience came about.
If you would like support in integrating your psychedelic and/or mystical experience(s) into your healthy, firmly-grounded sense of self and way of being in world, drop me note and we'll set up a Zoom or phone chat to explore options for our working together.
Intimate Relationship Counseling, approached from an Integral perspective, can be very helpful for both committed couples as well as individuals who are seeking to establish a healthy partnership. Intimate relationships are considered by many researchers to be the foundation of a well-balanced, healthy and rewarding life. My approach is grounded in the research-based model developed by Sue Johnson - Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. EFT is grounded in attachment theory research and how dysfunctional patterns of interaction often have their source in this deeply-charged defensive system within the body/mind. I also draw from the work of John Gottman, David Schnarch and Keith Witt - rounding out the Integral approach of using the most effective tool to address the presenting issues. My wife Jordan and I also offer a variety of training programs including our Mindfulness Based Healthy Relationships which is a wonderful option for anyone, currently partnered or single, who is interested in developing the knowledge and skill sets to create and maintain a rewarding, long-term, intimate relationship. Click here to learn of the next program.
Support for the Balancing of Mind & Body: In addition to individual therapy/coaching and/or couples' counseling, and mindfulness training workshops (e.g., MBSR and Integral Mindfulness), I work closely with a small circle of healthcare professionals to provide a comprehensive mind/body/spirit approach (e.g., massage, nutrition, yoga, acupuncture) that help my clients move into a healthy, rewarding and productive lifestyle.
Internet Sessions: Today's internet services (e.g., Zoom) provide a secure, intimate, face-to-face connection from anywhere in the developed world. I began offering internet sessions some years ago to meet the needs of my clients who had relocated outside of the Louisville area. These clients found it very helpful to stay connected with a therapist with whom they shared a solid, supportive relationship. An internet session can also be quite useful when my clients are traveling or during times when schedule demands limit in-person sessions. Building on this success, internet conferencing is now a regular part of my professional practice even with some emotionally and psychologically stable clients with whom I have had no previous history. I am constantly impressed by how effective these sessions can be for those who are open to this form of communication. My licensure allows me to offer psychotherapy in the state of Kentucky and Life Coaching anywhere in the world.
My Approach to Psychotherapy & Life Coaching
In the paragraphs below I explain the various elements of my approach to psychotherapy and life coaching while offering personal background information that reveals my core values and belief systems. My hope is that sharing this personal information will help you to make a well-informed decision regarding our working together or at least prompt you to set up a free Zoom chat with me.
Wellness Orientation: Even before graduate school, I was drawn toward holistic wellness models, those that honored the freedom and dignity of the individual, those aimed at the cultivation of their highest level of functioning. During 25 years of offering psychotherapy, I have used many different models of psychological functioning to help my clients move to a place of balance and overall health. Early in my practice, I moved away from the pathological models that seem to dominate the field of mental health (e.g., a focus on diagnostic codes and requirements of a certain level of pathology for insurance reimbursement). I realized how disrespectful, potentially re-traumatizing and short-sighted this perspective was as it placed the client into a sick role and the therapist into that of a healer.
Collaborative Approach: I appreciate that my clients have the answers to the truly important questions in their life. It's just that these answers are often hidden somewhere deep within them or are being obscured by reactive patterns or limiting beliefs. So I strive to ensure that our work together is always in an environment of supportive collaboration and mutual respect. Drawing from a variety of developmental models, I support my clients in discovering their own direction through whatever transformational process they are currently experiencing. Then, having gotten in touch with their inner voice and a sense of inner safety, they become their own guide, their own coach. I'm available to offer direction when needed, while providing unwavering encouragement and support throughout the entire therapy/coaching process.
My personal transformative experiences and my work with clients has convinced me that we all have the innate wisdom, drive and natural capacity for bringing healing and wellness into our lives. My role is to help my clients discover their own inner wisdom, their own inner healer. Today my professional orientation fits fairly well under the umbrella of Integral Psychology.
Integral Psychology, first developed in the 1940s and more recently informed by the work of Ken Wilber, recognizes the truth and usefulness of the various schools of psychology and the methods of psychotherapy resulting from each. Integral Psychology takes the best from each and applies it where it can be the most helpful. This selection process is influenced by the client’s level of functioning (e.g., body, mind, soul, spirit) giving consideration to as many developmental lines (e.g., cognitive, moral, interpersonal, spiritual, affective) as possible and examining the lines from four perspectives (intentional, subjective, I; behavioral, objective, It; cultural, inter-subjective,We; and social, inter-objective, Its). Check out this pdf for an introduction to Integral Theory.
Bahman Shirazi of the California Institute of Integral Studies defines Integral Psychology as "a psychological system concerned with exploring and understanding the totality of the human phenomenon . . . (which) at its breadth, covers the entire body-mind-psyche-spirit spectrum, while at its depth . . . encompasses the previously explored unconscious and the conscious dimensions of the psyche, as well as the supra-conscious dimension traditionally excluded from psychological inquiry."
Integral Psychotherapy and Life Coaching are holistic in the extreme, as many aspects of ourselves as possible are taken into consideration, including both ordinary, altered and transcendent states of consciousness, levels of maturity and lines of development, and personality types - all seen from internal and external as well as individual and collective perspectives. Not only mind, body, soul and spirit but also shadow, developmental trauma and attachment issues the unconscious elements of our make-up that so frequently trip us up in life, are included in the process of discovering what is blocking the emergence of one’s true nature and highest potential. Shadow and trauma work involves the uncovering, engaging and owning hidden or rejected aspects of both mind and body and bringing them into awareness where their energy can be transformed and used to support the creative unfolding of our lives. Trauma resolution often involves somatic (body centered) approaches such as Somatic Experiencing. Attachment issues can result in an underlying sense of being unsafe, out-of-touch with others, unwelcomed in the world, having poor emotional control, generally feeling unsupported and lacking in self-confidence. These shortcomings can shape one's life from early childhood onward and can significantly impact one's relationships. Being aware of these issues is the first step in "re-parenting" and healing from the ground up. (Read an excellent article on Integral Psychotherapy.)
Many find this integrated approach very helpful in their process of personal healing and transformation. Exploring the lay of one’s psychic landscape using such a multifaceted lens with non-judgmental curiosity and patience, reveals both the strong and the underdeveloped qualities - areas that need attention and areas that can provide the support needed to move along this transformative path. A meditation practice can be an effective ally in this challenging work.
Mindfulness: My early training in clinical hypnosis led to an interest in meditation that has come to dominate my life, both personally and professionally. Developing the skills of mindfulness, even at a beginner’s level, allows a shift of perspective from personalizing an experience (i.e., a sensation from the five senses or a thought arising in the mind) to observing it with patient, nonjudgmental awareness. This certainly has benefit out in the world, meaning less attachment to and craving for pleasant experiences, less aversion to unpleasant experiences and therefore less suffering. Mindfulness as a lifestyle can help us move into more healthy ways of living less stress and anxiety, more moments of restorative stillness, and peace and more rewarding relationships.
My personal experience as well as a growing body of clinical research,suggests that mindfulness, while helpful in ordinary life, can have an extraordinary impact on deep emotional and psychological healing processes such as those found in integral psychotherapy. Learning through direct experience that we are not our thoughts, not our sensations, not our stories, opens up possibilities for engaging repressed memories and their related stored physical energies and resolving them, with much less distress or anxiety. With mindful, nonjudgmental awareness, we get to see the Wizard behind the curtain and know the truth about these distressing images and passing bodily sensations – that they are impermanent. We learn that if we acknowledge and own them, give them space and stop feeding them in our old conditioned way, they will eventually discharge their energy (and therefore their control over us) and pass away. When we take a step outside the chaos of the mind and body and watch from the safe seat of mindfulness as the show of thoughts and sensations passes by, in those moments, we are free to choose a healthy and fulfilling path for our lives. If you would like a brief taste of mindfulness, find a comfortable position and listen to this 10-minute guided meditation).
Psychotherapy vs. Life Coaching: Over the recent years, there has been a growth in “coaching” in a variety of formats some historically fitting under the rubric of “psychotherapy,” others, not. This has generated a lot of discussion in the professional trade journals about the differences and similarities between psychotherapy and life coaching and the relative benefits of each. When I first began learning about coaching, I realized I was often shifting between therapy and coaching with my typical psychotherapy client. We just weren't formally acknowledging the shifts as we made them but the shifts were happening. At other times a client feels ready to conclude formal psychotherapy and move on to working with a life coach. This shift to coaching can provide a new direction for personal development. When we intentionally make this shift together, these clients have access to a life coach who already knows them well. The coaching process begins without the need for any "getting to know each other time."
From my perspective, both psychotherapy and coaching have their place and both can be quite beneficial. When compared to coaching, psychotherapy has a much deeper potential reach into the murky waters of the conditioned mind-body-spirit-shadow of an individual. Past issues, traumas and injuries can be uncovered and resolved within the safe container of a psychotherapeutic relationship. Coaching having a more future- and goal-directed orientation, offers valuable wellness-focused support and mentoring. This is perfect for those who aren’t moved to engage in psychotherapy at this time in their life but who are still invested in reaching their highest potential.
Therapeutic Alliance: Over the years I have been repeatedly reminded of one of the foundations of effective psychotherapy a warm, trusting and mutually respectful relationship between client and therapist. The process of establishing this relationship has many variables, some obvious, some quite subtle. But generally they include feeling safe and respected, sensing that I am truly invested in your wellbeing and will be able to help you with your problems. And I must be effective in helping you find the motivation to do your share of the work and be willing to endure some discomfort in the process. These elements form the foundation for our working productively and efficiently together. It may take a session or two to get a clear picture of how this process is unfolding and to see how we best work together. This can be especially true in couple's work - getting everyone on the same page can sometimes take a session or two. If you have read down this far and are still wondering if we would work well together, please feel free to call or email me and we’ll find a time for a phone or Zoom chat so you can get a better feel for my style and approach and get answers to any of your questions.
Clinical Supervision for Psychologists: I am approved to serve as a clinical supervisor by the Kentucky Board of Examiners of Psychology for psychologists practicing in Kentucky who require supervision for a variety of reasons (e.g., pre-licensure, practice or ethical violation). If you are in this situation and resonate with my approach, please contact me and we'll explore options for our working together.
Thank you again for taking time to learn about my clinical orientation and the professional services that I offer. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 502 727 2996