The Main Point
The main goal in my counselling approach is to help you attain and maintain freedom from the throes of addictive behavioural patterns . This freedom may be understood in different ways. For someone, it may mean total abstinence from using psychoactive substances (alcohol, tobacco or other drugs) or engaging in problematic behaviours (such as, for example, gambling or overeating). For others, it may mean continuing using addictive substances or other risky behaviours, but with a high degree of control, or cutting down and moderating use, or using in safer ways to avoid the potential harm and dangers.
Whatever you choose as your goal in treatment, realizing freedom from the chaos and pain of addictive behaviours will enable you to become fully, again or maybe for the first time, in charge of your life. Your health and your relationships with others, your sense of well-being at home and at work, will all improve as a result. Even if you cannot decide what exactly you want to achieve as a goal, that is not an obstacle to work on changing the nature of your relationships with addictive substances and/or activities. What is essential is to start where and how you are, keep an open-minded and curious attitude, and begin the experiential learning journey of self-exploration and behavioural change. The increased sense of self-acceptance and self-mastery will be both the cause and result of living a more meaningful, rich and joyful life.
The First Step
In working with you, I will first want to get a sense of you as a person and understand the main directions and episodes of your life story. To achieve this, we will do a thorough and comprehensive assessment that will cover the essential aspects of your history and current circumstances. The assessment questions will be related to your health (physical and mental), family and social relationships, work history, and of course the patterns and history of substance use and/or other risky behaviours.
The Following Steps
Next, we will look at how substance use and other problematic behaviours fit in the overall picture of your life. We will explore your personal relationship with substances and behaviours and what meanings these patterns of behavior have for you. Digging deeper, we will try to identify and understand what is the fundamental difficulty the addictive behaviours are attempting to overcome or minimize. There can be many reasons why people engage in hazardous behaviours, but many times the real reasons lie behind the more obvious ones that we are conscious of.
An important part of this exploration will be identifying the nature and degree of the ambivalence you most likely have regarding the behaviours that you repeatedly engage in, despite experiencing negative consequences as result of them. This ambivalence and confusion occur naturally whenever we contemplate a significant change in our life and can keep us feeling paralyzed (“stuck”) for long periods of time.
Once we become more aware of the nature, meaning and roles of addictive behaviour patterns in your life, we will together develop a treatment plan for dealing with the problem. What goals you want to achieve, where to focus, what to start with, how to approach it, what strategies and techniques to use — these are some of the components of the action plan.
We will be working together, as a team, on reaching the goals you develop for yourself. Whatever they are, they will include enhancing both self-understanding and self-acceptance. The negativity in thinking and feeling about your own self often prevents engaging in change and contributes to the continuation of the vicious circles of harmful behaviours. We will focus on developing practical skills to reduce emotional reactivity and increase distress-tolerance abilities. Also, as a very important part of this process, we will work on disabling harsh self-criticism and negative self-judgement, and promoting compassion toward your own self and others.
With genuine respect and care, I will listen to you deeply, with my mind and heart, and walk with you every step of the path toward a more authentic way of being. This can be a long and difficult journey, but very worthwhile and ultimately rewarding. As any journey, even the most arduous ones, yours too can start with small steps and you will benefit from my committed support and gentle guidance along the way. Learning to slow down, pause, and consciously reconnect with your embodied experience in the here and now will be one of the sources of responding more skillfully to the demands of the present moment, the only moment you really exist.
Technically Speaking …
If you are interested to know what—technically speaking—counselling approaches I am prone to use, I can mention empirically validated practices such as motivational interviewing, integrative harm reduction therapy, transtheoretical model of change, cognitive-behavioural therapy, relapse prevention, and—above all, or as the underlining tone of all—mindfulness. Developing and cultivating mindfulness skills, the ability to pay attention—with curiosity, kindness, and acceptance—to all aspects of our experience as it constantly changes, I see as a crucial condition and ingredient of the transformation into a more authentic life.
Generally Speaking …
Speaking more generally, my way of working with clients is rooted in and influenced by a rich wisdom tradition as it has been expressed in philosophy, transpersonal and Buddhist psychology, humanistic psychotherapy, and different contemplative and spiritual practices. The wisdom of this tradition is about living well, about how to make peace with your own self and the world, and my most sincere intention is to support you with my best on this path.
Therapy should not be theory-driven but relationship-driven.
— Irvin D. Yalom