My clients are some of the strongest and bravest people I know. Everyday in my office I have the privilege of witnessing people step up and move in the direction of what they care about most. And what is most inspiring is watching people do this in the presence of painful thoughts, feelings or memories.
The people I love to work with are in a really interesting place in their life. They are questioning themselves. They are questioning their choices and they are often wondering “where do I go from here?” The people that walk into my office are suffering with depression, anxiety, shame or they are having relationship difficulties. They are often looking for someone who will work to “get rid of” or eliminate their pain. However, what is often discovered in the initial stages of therapy is the idea that trying to rid themselves of pain and distress only increases it, and turns it into something more problematic.
Where I see strength and resilience is when that person comes to an awareness of an alternative response to pain. And that alternative response is to accept it – but that doesn’t mean giving up, being defeated or agreeing with suffering. Acceptance is an acknowledgement of and a willingness to allow these experiences to be as they are.
In my work at Collaborative Counseling and Psychiatry, I help people learn to make room for painful feelings, thoughts, and sensations. We work on learning how to allow those painful emotions to be there and to notice their coming and going without struggling against them. Acceptance then becomes a powerful alternative to struggling against thoughts, feelings, memories or sensations. I help people move toward acceptance by teaching mindfulness. This approach is a way of observing your experience, in the present moment, without judgment. Mindfulness also helps us to distance ourselves from unhelpful thoughts, reactions and sensations.
At the same time, I help the person make the commitment to engage in values-based living. It is the person’s values that give their life meaning and purpose. To help the person identify their values, I challenge them to think about what it is in their life that is REALLY important to them and what gives them their life meaning and purpose.
And this is where I see the incredible strength in people with whom I work. The aim of my work with people of all ages is to maximize their potential for a rich, full and meaningful life. And when this occurs in my office, I see people free themselves from the traps and barriers of life. I see people begin to create what they really want their life to be about.
As I said in the opening sentence, my clients are some of the strongest and most courageous people I know. It is truly a humbling and awesome experience to see people in my office do this work.