Therapy

Some basics about my therapy practice

I offer therapy clients hope and confidence to overcome their struggles, no matter how difficult those struggles might seem to them. Clients gain confidence as I help them learn new ways of solving their problems. Clients trust my ability to help them because they see that I believe in solving my problems in the same way I am helping them find solutions to their problems.

Why is my practice called “Jupiter Center?” The symbol at the top left of the page is an ancient symbol for Jupiter. It symbolizes how personal choices based on honest self-awareness can overcome even the most difficult circumstances (“mind over matter”). I also see in the symbol the number “24.” To be real in therapy with my clients, I need to be as genuine as I can be in my own life – twenty-four hours a day. Being genuine about who I am with my clients also makes being a therapist more rewarding for me because we are able to establish a connection more meaningful for each of us. Helping people this way is why I enjoy being a therapist.

My background: I have a Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling and am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I practiced business law as a trial lawyer for thirteen years before starting out as a therapist in 2003–that’s the “JD” (Juris Doctor) in my title. Before college, I was a troubled teen with a bleak future, who turned his life around, graduated Summa Cum Laude from the U of M, and went on to law school and graduate school. I live the change I seek for my clients.

My therapeutic style tends to be more directive and proactive than many therapists (depending on the client’s needs). I want to make sure my clients are getting the most out of their sessions with me, so we exchange different ways of seeing things as much as possible. I ask many questions and make frequent observations, all designed to help clients (1) increase self-awareness and become less afraid of themselves and their feelings, (2) so they can make better choices, (3) toward greater satisfaction with themselves and in their relationships. I also want clients to learn from their experiences in therapy how to be their own therapist, so they can ask themselves the necessary questions to foster continued growth and positive change by the time they are done with therapy.

Clients often tell me therapy with me is not what they expected—in a good way, and they have made changes they didn’t think possible. In previous therapy jobs, I have been the guy who takes clients whose issues other therapists might find too difficult or clients who have had unsatisfactory experiences in therapy. I can help just about any client, no matter what their issues might be, as long as they are serious about wanting change, even if the client isn’t really sure change is possible.

I work with adults and adolescents, including couples, families and individuals, addressing anxiety, depression, chemical dependency and other addictions, PTSD and trauma (physical and sexual abuse, rape and domestic violence), multiracial family and relationship issues, adoption, divorce, issues related to the criminal justice system, ADHD, truancy and other academic issues affecting adolescents.

Insurance and cost: I am an in-network provider for most major insurers, including Medical Assistance (but not Medicare), Blue Cross, CIGNA, AETNA, UCare and Preferred One. Please note: I am in HealthPartner’s secondary network which means I may not be in your provider network depending on your plan.  My regular rate ranges from $150 to $225 depending on the length of the session. I offer a “cash discount” if payment is made at the time of the session (by check, credit card or cash). Sliding fee rates can also be made available upon request.

Contact information: To find out more about me and my services, to make a referral, or to arrange an appointment, please contact me.

What is therapy?

As a therapist, I continually ask myself basic questions about therapy.  What is “therapy?”  When does therapy work?  How do I know it is working?  What is the ultimate point of therapy?  Am I doing all the things I should be doing to help make the process as valuable and beneficial to my client as it can be?  What kind of therapist am I?  These are important, complex, and not easily answered questions.  I am sure I will need to repeat these questions to myself and my colleagues for as long as I am a therapist.  I hesitate to think what might happen, how inattentive, lazy, or just plain ineffective I might become if I decided I knew the answers to these questions completely.  Let’s just say I know myself well enough to know this is not very likely! I don’t trust and am not all that interested in definitive answers to these questions.  I trust an evolving process which keeps me attentive and interested in my own internal processes and the process of doing therapy with clients that teaches me every day in every session something new about therapy, myself and my clients.

So, then, what is “therapy” (by this I mean “psychotherapy” not any of the other kinds, like physical therapy, etc.)? Therapy is a process in which therapists and clients (individuals, couples, and families) engage in private meetings that are comfortable enough to allow them to work together to explore, identify and propose possible solutions to emotional and mental health issues faced by the clients which the client considers, modifies and implements all to bring about the changes desired by the client.

This simple description means that therapy has the following basic and essential components:

1)   Therapist(s);

2)   Client(s);

3)   Privacy;

4)   Trust or “comfort;”

5)   Client desire for change;

6)   Therapist expertise in facilitating helpful process

7)   Exploration of problem;

8)   Identification of causes;

9)   Proposed solutions; and

10) Implementing solutions.

It is surprising, isn’t it, that what seemed like a fairly straightforward process has so many parts.  I could probably even identify more details, but this list seems to illustrate the point: therapy has many varying and important components.  Like I said, the questions at the beginning of this discussion are complicated and difficult.

None of the other components in therapy make any difference at all unless the client both wants to make change in their lives and has some basic level of trust or comfort that the process is likely to lead to the kind of change she or he is seeking.  Now that leads to other questions, like how does the client know what kind of changes he or she might want in their lives?  How can the client begin to trust the therapist has the kind of skills, knowledge, abilities to help the client identify those changes, and how they can be achieved?  A client could, for example, trust that a therapist is genuinely interested in their well-being, is passionate about their work, will keep things confidential, will not judge them, cares about them, but still not know or be sure or trust that this particular therapists understands their issues well enough to really help them.

The best I can say for now is that, first of all, and obviously, not every therapist is going to be right for every client.  Second, therapy is an evolving process. At one point in a client’s life, he or she might benefit from a therapist who is “client-centered,” who is mostly a sounding board, offering little feedback, and offering mostly care, support, and quiet empathy.  This might be just “what the doctor ordered” when a client is in the middle of a transition period.  This approach might be woefully inadequate later on, when the client has moved beyond that transitional or emotionally traumatic situation, and now wants to look back at it in detail to understand why it happened, and how they need to do things differently to avoid a repeat of that situation. At that point, they might want a therapist who is far more probing.  The same therapist could do both, but maybe not. The client needs to be as open and aware as they can be to determine what their needs are, and whether their therapist can meet those particular needs.

Hopefully, the therapist will be equally aware and open about how they approach therapy in general, and what ideas and methods they might be able to utilize to help clients find the solutions that work best for them. Just as not every therapist is going to be able to meet the needs of every client, not every client’s problem is the kind of problem any particular therapist might be well-suited to help solve. I tend to avoid working with young children, knowing there are those therapists out there who are better able and more interested in providing such services. Don’t get me wrong, I like children and always enjoy when clients bring their children into sessions so I can meet them, or in case they are part of the issue, or the client couldn’t find a sitter.  After working with children in the first several years of practice, I found myself not being all that good at it, not knowing how to help them in ways other therapists seem to know.  Part of knowing what you do well is knowing what you don’t do so well.  So, when someone asks me to see their child under the age of 14, I refer them to therapists who are better able to meet those therapy needs. I also refer to other therapists those whose primary therapy issue when they contact me is an eating disorder.  Again there are specialists out there who really know what they are doing with this issue, and I am not one of them.

There are studies that show the therapist’s technique is definitely not the most important factor in determining the success of therapy.  Before learning about these studies, I had found this to be true when I was a therapy client, so I had some personal observations that confirmed the truth of this.  Those studies show that the most important factor is client motivation for change.  Check!  The second most important factor is the nature of the relationship between the client and the therapist. Check!  A distant third factor is the kind of techniques or approach of the therapist. Check!  In my years in and out of therapy (see my blog on my experiences as a therapy client), the most effective by far was a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Not because he focused on how to help my family function better—he never met anyone in my family, only working with me as an individual client for several years.  My therapy with him was effective because of the kind of therapy relationship we established. The rest, his training, his therapy approach, his ideas about psychotherapy, were a very minor part of what made our therapy so helpful.  He was open-minded, sensitive, didn’t try to tell me who I was, and he also seemed to just “get” me.  This was exactly what I needed at that time in my life with those issues I brought to therapy.

A good match between the client and the therapist means the client believes that this particular therapist is well suited to be able to understand the client, their problems, and the therapist will have some good ideas about how to help the client move through those problems so they can understand themselves better and make the kinds of changes that they deem necessary to solve their problems. This will also reinforce the client’s motivation for and belief in the possibility of positive changes.  Maybe, then, a partial but pretty good answer to the question, “what is therapy” is this: Therapy is a relationship between a client and a mental health professional in which they are both invested in exploring the client’s mental health issue in a way that feels safe and productive so the client can try different ways of resolving the issues with the help of their therapist.  It’s not a complete answer, but it’s a pretty good start.

 The kind of therapist I am

What kind of therapist am I? There are many different kinds of “therapy.”  There is “physical therapy,” “massage therapy,” “art therapy,” and the list goes on.  Technically speaking (and I do not like this term because it is sounds so weird), I am a “psychotherapist.”  Would you want to call yourself a “psychotherapist?” I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but much of what I do is similar to some of the things they do.  Unlike a psychiatrist, I cannot and do not prescribe medications.  Unlike a psychologist, I do not administer psychological tests (I suppose I could if I wanted to, but I am not trained for it, and am not interested in it).  Of course, not all psychiatrists prescribe medication and not all psychologists administer tests, and even those that do, don’t necessarily limit there activities to just these things.

So, I am back to “psychotherapist.”  Yikes.  Okay, well my professional background calls me a “Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.”  Some people think this means I am essentially a “marriage counselor.”  Not true. Sure, I see married couples pretty often, but I don’t do “marriage counseling” with them (counselors give advice, and generally speaking I do not give advice, I ask questions that help clients find their own answers).

I could call myself a “family therapist.”  And this is actually mostly what I say when someone asks, “what do you do (meaning, I suppose, “how do you pay your bills and spend your weekdays”)?”  I say, “I am a family therapist.” Usually, they give me a vaguely confused look, but seem more or less satisfied that I answered the question.  Here’s the problem: while its true I am trained as a family therapist, and I do see families together, most of the time, I see just one client at a time. This is not “family therapy.”  It is “individual therapy.”  The reasons I see mostly one client at a time are somewhat complicated, and have something to do with the way our society sees therapy as a medical intervention (which means insurance companies view therapy as treating something medically wrong with the individual I am seeing and it is my job to find out what is wrong with them and fix the problem).  I go along with this because it is partly true—most of my clients do have serious problems they want to resolve in therapy—and because most of them couldn’t afford therapy unless insurance were willing to pay for most of it.  So, I am a “family therapist” who sees some couples, some families, but mostly individuals.  For the rest of this discussion, I will restrict my thoughts mostly to how I view individual therapy, and reserve for separate discussions how I view therapy with couples and  therapy with families.

When I went to school to become a therapist, I had to decide, do I want to become a psychologist?  A Licensed Clinical Social Worker?  A Psychiatrist?  Or a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist?  These were the four main kinds of credentials that would allow me to practice therapy in the widest possible venues (including being able to submit claims for my sessions with clients to their insurance companies).  I decided on Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in part because the basis for the “approach” or the philosophy behind it seemed to make the most sense in the context of “psychotherapy” (there’s that word again).  Marriage and Family Therapy is a field that basically believes that the best way to help people achieve a psychologically and emotionally healthy way of living their lives is to incorporate how we function in our family relationships, or put another way, how well our families function as units, and how well we function within them.  That’s a very broad and generalized statement, but seems to capture the gist of the underlying premise of Marriage and Family Therapy as a way of seeing therapy. Anyway, this seemed pretty legitimate to me.  I just “made sense” to me.  I mean, doesn’t it make sense?  Its not the whole story of how well we function in our lives, but it seems to be a good starting point.

There are many different “schools” of family therapy, each with its own ideas of how to gauge whether a family is functioning well and how to apply different ideas and techniques in therapy to bring about changes toward more healthy functioning.  I found some of these approaches and ideas helpful, some were bizarre, some seemed useless, some I still use today, after practicing therapy for over ten years, including family systems theories, narrative therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), experiential therapy, existential therapy, and solution focused therapy.  I still believe I made a good choice in deciding to become a family therapist for my credentials.  It has served me and my clients well, but it is only a small part of what I have come to know is important for providing clients the help they need in therapy.

I am the kind of therapist who tends to be pretty engaged, talking a lot, asking a lot of questions, probing, curious, even directive when it is appropriate and might be helpful. This is just the kind of person I am.  I am not going to and do not want to change this part of myself in order to be a therapist. That would be fake. And I would fail.  I have participated in many sessions with clients in which I said almost nothing the entire session because during that particular session, the client needed to talk most of the time.  If a client needed that to be the case during most of our sessions, that kind of therapy approach wouldn’t work for me, and so I wouldn’t be a good fit for that client.

If a client really doesn’t want the kind of approach that is consistent with who I am as a person, it is better for them, and for me, if they find someone who is more passive, quiet, taking a more reflective stance.  This is why I am up front about this on my website, other marketing materials, and it is also pretty obvious right away when you meet me.  I say things like “I tend to be more direct and proactive than most therapists….”  How do I know this?  Clients tell me this.  They repeatedly tell me their previous therapist(s) were far more passive, mostly listening, encouraging, supportive, but not adding a lot or giving too much feedback.  I make no judgments about this kind of approach.  It is probably helpful in many cases.  It just wouldn’t work for me.  Fortunately, most clients who come to see me already know this from my materials so when they contact me they have probably decided this kind of approach is something that they think will be a good fit.  On the other side of the equation, if a client doesn’t want, need or like this kind of approach, I will likely never hear from them because they see it in my marketing materials and then will contact someone who fits their needs better. I think this is just fine.  I want clients to find what works best for them.

Many of my past and even current clients would probably be surprised to here me say this: I bring a considerable amount of self-doubt into most sessions. I am always a little nervous every time I leave my office to go out to the lobby to greet my client for that session.  I have doubts about whether I will know what that client needs from me on that day, whether I will know what to say, how to feel about myself and them, how to be present for them in a way that is real and open to whatever they might happen to have going on with them. I am often not even sure how to start the session, how to open up the dialogue, whether I should say something or let them speak first.  I really mean that I go through this thought process most of the time before and at the beginning of sessions.  This is still true after ten years of doing therapy.  Here’s the thing, though:  I want it to be this way.  I wouldn’t want it to be any other way.  I trust my doubt.  I find it inspiring.  It isn’t fake.  I don’t “try to be doubtful.”  It is not some kind of contrived state, the “not knowing” mindfulness thing.  It is real, natural, and actually sometimes pretty uncomfortable. The (usually) slight anxiety I bring into each session keeps me alert, honest with myself, appropriately humble and open to my limitations, my lack of knowledge about that client on that day.

There is a scene in John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” (it’s in either the book or movie, I can’t remember which, or maybe it’s in both) that captures this sentiment of not knowing so well.  At the beginning of the book, the main character, Tom Joad, runs into the local town minister. They walk together for a bit, catching up on what’s new since Tom went to prison.  Much later in the book, they run into each other again at a labor protest.  The minister is there as a protestor, a labor agitator.  Tom asks him why he isn’t preaching.  The minister says (I’m paraphrasing based on my memory of the scene), “A preacher man, he got to know, know the answers.  I ain’t got the answers no more, Tom, alls I gots is questions, so I can’t be a preacher man no more.” Like him, I am no preacher.  I do not have “the answers” to anyone’s problems.  I have ideas.  I have questions.  I have care, concern, and curiosity.  I have limited but helpful knowledge based on education and experiences about human behavior, motivations, and interactional patterns in relationships.  I use these ideas and knowledges as a basis to observe and listen to clients tell me about themselves and their life situations. I offer these observations to clients to see what fits for them.  Much of the time, my questions, ideas, and knowledge are right on the button.  Other times, they are not.  It is always up to the client to decide what fits and what doesn’t.  I actively encourage clients to feel free to tell me when my ideas and observations do not fit with their understanding of themselves.  Being wrong and being right are both important parts of getting to know the client, of helping the client get to know themselves better.  When a client tells me I am wrong, it helps us both understand the client in a different way by exploring why it is wrong.  I try very hard to not let my own ego (thinking I need to be right to be okay with myself) get in the way of what the client needs to increase their understanding of themselves and create new coping skills for whatever bothers them. After all, as a therapist, I am not in the session for me, I am there for the client.

The process of therapy

The process of therapy is different for every client.  All clients have different needs, goals, issues, personalities, levels of development, self-awareness and expectations.  It is important for me to cater my approach and processes in therapy to the individual needs of all unique clients.  No one approach fits everyone. At the same time, there are common elements to the overall enterprise of therapy, or “how it works” (when I am the therapist) that I will try to share here. I have provided some of my thoughts on exploring symptoms, identifying causes and proposing and implementing solutions in the blog: “Acknowledging the problem isn’t enough.”

At first, I consistently use a couple of tools and a general structure to enhance the intake process in therapy, which can then set the stage for ongoing therapy. For the first two to three sessions, I prefer a free-flowing conversation with a client.  We talk about what is particularly causing them distress right now in their lives. I want to make sure they are more or less okay, that they are not in danger of hurting themselves or being hurt by someone else.  Also, I want them to know how it is going to feel for them to be able to talk to me about what happens to be troubling them at any given point in therapy.  I want the whole thing to feel as natural as it can.  This is how most of our sessions are going to be down the road, so I don’t want the first few sessions to be too structured.

During the third or fourth session, I engage in a more structured “diagnostic interview.” This is one of the rare times I use a form—one that covers many specific areas of a person’s life. Usually, this interview takes about one session, but it can sometimes take up to three entire sessions, depending on the depth of the information the client wants to provide and whether the interview brings up issues the client hadn’t previously considered.  The point of the interview is two-fold. First, I need it for my licensure ethics (I need to have in everyone’s file a diagnosis with some objective basis to make sure my diagnoses are accurate and appropriate).  Second, it compels me to cover a wide array of topics, to make sure that in my zeal and curiosity to get to the heart of the client’s current problems I am not overlooking something very important in some other area of the person’s life.

The first question on the “diagnostic interview” asks about the “presenting problem,” which essentially means: “tell me what was happening in your life and inside you that made you decide to come to therapy when you made the decision.”  Although I also ask this question on my client intake forms, the way the client describes the problem often changes quite a bit by the time they’ve had the chance to discuss it with me in the first few therapy sessions. Reviewing the presenting problem helps us move into the second structured part of the therapy process: goal setting.

I can think of many examples when I have discovered something that informed the rest of my therapy work with a client that neither they nor I had thought about until I asked it during the diagnostic interview.  A common example comes from one of the areas I ask about: “developmental history.” During this part of the interview, I ask the client if anything significant happened to them as children that might be an important influence on the issues that brought them to therapy, or just something they think I should know about them from their childhood.  It could be an accident, a medical illness, a traumatic event.  If I didn’t ask these questions, I might not find out that a client who’s married to an alcoholic grew up without their father around because he died of alcohol poisoning, or that my client was adopted, or spent time in a foster home, or was diagnosed with ADHD in the third grade.  Any of these kinds of issues could end up playing a role in the cause of the client’s problems and also be a part of the solution.  There are also many times when clients report nothing unusual in this area of questions, so we just say “nothing noted by client” and move on to other areas.  I do not make assumptions either way—that a client does or does not have significant childhood issues that might be relevant to the therapy they now seek later in life.

In addition to providing information I might otherwise miss without it, the diagnostic interview also includes more positive areas of inquiry.  I ask about spiritual beliefs, social life, and personal values.  A person might have had some kind of spiritual connection or social community in the past that they found very important but have lost touch with it. These could become valuable tools for them to consider when we start thinking about specific ways to improve their current situation.  I also always ask clients to think about internal strengths they might have that will help them achieve their goals in therapy.  If they can’t come up with anything (and sometimes they cannot) I help them.  In the process, they begin to see themselves as equally important in the process of therapy. They begin to see themselves as their own therapists, even if they wouldn’t say it this way (I do).   I ask clients to tell me about important personal values as well. They may consider things important in their lives that are very different from the way I prioritize things in my own life.  It is important that I be open to and ready to consider their lives from their perspectives, not from my perspective.

Actually, there is a third reason I want to do this “Diagnostic Interview” with every client. It helps the client see me as a collaborator, as someone who is not “conferring” upon them some kind of therapy voodoo.  I am just some guy. We are in an office. We are talking about a client’s real problems. We are both doing our best to come to terms with their problems and solve them. There is no mystery here.  My “diagnosis” is just a best guess to what we should call the problem.  Is it “depression,” “anxiety,”  “ADHD,”  “Bipolar,” “substance abuse,” or some combination of these, or should we call it something entirely different?  I make my professional opinion known, it is out in the open for the client to see, and then we discuss whether it is accurate, whether I’ve made a mistake, and need to rethink the problem and what to call it. We do this together, so there is less chance of a misunderstanding, so the client is an equal participant, so there is no therapist (man) standing behind a curtain pretending to be the “Wizard of Oz.” There is no curtain, there is no wizard.

As we move through the diagnostic interview, I read back to my clients the answers I have written on the form so they know exactly how I am describing things.  We even often look together at the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (the book insurance companies require us to use to diagnose client mental health issues).  This is a further way for me to be transparent, so clients can take ownership of and contribute to their own understanding of one way the mental health profession might view the issues they have come to address.

Like a diagnosis, my ethical requirements as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist also require me to have some kind of a “treatment plan” for all clients. This is a stupid name for the form, but I didn’t create the requirement, so I have to use this kind of language.  It is stupid because I don’t really view therapy as a way to “treat” people, like I am a doctor with some “medicine” to “treat” a skin rash. Client issues in therapy are serious, and can even be life threatening, so I do not take my role lightly.  On the other hand, the idea of therapy as “treatment” seems to invite a lack of humility and an “above (me) and below (client)” mentality that I find offensive and destructive.

We create the treatment plan right after we complete the diagnostic interview, usually in the third or fourth session. Like the diagnostic interview, I use the “treatment plan” form as another way to involve the client, to encourage the client to take ownership of her or his own therapy, to create with the client in their own language specific goals the client wants to achieve.  We both co-write them. They give me ideas, I share with them possible ways of writing the goal that is consistent with what they want, and then I write what they tell me sounds accurate.

The most important part of the goals sheet (“treatment plan”) is called “Discharge Criteria.” Again, stupid language, but it invites a very important question, maybe the most important question in therapy.  “How will you, the client, know you are ready to be done in therapy with me at this time in your life?”  I add the “at this time in your life” to leave open the possibility that the client could find themselves ready to be done in therapy with, but then later decide they want to come back for some other issue or because the issue has recurred in some way.  Either way, when a client answers this question near the beginning of the therapy process (around the fourth session), it gives us both a guide, a direction, a point to reach, like a lighthouse in the fog.  It tells me and the client the direction we should be headed, so we don’t end up in a quagmire, a swamp, a therapy wilderness spending countless sessions heading nowhere. This is not good for the client, and would be frustrating for me.  I want clients to know they are making progress in dealing with their problems, by giving them something they can use to measure their progress, whether the issues they brought to therapy take a few months or a few years to address.

Every once in a while, in between sessions, I look at these goals sheets and ask myself what I am doing to help the client move toward the place that will tell them they are ready to be done.  I also bring it up from time to time in session to ask the client to tell me how they feel about the progress they are making and whether we need to be doing anything differently for therapy to be more effective for them. Sometimes we come up with ideas about how we need to revisit goals we’d left behind. Sometimes we add goals that will help them achieve completion of therapy.  Sometimes the client realizes they have accomplished a goal and are close to being done in therapy.

After completing the Diagnostic Interview and the Treatment Plan, sessions are (mostly) as free-flowing as they were for the first two to three sessions.  I try not to bring any preconceived ideas of how any given session should be structured.  There are exceptions, but in general, I want to know at each session what the client wishes to discuss. A client might want to bring up a specific situation that occurred since their last session. We might spend the entire session on this one situation.  In the back of my mind, though, I will try to see how this situation fits into the overall therapy goals we’ve created, which is a kind of structure we might not have had during the first couple of sessions before we created goals.  Sometimes the topic of the session will fit neatly into a pattern the client wants to change. Sometimes it doesn’t seem to fit at all.  In either case, I view it as part of my role to connect dots in the clients issues during each session to try to find patterns they might not see or recognize.  When we talk about these connections, the client will often have an important insight that I hadn’t seen at all. This process of self-discovery wouldn’t happen if I didn’t encourage an open free-flowing process.  Part of the reason I am simultaneously paying attention to the client’s needs in the moment and thinking of the big picture of the client’s goals is that I don’t want to fall into the trap of losing track of why the client is in therapy.  Not every session will or needs to be directly related to the goals we created, but in general I want to know and want the client to know that we are steadily working toward change they want to bring about in their lives, the change they sought when they first came to therapy. I want the client to view every session as a valuable opportunity to move forward in their process of personal growth.

In the end, when clients “graduate from therapy” (I don’t know what else to call it), they are able to articulate how they were able to get to the place that tells them they are ready to be done. It is a wonderful thing to watch a client come to the conclusion that they are ready to be done in therapy. I am gratified when a client can say why they are ready to be done in therapy—they can then look back at our therapy work knowing they accomplished important new self-awareness and change in their lives.

Along the way, from the first session, through the diagnostic interview and setting goals, and ultimately to the point of knowing they have reached their own “criteria for discharge” (they have done what they came to do in therapy), clients struggle through issues that I have touched on in many different topics on the process of therapy in general and with respect to many different therapy issues, which are covered in my book Firewalking on Jupiter. These include chapters on Fear (Fear and Safety Part I and Fear and Safety, Part II), Shame (Part I and Part II), Permission, Acknowledging the problem, Client History in Therapy, What “I don’t know” means in therapy, the concept of mental health (What is Mental Health Part I and Part II), Solutions, Process and Substance, taking on new perspectives and thinking “outside the box” (Thinking in Thirds), Co-dependency, Conflict, Part I, Part II and Part III,  What is “verbal abuse,” Situational Identity,” and many other topics that clients often find helpful in thinking about how therapy works for them.  I have also written several other blog posts about my ideas of my role as a therapist. These include, The Relief of Humility, My experiences as a therapy client, and 12-step Recovery and Therapy.

If you read my book, Firewalking on Jupiter, or any of my blog posts, you will quickly learn that I do not make a distinction between what I think works in therapy for my clients to make their lives better and what I think works for me in my own life.  How could I?  I firmly believe in the proposition that I would not ask my clients to do anything to solve their problems that I wouldn’t be willing to do to solve a similar problem in my own life.  It just so happens that I have had many of the same kinds of problems in my life that my clients experience in theirs.  This shouldn’t be surprising.  Just because I am the therapist and the client is the one coming to me that day with a problem, doesn’t mean I wasn’t in their shoes as a client.  I was.  And I might be someday again.  I am just some guy and I am not standing behind a curtain.  I am not the Wizard of Oz.  No mystery.  Just a guy who brings care, concern, education, and trying my best to be valuable, helpful, supportive and careful with clients who come to me hoping to make real change in their lives.  This is the process of therapy, at least it is what the process of therapy is with me.

Copyright 2013, Michael Kinzer. Blog entries and other materials available on Jupiter Center’s website are only intended to stimulate thoughts and conversations and to supplement therapy work with Jupiter Center clients already in therapy. If you or someone you know suffers from a mental illness, you are strongly encouraged to seek help from a mental health professional. For further information about this blog, or Jupiter Center, contact Michael Kinzer at 612-701-0064 or michael(at)jupitercenter.com.