My Counseling Approach
To me, therapy is a little like interior design. There are lots of choices, and everyone seems to have a preference for what they like. One style isn’t better than the other; it really comes down to personal preference.
When I work with Phoenix and Scottsdale teens, parents and families, I primarily use a combination of Family Systems Theory and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. These therapeutic approaches are well respected in the field of counseling, grounded in research, and have been shown to produce very positive results.
Family Systems Theory was created in the 1950s by a brilliant psychiatrist, Murray Bowen. He believed that an individual cannot be understood in isolation, but rather, as a part of his or her family. He saw the family as an “emotional unit”, and studied how patterns are passed down from generation to generation. These patterns are sometimes very old, and span many generations.
Family Systems Theory also studies how parents transmit different things to their children, such as their own strengths, as well as their fears, values, coping mechanisms, self esteem, boundaries, and autonomy.
As a parent, you may be able to see how this transmission process takes place in your own life.
On the one hand, you may have adopted the parenting beliefs and behaviors your parents modeled for you. On the other hand, if you grew up in a family that had very rigid rules and strict discipline, you may say to yourself,
“I’m not going to parent my children that way!”
and move all the way to the other end of the spectrum. In your efforts to compensate for the negative experiences you had as a child you’ve perhaps now become too permissive in your parenting, and have trouble setting limits for your kids.
The value of using the family systems model in therapy is that it raises awareness around how the dynamics in your own family of origin may have influenced your beliefs, perceptions, and values that you hold today. This awareness can go a long way in changing unproductive behavior patterns and interpersonal conflicts you might be experiencing.
If you and your child attend therapy together, we will likely look at how each of your behaviors affect one another, but we may also explore how all of your family members interact and affect one another.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is built on the assumption that faulty thinking patterns cause problems in our lives. This therapy model is an extremely effective way of treating a number of problems with teens and adults including: anxiety, depression, self injurious behaviors, relationship conflicts, bullying, social avoidance and low self esteem.
Many people have experienced the “chatterbox”. These are negative thoughts that just don’t want to stop. They range from very benign, “why hasn’t he/she called?” to very severe, “I hate myself” “I’m fat and ugly”, “I’ll never be successful”. These thoughts usually produce feelings of anxiety, self hate, anger, depression, and/or worry.
This model of therapy is designed to help you learn to identify and manage negative thoughts or beliefs. This is commonly referred to as Cognitive Restructuring. Learning how to manage the “chatterbox”, will, in turn will help you to change your mood, and ultimately help you change behaviors that may have become self defeating.
My Therapy Toolbox
When working with teens individually in counseling, I primarily use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques, but I’ve developed some unique ways of teaching these to kids. Oftentimes, I will ask the teen to decorate a box, and bring this to the therapy session. This will be their “toolbox”, which will contain a number of different strategies for managing their thoughts and feelings.
These items range from mission statements, i.e. “No matter what, I will not allow anyone to make me doubt my worth”, to stories and parables about adversity, breathing techniques, positive journaling strategies, aroma therapy, audio relaxation tapes, positive affirmations, and books on esteem.
I use several approaches in couples counseling that are very effective in producing awareness, change and healing. Along with Family Systems Theory and concepts from Harvel Hendrix’s Imago Therapy, I use a developmental approach in working with couples that has been developed by Ellen Bader, Ph.D. and Peter Pearson, Ph.D.
Key aspects of this developmental approach involve understanding developmental issues in relationships, interaction patterns, communication patterns, expectations, and projections that couples may have in their relationship. Establishing clear goals and objectives is an important part of the couple’s therapy process, along with understanding attachment styles and the ability to differentiate from your partner.
According to Tim Atkinson, of Imago International, recent advances and discoveries in neuroscience are providing evidence for the effectiveness of interpersonal communication techniques, such as Imago therapy’s structured dialogue.
These results are exciting, because they show us that learning and utilizing these new skills not only produce behavioral changes, but they also produce deeper changes in the brain. This means that the changes are not just on a superficial level, but they are on a biochemical level that is more permanent and lasting.
Overall, what this means is that you and your partner can develop a more loving way of relating to each other, in order to achieve the intimacy you’ve been searching for.
If you think you might benefit from individual, teen, parent, or couples counseling, please contact me at: 602-953-5542.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Lynn Hoyland, M.A., M.F.T.
Lynn Hoyland, M.A., LMFT
Lynn Hoyland provides counseling and therapy to teens, parents of teens and couples in Scottsdale and Phoenix, AZ.
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