Individual therapy is confidential, one on one private sessions with me, 50-55 minutes in length and usually once or twice a week at the outset. This is the “point of entry” for most people into to therapy. Individual therapy is an intensive process of conceptualizing problems and working collaboratively toward positive change and growth. Therapy is a relational process built upon safety and trust, and the perceived quality and strength of the partnership. There is virtually no problem within the scope of living and loving that cannot be raised and worked through in individual therapy. After initial distress has been relieved and/or progress made, some choose to discontinue with the option of returning if necessary. Many continue on a “maintenance” schedule (i.e. twice or once p/month) or as needed. Some choose to enter into group therapy to continue their growth after initial gains have been made individually.
FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION
Are you feeling lost, overwhelmed, discouraged, anxious, depressed or just stuck and need help NOW?
I offer a FREE 30 MIN CONSULT (phone or face to face) to address any questions or concerns you may have about starting therapy, and make sure I’m the right choice for you.
Call 615 915 3892 (for fastest response) or fill out the form below to receive a call from me.
Therapy is about so many things. Ultimately, it’s about possibilities.
The possibility of not only feeling but being better. Of making changes that last, and creating a life worth living– one so rich it resembles an imperfectly unique work of art. [Yes, imperfect!]
It’s possible, it is not?
The amazing changes I’ve seen people make over the last 18 years as a therapist makes that an easy yes, for me.
From making peace with something long unresolved, to learning to say “no” once and for all, to awakening the capacity for deeper intimacy, meaningful work, and play– to literally saving our own lives– with the right guide and a readiness to engage, the possibilities are virtually limitless.
But we have to start where we are…
For most of us it’s that point where it’s no longer an option to remain passive about what’s happening in our lives, our relationships, our innermost thoughts and emotions. To begin moving towards what we’ve been turning away from, as opposed to doing “the same thing over and over and expecting a different result” as the saying goes.
Beginning can be the hardest part, not knowing what will happen or if it’ll help. With all the unknowns, it takes some faith and courage, for sure. To start therapy is to enter difficult territory.
But not alone.
Having traveled the path many times, the therapist is the guide. Experience, passion, presence, empathy, safety, flexibility, creativity, keen perception, informed intuition and other competencies are what they bring.
Being in capable and compassionate hands helps dissolve fear, encourages healthy risk, and illuminates the path forward. More often than not, when everything aligns, we quickly find ourselves leading the way.
And whatever we can do in therapy, we can do in life.
We need only to intentionally decide to enter. Intention is the seed containing within it the whole of what we’re seeking.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” said Lao Tzu.
This decision is that step.
The therapy partnership is like polishing a diamond. Initially, we may need help just believing (or remembering) that we even possess a diamond– an Immortal Diamond, to borrow a phrase from author Richard Rohr.
That diamond is, of course, our Self. The real us.
Once we find it, we can learn to clean it, care for it, and not neglect it. Then we can appreciate its beauty, and value.
Then polish, and polish, and polish some more…
THE WAY OUT IS THROUGH
There are some poignant sayings about grief and loss. One is that there’s no way around grief, only through it. The upshot being, the cure for grief is to grieve.
Simple truths pack a punch.
But this wisdom pertains to more than grief. It’s basically a prescription for human struggle in any form.Continue Reading
Summoning the courage to acknowledge a problem, in whatever form it may be taking, is always task one.
In getting this far, we’re probably beyond the point of total reliance on things that have offered only temporary relief (denial, isolation, drugs, shopping, TV…).
Realizing the need for change has arrived, intuitively, we also know it means work. This can be both reassuring and distressing. I’ve been there.
Enter: Shame (aka “the master emotion”).
Shame is that sometimes insidious, sometimes overwhelmingly dominant feeling that we are fundamentally just not okay. It tends to kick in hard when on the verge of accepting that we can’t handle or change something alone. Why? Because most of us have been conditioned to think we “should” be able to handle most everything on our own, without help. This reflects a much deeper problem in our culture and hints at the universality of shame.
(More on that later).
Letting shame stop us from doing what we know is necessary robs us of a precious opportunity. It keeps us in the dark where it only grows, limiting our potential, and the possibilities.
It may help to know, as shame researcher/author Brene Brown puts it:
“We are not our shame. It’s not who we are. It does not even belong to us.”
Therapy helps us begin to see our shame (and other bogeymen) for what it really is.
Many things in life we can let go of on our own. With other things, there’s no quick out. No bypass or shortcut. Such things force us to shift our perspective from symptom-problem to challenge-opportunity. For it’s only in getting through them that we’ll grow.
There is wisdom at work here.
Can we trust it?
“The cure for pain is in the pain”
There are some indispensable things I’ve learned as both receiver and provider of psychotherapy.
One of them is a basic reality of human nature. It’s also one of the biggest obstacles to change and growth we all face…Continue Reading
We are hard-wired to avoid pain.
Meaning, we’re wired to try to prevent however we can the pain that results from difficult or traumatic experiences, and the unpleasant emotions they’ve left us with. It’s human nature.
We all know how to defend, deny, distort, rationalize, minimize, distract, suppress, repress, dissociate, or project it onto others when we get too close to our pain.
Quite a toolbox at our disposal!
We’re also predisposed and socially conditioned to avoid revisiting a once painful event, naturally fearing it will hurt as much or worse than it did before. The fear of what we fear it means about us is often enough to cause most of us to keep it fiercely locked away at all costs.
In short, these are reasons why we develop symptoms; why we suffer.
The good news is that while working to understand how past experience has helped shape who we are today (an essential component of any good therapy) it’s not always necessary or productive to go back and dredge through the muck again and again. To do so can be like sharpening the knife on the stone too many times.
When we do unpack experiences that were painful in therapy, we do so safely, skillfully guided by sound therapeutic principles and grounding methods, with a focus on developing a meaningful narrative. In so doing, we come to understand our past, liberate the present, and empower our future– actually rewiring our brain in the process to move us towards greater security and vitality, within ourselves and our relationships.
Therapy can be hard. Very hard, at times. But we do not have to become re-injured all over again in the process. That is definitely not the point.
And that’s important. Because it’s in facing and learning from past painful events– within the safety of affirming therapeutic connection– that we activate our inner resources to begin to thrive.
Then our pain can become just something else we’ve experienced, instead of who we (think we) are.
Point being, we all have various hardwired evolutionary strategies to protect us from feeling pain, and help us manage it. But as Michael Singer, author of The Untethered Soul reminds us:
“If you are always doing something to avoid pain, then pain is running your life…any behavior pattern based upon the avoidance of pain becomes a doorway to the pain itself.”
We do need–have needed– protections and defenses. They’ve helped us get by – emotionally, psychologically, sometimes physically.
Our walls keep us safe. But, depending how thick, how high and impenetrable they are, they can keep us trapped.
Therapy helps us understand the difference.
By early adulthood, I think we all have at least a faint awareness that with living and loving comes a certain degree of pain inevitability. The nature of human existence, no?
Pain in all its forms, including grief and fear– up to a point– can be necessary agents of growth in our lives; signals.
To begin accepting this, to safely become acquainted with it, slowly relaxing the impulse to avoid, finding new and better methods of coping in emotionally literate ways– to cultivate the character qualities, emotional patterns and habits of mind that enable us to transcend the catastrophes of life, from personal heartbreak to professional crises, and emerge not only unbroken but more whole…
This is radical resiliency. And it’s about as close to pain proof as we can get.
If psychotherapy had but one universal aim, this might pretty well be it.
Vitality > Pain.
Does this therapeutic triumph of vitality over pain– of thriving over surviving– happen for everybody?
No. it doesn’t. That’s the truth.
There are many reasons why therapy can fail to deliver. No two people respond to any treatment the same way. That’s one. Sometimes, it’s to do with the therapist. Plain and simple. There can also just be a poor “fit” between a therapist’s and an individual’s personality, between their philosophy/approach and an individual’s needs.
This is why, especially for those new to the process, it’s a good idea to visit or talk with a few therapists before deciding. Gut feeling is key, as is how much perceivable humanity and presence the therapist brings to the process. (In the end, this is likely what will be remembered most).
Therapy can also be an uphill battle against another universal, hard-wired tendency– to see things as we are, not as they are, as ancient wisdom taught.
Dale Carnegie illustrated it this way:
“Two men looked out from prison bars. One saw mud, the other stars.”
To the degree that we may be firmly fused with the “story” of our pain– convinced we are our pain, at worst believing there’s no us (Self) without it… then the *reality is, therapy may be unable to free us.
*Perception = Reality.
But let’s be… Possibilists!
A highly qualified therapist + a strong desire to change, risk, grow…and see things as they are with new eyes puts the odds squarely in our favor.
TO HEAL, FOR REAL
Most of us come to therapy when the crap hits the fan– a job loss, a relationship crisis, a panic attack, worsening depression, a habit that’s become compulsion, or some other collision with something or someone that’s too much to handle alone.
Understandably, we often just want “the solution.” A technique we can apply to everything; an answer to our predicament…Continue Reading
In beginning my own journey, this is what I wished for.
What I received was far more profound.
The “answer,” I came to understand, is inherent in the problem itself (see Rumi quote above). Once we have an intuitive sense of that, and we learn to begin trusting our own ability, we can start to resolve all kinds of problems of living and loving in more creative and effective ways.
But at the outset, we might be less than interested in this kind of wisdom. We may care little about developing a complete understanding of our problem, gaining self-knowledge, or exploring how things got so bad or why they keep becoming so.
And who could blame us? Life is complicated enough. We just want something to change. We also probably want it to last.
That’s why we need to know this:
True change requires healing.
We can make changes without healing, yes. But, in my experience, they tend not to last. Put another way, lasting change means healing.
Problems in living and loving– those that have gone unresolved despite our efforts– those that are patterns in our lives, exist for reasons. They have deep psychological roots.
Often, until we expose the source of a pattern, what purpose(s) it serves, the forces enabling it to continue (often unconscious), as well as what it would mean to disable those forces, and other factors, our patterns usually resurface and repeat…as is the nature of patterns!
Being a depth-oriented process that promotes true healing, psychotherapy helps us expose, understand, and override these patterns. We can then work toward updated, consciously empowered re-decisions, resulting in changes that last.
Take anything we wish to overcome– an oppressive emotional state (depression, anxiety…) a powerfully limiting belief about ourselves (core unworthiness or defectiveness…) distorted perceptions of others or the world (“everyone is against me,” “the world is a hostile place”…) or self-defeating patterns of relating or behaving (addiction, passive-aggression, people-pleasing…) the remedy is simply to begin a healing process.
Simple, but not easy.
Depending how much pain and imbalance we have accumulated, and how this is expressing in us, healing on levels beyond the emotional/psychological/interpersonal– including physiological (nutritional, metabolic, endocrine, immunological) and if we’re so inclined, spiritual (etheric, energetic, vibrational) may be required.
Because it’s all connected. And this isn’t just mystical hippie wisdom. Modern neuroscience is confirming it.
Nor does it mean we must attend to each area in need of healing simultaneously. As we make progress in one, the next greatest need is often revealed by our infinitely wise and inseparable bodymind. It will tell us exactly what we need to know, if we learn to pay close attention.
Therapy helps us listen better for these cues.
The word heal comes from the Anglo Saxon root Haelen, which means to make whole.
But healing is a complex and far from fully understood concept, one widely open to interpretation. The very concept of what constitutes a “healthy mind” in fact varies greatly from one culture to another.
There’s actually no agreement within psychology (which, incidentally, literally means the study of the soul) or related fields as to the true nature and causes of psychological disturbance/dis-ease. There’s no consensus as to what healing really means, how it’s facilitated, and why it doesn’t always happen. Each branch of the tree has their own views and methods of trying to arrive at the same somewhat elusive end.
Add to this the numerous cases of well-documented, apparently “miraculous” healing events the world over– including spontaneous remissions of even fatal conditions for which our western materialistic models have no explanation.
Thomas Edison spoke to this when he observed: “We don’t know a millionth of one percent about anything.”
Great. We don’t know jack. Comforting thought, isn’t it?
Yet spiritual luminaries and various ancient healing traditions have taught for centuries that our emotions, thoughts, beliefs and intentions directly affect the world we live in.
And modern science is now catching up. Study after study, experiment after experiment, demonstrates that simple observation is enough to have a measurable impact on the physical world. Herein lies a clue (in the “quantum” sense) as to how and why the participant-observer nature of the therapy relationship is a catalyst for healing.
Observation alone is enough to measurably change that which is being observed. Think about it.
In this sense as well, the illusion of our powerlessness is just that– an illusion.
Most of us may not experience what we would consider a “miraculous” healing event, either during therapy or otherwise in our lifetime. (Or we might, but may not recognize it as such). But in setting an intention, entering a healing partnership, and beginning to discover just how much power we actually do posses to effect change in our lives, the seeds of possibility– and change– are planted.
Simply committing to the work while letting go of the outcome (awakening to present-moment awareness) is one of the paradoxical recipes for achieving what we envision. It sets the process into motion.
It cues the Energetic Universe, if you will, to meet us in the middle.
The World’s Great Wisdom Traditions appear to converge, as well, on this singular idea:
The real healer is within.
This is to say, everything we need (to change, grow, heal) already exists– not out there, not in some thing, some place, or any other person, but as untapped potential residing within ourselves.
Can we cultivate this intention, and harness this internal power in the service of self-discovery and growth– to heal for real?
The answer I believe is always yes– if we truly desire, are willing to allow, and work for it. Willingness, it seems, is the prerequisite for all healing.
But it can’t happen alone, in a vacuum.
This is where a good psychotherapist can come in handy.
WHAT THE BLEEP DO THERAPISTS KNOW?
Here are some thoughts on what makes for a truly qualified therapist, why therapy is (still) the road less traveled, and the role of the therapist in modern culture.
Therapy is rooted in connection. Because we’re all wired for and only thrive within a state of secure attachment, the therapeutic relationship, as it overlaps with the more universal territory of how to be profoundly present in any important relationship, can help us get there.
And being a relationship, albeit a unique kind with a specific intention, it often involves experiences of genuine warmth, spontaneity, celebration, joy, and laughter…Continue Reading
At the same time, doing therapy is serious business. It’s laden with risk and unpredictability, even in the hands of a highly skilled and self-aware practitioner.
So we should take care in choosing a well-trained, clean licensed, and experienced guide.
This is all fairly easy to verify.
What we really need when entrusting another with our entire psyche is also someone deeply committed to practicing what they preach. Someone who lives it. Only then we can place complete trust in the guide to confidently and safely navigate whatever the process brings up in all, for all involved.
It might be tempting to think of therapists as wise old owls who just sort of magically have it all together, or else make their own healing and growth top priority. But to assume either could be hazardous.
This is not so easy to verify. There’s no credential that guarantees any therapist looks within themselves fervently and consistently enough so as not to confuse (or worse, act out) their own bogeymen with those they’re entrusted to help.
There’s critical “behind the scenes” work to being a therapist. It entails rigorous self-reflection, personal therapy/ mentorship, clinical and peer supervision, and other growth-oriented practices. But not all schools of training encourage these. Some don’t focus this at all.
Bad therapy; harmful therapy, in most cases, can be reduced to this gross oversight.
The truly qualified therapist is a committed inward traveler. Knowing they are the primary tool of their trade, they approach their work from the inside out. Like good athletes, they’re adventurous, and courageous. But not reckless. There’s no gambling. The risks are too great.
“It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a sick society”
The path of therapy is one of self-development, self-knowledge, self-compassion, and awakening. For sure, it’s the road less traveled.
Despite progress over time, there’s still a lack of cultural acceptance – a suspicion even – surrounding the need for help and the pursuit of self-improvement, of the emotional and psychological variety especially (self-help movement notwithstanding). This social culture of taboo still trends toward quiet devaluation of much of inner human experience. Emotional literacy is still far from the household term it should be now.
Legitimate suffering, needing help, feeling our emotions, being okay as we are, seeking after self-knowledge, questioning status quo values, as well as almost any form of self-expression that runs too far afield from “norm” all still tend to cue the societal sideways glance.
We’re conditioned instead to fear, conform, suppress, to create and live out idealized images of who we think we “should” be. Today more than ever we’re seduced into substituting virtual contact for real relationship, numbing out on celebrity, on 24-hour fear-generating news cycles, and other endless forms of diversion and distraction from what really matters.
Studies show that social media can amplify both insecurity and narcissism, leading to a warped sense of self esteem. It can also rather brutally reveal the depth of users emotional neediness, because it’s so irresistibly easy to trawl for praise and reassurance.
The price? For many of us it’s discontent… disillusion…disconnection… disharmony… and many other “dis-es.”
And this is merely scratching the surface of the cultural and environmental conditions directly affecting our personal power and capacity to awaken, not to mention fulfilling our potential.
To the extent that our potential is not being realized, we’re existing in a state of alienation from our own minds, from our truest selves, from making real intimate contact with others, and seeing what our lives could become.
Much of this boils down to shame on the grand scale. And we’re all affected, however subtly, no matter how immune we think we are. Therapists included.
Maybe this is why Ralph Waldo Emerson said “To be yourself in a world that’s constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
A qualified therapist lights the way on the road less traveled (their main road), acutely aware of the empty promises and trappings of the modern world and it’s contributions to our condition. He or she helps us awaken– insofar as they strive to see things as they really are, remaining awakened themselves.
But what the bleep do therapists know?
ONE INSULAR TAHITI
There’s a place inside us that’s infinitely whole. Pure, innocent, full of love.
The great spiritual traditions speak of it as essence, original nature, or seat of consciousness. Psychology does too, but by different names, like Self.
The idea is that whatever damage we’ve incurred, and however disconnected we may have become from our Self, this wholeness remains– untouched, intact, and awaiting contact…Continue Reading
How do we know when we’re really in, and are responding from our Self?
Richard Schwartz (founder of an approach to therapy called Internal Family Systems) describes it as a distinct quality of openhearted presence, characterized by “The 8 C’s”:
Calm, Confidence, Connectedness, Creativity, Compassion, Clarity, Curiosity, Courage.
Therapy promotes these qualities by (re) introducing us to our Self.
In the classic novel Moby Dick, Herman Melville says:
“…There is in the soul of man, one Insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half-known [lived] life…”
Drink that in a minute.
It makes me recall the late great psychologist, author and spiritual teacher, Dr. Wayne Dyer.
Dyer frequently referenced this striking passage, imploring us to make contact with this place he viewed as our source of inspiration as he compassionately cautioned us against the ultimate tragedy:
Dying with our music still in us.
Many of us come to therapy with at least a faint awareness that we haven’t really been living, or an increasing anxiety about getting to the finish line gobsmacked by “What If’s?” or “Why Didn’t I’s?”
How do we escape the horrors of the half-lived life, and manage not to die with our music still in us?
There are infinite ways. Find a passion that won’t shut up. Militantly follow it wherever it leads. That’s one.
Simple, but not easy!
It takes conviction. The kind born of genuine curiosity.
To help awaken curiosity and conviction, and inspire us to passion-driven action as if our life depends on it (it does) is the wheelhouse of therapy. And it’s one of my passions.
Can you hear your music?
Have you experienced your Insular Tahiti?
Ralph Waldo Emerson said “It’s about as hard to see our self as it is to look behind us without turning around.” Relationally-focused, interactive group therapy functions as a “mirror,” enabling us to see ourselves in ways we might have never imagined. Group is a “laboratory” of sorts for cultivating awareness as to how we interact, affect, and let others affect us. There may be no more immediate and powerful form of therapeutic growth than a small group of committed individuals coming together to grow with and through one another. Many have cited their group as among the most important experiences of their lives. There is currently one weekly 90 min group in progress, on Wednesday evening. Readiness for group is explored during individual therapy and subject to openings. Please call for more information.
Consultation is a preventative and proactive approach to receiving guidance and support from a licensed mental health professional during a difficult transition or crossroads that requires arriving at a decision point quickly. This service is available in person, by phone or HIPAA compliant secure video for those not located in the Nashville area. Consultation is generally short term (1-3 sessions) and can be supplemented with sessions to continue the support, as needed. A consultation provides a safe place to discuss concerns regarding yourself, a partner, spouse, family member, employment or other situation without the need to commit to a formal psychotherapy process (assuming that is not indicated). Consultation allows one to present a concrete problem, explore worries and concerns associated with it, look briefly at one’s role in the creation or maintenance of it, and help decide on a course of action.
“I continue to do my deepest work in therapy with Chris. His willingness to meet you where you are in your journey is a beautiful gift. He is an accepting, caring, empathetic and genuine person whom I wholeheartedly recommend.”
“Chris has earned my respect; he genuinely cares about his clients and is a deft guide to discovering truth. For me, that discovery is the product of a compassionate, safe place to explore challenging ideas. My life is directly better as a result.”
“Chris creates an environment where it is safe for me to share in ways that I didn’t know were possible for me. I have experienced tremendous benefits from working with Chris over the years. He is a truly gifted guide.”