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I approach therapy with a simple question: 

"What do you want out of life, and what is holding you back from that?" 

This question, and your answers, is where we begin the journey. I look forward to hearing from you.

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June 24, 2020

In the Zone

Prolonged stress depletes our ability to be in the zone.

One of the goals of therapy is to help you stay "in the zone" or in what clinician's call the Window of Tolerance.  This is where you feel calm and focused - or at least able to handle whatever difficulty you are facing.

Why we're not "in the zone"

After prolonged stress or trauma, our margins get smaller and smaller.  So does our Window of Tolerance.  When that happens, it's easy to get irritated or go numb when relatively minor things happen: someone cutting you off in traffic, losing your keys, someone appearing less interested in talking to you today, your child spilling their drink, etc.  They're small things - when you have enough margin, you are able to handle them with relative equanimity.  But when your margins are depleted, it's easy to get upset over small things.

That's been true for many of us due to the COVID-19 quarantine - it's prolonged stress that depletes our margins.  Systemic racism, abuse, and prolonged financial stress are also factors that reduce our margins.

How therapy helps

First, therapy helps you widen your Window of Tolerance.  It helps you increase your margins.  It doesn't mean you won't get upset in the future, but it means that usually you will be able to remain in the Window of Tolerance while you are upset.

Second, in therapy you can process the difficult things that would have sent you out of your Window of Tolerance in the past.  A common misconception of therapy is that you will have to re-live all the gruesome details of your painful experiences.  If that's what happens in therapy, of course you're not going to want to come to therapy.  Who wants to do that?

In therapy, you will probably have to face the difficult things you've experienced in order to heal, but it's different because the therapist is there to help you stay regulated you so you don't get flooded with emotion.  You also don't have to go into every detail.  The point is to reduce your emotional intensity around the trauma and change your view of yourself that has been negatively affected by the trauma.  Many therapists, such as myself, use techniques such as EMDR, that help your body remain calm while you're processing, so that you feel like you're able to face and clear out the painful things instead of getting lost in them or overwhelmed by them.  By clearing these out, you are widening your Window of Tolerance and reducing the power of the triggers that could send you into fight/flight/freeze mode.

When it's time for you to get counseling support, please have a conversation with your therapist about their philosophy and modes of intervention to clarify how they specifically help you stay in your Window of Tolerance.

If you'd like to learn more, please contact me.  I have a few more slots available for new patients.  I'd love to hear from you.