philosophy / guiding theories
Guiding Theories

Theories help to inform and guide my work, not limit or define it. My approach is patient-centered, holding that each individual or couple is unique. During a process of change, theories can act to enrich the therapy. Depending on the focus of therapy, a certain theory or combination of approaches may be more effective than another. Generally, behavioral therapies are effective when addressing very specific concerns or problems. Psychodynamic or relational therapies allow for a deeper exploration of long-standing patterns, personality styles, interpersonal relationships and more general life questions.



  1. Psychodynamic/Psychoanalytic

    Psychodynamic theory, or dynamic psychology, studies and considers the psychological forces that underlie human behavior, and has a strong emphasis on the interplay between unconscious and conscious motivations, wishes, fears and desires. Psychodynamic theory assumes that much of our behavior stems from the unconscious which houses our basic instinctual needs. Reconciling the satisfaction of these instinctual needs often results in conflicts or “symptoms”. The exploration of the origin and the client’s currents experience of “stuckness” or other dilemmas is the focus of psychotherapy. The defense mechanisms or “solutions” we develop to manage these conflicts become an important part of our behavior and often shape how we interact with the world. All psychodynamic theories stem from psychoanalysis.

    This theory is based on unconditional acceptance of the individual as he/she is and is focused on understanding the relationship between client and therapist. The therapist uses interpretations, which are a way of making sense to you about what is going on, in order to help you become aware of your unconscious feelings.

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  2. Relational

    Interpersonal and relational psychology seeks to explore the cultural, environmental and interpersonal factors in a client’s life that bring that individual to therapy.

    Relationalists believe that the primary motivation of the psyche is to be in relationships with others. As a consequence early relationships, usually with primary caregivers, shape one's expectations about the way in which one's needs are met. Therefore, desires and urges cannot be separated from the relational contexts in which they arise. This does not mean that motivation is determined by the environment, but that motivation is determined by the systemic interaction of a person and his or her relational world. Individuals attempt to recreate these early learned relationships in ongoing relationships that may have little or nothing to do with those early relationships. This recreation of relational patterns serves to satisfy the individuals' needs in a way that conforms with what they learned as infants. This recreation is called an enactment.

    This approach is characterized by the importance of creating a genuine relationship with the client. Overall, relational theory holds that psychotherapy works best when the therapist focuses on establishing a healing relationship with the patient, in addition to focusing on facilitating insight. In doing so, therapists break patients out of the repetitive patterns of relating to others that they believe maintain stuckness, or unwanted psychological “symptoms” in a client’s life.

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  3. Object Relations

    Object Relations theory holds relationships as the main focus of psychotherapy, especially the relationship with the therapist. In this approach, there is more emphasis on human relationships, than on underlying/unconscious motivations.

    In summary, the term "object-relations" refers to the “road map” of relationships we establish in early childhood with our caretakers or others (objects), which functions as a blueprint for establishing and maintaining future relationships. The “attachment” to these core others (objects) becomes an integral part of one’s personality. This “blueprint” can be altered in later life, but greatly shapes our choices of friends/partners in life. The more traumatic our early relations, the more rigid and resistant to change we become. When clients come to psychotherapy with symptoms, dilemmas or difficulties, this theory holds that the state of our current relationships is an expression of troublesome or traumatic experiences from early childhood interactions or relationships. Psychotherapy is the resolution of these self-destructive patterns of relating so we can move towards healthier, more satisfying relationships as adults.

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  4. Feminist Theory

    Feminist theory incorporates ideas/principles from anthropology and sociology, economics, women's and gender studies, feminist literary criticism, and philosophy . Feminist theory aims to understand the nature of inequality and focuses on gender politics, power relations and sexuality. While generally providing a critique of stereotypic social relations, much of feminist theory focuses on analyzing gender inequality and the promotion of women's rights, interests, and issues. Themes explored in feminism include discrimination, stereotyping, objectification (especially sexual objectification), oppression, and patriarchy.

    Psychoanalytic feminism is largely based on Freud’s psychoanalytic theories. It holds that gender is not biological but is based on the psycho-sexual development of the individual. Psychoanalytical feminists believe that gender inequality comes from early childhood experiences – including gender role socialization, which lead men to see themselves as “masculine”, and women to see themselves “feminine. This theory asserts that gender leads to a social system that is dominated by males, which in turn influences the individual’s childhood development of a sexual self.

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  5. Attachment

    Attachment theory, is a psychological and developmental theory that provides a framework for understanding interpersonal relationships between people. Attachment theorists consider children to have a need for a secure or dependable relationship with healthy and available adult caregivers, without which normal social and emotional development will not occur. Attachment is an emotional bond to another person. John Bowlby, the first attachment theorist, described attachment as a "lasting psychological connectedness between human beings" (Bowlby, 1969, p. 194).

    This theory maintains that early infant attachment is primarily a process of seeking to connect with an attachment figure in stressful situations, for the purpose of survival, protection and nurturing. Infants become attached to adults who are sensitive and responsive to the infant, and who remain as consistent caregivers for some months during the period from about six months to two years of age. During the later part of this period, children begin to use attachment figures (familiar people) as a secure base to explore from and return to. Caregiver reactions/response to the infant lead to the development of patterns of attachment and relating, which then guide the individual's feelings, thoughts and expectations in adult relationships.

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  6. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that emphasizes the important role of thinking in how we feel and what we do. CBT is a general term for a group of similar therapies, including "dialectical behavior therapy” (DBT). CBT is based on theory that states psychological symptoms are related to the interaction of thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. In cognitive behavioral therapy, the therapist and patient work on identifying and directly changing thoughts and behaviors that may be maintaining “symptoms” or difficulties in the patient's life.

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  7. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

    Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy. Its main goal is to teach the patient skills to cope with stress, regulate emotions and improve relationships with others. DBT is rooted in a philosophical process called dialectics which states that everything is composed of opposites and that change occurs when one opposing force is stronger than the other. Dialectics states: (1) all things are interconnected (2) change is constant and inevitable and (3) opposites can be integrated to form a closer approximation of the truth.

    DBT aims to help people to validate their emotions and behaviors, examine those behaviors and emotions that have a negative impact on their lives, and make a conscious effort to bring about positive changes. Validation serves to provide understanding for behavior and responses to current life situations, however problematic behaviors and responses often create a great deal of stress, suffering, and instability in the client’s life. DBT provides training in problem-solving and stress management skills, and helps the patient work on building social and personal skills to deal effectively with life difficulties. DBT was pioneered by Marsha Linehan, PhD.

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