Areas of Expertise: Life Changing Events and Transitions: Adults

What are some examples of turning points?

Life-changing events that may bring you into therapy occur in a variety of family, health and work-related areas. Common events include failure of an important relationship; a broken engagement or love affair; marriage; separation and divorce; a family member's illness and/or a chronic health condition(s); personal illness or chronic health condition(s); grief; loss and bereavement; the birth of a child; "letting go" of a child; aging parents; entering or finishing school; academic or work failure; entering or leaving the work force; changing jobs; deciding on a career; changing line of work; job promotion; retirement; property damage; theft or robbery; financial problems; economic crises; and changes in interpersonal relationships and group alliances at home, work, religious, and social settings. Important life-changing events from the past include the death of a parent, loss of social support, serious illness and/or chronic health conditions, learning problems, or separation from an important caregiver during childhood. These events may also prompt an adult to seek treatment. Another type of turning point that may provide an impetus for seeking treatment involves a role shift and adjustment that is perceived as a requirement for greater independence or a lifestyle change.

What about stress?

Stressful events can have undesirable effects on health and performance, and some people will develop physical and/or psychiatric problems. The cumulative effects of minor regular stressors that are not necessarily life-changing can also impact emotional and physical health. Continuous, persistent, or daily exposure to stressors are also risk factors. A minor stressor for one person may be life-changing for another.

What is the connection between life-changing events and therapy?

Since life changing events can open and close doors, lead to lasting positive and negative changes, and alter a person's beliefs, expectations, self esteem, sense of identity, and connections with others, many people enter treatment at these times. I am especially interested in working with people who have developed depression, anxiety, mood disorders, eating disorders, or adjustment disorders in response to life changing events, role transitions, and stressors. Therapy includes identifying social supports, personality traits, and character strengths that enable you to be less susceptible to the long term negative effects of life changing events, and examining current attitudes and beliefs in order to bring about positive changes and personal growth.

What assessment tools do you use?

I discuss your concerns with you at the first session, take a complete history, and go over questionnaires and tests that you will take home to complete. These include the Personal Problems Checklist, Health Problems Checklist, Incomplete Sentences Blank, Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), and an assessment of character strengths. These assessment tools, available only to licensed clinical psychologists, are provided at no additional cost.

The results of testing, including graphs from the MMPI, are reviewed in subsequent meetings, and form the basis for treatment goals and planning. For example, The MMPI identifies elevations in areas including depression, anxiety, need for attention, somatic concerns, reality testing, interpersonal trust, energy level, and relative tendency toward introversion or extraversion. The character strengths assessment helps me to identify your character strengths. During transition periods in life, the particular individual traits and virtues you identify may help you to develop and expand on aspirations, and to achieve a new level of well-being.

What techniques do you use in treatment?

Depending on the presenting problems and diagnoses, I use particular cognitive, behavioral and insight-oriented techniques. Our discussions may include self-control and self-regulation; problem solving; vigilance in areas of nutrition, diet, body image, alcohol use, exercise, and sleep; and stress management techniques. Social relationships are discussed within the framework of understanding how particular self-views, views of others, cognitive beliefs, perceptions of threat and vulnerabilities, strategies, and affect have an impact on the way in which people interact with one another. Coping, decision-making, and interpersonal skills are reinforced in order to find constructive ways to deal with conflict; identify issues with others involving power and limit-setting; recognize when you can and cannot exert control in various situations; reduce self defeating behaviors; and enhance connections with others that build respect, warmth and support.

The "positive psychology" approach enables you to use your unique talents, abilities, character strengths, and insight gained through our collaboration to resolve problems, and achieve greater fulfillment and happiness in life. The general goals of this assessment, treatment and support model include problem solving; enhancing self esteem, competence, and interpersonal connections; and gaining a greater sense of self determination.