My Counseling Approach
Learn about my training and all the aspects of my counseling approach that make it unique.
In therapy, we work together to set goals and decide what approach is best for you, based on your unique needs and wishes. Below you will find treatment methodologies I have advanced training and experience in.
Internal Family Systems
IFS is my main approach to working with clients. It is the most effective and rewarding healing tool I have found. Some of my most profound insights and life experiences have happened while I was experiencing IFS as a client, and I have witnessed rapid, deep transformation in my own clients using this model.
IFS helps you experience healing, self-love, and inner harmony. IFS is helpful if you feel torn, disconnected, at war with yourself, or are experiencing uncomfortable thoughts, emotions, or behaviors you can’t understand or stop. It may include working with the inner child, the inner critic, and all the parts of you which make you unique. It is an experiential, imaginative, and body-based approach grounded in mindfulness. It can be deeply transformative, emotionally touching, and even fun!
I have completed level 1 and 2 of IFS training.
According to John Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness means “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” We spend much of our lives contemplating the past and worrying about the future. Actually, most of our suffering happens in our own minds! Mindfulness helps you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings, recognize what isn’t serving you, and fall in love with the beauty of the present moment. Mindfulness has been proven to reduce depression, anxiety, and rumination. Many people feel more calm, joyous, and connected from it. It can be done formally, in meditation, or informally, in self-awareness throughout your day.
I lived and worked as a therapist at a mindfulness center in Thailand for 18 months, and used mindfulness with clients to great success.
Trauma/Tension Release Exercises
Tension Release Exercises (TRE) helps you tap into your body’s natural ability to de-stress through movement and shaking. It releases stress and tension from both the body and mind, signaling to your body that it can relax. Because of this, it has the potential to help you release present-moment stress and past trauma. No “talk therapy” is involved. Many people report reduced stress-related pain, feeling more connected and present, sleeping better, feeling calmer, more energized, more resilient, and more alive.
I have completed a year of training in TRE and am a certified TRE Provider. Read more about TRE here.
Body-based forms of stress reduction are extremely useful for helping to reduce stress, anxiety, tension, and uncomfortable emotions. Depending on your needs and wants, I can incorporate breathing techniques, restorative yoga postures, grounding exercises, and guided relaxation techniques to help you achieve a state of inner peace and calm.
I am an advanced yoga instructor and I worked as a therapist at a mindfulness-based residential recovery center in Thailand for 18 months.
Key Characteristics of My Approach
Our understanding of the human psyche is changing. Cutting-edge psychotherapy is trauma-informed, holistic, non-pathologizing, compassionate, and strengths-based.
I had the opportunity to serve as a therapist at a mindfulness-based recovery center, where I learned cutting-edge, evidence-based approaches that help clients achieve transformational change in an empowering, rewarding, soulful way.
These are key perspectives that inform the way I work with clients.
Deep, Transformational Healing Work
The problems we see on the surface, such as stress, depression, lashing out, or overeating are the tip of the iceberg. Sometimes, these are clues to something deeper, such as past trauma or old burdens we are carrying such as feeling “not good enough.” Thus, my clients and I go deep to get to the heart of the issue, instead of merely treating the symptom. This is often deeply moving, rewarding, and transformative.
Solution-Focused for Personal Growth
Most clients come to therapy to gain relief from suffering and develop into the people they want to be. Some clients want to focus more on healing. Others prefer a brief, solution-focused approach that focuses primarily on action and is similar to coaching. I am able to offer both, and often combine deep transformation with personal growth work. When we begin working together, we can discuss what approach will most benefit you.
Holistic Wellness Focusing on Body, Mind, and Spirit
Gone are the days when we thought working with thoughts and behaviors was the only way to change. I honor clients as holistic beings and take the body, mind, and spirit into account. We incorporate your emotional wellness, mental wellness, relationships, spiritual fulfillment, physical wellbeing, and work/school life to help you grow on every level.
Compassion is a cornerstone of my approach. Healing happens best in the context of a compassionate relationship where you feel seen, honored, and understood… both by your counselor and by your Self. Even if you struggle with self-criticism, self-judgment, or self-loathing, compassion is a muscle you can build. It honors the suffering, disappointment, and failure which is part of life and offers kindness instead of judgment for profound healing.
Strengths-Based and Non-Pathologizing
You are fundamentally good and whole. There is more right with you than wrong with you! It is my belief that the behaviors, emotions, or thoughts you have that aren’t serving you (such as anxiety, depression, lashing out, etcetera) are your unconscious best attempt to deal with the challenges of life, even if they are causing suffering. For example, anxiety’s role is generally to protect us from some kind of danger. This is useful and necessary, but for some people, anxiety becomes so extreme that it takes over their life.
The good news is that no matter how bad things are, there is nothing “wrong” or “defective” about you. It’s just that your system is a little out of balance. For this reason, I prefer to look at mental health issues as “symptoms” or “injuries” rather than “disorders.” Together, we work to understand these patterns with compassion and curiosity, and help them relax, so that you can claim your birthright as a healthy, vibrant individual.
When most people think of trauma, they tend to think of shocking, life-threatening events that cause intense physical harm. However, modern psychotherapy recognizes that trauma exists on a spectrum ranging from stress to PTSD. Traumatic injury can develop either from shocking events or smaller but impactful events over time, such as bullying or lack of affection. Part of being trauma-informed means building resilience and empowerment, and opening up past hurts only if and when you are ready.
“Somatic” means “relating to the body.” The field of psychology has long addressed suffering by focusing on the brain. Recently, however, somatic approaches to psychology are quickly becoming the gold standard for healing, especially from deeply-held suffering and trauma, because they yield results that were previously impossible. Becoming more attuned with the body builds the ability to stay present and feel “okay” even during intense emotional experiences. It even catalyzes insights that could not be gained through talk therapy alone.
Unlike many other forms of therapy, we don’t just “talk” about your issues and come up with theories about why you are the way you are and make guesses for how to change. We use your own inner experience and your own inner wisdom to know the best steps forward. You may spend a lot of sessions “inside yourself” with your eyes closed, on your own hero’s journey exploring the inner territory of your psyche. Many clients say that this is rewarding, insight-provoking, and even fun. They feel like the hero of their own story.
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Copyright Emma Donovan, 2019, 2020. All Rights Reserved.