Before we can successfully relate to others, we must be comfortable and settled in our selves. This is why individual counseling may be relevant, even to those whose primary concerns initially center around someone else.
As a therapist I provide a safe and supportive space for individuals to sort out new ways to respond to their experiences. I try to:
Listen in such a way that a person hears herself, possibly for the first time
To help a client connect with the sadness that often underlies anger
To support, rather than supplant, undeveloped strengths and interests
To identify blockages and the causes of blockages
To hear the stories of old wounds bringing comfort, resolution and healing
To raise consciousness about the hopes and fears hidden beneath habitual negative or self-defeating patterns
To tune into and help clients manifest their most fulfilling and heartfelt goals
The effects of setting aside a place once a week for a completely open-hearted look at where you are in that moment has startled and thrilled me. Stepping into the space Gail holds and engaging with her even, forthright and compassionate presence has held me lovingly to this task. Her willingness to hold the long view for me when I am stuck in the difficult logistics of the mundane, gives foundation to larger goals and lifelong dreams.
Most people don’t realize that trauma is not only the story of something awful that happened in the past, but the residue of imprints left behind in people’s sensory and hormonal systems.
People with trauma are usually out of touch with their physical sensations and therefore have trouble taking care of themselves.
The human nervous system is on a quest for safety and we use others to help us feel safe.
Time stops for people who have been traumatized. That makes it hard to take pleasure in the present because the body keeps replaying the past. Trauma-sensitive people have their sense of time thrown off and think something will last forever. But things can and will shift. Therapy helps the trauma-sensitive notice and begin to trust that this will also be true for them.
If you are a victim of sexual assault, you may feel that you will never be normal again. You may feel that the emotional pain will never go away and that the shame, depression, anxiety, humiliation, guilt, anger and numbness will remain in your body and pervade all of your subsequent relationships. This need not be true. Through a process of recovery you can learn to think and speak about what happened in ways that will empower you to get not only your needs but your hopes and fears fully addressed and satisfied.
In the presence of one who is attuned to your feelings, you will be able to internalize that attunement and gradually begin to know yourself how to:
Get appropriate medical attention
Gather a group of people & resources to support you
Understand that the assault was not your fault
Know for sure that you cannot just “get over it”
Avoid bottling up your feelings
Tell others precisely how to help
Take measures to feel safe
Steer clear of all implications that you yourself brought this on
Victims often leave counseling with a deeper feeling of gratitude for their life and a greater sense of compassion for both themselves and others.
Over the many years of working with Gail, no topic has ever been off limits, no darkness so dark that it has been impenetrable to light. She is wonderfully keen and compassionate. My experience with Gail has been profound and buoyant; always disarming; practically holy.
Many couples seek counseling when points of tension in their relationship reach an unprecedented high. At such times, communication stalls. Feelings are raw. Though deep down both partners want to reach an understanding, anticipating the process can be frightening, even daunting.
Such tension might arise, for example,
When a loss or change in one creates a long-term anxiety or depression that eventually casts a negative spell on the other and possibly the whole family
When one partner says they feel “bored” in the relationship, implying that it’s the other person’s responsibility to make sure that this doesn’t happen
When a mutual habit of conflict-avoidance leads to seemingly irreversible dishonesty (withholding) and staleness
When one person in a relationship is centering her life around the other, rather than cultivating a rich, full, personal life in partnership with another who has done the same
When addiction-related issues in one partner get out of hand
The patterns and assumptions that land two people in such places inevitably are laid over time. Rather than just get through them, couples can use them to establish a more compassionate and respectful groundwork. In sessions with me they learn to ask for what they want, to say how they feel, to identify their needs and take responsibility for their experiences. As both parties reach a more honest and expressive self relationship, greater safety and trust in the other person’s presence also becomes possible. Couples frequently leave counseling with a deep appreciation for their connection and take pleasure in a new, more collaborative partnership.
Gail provides straightforward, honest feedback and always gets to the heart of the matter.
A great depth of feeling underlies two people’s commitment to love and support each other for the rest of their lives. In such an atmosphere of openness, why would counseling be needed?
Ironically, openness in itself can become an obstacle. In a generally celebratory environment, the difficulties the couple has experienced are now not at the forefront. Because no one is supporting bringing difficulties up, these risk becoming even more the norm. To avoid painful and predictable arguments, couples will collude in just not mentioning what bothers them. Nevertheless the issues are there and continue to hurt.
A person who has never learned to use conflict as grounds for greater intimacy might avoid not only conflicts, but other important self-expressions. Authenticity itself can even feel conflictual. Inauthenticity, however, rarely holds up, and marriages grow dishonest, stale or boring.
A series of pre-commitment counseling sessions can operate like a routine “physical.” Everything may be fine, but alternately, one or two facts (in relationships “feelings are facts”) may be uncovered that the other person didn’t know about. Articulating a feeling not only helps the person who experiences it (to process and integrate it), it helps the other person recognize, support, and very much appreciate his or her partner.
In my presence the couple learns ways to share awkward feelings and sensations that they otherwise might “stuff,” to the detriment of the relationship’s freshness.
More confident in their ability to communicate, couples become deeply attuned and eager to take responsibility for their mutual emotional happiness.
I am more patient, he is more focused, and things are actually improving.
Throughout my twenty-plus years of counseling, thirty-plus years of Buddhist practice, and forty-plus years of writing as a way of life, I have learned the HOW of aging (shepherded by all its previous milestones). For this special stage of life I use a broad palette of psychological and spiritual tools to help each person maximize the precious time left.
In 1970 I took lay ordination from Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. My work as a therapist has been deeply informed by the richness of Zen and later Tibetan Buddhist practice. I love to help people make their spiritual understanding practical. Therapy is a safe place to let this happen.
Work with Gail feels less a therapy than a ritual of devotion and love which has reached into all of my relationships, all of my daily actions and my life as a whole and asks me to give all features of my existence this level of commitment and honesty.