Seems like I have had these same old blues now since old time began
So I went to talk my troubles to the hoodoo man
I told him all about my problem, and I asked him what was wrong
He said you got to live the blues, if you want to sing your song
Seems like I'll always lose, you've got to suffer if you want to sing the blues
When potential new patients call they often ask: “What is your approach to psychotherapy?” It is understandable that such a question is being raised, especially if the caller found me via a google search, rather than by visiting my website or by referral.
It is not always so easy to provide a comprehensive explanation of my clinical approach within the context of a brief introductory phone call. My strategy has been to ask a lot of questions before I answer such inquires as a means of trying to figure out what exactly the person is looking for in terms of an explanation. Often times people just want simplistic answers. Do you do Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)? Brief Focused therapy? Do you work with people who have my specific issues? How many sessions will it take to fix my problem?
While brief focused treatment might be appropriate for some people, for others, a different approach might make more sense. As a seasoned psychologist I believe I have earned the right to say “I have seen it all” when it comes to clinical treatment. Yet, I can also say, that each person I have met within my 30 years of practice has been different, with a unique story and set of presenting problems. In clinical practice no two people are alike and one size does not fit all when it comes to the psychotherapy process.
It might be popular — and even financially and politically motivated by some — to view psychology as a rigorous science with precise tools. Therapy, however, is an art and has more in common with spiritual pursuits and literary analysis than physics or organic chemistry. At the heart of the psychotherapy process is the relationship between the patient and the therapist, not just the tools in his bag of tricks. What is important is trust, confidentiality, empathy, understanding, insight, and motivation for change, rather than quantifiable outcomes and objective criteria.
As a clinical psychologist I believe it is important to do a thorough psychological assessment and psychosocial history prior to committing to a certain approach or treatment plan. You need to understand the person and his or her unique circumstances before deciding on a clinical modality.
For some, brief therapy like CBT makes sense. They are dealing with a particular symptom or behavior they want to go away. For others, however, symptoms are symbolic of something deeper, perhaps struggles with self destructive patterns, chronic feelings of depression or anxiety, or negative personality traits that are maladaptive. In these cases, focusing solely on symptom reduction would be equivalent to a fireman deciding to shut off the fire alarm rather addressing the underlining issues that are causing the fire. Symptoms can be a valuable tool both as an indicator that something is wrong as well as a motivator for personal change. Sometimes shutting off the alarm temporarily as you proceed to put out the fire makes sense, but just shutting off the alarm without doing the necessary work to resolve the underlying structural issues will more often than not lead to poor outcomes.
David Bromberg, the folk singer once said “you have to suffer if you want to sing the blues.” It is my experience that sometimes you have to suffer to stop singing the blues. For it is each person’s discomfort that motivates them to call me up, ask about my philosophical approach and get the help they need to become happier, more free and confident in who they are and what they want to become. Psychotherapy is an inward journey, and the therapist is a guide on the path of change, not a scientist with a white coat, stethoscope and prescription pad.
Dr. Martin Klein is a psychologist who practices in the County of Fairfield. He utilizes several treatment modalities in his practice including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), existential psychodynamic analysis, insight oriented couples counseling, hypnotherapy, supportive client centered counseling, and action focused motivational Executive Coaching.
Leave a Reply.
Dr. Martin Klein is a clinical psychologist who practices in Westport, Stamford and Fairfield CT. He works with children, adults and couples.