Psychotherapy

Psychological Treatment Services

My Approach to Psychotherapy

A supervisor once told me that for each patient, a psychologist must reinvent the therapeutic process.  Because individuals are unique, I take an eclectic approach to the modalities I use with each patient, varying my approach based on the individual’s needs, goals, and personality.

I was fortunate to be trained in Clinical Psychology at University of Hawaii. The program follows a scientist-practitioner model.  Through my training, I learned how to apply evidenced based treatment methods for treating many forms of psychological distress, such as anxiety and depression. Such treatment modalities are often time-limited, with evidence supporting improvement in a matter of several weeks.

Not all patients seek therapy to address specific psychological symptoms, however. Many come for personal growth, identity development, examining relationships and interpersonal relating, and understanding barriers to finding meaning and fulfillment. For these individuals, I create a safe, accepting space to examine whatever they wish to explore.

The First Session

In the first session, I will learn what brought you to my office. I’ll spend time getting to know you, hearing your story, and getting a sense what you would like to accomplish through our sessions. Your reasons could be very targeted and goal oriented. For example, “I’d like to reduce my anxiety, have fewer panic attacks, and not worry all the time.” Or, your reasons may be more exploratory.  For example, “I’ve had several unfulfilling relationships and I’d like to understand why.”

By the end of the first session, we should be able to have a starting point for what you would like to achieve through therapy, and how I can help you.

Reasons for Seeking Psychotherapy

People seek psychotherapy for a variety of reasons. Some people seek help for dealing with immediate crises in their lives, including coping with stress and having a safe place to explore options.

Others enjoy having a dedicated time during their busy week to focus on growth and personal development. They may examine how they can improve meaning and fulfillment in their lives, and examine barriers to their happiness.

Others identify specific areas of distress, such as symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other points of psychological and emotional distress.

Whatever your reasons, I encourage you to seek help rather than struggle on your own. There is no “right or wrong” patient for psychotherapy.

The following are common reasons people work with me:

Spiritual / Emotional Growth

Spiritual/emotional growth and self-exploration, including identity development, professional development, and exploring barriers and paths to personal happiness and harmony. People can benefit from examining aspects of themselves, and their lives, there are not working for them. They may feel “stuck,” in a “rut,” afraid to make changes or confront difficult decisions. Understanding the barriers to growth, and learning how to take risks and make changes can be highly rewarding and fulfilling.

Depression

People who seek therapy for depression often identify feelings of sadness, grief, guilt, and shame. These feelings are usually associated with insecurity, self-doubt, poor self-esteem, and even self-hatred. The feelings are almost never justified, and lead to tormenting shame. Nobody deserves to feel that way.

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Anxiety

People who seek help for anxiety often identify excessive worry, fears of social situations, phobias, panic, and obsessive-compulsive behavior. Anxiety often leads to avoidance, causing people to miss out on opportunities or activities that would be rewarding and fulfilling. Anxiety is very treatable — don’t let it control your existence!

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Trauma/PTSD

People who seek help for Trauma/PTSD usually have experienced  physical/sexual abuse, combat related distress, or other stressful life experiences. We know that trauma can have a lasting and profound affect on a person’s emotional and psychological well-being, and affect everything from interpersonal relationships, work, and ability to enjoy day to day activities. Often with trauma, people experience extreme vulnerability, and approach life afterwards with fear and mistrust, needing to create a space allowing maximum safety. It’s a natural reaction to an extreme situation, but the PTSD behaviors are no longer effective in “normal” situations. There are many evidence based methods of working on trauma/PTSD that are very effective.

Relationship Issues

Couples who seek therapy are often dealing with feelings in their relationship such as fear, anger, loss of trust, betrayed, and disconnectedness/isolation.  Partners will explore how they feel in the relationship, and often they will discover that they have thoughts or feelings they didn’t realize which are being expressed in the relationship through anger, anxiety, avoidance or other behavioral patterns.

Sometimes, each partner’s personal history and experience, including their relationships in their families of origin, can play a role in the way they interact with each other. There may also be important events in a couples’ relationship, causing emotional wounds, that need to be addressed and resolved in order to move forward.

A primary goal of therapy is to help the couple become more attuned to each other’s’ emotional needs and reestablish a more loving, compassionate, and understanding relationship with each other.

Psychotherapy Techniques

I use a variety of psychotherapy techniques and approaches, depending on the needs of the individual. These may include:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a highly effect therapeutic method used for learning how to identify and change unhealthy and irrational beliefs.

CBT can be highly effective for treating anxiety, depression, and other psychological problems, and it’s a cornerstone of my therapeutic practice.

Using CBT, we will identify your thought patterns, and how irrational thoughts may be serving to create anxiety or mood problems.

We will then identify alternative thoughts and behavior that are both more rational, and functional, and learn techniques for replacing the old with the new.

Psychodynamic / Childhood / Family of Origin issues

Yes, there have been countless jokes about psychologists delving into their patients’ childhoods. Examining childhood is not always necessary, nor is it always the most efficient approach toward some therapeutic goals. In reality, it can be very helpful for people to understand how and why they react to others, and the world around them, because of their childhood experiences. Gaining an awareness of how you formed attachments as a child, developed defense mechanisms to protect yourself, and employ behaviors and manners of communication to establish safety and meet your needs can be is often very helpful in understanding your current patterns and whether or not they still serve your best interests.

(808) 947-2205

akaplan@hawaii.edu

438 Hobron Lane, Suite 315 Honolulu, HI 96815