Services Provided by Dr. Clifford
*Psychotherapy for Adults, Adolescents, and Children
*Biofeedback, Nutrition, and Other Mind-Body Approaches
Effective psychotherapy is a collaborative endeavor. In our first session we can talk about what has led you to seek help at this time and what you hope to gain from the treatment. We will explore the causes of difficulties, and work together to alleviate symptoms, improve interpersonal relationships, and enable you to achieve your goals.
My intentions are to provide a comfortable, safe, and private environment, to be an active partner in expanding self-awareness, and changing problematic patterns so that the people I work with can create more satisfying, meaningful lives. While I respect the uniqueness of each individual, I also appreciate the ways that various aspects of identity, including ethnicity, socioeconomic background, age, and sexual orientation can shape ones experience in the world.
I work with adults, adolescents, children, families, and couples, and have extensive experience treating anxiety, depression, trauma, bereavement, eating disorders, stress-related conditions, and interpersonal problems. I do both brief problem-focused psychotherapy, and long-term work with a broader focus. I use evidence-based treatments tailored to the individual. These include contemporary relational psychodynamic psychotherapy, cognitive techniques, EMDR, and some biofeedback.
Working with Adults
My intention when working with adults is to be an active partner in understanding and addressing the problems that bring a person to seek help. For some people the work is specific, focused and brief, and for others it is a longer and more complex endeavor.
Psychotherapy relieves symptoms and strengthens psychological and emotional functioning largely through talking about thoughts and feelings and noticing the themes, conflicts and patterns that occur. Good psychotherapy increases our capacity to understand what interferes with attaining greater pleasure and meaning in our lives. In addition, it supports making realistic self-assessments, clarifying the difference between those things we are responsible for and those that we are not. It can help us to let go of shame and guilt that are in fact unwarranted, to put into perspective and manage our true responsibilities, and make choices that we feel good about.
Our capacity to thrive, to be both flexible and sturdy is influenced by a combination of current events, life history, environment, relationships, biological endowments, physical experience, and the meanings we make of all these. The degree to which any of these needs focus depends on each unique individual.
Addressing the Particular Needs of Adolescents, Children, and Their Families
Developing a sense of mature self and finding one’s way in the social world can be overwhelming at times. More mature and older adolescents get significant relief from sitting down and talking with someone who is separate from their daily life, but fully interested and engaged in understanding the many dilemmas they face. Teens and young adults grapple with shifting emotions, and changes in a sense of who they are and who they want to be, sexuality, and relationships to peers, and family.
With younger people it is often helpful to use art, games, and or story telling. These forms of communication may come more naturally and feel less intrusive than direct discussion about one’s own difficulties, particularly in the beginning of treatment. Play comes readily to most children and provides a rich opportunity for expression of the causes for worries and behavior problems.
Children and adolescents often express depression and anxiety through irritability, and uncooperative, ornery behavior. For this reason they can be easily misunderstood by both adults and the children themselves. The behavior gets focused on and the underlying causes go unaddressed. This misunderstanding can then lead to further anxiety and depression and thus more irritability, following a vicious downward spiral.
Recognizing and supporting strengths, and respect for children, teens and parents are important aspects of my work. At times our troubles can become so much in the foreground that we lose sight of our attributes.
My aim in working with parents is to help them be more effective. In part, this means supporting parents to be authoritative rather than authoritarian, or permissive. An authoritative parent sets consistent, firm and rational limits and expectations based on the individual developmental needs of the child. They value both adherence to adult requirements and independence in the child, and encourage verbal interaction and mutual respect. The authoritative parent slowly gives the child greater independence and exercises less control as the child matures. Mistakes can be some of the best opportunities for learning, as long as the mistake doesn’t have dire consequences. None of us would ever learn to walk if we weren’t allowed to fall down, but we shouldn’t have to learn along the edge of a cliff.
PROBLEMS I CAN HELP WITH:
Bereavement and Loss
Parenting and Step-Parenting
Human beings have an amazing capacity to learn. There are times however, when this strength can work against us, particularly when we have experienced a trauma. The elements of the trauma, including smells, sights and sounds, become triggers causing a cascade of chemical responses leading to anxiety, confusion and a variety of potentially debilitating reactions. The flood of fight or flight stimulation occurs so rapidly that our rational thinking can’t very easily catch up to intervene. Even though we know that this man or this car, for example, isn’t the one that hurt us, we respond as if they are. At times there may not be a known trigger, and the reasons for these responses aren’t clear to us. This is often the case with public speaking anxiety and social phobia. We are flooded with fear even though it may seem irrational.
EMDR uses a combination of bilateral stimulation (auditory and/or tactile) and mental emotional processing to enable us to alter the way our nervous systems respond. It is not that we forget what happened to us. Instead, this approach enables us to remember traumatic or stressful events in a way that is not debilitating, and does not trigger the flood of fight or flight chemicals. This in turn allows us to assess and respond to the world we are in right now.
Humans are fundamentally meaning-making beings. The meanings we make of our experiences register at both physiological and psychological levels, consciously and unconsciously, and have profound impact on our lives. Some undermine our functioning, while others strengthen us. Because our minds and bodies are not separate, but rather are parts of one system, our physical health is inexorably intertwined with our emotional and psychological wellbeing.
Stress, anxiety, and sadness accompany the losses, tribulations, and crises of ordinary life. However, they become a serious problem – and an appropriate reason to seek therapy – when we find ourselves unable to recover. Living in a perpetual state of stress leads to poor health, interpersonal problems, and continuing unhappiness.
To address both the embodied nature of the mind, as well as the impact that thinking and feeling have on the body, my practice includes a number of evidenced-based modalities that are complementary to psychotherapy, such as biofeedback, EMDR, and nutritional assessment and intervention. As research over the years has established a central role for diet and physical health in both the prevention and treatment of mental health conditions, I attend to the nutrient status and life style choices of my patients, and work closely with naturopathic doctors. In order to effectively alleviate symptoms, we may find it important to address issues such as food, exercise, sleep patterns, and the impact of medications.
I use a basic biofeedback system that gives you rapid information about what your nervous system is doing and therefore enables the user to achieve a more relaxed and meditative state, helping to conquer anxiety and stress. The use of biofeedback can be especially helpful for people who find it difficult to learn to meditate or are not interested in doing so. This includes children and adolescents who are often accustomed to the use of computers and gadgets, and would benefit from learning to calm and regulate their nervous systems to alleviate the effects of stress.