Erin Lightman, MS, NCC, LPC
at Wellspring Counseling, Coaching, and Transition Center
Below, I talk about some of the counseling approaches I draw from. If you're interested in a specific type of therapy (like CBT or DBT), be sure to let me know in the consultation.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Lack of Assertiveness
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based form of therapeutic treatment that has been shown to be effective for many psychological issues including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, relationship problems, eating disorders, and psychotic disorders. It is based on the idea that psychological issues are due in part to unhelpful ways of thinking and patterns of unhelpful behaviors. The ultimate goal of CBT is for the client to eventually be able to act as their own therapist.
Through practice in and out of session, clients learn to monitor the way they talk to themselves. Being humans, our self-talk tends to be overly critical and prone to many logical fallacies. Clients learn to catch these unhelpful thoughts, label them as one of many different types of thought distortions, and replace them with something that aligns with reality and kindness. For example, you might catch yourself thinking, “I’m so stupid,” after making a mistake. You might catch the thought, label it as over-generalization (taking an isolated incident and blowing it up to say something extreme), and replace it with, “I made a mistake, and that doesn’t make me stupid.”
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
ACT is an action-oriented approach where the client learns to accept their emotions as they are and commits to making changes in their behavior according to their values. A core principle is that trying to control painful emotions and psychological experiences is ineffective and often counterproductive.
Similar to CBT, in ACT you learn how to listen to your self-talk and identify destructive or unhelpful thoughts. But instead of learning to reframe these thoughts (as in CBT), you learn to de-fuse from them, taking away their importance.
ACT recognizes that humans spend a lot of mental time in the past and the future. With disorders like depression and anxiety, much of that time is consumed by regret and worry. In ACT, clients are taught to spend more time in the present through mindfulness.
Existential Therapy is based on existential theory, a centuries-old philosophy that proposes that humans have the freedom to choose their own existence and meaning. Philosophers like Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Sartre believed that one’s identity can only be known through self-awareness and self-respect. In a constantly changing world, the only constant is a person’s responsibility is to determine what they want to be and how they want to be it.
This approach to therapy aids clients in finding meaning and purpose in their lives despite normal worries and knowledge of eventual death. The therapist also helps the client confront their fears of the unknown and strengthen their self-respect and motivation. A desired outcome for this approach is for clients to make choices from places of positivity instead of fear.
Internal Family Systems (IFS)
IFS is based on the idea that the human mind is naturally made up of many parts. Each of us has a self (which is innately whole and unbreakable), parts that strive to protect us, and wounded parts beneath the conscious level.
Our protector parts all have good intentions, but some can become extreme in their actions. For example, let’s say Kim has a protector part that developed to help her distract from painful emotions. This part becomes destructive when it encourages Kim to drink heavily whenever she experiences a painful emotion. In another example, let’s say Fred has a protector part that developed in reaction to him experiencing humiliation as a child. That protector might mentally berate the adult Fred anytime he says something that the part judges as potentially embarrassing.
Part of IFS involves fleshing out and befriending these protector parts so that they can do their jobs in a less harmful way. The ultimate goal of IFS therapy is to promote the client’s self as an effective leader and gain balance within the client’s internal system.
To practice IFS in its entirety (which involves working with the unconscious wounded parts), clinicians are required to undergo formal training. As of now, I haven’t been able to take this training (gaining entry requires winning a lottery), so I practice it in a limited fashion.
Person Centered Therapy
Also called Rogerian therapy (after founder Carl Rogers), Person Centered Therapy trusts the client to do most of the talking to take them where they need to go. In order to abide by the principles of this approach, the therapist must practice being their genuine self in session and have unconditional positive regard for clients. This approach is especially good for external processors (people who tend to develop their ideas while talking about them) and for people who know exactly where they want to go in their therapeutic journey.
According to Rogers, "Individuals have within themselves vast resources for self-understanding and for altering their self-concepts, basic attitudes, and self-directed behavior; these resources can be tapped if a definable climate of facilitative psychological attitudes can be provided."
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
A dialectic is the existence of two opposite concepts existing in the same space. The primary dialectic in DBT is acceptance and change: a goal of DBT is accepting yourself while also engaging in positive change. This approach to therapy involves learning skills in 4 main areas: mindfulness (learning to live in the present), distress tolerance (copping with stress and discomfort in a healthy way), emotion regulation (managing extreme emotions through changing thoughts and behaviors), and interpersonal effectiveness (learning to communicate and be with others in a way that improves your relationships with them).
"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
- Victor E. Frankl