I offer a step-by-step approach to therapy, regardless of the type of emotionally abusive relationship my clients have experienced. My approach is based on personal experience and the expertise I’ve acquired through years of providing individual and group therapy to people who have been in emotionally abusive relationships.
Counseling may be shorter-term if you want to work on immediate issues such as gaining a better understanding of your relationship, how to handle emotional abuse, and help with making the best decisions for yourself and your children.
For lasting change to occur, we’ll look at the deeper emotional wounds from childhood that you may or may not be aware of. Longer-term therapy helps you improve the way you see yourself and your relationships, so that you feel empowered and more confident. Therapy can also help you avoid future involvement with emotionally abusive people.
I felt stuck in a marriage with a controlling and abusive wife. I tolerated the abuse until I got into therapy and did the work I needed to do to move forward. —68-year-old male
Here’s a general idea of what to expect in your therapy sessions with me:
1. A safe, supportive, and non-judgmental environment
I offer you a comfortable and confidential place to express feelings that you’ve likely been carrying for a long time. I will listen to your story, validate your experience, and understand you on a deeper level than you may have experienced before.
You can reveal your feelings and experiences at your own pace and comfort level.
You may not be ready to tell me about your most hurtful and humiliating experiences. But when you are, I will never pass judgment or be repelled by what you reveal to me. Because of my own history of being in emotionally abusive relationships, I understand what can happen and know how vulnerable you may feel.
You will likely experience immediate relief that you’ve finally found someone who “gets” what you’ve been going through.
I will also provide you with therapeutic resources for your abusive partner if he or she is willing to take responsibility for the hurtful behavior and get help.
2. A way to recognize and name the emotional abuse
Much of the emotional abuse you have experienced may be hard to identify and describe. Your partner may have disguised the abuse with denial, excuses, intentionally confusing you, or claiming his or her actions are for your own good.
You might only be able to describe it in general ways such as:
“He blames me for everything.”
“She’s always mad at me.”
“I can’t do anything right”.
“He won’t talk with me.”
“She’s always putting me down.”
“He always has to be right.”
“He says he loves me, but he doesn’t act like he does.”
“When I try to talk with him, he says it’s not a good time.”
“He makes promises, breaks them, and then gets angry when I try to hold him accountable.”
“She was a completely different person when we met.”
“Sometimes I ask myself, “Is there something wrong with him, or is it me?”
Often, you may get confused about whether or not your partner is right. You may think, ”Maybe I did cause the trouble”. Because of this lack of understanding of mental abuse, it’s important in therapy that we work to help you identify and name the abusive tactics and their effects on you. Also, knowing what’s causing the abusive behavior, and your reaction to it, will weaken its power over you.
The importance of identifying and naming emotional abuse is the reason why I wrote my book, From Charm to Harm: The Guide to Spotting, Naming, and Stopping Emotional Abuse in Intimate Relationships. I describe more than 80 emotional abuse tactics and nearly 30 effects of the abuse. I also cover ways in which the abused unintentionally contribute to their own suffering. My book gives people a way to comprehend emotional abuse on a deeper level and talk about it. It empowers people to protect themselves and their loved ones from emotional abuse.
3. Help with understanding the full impact of the abuse
In therapy, you will come to understand how and when you compromised yourself in your relationship. You will learn how “settling for” and “putting up” with your relationship is harming you. You will become aware of the ways in which you are unintentionally contributing to the abuse, even as you believe you are doing everything in your power to stop it. You will realize that if the abuse is allowed to continue, it will only get worse, and may escalate into domestic violence against you or your children (if it hasn’t already).
I’ll help you sort out your feelings and experiences and recognize your symptoms of emotional trauma. We’ll also address conflicting feelings you may have about yourself or your partner.
4. Deeper insight into the root cause of emotional abuse
We’ll look deeper into the reasons why you are in an abusive relationship and the subconscious reasons why you may be contributing to your own suffering. This is not to blame you for what has happened to you, because abuse is never your fault. However, in order to move on from your experience and prevent it from happening in the future, awareness is key.
You may not realize that on some level you believe you aren’t worthy of your partner’s love and respect. These deeply embedded beliefs are usually the result of early life experiences. If that’s the case, we will work together to help you let go of old and negative ways of thinking about yourself and others. You will then more easily come to accept, on an emotional and intellectual level, that you deserve to be treated well by your partner.
I’ll support and guide you as we look into your past to find the experiences that shaped your beliefs about yourself and others. I’ll help you take the steps necessary to identify your personal strengths and attributes and develop a more positive self-image.
5. Empowerment and healing
We will explore strategies for coping and ways to decrease stress, anxiety, and depression. You’ll realize the importance of listening to your intuition and setting protective boundaries in your relationships. You’ll learn effective coping skills and discover ways to feel stronger and more grounded.
You will realize the necessity of developing a loving relationship with yourself, before you can have a healthy relationship with another. As you come to a better understanding of yourself and your experiences, you’ll gain emotional health and find ways to move on with your life. You’ll be able to make an informed decision about whether you want to stay or leave your relationship.
You will develop a greater sense of who you are and work towards realizing and fulfilling your needs, wishes, and dreams – parts of you that were previously stifled. You will be freer to pursue the life you want and deserve.
Methods and Style of Therapy
I use a combination of proven theoretical approaches and methods, depending on what will be the most helpful to you.
I consider myself a collaborator with you in discovering and bringing forth your best self. I will always respect your feelings and opinions.
We’ll discuss how therapy is evolving for you periodically, and I’ll adjust my methods and style to best suit your needs. My objective as your therapist is for you to get the most out of our sessions, so that you can achieve personal growth and healing.
I kept getting into relationships with men who treated me badly. Now I feel freer than ever and have better self-esteem. I really wish I had gotten into therapy sooner. —25-year-old female