Counseling / Psychotherapy

Counseling / Psychotherapy




     Behavior Therapy

     Brain-Based Therapy



The words ‘counseling’ and ‘psychotherapy are often used interchangeably, to refer to “talking therapy,” or talking ones problems out with a mental health professional, such as a psychologist.

There are many different kinds of psychotherapy; the paragraphs below will summarize a few of them. No one technique works for everyone, and it may be a matter of preference, which one you would choose. When choosing a therapist, first find out their credentials and make sure they are trained, licensed or certified. Then spend some time talking to them and decide if you feel comfortable with them. The rapport is just as important, possibly more important, than the specific technique that is used. Also, many therapists use a combination of techniques, depending upon what the client needs.

Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

Psychodynamic psychotherapy helps the client understand current problems by understanding their connection to past events. Often childhood experiences leave excess  baggage that interferes with relationships or other goals in adulthood. Often, understanding the childhood issues gives a fresh perspective on the current problems and helps to resolve them. Resolution of the childhood issues goes a long way towards creating a new and better life, in which these same problems do not keep recurring

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) conceives of one’s current problems as the result of irrational thoughts and beliefs, which lead to behaviors which create and perpetuate the problems. In CBT, the irrational beliefs are challenged, re-examined, and replaced with healthy, true, and empowering beliefs, which, in turn, leads to new more successful behavior.

It may be interesting to learn that “talking therapy” can produce changes in the brain that can be seen on a brain scan. Volume 61 of the Archives of General Psychiatry, published in 2004, showed a series of brain scans that showed visible changes before and after cognitive-behavioral therapy, which were very similar to the changes that occurred when medication was used to relieve the symptoms. (cited in Arden, 2).

Behavior Therapy

Behavioral therapy focuses on eliminating negative behaviors, often by reinforcing positive behaviors and replacing the negative with those. The best way to extinguish a negative behavior is to ignore, or not reinforce it. Behavioral therapy can be particularly helpful in relationship or family problems. When negative feelings and behavior escalate to the point that they overcome the positive aspects, a family will seek help.

One technique used with children who have behavior problems is to teach the parents to notice and reward, even by just a comment or a hug, any positive behavior or attitude that occurs. As parents, we often fall into the trap of ignoring the good behaviors, because we “expect” them to do those things. Sometimes a child or teen may come to feel – largely unconsciously – that she won’t get any attention unless she misbehaves. Unfortunately, this is sometimes true. Reversing this process by focusing on the positive, can create what can seem like miraculous changes.

Brain Based Therapy

Brain-based therapy is a fairly new development in psychotherapy, ushered in by new discoveries about the brain. Dr. John Arden outlines many essential aspects of these discoveries, and how they can be used, in his book Rewire Your Brain.

One example is the problem of anxiety disorders, which can often be resistant to traditional psychotherapy. We now know that, because of the way the brain is set up, anxiety may in some cases override logic and reasoning. But, through knowing how this works, it can be corrected.

To greatly oversimplify: the brain is divided into three sections: a logical, executive section; an emotional section; and a survival section. The brain’s first priority in life is to keep us safe. So if the brain somehow gets the idea that a certain behavior is dangerous – like, going outside, for example – the fear will override the logical aspect of the brain, because the survival mechanism is paramount. This is why people will sometimes say, “I know it doesn’t make any sense, but I can’t help it.”

People with phobias or panic attacks often have a hard time accepting their own behavior, because they know that the fears are not logical, but they cannot talk themselves out of it. Brain-based therapy uses creative methods to circumvent these patterns, and use the brain’s own innate ability to calm itself and allow reasoned thinking to take precedence.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: EMDR

One of the most revolutionary processes to come along in the field of psychology is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR for short. This process was developed in the early 1980’s by Dr. Francine Shapiro, while she was working at the V.A. She discovered that a series of eye movements could help people overcome trauma more quickly and more effectively than ever before. At that time, it was not known how EMDR worked, but more research has been done on EMDR than probably any other psychotherapy. If Dr. Shapiro had not had the wisdom to do a tremendous amount of research to establish its validity, EMDR would probably never have been accepted by the psychological and psychiatric communities. Instead, it is now being used around the world as a treatment for trauma of all kinds, small and large. Furthermore, its results are stable and long term. See and for more detail.

EMDR is very helpful for children and adolescents, as well as adults. An excellent book to show the use of EMDR with children is Small Wonders Healing Childhood Trauma with EMDR by Dr. Joan Lovett. A very readable book which clearly demonstrates the use of EMDR with adults is Emotional Healing at Warp Speed by Dr. David Grand, who went on to use EMDR for other purposes, such as cultivating people’s creativity.

You can find an EMDR practitioner by going or .



1. Arden, John, Rewire Your Brain (2010) Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

2. Arden, John, Brain Based Therapy: Evidence-Based Mental Health Treatment from Neuroscience and Attachment Theory (seminar) copyright 2009 PESI, LLC, Eau Claire, WI.

3. Grand, David, Emotional Healing at Warp Speed: The Power of EMDR (2003) New York, New York: Present Tents Publishing.

4. Lovett, Joan, Small Wonders: Healing Trauma with EMDR (1999) New York, New York: Free Press.