|About psychotherapy and the
scope of my practice
Psychotherapy, or counseling, is a confidential
conversation between you and your therapist,
designed to help you solve a variety of
problems. This includes the burden of too many
negative thoughts, or of excessive worry and
tension. Therapy can also be very useful for
other types of problems, such as everyday
stress, relationship problems, or getting your
life back on track when nothing you have tried
seems to be working.
Psychotherapy also addresses the deep human
need to be heard and understood, an
experience which has become increasingly rare
in our world.
Practical solutions usually form the basis of
treatment. Improving your abilities to
effectively communicate thoughts and feelings
is one such practical skill. Other skills include
developing or improving stress management
techniques, redirecting thoughts, or reshaping
unwanted habitual behaviors.
An in depth exploration of thoughts and
feelings, and developing the insight to
integrate them, can be equally valuable.
Although this type of intensive therapy process
can be distressing, a meaningful encounter with
life's pain can teach us much, and leave us
better prepared for the challenges ahead.
At times, people find themselves stuck, cycling
in repeating, self-defeating patterns in their
relationships, their emotions, or in making
consistently poor choices. The more these
repeating problems seem resistant to change,
the more likely it is that past experiences are
the root cause. Such experience can simply
reflect habits developed during daily
interactions from early family life, or reflect the
impact of severe emotional trauma. These old
experiences form the basis for automatic,
reflexive reactions in the present. In such
circumstances, exploring the ways past
experiences shape and guide our current
thoughts and feelings is just the first step. It
is equally important to learn alternative ways
to react when these old negative patters occur,
and to move beyond the old automatic reflexes
that have come to cause so much trouble.
Individual psychotherapy allows for focused
attention on the unique circumstances that
each person brings to the clinic. After an initial
assessment is made, particular solutions are
identified, then put into play. Such solutions
may include understanding the nature of
habitual behaviors (and how to change them),
or the use of basic techniques to reduce
anxiety, or reframe negative thoughts. It also
encourages, through self-refection, the
recognition that even everyday thoughts and
feelings can become useful building blocks for
self-development. After all, we are adaptable
creatures of habit, which allows mastery of both
the ability to change when needed, and equally,
to develop comfortable, functional routines that
you can rely on in familiar situations.
Therapy can also involve learning more about
ways to balance the interaction of thoughts
with emotions. Many find it very helpful to
improve mastery over powerful emotions. Some
find that they need to learn the best way for
them to recover from psychological wounds.
Others seek to discover ways to interrupt their
recurring patterns of self-defeating emotions,
maladaptive behaviors, or failed relationships.
I have always worked with teenagers, typically
fifteen and older. There are a range of issues
that emerge, including problem interactions
with parents and peers, dating, anger, identity
development, eating disorders, and resisting (or
stopping) a range of risk behaviors, such as
Mark R. Zitlin, Ph.D.
Marriage, Family, and Relationships:
Many find that their relationships, with family,
or friends, play a key role in their troubles. It
is also not unusual for people to have problems
with finding and sustaining relationships, or
difficulties with the intricacies of intimacy.
A surprising amount of what we know and learn
about ourselves comes directly from our past
and current interactions and experiences with
others. Identifying and then refining the
relationship "style" that we have developed can
produce significant changes.
Ongoing relationships can also offer an
opportunity for further growth of self, along
with the surprises and rewards of interpersonal
connection. They also remind us that there is
no way to care, or to love, without risk to
ourselves, or those we bond with.
Intimate relationships, in their complexity, are
a potent source of psychological risk. It has
been well documented that the severe
emotional upheaval that can occur in families
and couples has been linked to anxiety,
depression, stress disorders, and physical
illness. Through couple or marriage counseling,
damaged relationships, although an obvious
source of distress, can also become a rich
source of new solutions and mutual support.
Many people have the ability to form powerful
emotional attachments, but eventually find the
relationship they have formed with such
intensity turns out to be dissatisfying,
damaging or dysfunctional. Deciding to stay or
go can be painful and confusing, even when
children are not involved. Both individual and
marital counseling can bring such relationships
into focus, and help evaluate what changes
may be possible.
Our modern world seems to have put everyone
under increasing stress, with negative effects
on both physical and mental health. Stress in
the workplace can not only make the job
harder, it usually goes home with us. Likewise,
school stress impacts students and families
Psychotherapy can teach basic techniques of
personal stress management, tailored to each
individuals' needs and temperament.
In the case of chronic illness or disability,
psychotherapy can help with adjusting to losses
of function, new restrictions on activity, the
many changes to daily life, the depression, and
the many burdens placed on loved ones.
Acts of betrayal or violence can leave people
feeling helpless, at a loss to know how to
regain their sense of stability and certainty
about themselves. For some, the original
responses to the traumatic events can keep
re-occurring, unchanging, as if everything
stopped at the time of the trauma. For others,
the response they have to overwhelming
emotion is to become emotionally numb, and
cut off from the people around them.
Psychotherapy can play a crucial role in
assisting and guiding a recovery from such
painful, debilitating thoughts and emotions, or
from feeling disconnected from self and others.
In the case of significant trauma, a basic goal
of therapy is to provide the psychological tools
needed to facilitate ongoing reductions in
symptom frequency, intensity, and duration.
With help, and hard work, progress can begin
toward a resumption of interrupted lives, with
the real possibility of less pain, and of
well-earned wisdom to show for it.
San Antonio, TX 78209
ph: (210) 822-5795
fax: (210) 822-5939
Copyright 2009 - 2012 Mark R. Zitlin, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist. All rights reserved.
Grief and Traumatic Loss:
The death of a loved one is always difficult.
However, situations arise where the loss is
especially tragic or untimely. Such traumatic
losses are often psychologically devastating.
Intensive shock, grief, anger, and other
emotions arise, and can persist.
While working through any grieving process is a
deeply personal experience, the jarring
circumstances of traumatic losses can further
complicate the emotional reactions to the loss.
These powerful reactions can also create
unusual strains among family members, making
peace or acceptance that much harder to attain.
Family therapy can ease some of this burden on
families, and reduce the risk of blocked or
damaging emotional reactions.
Looking at Root Causes:
Intensive Individual/Couple Psychotherapy
Many people have discovered the benefits of
personal growth and increased self-awareness.
Working with someone trained to promote and
assist in the process of self-exploration can be
one of the most rewarding ways to fully benefit
from such a journey. Gaining knowledge of your
own cognitive and emotional depths can lead to
an increased sense of personal mastery, along
with increased sophistication when interacting
with others. Such explorations, when shared
with a life partner, can be invaluable.