Mark R. Zitlin, Ph.D.
4901 Broadway, Ste 100
San Antonio, TX 78209
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.
Looking at Root Causes:
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.
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 alike.
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.
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, abuse of social media, anger, identity development, eating disorders, and resisting (or stopping) a range of risk behaviors, such as substance abuse.
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.
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.
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.