Shame, Inner Critic, and Self-Loathing

Lately I’m feeling inspired by Janina Fisher’s work on shame. Pervasive feelings of shame are often the result of childhood abuse, neglect, or trauma. Through the process of expanding my knowledge and working with clients, I’ve developed a deeper understanding of the relationship between shame, the inner critic, and self-loathing.

shame-inner-critic-self-loathing Shame begins as an interpersonal experience between the child and caregivers in his or her life. When parents are limited in their ability to provide “good enough” parenting they often resort to punishments to keep the child in line, or discharge their own anger. Punishment can involve acts of commission, such as overt abuse, or acts of omission, withholding love and care. Both experiences are felt as a threat to survival by the smaller and more helpless child who depends on his parents for all his needs.

When humans are faced with a threat to survival, we typically attempt our first line of defense: fight or flight. Yet those strategies are often ineffective in cases of childhood abuse. The child often cannot escape her parents whom she also depends on for her very survival. And fighting a bigger and scarier parent is not only ineffective but can result in more severe punishment. At that point, the body and brain turns to it’s last available defense strategy: freeze. By becoming still and not resisting the abuse, the child protects himself from the consequences of fight or flight. Continue reading “Shame, Inner Critic, and Self-Loathing”

Why The Therapeutic Relationship Is Important

psychotherapy relationshipIn a recent article several amazing mental health professionals offered advice for new clients to therapy. One of the main themes was the importance of the therapist-client relationship. In my view, that relationship is often misunderstood. Clients may wonder why the therapy relationship is important. Isn’t psychotherapy just a service one receives? Do therapists really care about their patients? In this article, I’d like to delve a bit more into the therapeutic relationship, incorporating both my experiences as a therapist and a client in therapy.

In my early professional years I was asking the question: How can I treat, or cure, or change this person? Now I would phrase the question in this way: How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his own personal growth? Carl Rogers

Continue reading “Why The Therapeutic Relationship Is Important”

New To Therapy? What Therapists Want You To Know.

New to therapy. What therapists want you to knowAre you considering therapy for the first time? Or maybe you’ve already started psychotherapy but feel uncertain about the process. As a therapist who works with both new and returning clients I thought it would be helpful to provide some information about what to expect in therapy.

I’ve reached out to friends, colleagues, and mentors I’ve met both in person and through social media. Here’s the accumulated wisdom of these caring and competent clinicians:

Beginning Therapy 

Look for someone who understands and connects with you, but also challenges you. Good therapy stems from a good relationship…a shared understanding of the problem, a confidence in the collaboration, an agreement on where you’re going and why, and a mutual liking and respect. Great therapy takes it a step further than that though, with someone who inspires and challenges you…to compassionately accept your own flaws and foibles at your worst and also to embrace your awesomeness at your best. Great therapy challenges you to share your unique light with the world and to connect with others to nurture theirs.

Jared DeFife, PhD. Host of the School of Psych podcast. Continue reading “New To Therapy? What Therapists Want You To Know.”

How Change Happens In Couples Therapy

When couples have been in distress for a long time it can be difficult to understand how therapy can help. Each person may feel so entrenched in the relationship conflict and dysfunction that the possibility of change feels hopeless. Yet if there’s a commitment to change on the part of both partners, then transformation can happen!

Change in couples therapy


In my work with couples I see important work and change happening in the following areas: Continue reading “How Change Happens In Couples Therapy”

Why Your Spouse May Not Want Couples Therapy

Have you been trying to get your spouse or partner to attend couples therapy with you? Maybe you’ve been trying to make it happen for years and your spouse still won’t go. At this point you may have reached the end of your rope and don’t know what to do next.

You are not alone.

When working with relationships, it’s common to see a pattern in which one partner is dissatisfied with the marriage and wants to make changes. Meanwhile, the other partner may see nothing wrong or is reluctant to take the step of actually scheduling a therapy session.

Why is this happening? Why are some individuals so reluctant to go to couples therapy with their spouses? Continue reading “Why Your Spouse May Not Want Couples Therapy”