Shame vs. Guilt

I’ve written before about the effects of childhood abuse and neglect. Among adult survivors of abuse it is common to see a persistent feeling of shame, which is characterized by an overall feeling of worthlessness, of “there’s something wrong with me.” This feeling is so painful that it is often suppressed and poorly understood. Furthermore, some individuals may have difficulty differentiating between guilt and shame. This article is to discuss the differences between shame and guilt, as supported by research.

Shame vs guiltTo start, shame, in itself, is not inherently negative. It is a uniquely human emotion, evolved to allow individuals to live both a moral and a social life. Along with other self-conscious emotions, such as guilt and pride, shame allows humans to reflect on their behavior and adopt society’s standards. When developed appropriately, shame is an adaptive response to inappropriate behavior, that is, to a specific situation. However, when shame develops pathologically it can result in negative outcomes leading to significant impacts on mental health.


When triggered, shame takes over the whole self of the person. Shame acts as a judgment on our whole sense of self, proclaiming us worthless, inadequate, and powerless. This negative view of the self may start from the critical remarks of another person, yet becomes internalized as an integral part of the self. When in the grip of shame, the individual has difficulty differentiating their behaviors from their identity; he or she feels a lack of empathy; and is more likely to turn anger and blame towards oneself (or others).

When in a state of shame one’s internal dialogue may look something like this:

“I’m a terrible, awful, horrible person and will be until the end of days.”

“Nothing I do is ever right. All I do is screw up.”

“I’m so bad that no one will ever love me.”

“I don’t deserve others’ care, love, or compassion.” Continue reading “Shame vs. Guilt”

Why Secular Therapy Is Important

Secular Therapy AustinAs I’ve developed my presence and approach as a secular therapist, I’ve had others ask me, “Do we really need secular therapy? Isn’t all therapy and counseling secular?” Well, no, not exactly. It’s true that nowadays many therapists are trained to use secular, research-based methods in therapy. In fact, my own masters in counseling education at a traditionally Catholic university was entirely secular. Some universities, however, teach their students a Christian-based perspective on counseling. And there are troubling stories of counseling students bringing their own religious views to the therapy process in a way that is potentially very harmful to clients.

I want to say here that I am not criticizing faith-based counseling. If therapists and counselors practice Christian counseling, or serve another religious community, it should be described on their website and other marketing. Then those clients who prefer a religious approach can seek out those practitioners.

If spirituality is important to you – wonderful. I am absolutely accepting of others’ spiritual and religious beliefs. I hope you find the right therapist for you, be they spiritual or secular. Indeed, I successfully work with clients from all religious backgrounds and faiths.

What is problematic is when a client finds a therapist expecting a research-accepted approach to therapy, and instead receives unwanted religious instruction or spiritual guidance. Continue reading “Why Secular Therapy Is Important”

Get the most from psychotherapy

6 Ways To Get The Most From Your Therapy Sessions

Want therapy to be more effective for you? Read on for ideas and insight.

1. Assess your Motivation.

The first step begins before you start attending therapy sessions. Therapy is a commitment, in terms of time, energy, and finances. Psychotherapy also works best with weekly attendance. Are you ready to devote your resources to exploring yourself, working towards your goals, and making changes in your life? If so, schedule therapy into your life as you would any other important commitment. Then, make it a consistent priority.

2. Arrive Early for Your Sessions.

Walk in and make yourself comfortable in the waiting area. Take a few minutes to check in with yourself so you have some awareness of what feelings, thoughts, experiences, and sensations you’ll want to bring into the session. Continue reading “6 Ways To Get The Most From Your Therapy Sessions”