People turn to individual psychotherapy for a variety of reasons. Some seek guidance in coping with a crisis or life transition. Others have long-standing problems, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, or difficulty establishing or maintaining a relationship. Still others have a vague but profound feeling that their lives are somehow unfulfilling.

For some, short-term, goal-oriented counseling is appropriate. Others require a deeper exploration of their lives, with a focus on recurrent negative patterns of living, loving and working. Different people benefit from different therapeutic approaches, so treatment should be tailored to the unique needs and qualities of each patient.

The existential approach

Many people associate psychotherapy with exploration of memories, dreams and experiences from the past. But often therapy is most effective when focusing on the present. The existential approach examines how we approach the realities of life such as responsibility, career and relationship choices, anxiety, and the inevitability of death. It emphasizes how we cope with our fears and find meaning in our lives particularly in the here and now. We all want some measure of spontaneity, authenticity, and intimacy in our lives. However, this entails opening oneself up to anxiety, uncertainty and vulnerability. Fear of change may lead us to cling to safety and routine, resulting in feelings of superficiality, boredom, and emptiness. Existential therapy can help one achieve an optimal balance between the need for emotional security and the desire for new and meaningful experiences.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Early life experiences shape us and create the deep-seated conscious and unconscious beliefs we hold about ourselves, others and the world around us. These are the very lens through which we see, so we seldom question their legitimacy. Such beliefs give rise to our thoughts, which in turn impact and shape our feelings and behavior. To illustrate, a young woman, having suffered emotional abuse as a child, continues to see herself as a victim, and perceives others’ intentions as manipulative and exploitative. As a result she may feel vulnerable and distrustful and behave in a defensive manner. The cognitive behavioral approach will help her recognize and change deep-seated beliefs and behavior, modify distorted thinking and provide practical tools for coping with anxiety and distrust. This approach is especially effective in breaking vicious circles of maladaptive thoughts, feelings and behavior, and in treating problems such as generalized anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and self-image issues.

Psychodynamic therapy

This approach is based on the premise that many of our greatest difficulties are rooted in the unconscious. When impulses or feelings are too painful or threatening, they may be relegated to the unconscious. This creates calm on the surface, however, these buried forces continue to exert powerful influence on emotions and behavior. For example, repressed feelings of helplessness may lead a person to unconsciously strive for self-control and control over others. Or, one may continually try to appease others and stifle one’s anger in order to avoid fear of abandonment. Other problems stem from setbacks in emotional development originating in childhood. For instance, parental intrusiveness or lack of attunement may stunt development of a sense of autonomy, self-esteem, or even identity.

The central aim of the psychodynamic approach is to increase understanding of the deeper forces that move us and translate these insights into tangible changes in daily life and relationships. This approach utilizes the patient-therapist relationship to offer a window into one’s emotional world and interpersonal relationships, providing opportunities for change and growth. Psychodynamic therapy is especially beneficial for self-esteem issues, anxiety, depression, self-destructive behavior and recurring interpersonal problems.

The narrative approach

We have all created a narrative of our lives, with our own unique hopes and dreams, obstacles and challenges, loves and disappointments. Our story provides order and meaning but can also warp our perception and thinking, causing us to overlook or reject things that don’t fit. As a result, we tend to recall the past and interpret the present through a distorted lens, unknowingly perpetuating the same old storyline and our  familiar yet problematic role. For example, a man who perceives himself as kind and benevolent may be blind to the ways in which he is insensitive and aggressive in his interactions. These processes are unconscious and difficult to identify or change on one’s own. Narrative therapy helps increase awareness of one’s personal narrative, its influence on perception and behavior, and ultimately, can help one become a more authentic author of his or her own life story.

Choosing a therapist for individual counseling in the Haifa area, North Israel

The therapeutic relationship is an integral part of treatment, so selecting the right therapist is essential. The first step in choosing a therapist is to find someone who is caring, professional, and certified. But beyond that, one should feel a sense of comfort and trust in their presence. I treat a variety of individuals and couples from various communities, including secular, religious, Jewish, Muslim, Druze, Christian and LGBT.

My clinic is located in Nofit serving residents of the North, Haifa, Krayot, Jezreel Valley and the Lower Galilee. Also serving residents of Ramat Yishai, Tivon, Nazareth, Akko, Afula, Migdal HaEmek, Yokneam, Carmiel and Naharia.

When problems involve both partners couple therapy should be considered. If the issue is primarily sexual in nature individuals and couples can benefit from sex therapy.