I remain convinced that psychotherapy works best when listening and hearing are first and center in our work. I think I am able to help people when I can hear them in a way that is useful to them.
What you might like to know
Born in South Africa, educated at the Universities of Cape Town (BA), Witwatersrand (MA Clin. Psych.), and Rhodes (Ph.D.). I moved to United States in January 1994. I am Professor of Psychology and, from 1994-2007, was Director of Training in Clinical Psychology, at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I am currently Director of the military psychological services at the Duquesne University Psychology Clinic. I am a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania, and board certified in clinical psychology with the American Board of Professional Psychology. I have a small private practice, and am a consultant clinical psychologist to LifeCare Hospital.
My special professional interests include psychotherapy for a wide range of difficulties, such as depression and anxiety, self-destructive patterns of relating to others, “family history stuff,” life transitions, trauma (including subtle, cumulative trauma over many years), military veterans and their families.
I enjoy giving professional and public presentations on a number of clinical and therapeutic issues, especially from Jungian and psychoanalytic perspectives, combat experience and its challenges to veterans, their families, and the wider culture.
Effective psychotherapy always involves a relationship between two persons, which means that no two therapies are ever exactly alike. Therefore, I am critical of the current tendency to reduce the art and complex practice of psychotherapy to manualized treatment protocols, which focus on symptoms rather than on persons. My own clinical position has many influences, but I generally describe it as psychodynamic. I do not like the labels in our field (cognitive behavioral, psychoanalytic, Jungian, etc.) because these labels are poor descriptors of what actually goes on in the processes of psychotherapy. Evidence shows that competent psychotherapists from different traditions have more in common than good and bad therapists within any particular theoretical orientation. Having said that, I draw mostly from the humanistic, phenomenological, psychoanalytic, and Jungian traditions. These overlapping traditions all regard psychotherapy as a professional relationship in which we can seriously think about ourselves and our circumstances, as well as face and lay to rest those “demons” that haunt our memories and dreams and that prevent us from living more fulfilling lives. Through psychotherapy we often come to feel less impulsively reactive to events; instead we feel more flexible and appropriately engaged. We may come to see both others and ourselves in more nuanced and complex ways, and to develop a more open sense of psychic space and freedom within ourselves.
Most of my psychotherapy practice involves one meeting per week, but I do also see people twice per week on occasion. Some people see me for only a few sessions, then feel that is enough to regroup and move on. Others see me for years rather than months. I like to work in depth, so that people feel that they achieve not only symptom relief but also a deeper sense of themselves, and are more resilient, better able to face the slings and arrows that might come their way in future.
If you are interested in the evidence base for the effectiveness of the psychodynamic approach in which I am trained, you can find an excellent discussion of the literature here: APA: Psychodynamic psychotherapy brings lasting benefits. This page has a link to the original Shedler article, published in American Psychologist in 2010. This article is especially recommended because it reviews a lot of recent literature and does so in an especially accessible way. There is also an excellent YouTube video presentation by a psychiatrist, John Cornelius, MD, on the scientific evidence base for psychodynamic psychotherapy. In fact, the evidence is strong that psychodynamic psychotherapy has significantly better long term outcomes than either psychotropic medications or cognitive behavioral therapy (see Winborn, 2016). After termination, people continue to improve for many years, whereas in other treatments people tend to relapse. I also recently made available to the Pennsylvania Psychological Association and APA a paper on the benefits of psychological services. This article includes a section at the end on some major studies supporting psychoanalytic ( or psychodynamic) and Jungian psychotherapy (Brooke and Axelrad, 2013).
I am often asked about medication: whether clients should or should not take it. My response is always to discuss the issues carefully with clients on an individual basis. No doubt medication can sometimes be life saving or helpful, and I would never advise a patient to stop medication suddenly or without careful professional consultation. However, there is no doubt that medication is overused, and I believe clients should be as informed as possible about the issues. An excellent discussion of the issues, which is critical of the overstated claims of the pharmaceutical industry and the medical model of psychological suffering, is to be found on a colleague’s professional web page. (Dr. David Edwards practices in Cape Town.)
I understand military culture and soldiers’ issues, and enjoy working with service members or veterans and their families. I have run both healing and training retreats for veterans and their civilian communities, and in March 2017 I was elected President of Soldiers Heart. I am Director of Duquesne University’s Military Psychological Services, which provides free services to soldiers, veterans, and their loved ones, particularly from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. In addition, I am consultant clinical psychologist for Canyon Heroes, a non-profit organization that sponsors disabled veterans to be taken through the Grand Canyon on healing rafting journeys. My appreciation for the call to military service and for what service members and their families go through is free of any ideological or political agenda on my part. The perspective that I bring is to be found in my papers and presentations. In essence, my perspective is that the psychological wounds of war are a human universal; they have been described in all warrior cultures and in our own culture for some three thousand years. The problem is that our own culture has socially constructed this human universal as a mental illness–a psychiatric condition–with all the secondary problems, such as stigma and civilians’ fear of veterans in distress, which come from that social construction. In my view, combat PTSD is not a mental illness but a universal warrior’s wound, described by veterans as a wound to the heart and soul. In the American Civil War, it was known as soldier’s heart, a term I particularly like because it points directly to the moral and spiritual center of the wound. Traditional warrior cultures had essentially similar rituals in which returning warriors were brought home, honored, and set on a pathway of psychological and spiritual development that lasted through the life span. In our work we try to help veterans by drawing from our knowledge of these ancient warrior traditions–all of which, incidentally, included story telling to members of the civilian community. I and our doctoral students are very aware that our role when listening and responding to veterans’ stories is drawn from this universal human and warrior need, and that something much more profound is happening than is captured in the contemporary terms, “counseling” or “therapy.” An edited clip from a 2013 interview for a documentary, Project 22, is available on this site as a recent post.