LEANNE WATT, Ph.D., clinical psychologist
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INDIVIDUAL TREATMENT FOR ADULTS & ADOLESCENTS: The patients that I serve often struggle with self-critical and self-shaming thoughts, and a tendency towards beating themselves up for perceived or real weaknesses. This pattern of thinking is especially common in intelligent, high-functioning individuals who are seeking “perfection” and ultimately, can lead to a pattern of chronic depression.  I also treat patients who tend to think in “catastrophic” or “what if” terms, always worried that “the other shoe” is about to drop.  This perceptual pattern can create serious anxiety in patients, often leading to feelings of being immobilized, frightened and alone.   

In the therapy relationship, I help patients to identify the childhood roots of these hurtful ways of viewing themselves and the world, assisting them in discovering and neutralizing the “voices” that are most harmful to their self-worth and emotional comfort.  Clients learn in the therapy relationship to replace criticism and shame with kindness and understanding.  Rather than beating themselves up, they develop a voice that is genuinely loving and protective, providing comfort to themselves, rather than despair.  Patients also learn in their treatment how to calm themselves, developing a soothing voice that can be used to challenge their catastrophic thoughts, replacing their anxiety-ridden approach to processing with comforting and reasoned thinking. 

Clients also learn how to identify the maladaptive and/or destructive behaviors (past and present) that may be fueling their self-hate, depression and anxiety. Through this process, they develop a strategy for systematically addressing the patterns that need to be remediated, in order to lessen, and eventually, eliminate the reality-based guilt that underlies some of their negative emotions.

In the treatment process, clients also learn how to "sit still" with uncomfortable emotions such as emptiness, loneliness, sadness and fear.   Rather than avoiding these feelings through compulsive, “busy” or destructive behaviors, patients learn how to tolerate these emotions and to respond to their feelings  constructively, using a new set of tools.  Patients learn how to make healthier, conscious choices through this transformational process, which provides a reliable boost to their self-esteem, while reducing their tendency towards depression and anxiety.  Self-confidence, assertiveness, creativity, and tolerance for intimacy are increased through this process, adding to my patients’ sense of sense of well-being and contentedness.

© 2009 Leanne Watt, Ph.D.