The second phase of treatment is emotion focused. I use a phobia metaphor to explain this phase of treatment. When someone has a phobia, they tend to have a fight, flight, or freeze response. For instance, if someone is phobic of bridges, they avoid bridges at all costs and take the scenic route whenever possible. This action then intensifies the fear of bridges, making it impossible for them to imagine traveling across a bridge. People tend to interact with their emotions in a very similar way. Instead of allowing themselves to feel sad or disappointed, people will often distract themselves with food, relationships, or substances. As a result, my role in the second phase of treatment is to assist people in learning to better sit with uncomfortable emotions (or get out on the bridge). Doing so improves people’s esteem and assists them in better handling life’s circumstances.
Dr. Keya Wiggins, Ph.D. & CGP
Licensed Psychologist and Certified Group Psychotherapist
I view therapy as occurring in three phases. The first phase is psychodynamic, or insight oriented. I use a medical metaphor to explain this stage of treatment. When a person has a recurring symptom, such as a headache or a stomachache, they often seek medical treatment because they are suffering. A medical doctor will often prescribe a medication to relieve the suffering. However, if he/she does not address the underlying cause of the symptom, as soon as the person stops taking the medication, the symptom returns. I view therapy as a parallel process. If a client seeks my services because he/she is suffering with symptoms of depression or anxiety, I can provide them with healthy coping mechanisms to address the symptom. Unfortunately, if the underlying issues are never addressed, the symptom will return in the future. As a result, I spend the first few sessions of therapy seeking information about client’s history (e.g., family of origin, culture of communication, etc.) to get a feel for their context and culture. This provides a framework for understanding more current issues as they arise in treatment.
The third phase of treatment tends to be the most difficult for people. If a person has engaged in the first part of treatment he/she has gained a greater understanding of the cause and maintenance of the presenting issue or problem. After participating in the second phase of treatment, the person has begun to experience the problem in a different way. As a result, the third phase of treatment is change. This tends to be the most difficult part because this happens outside of treatment. My role in this phase is to essentially work myself out of a job. I adopt a supportive role to assist people in learning how to be different. Change is difficult, but it is a very important part of treatment.