Lauren: "I felt as though my life was standing still."
Lauren* was a single 26-year-old lawyer troubled by her lack of romantic connections when she entered therapy with Barbara Goldman, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Coral Gables, Florida. Together they discovered that the romance issue was connected to broader limitations Lauren had placed on herself. Through a combination of growth-oriented therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy, Goldman helped Lauren start to overcome those limitations. The two met weekly for a year, and then on and off for three more years as Lauren integrated the work she did in therapy into her life.
Lauren: I tend to be a little introspective, and at some point I started to realize that other people's lives were moving at a rate that mine wasn't. Although on the surface my life was fine, I felt as though it was staying still. And I started wondering if that stillness was me missing out on things. Everyone I knew was starting to get married and have children, but that inclination was not in me and I wondered why. Romantic relationships were never a big part of my life; they weren't something I was emotionally invested in or dedicated a lot of time to. To me, that was just the normal course, what I felt was natural for me. But then I started to realize, maybe it wasn't so normal.
So part of the work we did in therapy was figuring out why I was in that position. My problem was that I was filled with self-doubt about everything. I needed some grounding.
Dr. Goldman: The thrust in growth-oriented therapy is in increasing self-awareness and self-acceptance and developing coping strategies to have more choices and a greater sense of power and control. The people I treat may, like Lauren, be high-functioning in a generally well-managed and stable life, but they seek a deeper sense of fulfillment, meaning, and satisfaction.
I spend the first several sessions gathering history and doing an evaluation of personality strengths and challenges. This helps us start to see where the client may be blocking her progress with coping strategies that may have been useful earlier in life but are outdated and unhelpful now.
With Lauren, I also employed a basic principle of cognitive-behavioral therapy—that our thoughts affect our feelings and behavior, and that changing thoughts will change feelings and behaviors, which in turn will impact how we think and feel.