Maura McGovern Moore, LCSW

Marriage and individual psychotherapy services

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What kind of therapy do you practice?

 

Many of my clients seek help with emotions and behaviors that seem to be outside of their control. They may be weary of thoughts that constantly cause them to belittle themselves or fears that stop them from reaching their goals time and time again. They may be paralyzed by a feeling of hopelessness that causes them to want to withdraw into corner and stay there, or weighed down by a sadness that won’t go away. As a therapist, it is my belief that these emotions and behaviors are often based in unconscious assumptions and beliefs, so how might I assist my clients in replacing these belief systems in a permanent, constructive manner?

 

I utilize some simple methods for detecting unconscious patterns, bringing them into consciousness, examining their origins and strengthening the “executive manager” that takes control of destructive thoughts and beliefs. In addition to exploratory conversation, I may use a combination of “empty chair” techniques, role plays, guided meditation and symbolic imagery to accomplish the transition from destructive to cooperative unconscious functioning. For instance, an empty chair is used to imagine a pattern of thinking as if it were a character with whom we can converse, thereby enabling us to better understand this pattern of thoughts.

 

What do you mean by unconscious functioning?”

 

The horse and the rider are a frequently used metaphor to understand the thing against which we struggle here. Imagine you are riding this enormous stallion that is spirited and passionate. Your control over this beast is tentative and naïve. It quickly goes out of control at times and you follow helplessly along, holding on for dear life. The rider is, except for short moments of consciousness, at the mercy of the stallion, as we are at the mercy of the unconsciousness patterns of thought.

 

We are talking here about the way the human brain prepares for the eventualities of daily life. We go out into the world each day and take action, we observe the results and consequences of that action, and we then react. For example, as a child I might take a ride on a roller coaster, and because I am small, hit my chin on the handlebar and cut my lip. It is a painful and frightening experience. As a result, I may decide never to ride a roller coaster again. I might also decide never to take a risk again, because I took a risk here and judged it to have produced very bad results. When faced with a choice point in life, where one option is risky and the other safe, I may develop a clear tendency to choose the safe option in every circumstance. These early experiences are highly formative. They develop behavior patterns that determine our behavior for life, unless we make a conscious effort to reverse them later. In order to reverse them though, we have to become conscious of how they operate, how they hoodwink us into believing that theirs is the only reasonable way to behave or believe.

 

How do we become conscious of our unconscious patterns and beliefs?

 

There are many ways, but usually it is done with a therapist. The therapist’s function is to be “the revealer.” She helps to uncover the beliefs and life experiences that underlie the pattern, but it can also be enhanced by journaling or concentrated self-observation. You may be conscious of the sense of fear that leads you to go toward the safe option when facing a choice point – such as staying in your job because it is familiar and seemingly safe, rather than choosing to take the job offer in another state with folks that are unknown to you and a position that will develop a new skill set. The latter would be judged to be the unsafe option because it contains unknowns, it involves a risk. But what you may be unconscious of is the original life experience – the injury on the roller coaster – that marks the birth of the pattern. When you become aware of that experience, you have the option of re-evaluating it. You have the opportunity to ask yourself, “Should the logical conclusion of that experience be: avoid all risks in life? Indeed should the logical conclusion even be never take another roller coaster ride? After all, I am six-foot-two now. I couldn’t hit my chin on the handlebar if I wanted to.” You see, we generally expect the future to be like the past, especially the bad experiences, because it is those that we most want to avoid.

 I frequently integrate research into the way in which I guide my clients toward their stated goals, so that they too can understand how the research results can be applied to their lives.

 

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