Knowing the difference is important to understand will help you learn what to expect from working with me.
Imagine you do not know how to swim and need help. If you are drowning, the most immediate and effective thing to do is to throw you a life preserver. The life preserver won’t get you out of the water, but at least you won’t be drowning, which is a great start!
But how will you get out of the water? And how can you make sure you don’t end up drowning again? If you want to avoid this in the future, you need someone to teach you how to swim.
Support therapy provides the equivalent of a life preserver. This usually takes the form of traditional talk therapy, CBT, coping skills, and worksheets. A support therapist may teach you breathing exercises or give you worksheets to help you change your thought process. They may refer you to a psychiatrist for medication. They might also offer counsel, validation, and support to help you feel better in the present moment. Many clients use support therapy to learn how to cope, and as a coping skill itself. People may use this short-term to learn new skills, or long-term as a coping skill itself.
You will see support therapy frequently offered in agencies, hospitals, managed care situations, or any place where insurance is involved. This may be due to limited resources, or limited willingness for your insurance company to pay. In my eyes, this is unfortunate, since deeper work is often necessary to heal things from the root.
There is nothing wrong with support therapy, and in fact, this may be indicated. If you’re drowning, the thing you need most is for someone to help save your life and to reassure you that you’re going to be okay! And some clients really appreciate the "safety flotation device" that support therapy always provides, taking comfort knowing that they will always have support if they start to feel like they're drowning. However, this type of therapy can only go so far, and you may find yourself needing to be “saved” again and again if you don’t learn to swim. The truth is that most of our patterns are deeply ingrained on not only a mental, but also an emotional, spiritual, and even physical level. That’s where deep therapy comes in.
I am using the phrase “deep therapy” to describe methods that go beyond coping skills and talk therapy, and aim to get to the root of your issue. Deep therapy addresses your issues on a spiritual, mental, emotional, relational, and/or physical level, and recognizes the depth, complexity, and holistic nature of the problems you’re facing. Some examples of deep therapy are Internal Family Systems, Depth Hypnosis, Shamanic Counseling, Jungian Psychology, attachment-focused therapy, NARM, psychedelic psychotherapy, Hakomi, Somatic Experiencing, or other transpersonal, experiential, or somatic methods, to name a few.
A deep therapist will literally get into the water with you to help you swim. A deep therapist will be patient with you and look at you from all angles to help you find your own inner resources and innate potential to move through the waters of “life” in a way that works for you as a person.
Deep therapy is usually most effective after you’ve exited the drowning/crisis stage, and are coping well enough to function. Deep therapy may help you rely on your flotation devices (coping skills) while you learn how to swim, knowing that at some point, you will be able to swim on your own, without the help of a swim teacher or external supports. Deep therapy finds the root cause of WHY you are not swimming, and resolves it. Learning how to swim is very different from learning how to cope with not being able to swim. (Trust me, I know this. I used to be a lifeguard and a swim instructor in my teens and early 20s!)
As you can see in this analogy, support therapy is good for crisis situations and helps you become functional. It may also be a bit more hands-off. Deep therapy is more in-depth, personalized, intimate, and nuanced. It takes the whole person into account. Therefore, deep therapy requires more commitment, time, and effort from both the therapist and the client and may take longer. It also requires more from the therapist in terms of their level of presence to you, their own self care, and their own inner work. It's a great choice for people who are serious about addressing the root of their issue.
Making the Transition to Deep Therapy
Some clients of mine have been through support therapy before. They may be used to a therapist conducting talk-based sessions and teaching them things. They may also be accustomed to using therapy as a coping tool itself.
Deep therapy is different. It is client-centered and focuses less on the expertise of the therapist to tell you “what’s going on with you and how to fix it,” and more on your own innate healing potential. While you may feel better immediately during or after a deep therapy session, this is not always the intention or the result. At times, you may actually feel a little tender after sessions.
This is because the intention is for you to get to know and understand yourself in a deep and profound way, to access your innate healing potential, and heal underlying root causes and patterns, helping you become more aligned over time. It involves going to places that may feel uncomfortable, knowing that there is freedom and wholeness waiting for you on the other side. Because the truth is, healing deeply-held patterns takes WORK. It takes intention, attention, and commitment. Deep therapy may help you cope, but the intention is to get you to a place where you won’t be merely coping, but more aligned, healed, and thriving.
This is one of the main reasons why all clients start seeing me on a weekly or bi-weekly basis when they are in the “working phase” of therapy, and why I require clients to be able to set aside time regularly. I recognize that this is a big commitment, but think about it: these patterns didn’t take hold overnight and will take more than a few sessions or months to unwind. We are talking about addressing a lifetime (or lifetimes, if you believe in that) of patterning! This is serious stuff! Committing to yourself now will equip you with the ability to “swim” through the waters of life, no matter how difficult they become, for the rest of your life. This is, in my opinion, one of the best investments you can ever make in yourself.
How I Use Deep and Support Therapy
The majority of my practice takes a deeper focus. This is my specialty. Many of my clients have been through support therapy before and are wanting something deeper, or they have an intuitive or informed idea that they need to address their issues on a holistic level. Internal Family Systems, Depth Hypnosis, Applied Shamanic Counseling, TRE, and psychedelic integration all help in this holistic process. This requires clients to be ready and willing to explore themselves deeply and sit with their emotions.
I also use support therapy on occasion. I still believe it is important to be able to use therapy as a “space to process” at times, and to learn coping skills such as breathing exercises, TRE (which is a deep method as well as a tool), meditation, and emotional regulation tools to help you in moments when you most need it. However, I consider these things as an “adjunct” to my practice, rather than the main focus.
If you’re ready for deep therapy with a side dish of support, feel free to request a consult here. Thanks for reading. See you in session!