Evidence Based Therapy & Coaching
Dr. Bobby is the host of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, and the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love.”
Why Evidence Based Therapy is Important
If you're looking for evidence-based therapy in Denver, or evidence-based therapy online, you're in the right place. We know from research into psychology, that there are certain types of approaches to therapy, couples counseling, and life coaching that are simply more effective than others.
Evidence-Based Therapy Makes a Big Difference in Outcomes
Knowing what works, and what doesn't, is really important, because this knowledge can help you find a genuinely effective coach, therapist, or couples counselor (as opposed to a well-meaning person who may waste your time).
Unfortunately, unless a therapist or coach has a commitment to practicing evidence based forms of therapy or counseling, their ideas about what is helpful can easily become intertwined with their personal opinions or even their spiritual belief systems. There are many well-meaning therapists out there who have very strong opinions about “what you need” that may have no basis in fact, or in research.
At Growing Self, we routinely have clients who are “refugees” from ineffective therapy. We often hear from our clients that they get more out of even a few sessions with one of our experts than they have from years in therapy. We also meet with couples who come to us, on the brink of divorce, after failed attempts at marriage counseling (with someone who didn't have the training and qualifications to help them). Many times, we can help them get back on track through evidence-based marriage counseling.
How to Find a Good Therapist
Pay attention to credentials: Especially if you're seeking therapy in Colorado, or another state with very little regulation around the practice of psychotherapy, one must be cautious when finding a therapist.
The truth about therapy in Colorado is that literally anyone — with zero education or professional qualifications whatsoever — can register with the state to become a “registered psychotherapist” and essentially practice whatever kind of “therapy” they want.
Similarly, being a “life coach” does not require any formal education, certification or regulation at all. You can become a “certified coach” through an online course or a weekend seminar, but you don't need that to call yourself a coach. Anyone from your odd neighbor with six cats to your windbag realtor can wake up one morning and decide to be a life coach, put together a slick little website, and start seeing clients that afternoon. Scary, but true.
It is vitally important that when you're looking to get involved in therapy, couples counseling or life coaching, you are paying close attention to credentials and asking lots of questions about a provider's training, experience, and how they would help you create change. If they can't provide you with a satisfactory answer, they may not be qualified to help you.
Bad Therapist Signs
Most “bad therapists” are not really BAD, they're well meaning people who are just not that effective in helping clients create change. Sessions with these therapists often just feel like “dumping,” with no effort to turn insight into action. Unless you're thinking about the opportunity cost of not getting real help sooner, bad therapy of this type is probably not harmful. It's just a waste of time.
However, there are types of therapy that can create confusion and harm, particularly if they have a pseudo-spiritual or supernatural bent. Even among educated, licensed professionals there is a wide range of variability in approaches and effectiveness. It is not hard to wander into the office of a credentialed, licensed mental health professional, only to learn (several sessions in) that they feel you could benefit from a form of “treatment” that may not be helpful to you, such as past life regression, therapies that purport to “change your energy,” contacting spirit guides, encouraging magical thinking, sessions that focus exclusively on dream analysis, or “spiritual counseling” (particularly if it is not congruent with your belief system).
I know it sounds crazy, but I say this as a seasoned mental health professional who has seen a lot: You must be very cautious about who work with. And do not be dazzled by impressive sounding credentials!
True story: I had a close colleague who is also a psychologist, refer a client out to be evaluated by a psychiatrist in Denver (yes, a medical doctor). The client reported back that the psychiatrist felt that an exorcism was in order. (!?) My colleague, who is a very responsible, good psychologist put a follow-up call in to this psychiatrist, thinking that perhaps the client had been mistaken. The psychiatrist confirmed the recommendation and said, “I don't expect you to understand.”
This is not okay. And it's out there. As a consumer, it's very important that you're making empowered decisions about who to work with. Ask questions, check credentials, and above all else: If something doesn't feel right to you, pay attention to that. It's easy to allow “a professional” with a bunch of letters after their name to call the shots, but you are the ultimate expert on what is right for you.
You have the right to ask questions, to know what the plan is, and to have a therapist explain, in detail, how their recommendations will help you achieve your goals in a way that makes sense to you. If you're not getting that, at the very least, get a second opinion.
But, you can also prevent yourself from getting involved in bad therapy by educating yourself around the different types of therapy, and learning what to look for when finding a therapist.
Types of Evidence Based Therapy
It is vital for you as a consumer to educate yourself around what methods work, so that you can make informed decisions about selecting the right person to help you. In that spirit, I'm providing you with information about evidence based forms of therapy.
“Evidence based” means that research (academic research, published in peer-reviewed journals) has found these approaches to be effective strategies in helping people to change. The common aspect of these therapies is that they are all active approaches that emphasize cultivation of your strengths to create a more positive future, rather than simply “talking” or focusing on disorder rooted in the past.
If you work with a therapist or coach at Growing Self, one, some, or all of these approaches may be utilized at various points in your work depending on your current needs and goals.
Evidence Based Marriage Counseling
For working with couples, we are primarily guided by the Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy model pioneered by Susan Johnson, Ph.D. which is based on Attachment Theory. This approach emphasizes creating connection, supportive, safe communication and new bonding experiences. A wide body of research shows that this approach is the most effective, and longest lasting, form of couples therapy.
Additionally, we also incorporate behavioral techniques based on the internationally lauded research of Dr. John Gottman. Dr. Gottman has spent decades documenting the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships, and clearly demonstrating the steps couples must take to repair their marriages.
The Gottman method emphasizes learning and practicing healthy relationship skills, like how to communicate well and how to show your partner love through day-to-day behaviors. The Emotionally Focused approach helps you actually feel better about your partner, and achieve deeper trust and connection. By blending the two approaches, we can improve and strengthen your relationship in every area.
These are the approaches that we use for couples counseling, marriage counseling, premarital counseling and relationship coaching.
Evidence Based Individual Therapy and Life Coaching
Our experts are well versed in a variety of evidence based approaches, and can tailor your experience in therapy or coaching to make sure that you are getting the most out of it. Additionally, growth work often has different stages. Your therapist or coach might begin working with you from one approach, and then as you progress, shift into the approach that will help you continue to make the most progress.
With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or “CBT,” the emphasis is on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and practicing more adaptive behaviors. Homework and strategic exercises will be part of this process. Numerous outcome studies comparing treatments have consistently shown that this form of therapy is the most effective for helping people with a wide variety of issues, from depression to anxiety to trauma to eating disorders. It can even be more effective than medication, particularly for the treatment of depression. It is considered the “gold standard” of effective, evidence-based therapy.
Cognitive behavioral strategies are often used to guide the work of high quality coaching, too.
This theory holds that you already have strengths and virtues, and positive things happening in your life right now. By cultivating your strengths, finding your joy, and focusing the parts of your life that are already working, the challenging parts can be overcome. Psychologists and researchers, most notably Martin Seligman, PhD (past president of the American Psychological Association) and the University of Pennsylvania, have found a great deal of evidence to support these strategies. (for more info).
Solution – Focused Therapy
This short-term therapy strives to look for positive strengths and exceptions. By honing in on what works rather that what doesn’t you can focus on solutions. Outcome research has demonstrated that this form of treatment can be as effective as longer-term models of therapy, but in as little as 3-5 sessions.
Emotional Intelligence Coaching
Over the last decade or so, there's been a tremendous amount of research exploring the impact of emotional intelligence, and how to help people increase their emotional intelligence. Research published in peer-reviewed academic journals dedicated to a variety of disciplines, from mental health to organizational psychology, points to the fact that people higher in emotional intelligence subjectively feel happier and more satisfied with their lives, have stronger relationships, report fewer mental health symptoms, and have higher levels of achievement and professional advancement (among many other benefits).
Research also consistently shows that emotional intelligence skills can be learned, and that emotional intelligence coaching is one of the best ways to do that. We have a number of people on our team who specialize in emotional intelligence coaching, so depending on your goals for yourself, this could be an aspect of your work with us.
“I have tried counseling for about a decade with various counselors and have never been able to connect or grow with them. Markie has connected with me genuinely and helped me grow more in two meetings then several counselors have done in a decade.”
– Former Client
“Hunter helped to teach us how to listen to each other, and how to be vulnerable, honest, and to open up about everything.”
– Former Clients
This kind of therapy emphasizes understanding your problems in a new way, placing yourself in context, and creating a “new story” for your life. Your issues are separated from who you are, freeing you to experiment with new ways of being. Research indicates that this form of treatment is effective for both families and individuals.
The focus of this work is on creating awareness of different aspects of your experience. As your self awareness grows, you will have access to more personal strength, power, compassion for yourself, and personal resources. Experiential therapy helps you change the way you think, the way you feel, and the way you behave. Meta-analytic studies show that this kind of treatment can be as effective as CBT.
This approach emphasizes development. Human beings develop in connection with other people. Having secure and healthy relationships with others in childhood and adulthood is the foundation of emotional health and wellness. Disruptions in attachment create profound distress. Understanding your attachment patterns can help you improve your relationships with others.
Systems theory emphasizes the fact that you are not an island. You are in contact with other people and are in life circumstances that impact how you think, how you feel, and what you do. You react to situations, and then your reactions impact the situations, which then continue to affect you. Such systems can be healthy and supportive, and sometimes systems can create negative reactions. There are times that the systems you inhabit must be addressed for true growth to occur.
What most life coaches won’t tell you (and might not know) is that modern life coaching is actually based on the theories of counseling that are described above. These active, dynamic approaches to growth and change yield powerful results, particularly when combined with the depth and experience of a skilled psychotherapist. The Coaches at Growing Self use positive, results-based coaching strategies. Coaching is positive, present and future-focused, and offers the direct feedback, structure, and accountability that traditional psychotherapy lacks.
If you're ready to start your journey of growth with an expert therapist, couples counselor or coach, the first step in getting started is to schedule a free consultation session to see if it's a good fit, before moving forward.
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