Family Therapist Corinne Scholtz MFT
Family therapist was inspired by her roots.
I think one of the best things about therapy is being able to talk about what’s really happening in our lives. All those thoughts and experiences that we tend to keep to our selves because maybe we are afraid of being judged.
Sometimes we just need extra guidance, new ideas, or support managing a crisis. You don’t have to go through it alone. More people have been in therapy than you know…maybe they just don’t talk about it!
Actually, I’ve been to some pretty odd therapists in the past. Some have had good intentions but poor delivery, and some didn’t fit for me at all. In fact, during the first few sessions with a new therapist I felt bullied and made to feel something was ‘wrong’ with me.
I knew some things in my life needed to change, but I certainly didn’t feel I needed to be ‘fixed’!
I knew these things because during one point in my life I had a really good therapist. This therapist treated me with compassion, wasn’t uncomfortable when I cried, talked with a calm, confident and soothing voice. She also challenged my beliefs by frequently asking me to question what I thought was the truth.
She also introduced me to spirituality, visualization and meditation and the idea that there is a bigger purpose to the events and experiences we each have. She had an amazing effect on my life, my emotional and mental development, and I often think about how things would have been different for me without her.
In fact, my experience with her led me to explore becoming a therapist.
In retrospect, these conversations were very important for me to have, but the real lasting influence in my life was the relationship we shared. I knew nothing about how therapy was supposed to work, and she could have probably said so many other things.
The therapy was successful because of the relationship we established. We actually spent most of my adolescence together. Our relationship was safe, and I felt safe.
When you are considering going to therapy, it can be very overwhelming to know who might be the right person. How do you feel during the first phone call? Are you asked about your problem or is the conversation just about money or insurance? Never hesitate to ask a potential therapist about his/her thoughts and experience with your particular situation.
Remember, you are hiring them to work for you. You’re inviting this person into your life and most personal thoughts.
A few months ago I found my pulse quickening and my passion stirring whenever I thought about creating a website for my work. As I have learned from past experience, whenever an idea grabs a hold of me, it usually means that something bigger than myself is at work!
So, I started perusing other therapist’s websites to inspire my vision and ignite my creativity. Somehow, by the grace of the universe, I stumbled onto MyShrink.com. I spent at least an hour reading through the articles and found myself swept away in a whirlpool of ideas. I was so touched by Susan’s sense of humor and vision that I sent an email to her that very afternoon expressing my gratitude and admiration.
Well, expressing gratitude can work wonders, and what we put out to others will often return to us many times over. In the very next email Susan invited me to contribute to her vision, and I am so very honored to do so now. My impulse to create a website has been fulfilled by contributing to MyShrink. I can only marvel at the timing and serendipity of the unfolding of this space.
My journey into the field of psychotherapy began when I was fifteen years old. I had always been a nurturing and responsible child who read constantly. However, at fifteen my parents decided to divorce and my mother thought it would be wise to find a safe outlet for me to process my feelings and thoughts. She sent me to a therapist.
This was one of the best decisions that she could have made, and I flourished from having the experience of a safe and confidential environment in which to discuss my life. Looking back, I can say that it was the relationship I had with this therapist that made all the difference. Fifteen years later, there are times when I can still hear her voice in my head!
Becoming a Family Therapist
My passion for pursuing an advanced degree in marriage and family therapy began with an intense interest in couples and what makes them work. I wanted to discover the secrets to how and why some people have successful relationships and why others don’t.
But this was to be just the tip of the iceberg for me...
So, why family therapy?
I chose to study family therapy because of its holistic, alternative way of viewing people and change.
Family Therapists refrain from diagnosing and labeling conditions and instead seek to understand the person in whatever dilemma they may find themselves.
The most important relationship that one may have throughout life is the relationship one has with one’s self. Successful therapy can re-introduce you to yourself, allowing you to reclaim talents, abilities and skills that perhaps became overlooked along the way. When we learn to treat ourselves with care, with love and acceptance, then forgiveness and compassion for ourselves and others becomes a way of life.
In my experience, therapy often works to change not only the client, but also the therapist. Every single time I meet someone I am invited to be a participant in shaping their story. Every single time I join another in their world, I am opening myself to have my story shaped by another.
What a relational world we live in!
Working with clients
One of the first things that I do when working with new clients is to establish a sense of rapport or relationship. If I am working with children or adolescents I like to find out what’s of interest to her and what she values. What hobbies does he enjoy? Favorite t.v. shows? I want to connect with her as a person, not just focus on what’s not working in her life at the moment.
So, who are Family Therapists?
A Family Therapist is someone who has a masters or doctoral degree and has been trained to work with individuals, couples, and families (which makes the title of "Family Therapist" a bit of a misnomer). Yet there are a variety of ways for a therapist to work with family relationships, even with only one person in the room. Thus, these kinds of therapists could equally be called "relational" or "systemic" thinkers.
Family Therapists are trained to handle a wide variety of life’s difficulties: anger, anxiety, depression, grief, relationship issues, marriage and divorce, step-families, addictions and substance abuse, eating disorders, and more.
However, not all therapists are trained to do family therapy. They may be comfortable working with many members of a family in one room but this does not necessarily mean that they are doing family therapy.
Family therapy is actually a particular way of looking at how people interact with one another; it's a sort of lens that focuses and interprets what we see. Therapists trained in cognitive-behavioral therapy or psychodynamic therapy, for example, will each use their own lens to determine what they see. Thus three different therapists from three different backgrounds could be looking at the same family and see totally different issues.
But just what do Family Therapists, or relational thinkers, see?
Relational thinkers are aware of the many relationships that impact the client’s life. This view takes into account the client’s past history, family, work, culture, religion and/or spirituality, sexuality, biology, physiology and environment. This also includes the relationship that the client has with herself. The therapist-client relationship is of utmost importance. All of life is created through relationship, but the effects of a good relationship with one’s therapist can last a lifetime.
There are many different theories and approaches within the field of family therapy - structural, strategic, solution-focused, and narrative, to name a few. Each Family Therapist’s work is going to reflect a different perspective, but there is overlap between the theories.
Guidelines that Family Therapists recognize and observe:
Family Therapists have expertise in working with individuals and couples, not only families.
While the title of "Family Therapist" seems to suggest that only families are treated, this is not the case. Family Therapists think relationally. That is, even with only one person in the room it's possible to explore the relationships in that person’s life.
The client is the expert.
This means that the therapist will honor the client’s wisdom and resources in constructing a solution, rather than attempt to mold the client according to a theory or diagnosis.
The problem is the "problem", the person is not the "problem".
Family Therapists see the problem as the problem, not the person as the problem. This enables the therapist to work with the client in a way that opens up space and freedom for possibilities. Rather than diagnosing the mental or emotional flaws of the individual, the Family Therapist works to understand how the problem influences the client’s life, while focusing on exceptions or times when the problem isn’t as powerful.
Collaboration with a focus on strengths works best.
The Family Therapist seeks to collaborate with clients within a strengths-based orientation. This means that the therapist will focus on what’s right with you, rather than what’s wrong! This shifts the conversation's focus from pathology to the client's strengths and resources.
Family therapy is a holistic approach to healing.
In contrast to other therapeutic approaches, family therapy can be holistic in nature, depending upon the practitioner. The Family Therapist will be curious about the interconnections in the client’s life and will look for wholeness and connection, rather than separation and division.
Typical questions that may be asked by a Family Therapist:
To take an everyday example, a client seeks help from a Family Therapist. The client shares that she is struggling with managing her anger and that this is affecting her intimate relationship as well as how she feels about herself. She wants to learn how to handle emotions differently.
What might a Family Therapist ask?
- "What brings you to therapy today?
- "Tell me how you would label or define the problem?
- "How long has this been a problem for you?
- "What effects has this had on your relationships?
- "Tell me about the times when you had control over your anger? What was different about you then?
- "Have you done anything to solve the problem?
- "If a miracle occurred while you were asleep tonight and the problem that you just described was gone, what would you see when you opened your eyes? How would you know that a miracle has taken place? How would you be acting differently and how would others around you be acting differently?"
Articles by Corinne Scholtz