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Transformations Issue 6 - July/August/September 2012



from the office of

Christopher Emerson, Ph.D.

July/August/September 2012 Issue No. 6
New Mexico Countryside


Welcome to the sixth edition of TRANSFORMATIONS. This will be our last issue for the near future - we are taking the fall off from our newsletter as we focus on building the practice and pursuing all of our other personal and professional interests. In this issue, Dr. Katie Barnes explores the "hows" and the "whys" of psychotherapy for those considering it, and I share some thoughts about the relationship between the existential concept of "freedom," will, and their relationship with the psychotherapeutic process. Our regular feature TRANSFORMATIVE VOICES offers an inspiring quote from poet/artist Hector Olmos-Hernandez.

Thanks, as always, to practice administrator Dylan Maddalena for his help in assembling and editing this issue of TRANSFORMATIONS. Dr. Katie Barnes is currently accepting new patients, and is often willing to work on a sliding fee scale. As always, we welcome your thoughts, inquiries, comments, and questions.

Dr. Chris Emerson

Thinking About Therapy?


by Dr. Katie Barnes

Dr. Katherine Barnes Headshot

Most of us have been there... a difficult moment in our lives, or perhaps just a curious moment, where we wonder to ourselves what therapy would be like, or how exactly it can help us. "What is therapy, anyway?" "Why should I subject myself to the awkwardness of deciding how much of my inner world I should share with a complete stranger?" "Is it worth the price?" "What if I don't like my therapist... or worse... he/she tells me horrific things about myself that I really don't want to hear?" These are big questions, and I'll admit, difficult for me to answer. However, there are a few honest truths I can tell you about therapy:

There are many different theoretical orientations out there. How to choose? Some exciting news is that according to several studies, at least 60% of therapy's effectiveness is due to the strength of the "therapeutic relationship," or in other words, how much you like your therapist. Feeling aligned with your therapist and feeling heard and respected will have a lot to do with how helpful therapy will be for you. We therapists aren't "off the hook" completely. The other 40% is estimated to be a result of actual technique/skillfulness of the therapist. The take home point is: put your time into finding a therapist who "speaks" to you in some way. Do you see yourself liking him/her? Do you see yourself feeling comfortable with the person, and respecting them? They should encourage you to make sure you feel good about the relationship, and not coerce you in any way to continue with therapy if it's not a good fit.

How is talking with a therapist different from talking with a friend or close loved one? The truth is, there is no other relationship like the one you might have with your therapist. Here, you are greeted by him or her, asked to sit down and for about 50 minutes the entire conversation is about you, your process in the present moment and your needs as a unique human being. Your therapist offers an objective, trained perspective on what is happening in the moment and in your life. Sometimes they offer advice. Other times they help to guide you into arriving at your own conclusions or truths, a process by which you learn a great deal that stays with you for the rest of your life. Many times, simply being encouraged to be completely honest with oneself, and the act of verbalizing it in the presence of another, can be life-changing in itself.

Now, is therapy worth the price? In many cases, that depends on what price you would put on your happiness. In other cases, it depends on the price you might put on increased self-awareness, better relationships, a better sense of self or more confidence. Keep in mind that there are many good therapists available (especially around Los Angeles) at low-fee counseling centers or who see patients on a sliding scale.

I will close with this: Therapy is meant to be an experience in itself. Some people need it at certain times in their life, and some of us treat it as we would a college education-it is a profound experience that will likely benefit us for life, and at any given point we might be ready for it. As we go about our busy lives, therapy is a time in the week to dedicate to the self, and to the growth of the self. The best part is, no one can ever take away what is experienced and learned in your therapy, (and no one ever has to know if you don't want them to!) .

I Wish. I Want. I Will.

Dr. christopher Emerson, Ph.D.By Dr. Chris Emerson



What is the purpose of psychotherapy? Is there a good reason to spend the time and money required to participate in this process? What does one hope to achieve - and is the expectation of "achieving something" somehow at odds with the kind of open-ended

self-exploration that psychodynamic psychotherapy entails? Most of us would agree with Yalom (1980) who believes that the clinician's goal is change, which involves action on the part of the patient, and further, that responsible action begins with the capacity to wish.

I recently spoke with a psychotherapist colleague about one of her patients who came in to see her at the suggestion of his psychiatrist. The reasons for his visit were a bit vague - he was experiencing some anxiety, waking up during the night, had issues regarding feeling "not good enough" in daily life and in relationships, and had a troubled and dramatic early family life. These issues were familiar to the therapist, and seemed to be well-suited to exploration via the therapeutic process.

Still, my friend was puzzled; she felt she wasn't connecting to a core issue: what was this patient after? Symptom relief? Help with relationships? All of the above? Or something else?

After weeks of working together, probing and questioning, and getting to know each other in the therapy room, she heard her patient make an important statement, something that immediately clarified the task that lay ahead, and his underlying motivation: he said, "I don't know how to want."

For many of us, this inability to want seems counterintuitive, confusing, even capable of evoking frustration verging on anger. After all, so many of our hours and so much of our energy seems to be taken up in a relentless, daily endeavor of trying to get what we want out of life - not trying to get clear on how to want it in the first place.

Still, for some patients, this difficulty with knowing how to want - that is, how to wish, then to decide, then to take action - is a challenge that pervades every aspect of their lives. And no real sense of autonomy or true freedom is available without the experience of freely choosing, deciding, and finally activating the triggers of will and desire, resulting in action.

Yalom (1980) clearly states the importance of the therapeutic relationship in facilitating will, wish, and action: an accepting and trusting patient-therapist relationship is crucial to the process of change. As a result of the therapist's concern and unconditional regard, the patient's self-love and self-regard gradually increase. Self-regard begets a belief that one has the right to wish and to act. (p. 339)

Psychotherapy, as a means to create change through will, wish and action, is just one of many available tools to help us move toward a more fulfilling life experience. And experiencing the capacity to "want" is an essential component of a full and happy life.

Yalom, I. (1980). Existential Psychotherapy. New York: BasicBooks.



In This Issue
-Thinking About Therapy?
-I Wish. I Want. I Will.
-Transformative Voices

Transformative Voices

New Mexico Landscape




"My journey toward being the person I am has been long and arduous, to say the least. It is never an easy process to develop the voice one requires with which to speak one's own truth. Being a gay man of color born and raised in a society that did not support my sexual and affectional identity was something that formed my character, informed my art, and eventually allowed me to engage in a process of deep personal and political transformation. Today I strive in my writing and in my performance art to capture the flavor of this universal struggle, and to do so in a way that can resonate in the minds, hearts and souls of others who struggle to find a place for themselves in the world. As a man who continuously questions the existence of a benevolent God in this world filled with so much beauty alongside so much heartbreak, I find my deepest meaning in the relationships I nurture with brothers and sisters engaged in the ongoing struggle to support art and to manifest a spirit of social justice and equality in all that we do."

-Hector Olmos-Hernandez,


This concludes the sixth issue of our quarterly newsletter, TRANSFORMATIONS.
Feel free to forward TRANSFORMATIONS to friends and colleagues, and take a moment to check out our archive of past issues at www.drchrisemerson.com. Again, this will be our final issue of TRANSFORMATIONS in 2012. As always, we create our newsletter for YOU, our friends and colleagues, and we welcome feedback, comments, questions, or a simple "Hello.". Here's hoping for all good things for all of you this summer, and we look forward to our next encounter.


Chris, Katie, and Dylan


Contact Us...
for appointments and comments

Dr. Chris Emerson:
[email protected]
(310) 550-4560

Dr. Katie Barnes:
[email protected]
(310) 684-3605

Dylan Maddalena, Photographer, Editor:

[email protected]

(310) 550-4560



450 N. Robertson Blvd., 2nd Floor

West Hollywood, California 90048

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