Richard E. Schultz, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist
Treatment Services

My primary goal as a psychotherapist is to provide patients with a safe, supportive and growth-oriented environment in which they can learn to better face life's challenges, improve their relationships, and reach their full potential.

My style as a therapist tends to be more interactive and direct than neutral, and I work hard to help my patients progress toward their goals as quickly as possible.  I believe that healing and growth takes place in the context of a strong therapeutic relationship, and I pay close attention to this aspect of my work.

I employ a variety of tools and techniques to help my patients attain their therapeutic goals, and actively tailor the treatment approach to suit the needs of my patients.  I also emphasize treatment methods that are supported by the latest research findings, as appropriate.  I maintain a great respect for individual differences, and welcome the opportunity to work with clients of diverse races, religious and ethnic backgrounds, and sexual orientations.

With regard to technique, I most common
ly operate from Object Relations and Cognitive-Behavioral perspectives.  Don't worry, you are not expected to already know what these terms mean!  I will summarize these concepts for you below.  Very simply put, however, I utilize these two approaches to 1) help you understand how you got to where you are, and 2) help you make desired changes.

Object Relations Psychotherapy

The Object Relations approach to psychotherapy emerged in the early 1930's, inspired in part by the psychoanalytic movement.  This approach is guided by the belief that our early learning experiences in life, particularly in relationship to significant others, tend to form within us a template or "road map" for subsequent thinking, feeling and behaving.  Based on early learning, for example, to what extent have you come to anticipate that you can depend on others, and that you will be accepted and understood by them?  On the other hand, to what degree has your experience taught you to guard against trusting or relying upon others, or allowing yourself to become vulnerable with them?  Have you come to believe that you must only show certain parts of yourself to others in order to maintain harmony and receive acceptance?  How do these beliefs affect the way you relate to others, and limit the degree to which you can feel truly fulfilled in your life?

The Object Relations approach also focuses on the kind of relationship you maintain with yourself, based on the belief that "we learn to treat ourselves the way we are treated."  If you learned that your needs and vulnerabilities were not well accepted by others early in life, to what degree can you genuinely accept these aspects of yourself as an adult?

Within the Object Relations framework, the therapeutic process is designed to help you better understand how your unique template was formed, and to clarify the ways in which this template has guided your current relationship style (with yourself and others).  Although we may naturally possess some awareness of how these earlier experiences have shaped us, all too often these beliefs and attitudes continue to operate on an automatic and unconscious level.  When left unexamined and "in the dark," these powerful habits can act as obstacles in life, preventing us from truly getting what we want and need. 

Cognitive-Behavioral Psychotherapy (aka CBT)

The Cognitive and Cognitive-Behavioral psychotherapy perspectives emerged most significantly in the 1950's and 1960's, pioneered by former psychoanalysts Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck.  These new approaches to psychotherapy were developed in part as a response to the need for briefer treatments, and for those that could be more easily researched and tested for effectiveness.

Underlying the cognitive perspective is the assertion that that it is not the events or circumstances that occur to us in life that most strongly determines how we think, feel and behave, but the meaning that we make of those events and circumstances.  In other words, it is the way we interpret what happens to us that determines how we feel about ourselves, our future and the world around us. 

 

Further, the habits of interpretation utilized by depressed, anxious and angry individuals, for example, tend often to be biased or distorted in some very predictable ways.  Depressed individuals commonly focus on only the most negative aspects of themselves, their experience and their future.  They may interpret their experience primarily with an eye to past failures and disappointments, overlooking evidence of accomplishments and attainments.  Anxious individuals, on the other hand, tend to focus their attention upon signs of warning, threat or danger.  They are almost solely aware of their own vulnerability, with little emphasis on strengths, abilities, and coping skills.  Finally, angry individuals tend to be most focused on signs that they are being disrespected, controlled, deceived or otherwise violated, without entertaining alternative explanations.  Anger also often emerges as a negative reaction to unfairness in the world around us (which is almost everywhere, as fairness is not a law of nature), and to the failure of life and people to perform as they should (again, as if there were a universal code or doctrine that actually controlled the actions of individuals and events, which there most certainly is not).  

So, for depressed, anxious and angry individuals, feelings and behavior tend to emerge as a result of the types of beliefs to which they subscribe, and of the data being focused upon. 

 

And how exactly is it that we develop these potentially distorted habits of interpretation, the ones that so powerfully drive our emotional and behavioral functioning?  Good question.  Well, it's pretty clear that nobody wakes up one day and decides, "Hmm, given all of my options about how to live, I think I'd like to be excessively alert to possible danger and catastrophe around me, and distrust anyone who tries to get close to me" or "I'd really like to tie my value as a person to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, or base it upon perfectionistic standards that will almost always leave me feeling like a failure!"  No, we come by these perspectives quite honestly, and often unconsciously, through our learning experiences in the world.  This is where the Object Relations template meets Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, and it is precisely how the two approaches can be combined very effectively in treatment.     

 

Although most commonly applied to the treatment of depression, anxiety, and anger, cognitive therapy has also been extremely effective addressing a wide variety of other problems, including substance abuse, bipolar disorder, ADHD, eating disorders, relationship problems and personality disorders.  Almost everything we feel and do is based on what we think and believe, thus cognitive techniques can be quite powerful in harnessing rapid change. 

 

In helping you to utilize cognitive therapy to address your problems, we will evaluate the way you are seeing yourself, thinking about yourself and talking to yourself, and examine the degree to which it is balanced and accurate.  The truth is that, with training and practice, we can learn to modify the way we interpret ourselves and our experience.  And it doesn't even have to take very long.  It is true that most adults who interpret themselves and their world in a predominantly negative manner have been “practicing” these techniques for many years, and have become quite "expert" at them (as we tend to excel at most things we work at regularly and diligently).  Change in these thinking habits can occur very quickly, but ONLY if the choice has been made to change them, and ONLY if the motivation to do so is strong!  This motivation is probably the single most important driver of success in therapy. 

By analogy, i
f the ability to make catastrophic interpretations were a muscle in the body of an anxious person, we would imagine that muscle to be quite ripped and well-developed, as it has gotten to the gym almost every day.  The counter muscle, however, the one responsible for viewing one's self and one's future in a more balanced and confident manner, does exist, but it has likely atrophied from lack of use.  It is the identification and strengthening of the underused muscles that is precisely the task of cognitive therapy.  To illustrate that this is not a mysterious and neverending process, you have probably noticed that, just in the brief time that you have been reading this material, an at least subtle lifting of your mood has occurred.  Your menu of options has just widened, hasn't it?  Very often it is simply the awareness of this distortion process that brings about significant relief, which is why cognitive therapy can be effective quite rapidly.   

 

To be clear, cognitive therapy is not simply “positive thinking,” and the goal of treatment is not to get you to see every aspect of your life in a rosy, optimistic and hopeful manner.  This would be unrealistic, especially since life typically contains a mixture of successes and disappointments.  The goal is, however, to help you view your experience in an appropriately balanced and accurate manner.

Couples Therapy

I believe that Dr. Dan Wile said it best in his book After the Honeymoon: Turning Conflict Into Understanding when he wrote, "in choosing a long-term partner, you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems that you'll be grappling with for the next 10, 20, or 50 years."  Sound grim?  Well, it really isn't.  In fact, experience tells me that the best-functioning couples are precisely those who have become experts at identifying, understanding and accepting the problems in their relationship.  In others words, the ones who do best have gotten good at "having" their problems versus avoiding, denying, or suppressing them.

What does it mean to effectively "have" problems in a relationship?  Typically, it means that partners have developed the ability to have constructive conversations about their conflicts.  They have learned to collaborate, commiserate and sympathize with one another about their struggles.  They have learned to see both their own and their partner's helplessness, loneliness and frustration.  Are they able to do this all of the time?  No, of course not!  Even the most intelligent, motivated and well-functioning couples fight, and also become recurrently defensive, critical and resentful of one another. 

What differentiates these well-functioning couples from the rest is the degree to which they are able to get back to that collaborative place as soon as possible after the fight, and the frequency with which they are able to identify and express their bottom line feelings and sentiments with one another, in a respectful and caring manner.  By preventing such important feelings from building up across time without expression, couples can reduce the likelihood of "sudden" explosions of anger and distress, and other problematic behaviors such as infidelity, boredom, and sexual dysfunction, among others.    

 

In working with couples, I do place an emphasis on understanding each individual's unique history and "template" (see Object Relations Psychotherapy, above), but I also place great importance on understanding what is happening in the relationship today that might be driving conflict.  For example, a partner may indeed experience pronounced feelings of unfairness as a result of having served as caregiver to seven young siblings while growing up, however, she may also be responding to the fact that her spouse is too heavily immersed in work to contribute meaningfully to the relationship.  By helping partners understand what they are feeling, and why they are feeling it, I am assisting
them in being heard by one another, and in sympathizing with one another.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, my work with couples is informed by three key concepts.  These may sound a bit radical, but they are are powerful and necessary in achieving success in any relationship "under construction."  They are derived from a Buddhist perspective, and are:

1.  We actively create, maintain and exacerbate the very relationship problems about which we complain so bitterly;

2.  We tend to forcefully maintain the role of victim and are often unwilling to examine our own role in the problem; and

3.  We have a lot more power than we think, but only if we give up blaming others and focus on changing ourselves.

If you can embrace these principles, you have a high likelihood of achieving far greater peace and closeness in your relationships with others than you ever thought possible.  If you reject them, or if being right or powerful is more important to you than being close, you are likely to remain embroiled in conflict indefinitely.