Ioana German has been a member of the Ordre des Psychologues du Québec since 2006. She holds a Bachelor’s degree (B.A.) Specialization in Psychology from Concordia University (Montreal) and a Master’s degree (M.A.) in Counselling Psychology from McGill University (Montreal).
She uses a cognitive behavioural, as well as an existential approach to psychotherapy. She helps clients examine the events that are encountered in life from different angles, helps them modify inefficacious behaviours, and find better ways to resolve emotional obstacles by employing successful solutions.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a form of psychotherapy that emphasizes the important role of thinking in how we feel and what we do; it is a process through which we learn how our thoughts influence our feelings and behaviors. Existential psychotherapy is an optimistic approach which embraces human potential. It is based on developing the client’s insight, or self-understanding, and focuses on problems of living such as choice, meaning, and responsibility. This therapeutic approach emphasizes “free will,” the ability to make choices through which an individual can become the person that they want to be. Existential therapy attempts to restore meaning to life so that the client is inspired to have the courage to make choices that are both rewarding and socially constructive.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) stems from learning theories; it was developed during the second half of the twentieth century. The CBT approach focuses on the clients’ ways of thinking and behaving, as well as the relationship between their thoughts, their actions/reactions, and how they feel. As its name implies, it works by identifying and modifying the thoughts and behaviours that may be causing difficulties to the clients, which then helps to improve their mood. More recently, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and mindfulness are complementary strategies which have been added to the CBT approach in order to increase the clients’ capacities to be present in the moment and to cope with their emotional insecurity. The goal of CBT is to teach clients that while they cannot control every aspect of the world around them, they can take control of how they interpret and deal with things in their environment.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy is generally short-term (three to six months) and focused on helping clients deal with a very specific problem. During the course of treatment, clients learn how to identify and modify maladaptive thought patterns that have a negative influence on their behaviours. The underlying concept behind CBT is that our thoughts and feelings play a fundamental role in our behaviour.
With the use of evidence-based strategies such as systematic desensitization or cognitive restructuring, CBT enables clients to be actively in problem-solving. The CBT approach is commonly used in the treatment of a wide range of disorders including anxiety disorders (phobias, generalised-anxiety, etc.), addictions, mood disorders (depression or mania), communication difficulties, as well as self-esteem and confidence issues.
The humanistic approach can be traced to Abraham Maslow as the founding father, and through time has become closely associated with Carl Rogers. The humanistic and existential approach distinguishes itself from other therapeutic styles by including the importance of the client’s subjective experience, as well as a concern for positive growth rather than pathology. Yalom was a pioneer in the area of existential psychotherapy which emphasizes that mental health problems are frequently caused by existential struggles. Common themes include fear of death, the drive toward freedom, and the desire to avoid isolation. Existential psychotherapy recognizes four basic human issues that all people struggle with: isolation, meaningless, mortality, and freedom.
Whereas the key words for humanistic psychotherapy are genuineness, empathy and unconditional positive regard, the major themes of existential therapy are the client’s responsibility and freedom. Humanistic and existential approaches share a belief that clients have the capacity for self-awareness and choice; they offer several facets to their theoretical perspectives. The humanistic perspective views human nature as basically good, with a potential to maintain healthy, meaningful relationships and to make choices that are in the best interest of oneself and others. The humanistic therapist accompanies/guides clients to free themselves from assumptions and positions that might be blocking them from living fuller lives. The psychologist encourages and highlights growth and self-actualization, while maintaining that clients have an innate capacity for responsible self-direction. For the humanistic psychologist, not being one’s true self is the source of problems.
The existentialist psychologist, on the other hand, is more interested in guiding/accompanying clients to find philosophical meaning while they face anxiety. This is done by exploring the importance of choosing to think and act authentically and responsibly. According to existential psychology, the fundamental problem clients face is rooted in anxiety over isolation, loneliness, despair, and, eventually, death. The existential psychologist assumes that the clients’ problems are due to not being able to use their judgment or make good enough choices in order to create meaning in their lives. While outside influences may play a role in the clients’ limited ability to carry out choices, the existential psychologist and the clients will confront these influences in order to move forward towards a balanced and integrated self.