The Therapist

Dan Austin TherapistDan Austin M.A., L.P.C.

When I am hired as a couple, relationship, or family counselor, I assume that it is my job to work as rigorously as I can to help make the relationships one that lasts and thrives. In most cases, I prefer to see couple or family members together. The reason for this is when I am working with a couple or family; I am interested in the nature of their interactions with each other.  Interactions are the verbal and non-verbal encounters of those in the relationship.  People get stuck in dysfunctional interactions and then the relationship becomes troubled.  There are a variety of kinds of these dysfunctional interactions.  Obviously I can get a fuller understanding of these interactions when I get perspectives from everyone involved in them.

Dysfunctional interactions are simply those that harm the relationship and leave the individuals in them feeling hurt, angry, confused, overwhelmed, alone or indifferent and then eventually hopeless.  My focus is to help my clients identify these dysfunctional interactions and to understand why they happen and then empower them to be able to change them and get unstuck.

I use an approach that is non-pathological.  It is a misconception that effective relationship counseling needs to focus upon figuring out who has what psychological or emotional problems and then getting them to accept it. Most often this approach undermines the acceptance we need to reflect upon ourselves to consider change and just breeds resistance to it.   Trying to determine fault or degree of it is an approach doomed to fail. By the time we are adults, we all have developed sensitivities. The presence of them need not doom a relationship.  The success of the relationship hinges upon whether can be allies with one another as we seek to address them. It is about our ability to be accessible and responsive to one another about these issues and others that is critical to the success of our relationships. I seek to create the context to develop this ability. If we don’t develop these abilities then we will fall into dysfunctional interactions and our relationships become negatively affected. I don’t think relationships are typically helped by just getting information, in most cases it is necessary for us to engage in a learn by doing and experiencing proposition.

I also do not find it necessary to delve into a client’s family of origin.  Usually it is important for me to look at the history of a relationship to see how it has gotten to its current state and perhaps what contributes to it.  Otherwise I prefer to focus on what is currently happening in the relationship.

It is of utmost importance to me that my clients feel emotionally safe in the sessions.  Only then are clients able to take a look at how they contribute, often unwittingly, to the dysfunctional interactions. Then they can also consider and try changes that can transform dysfunctional interactions into ones that are healthy and fulfilling. One person can make these changes in counseling alone, but the chances improve when you can practice these changes together and all involved are seeking change collaboratively. I work to create situations in the sessions that inspire, evoke, and sometimes provoke my clients into growth and change and there are always opportunities for this for all both partners or all family members involved.

I work in a way where I seek to effect change in the therapy sessions. I am active and have structured sessions. Yet they are flexible so that there is opportunity for dealing with currently arising issues. I function like a director in the sessions, helping clients get to the heart of their relationship issues.

I am also a therapist who believes in and sees the value of a spiritual focus for relationship problems and I am open to bringing this dimension into my counseling. Even though I value this, I do not see it as a necessity to have a spiritual or religious focus in my sessions, and I will not bring it in when it is desired.

Personally, I am a Christian and this shapes how I look at people, how I think of relationships, as well as how I go about my work as a therapist. I am capable and I see value in bringing in direct spiritual content in counseling session for those who are seeking this or are open to it.