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Short Term Therapy for Long Term Happiness by Dena Sperling

Turn on the television and within a half hour time period, you likely will see at least two commercials advertising medications for depression. While pills have their place, they do not undo the situations that originally caused the emotional distress.

Though most people try to “figure things out” on their own when they experience emotional distress, they do not always have the personal and/ or social resources to successfully gain enough control over the situation that is plaguing them. This is when short term therapy can become a powerful tool.

Short term therapy enables individuals to explore past and present experiences that have had both negative and positive impacts on them. People find themselves becoming more selfaware and self-supportive as a result of this exploration. From there it is an easy transition to learning ways to effect personal change.

Situational Distress

People experiencing any emotional discomfort need to understand what circumstances have occurred to cause them to feel the way they do. In the majority of cases, distress or discomfort is “situational.” It is in response to a specific set of circumstances and is the product of their experiences and personal skills. Until individuals can understand these circumstances and take control of them, the discomfort will continue. This is true for depression, anxiety, anger, behavioral problems and even how someone responds to stress.

Ideally people want to take control of what is happening in their life before it takes control of them. Cognition—the ability to identify, understand, reason and plan—is what enables people to do so. It is an integral part of everyday life enabling us to process, understand and respond to our experiences.

Short Term Therapy

In short term therapy, the experienced therapist will guide, support, encourage and facilitate their clients' progress as they gain personal understanding and strength. They will attempt and then adapt to the changes that have proven successful for them. They will discover increased self-awareness and feel more empowered. And then, one day, they will tell the therapist that they can now “do this” on their own.

Visualizat ion exercise

Sit upright or lie on your back. Close your eyes, relax your hands, arms, shoulders, neck and back. Start becoming aware of your own breath. Breathe in and out through your nose in slow, even breaths. Start to “see” the air you’re inhaling. It is a pure stream of white that drifts up towards your nostrils. You breathe it in and “see” it circling around inside your head. When you are ready, you exhale. The clean air continues to circle around inside your head as the older air circulates below it and then is pushed out through your nostrils. Repeat this process at least 8 times, longer if you prefer. When you are done, return to regular breathing and slowly open your eyes.

For everyone, becoming one’s strongest personal resource is as healing as stepping into a warm patch of sunlight. The warmth and peace that is experienced is something that anyone can carry with him or her to brighten and overcome even those gloomier moments. Men, women and children all need to feel this resource residing within themselves.

Dena Sperling, a licensed clinical social worker, has an office located at 28 New Hempstead Rd., New City. She can be reached at 323-4600 or through her website,

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