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People Choose to See Me Because of My Approach

February 29, 2016

Need counseling? People see me because of my unique approach. Let me explain….

How we see the world and handle our adult life is so influenced by our experiences growing up.

For the first 12 years of my life, I grew up in the Bathurst/Wilson area of Toronto; North York, to be more precise. This was the Jewish part of the city, a city which in the 50’s. 60’s and so on was clearly divided along ethnic lines. Our neighborhood was so predominantly Jewish that from Kindergarten to the end of grade 6, I can only remember one non-Jewish student in all my classes. I still remember her name, the only name I remember because, well, one of these things was not like the other.

Growing up in a Jewish family, in a Jewish neighborhood my experience suggested that the whole world was Jewish. Truly in terms of my life experience and my world, indeed it was entirely Jewish. It was not until our family moved to Thornhill in 1967, an area that was predominantly white Anglo Saxon Protestant that I ever thought things could be different.

However, because of my experience growing up at Bathurst/Wilson area, I entered Thornhill believing the entire world was still Jewish, expect for Thornhill. The power of the earlier life experience totally influenced my world view. It wasn’t until many years later in my mid 20’s did I really come to appreciate the whole world wasn’t Jewish. With that I also had to re-orient my thinking about other worldviews influenced by a Jewish frame of reference.

In my counseling work with adults I always review with them, their growing up experiences to explore what may be influencing their worldview or beliefs.

Whatever your experience that becomes in essence, your view of normal or at least your view of what the world is or how the world is. If one grows up where their parents consume copious amounts of alcohol and you consume less than that of your parents, you may think your consumption is no issue. However and although less than what you saw growing up, it still may be an issue. If one grows up with yelling, shouting, name calling, hitting or the like, this too, although likely uncomfortable, still becomes one’s normal. Truth is, one’s normal may be a skewed version of what true normal really is. One’s normal may actually be problematic despite one’s familiarity with it.

I see many people in my counseling practice who do have a skewed view of normal the result of their growing up experience. So too did I – at least in terms of believing and I mean truly believing the whole world is Jewish.

I remember coming to the realization that my world view was wrong. The light went on and I never went back to seeing the world in my distorted fashion. I also re-evaluated other culturally based points of view that contributed to how I got along with others. Things changed.

Of the folks I work with who also have a distorted view, but where the consequences impact on relationships, parenting, child behavior, I seek to help them review and re-evaluate their growing up experiences. This can provide for a shocking eye-opener, especially when the thinking was that they saw the world clearly and thus any issue in terms of a relationship must therefore originate with someone else.

We call this shocking eye-opener insight.

In traditional psychotherapy, the process of achieving insight can be a long and arduous journey. The therapist will listen, week-after-week, ask little and provide the time and space for your self-exploration, giving the occasional interpretation to help steer the journey.

Because I ask questions directly, this is a much faster journey, one that can be achieved in a single meeting. By providing this level of insight, then behavior change can happen more rapidly and guidance provided makes more sense in view of the newly understood world-view. This means people can resolve issues sooner. This one-two combination of insight and guidance gives people something to think about as they engage in new behavior to facilitate revolutionary change or paradigmatic change.

Does everyone experience this revolutionary or paradigmatic change? No, but those who don’t still may benefit from behavioral changes as measured by the frequency, duration or intensity of issues. The issues may remain, but be more manageable.

This is a vastly different experience than most people have in counseling.

Key to my approach is longer sessions. The first meeting is typically a good three hours. In fact, I always set aside three hours for all of my meetings yet I only bill for actual time used. I wouldn’t want my surgeon kicking me off the table saying we’ll take the scalpel out next week and I would not want to end a counseling session simply because we ran out of time.

Also key to this approach is allowing longer periods between meetings. Because so much can be covered and people need time to accommodate and practice what is covered in a single meeting, sessions are usually booked about four weeks apart. So while it seems like longer sessions may be a more expensive approach to counseling, in fact, it is typically less costly because there are far fewer sessions overall . This is not to say that some folks won’t be seen for an extended period, but more often people are seen anywhere from one to 4 occasions.

I’ve long since learned that not only is the whole world not Jewish, but counseling can be provided in ways that better suit the needs of the person, rather than fitting the person into what was the traditional counseling world.

Need help? Please visit my website to learn more about this approach to counseling. While on my website, look around and scroll through my hundreds of articles and audio/video clips. It just may be that one of my free resources may be helpful on its own.

Know someone else who might need counseling? Please scroll down and share this article.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. I am also available to work through video conferencing.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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  1. Shane Adamson permalink

    Hi Gary,
    I just wanted to express to new people who are thinking of using your services… Gary is truly a gift from God as it relates to understanding complex relationships , being able teach people why relationships are where there at & provide healthy sustainable outcomes if participatants truly wish to work at positive long term outcomes.
    Gary has passion for life and cares deeply and that deep caring attitude resonates in everyone of our sessions when we dealt with our children’s issues, my wife’s parental geriatric issues and our committed relationship… The sessions seem very quick but you will always leave knowing Gary’s position. He is 100% honest and does not sugar coat. I feel if you want to truly be a better person with the intent to grow spiritually with depth and accountability in the sense of understanding who you are, why your at a certain point in your life and you want to move forward positively in your life….. Meet Gary.
    Otherwise if your going through the motions I would say to you move on.

    I have read his web sites materials and I always learn and it is greatly appreciated.

    Thank you again Gary for everything you have done for me over the years. Sincerely Shane

  2. Just catching up with long-pending emails and read your piece in my in-box. This is a very thoughtful perspective with which I could relate. I grew up Catholic in Catholic schools. I remember the sole “Protestant” student. I went to a Catholic under-grad college that was even more cosy in some senses because the administrative staff also belonged to my state of origin (a big thing in India). I was in for a rude shock when I went to a secular university. Similarly, I grew up with a very upper-caste view of the world. When I went to my second university, I had a backward caste mentor who opened my eyes to a different view. Recently he visited my city and as we drove down the “wrong” side of the railway tracks I acknowledged to him how he had opened my eyes to view people living on the “wrong” side of the tracks without my caste blinkers. What I like about your article is that you have written about how you use this miracle on the road to Damascus clinically. A lovely way to speak about the social worker’s technique of use of self. Happy Social Work Month Gary…

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  1. Couple Therapy vs Counseling vs Mediation: Difference? | Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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