Charlotte Kasl Ph.D., LCPC (Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor), CAS (Certified Addiction Specialist), and formerly a licensed consulting psychologist in Minnesota. I have been a psychotherapist for over thirty years, and have attended numerous trainings in many approaches to therapy. Most recently, I have been fascinated by the growing research on the plasticity of the brain and our ability to change long standing patterns throughout the life span. I have a holistic understanding of the brain, mind, body, emotions and relationships and their exquisite interwoven nature.

INDIVIDUAL THERAPY (See also intensive/marathon therapy)

I combine various approaches based on the needs of the client. Along with creating a safe and trusting relationship, this can include cognitive therapy, EMDR, EFT, hypnotherapy, and ego state therapy as pioneered by Helen and John Watkins who mentored me in this approach. I have also attended 46 days training in quantum consciousness/ psychology as taught by Stephen Wolinsky, author of numerous books, including Trances People Live and The Dark Side of the Inner Child. (For more information on EMDR and EFT you can go to websites by those names.)

I specialize in helping people get beneath the surface to make structural changes that lead to greater freedom and ease in life. I help people get out of the story of what happened, and into the deeper level of emotions, reactions, and conditioned experience where true change can happen. I have worked with trauma, post traumatic stress, and addictions throughout my experience as a therapist.

PSYCHOTHERAPY WITH COUPLES—NO BLAME, NO SHAME (See also intensive/marathon therapy)

I have attended workshops and trainings on couples therapy since the seventies, starting with Virginia Satir. While I naturally draw on many teachings and past experience, I have found that Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT) pioneered by Susan M. Johnson and Alan Greenberg (see EFT website) is especially effective for couples.

Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT). EFT is positive, hopeful, and operates on the principle that a secure relationship comes from emotional accessibility and knowing that when you are in need and reach out, your partner will reach back.

EFT is based on creating safety so that the partners learn to relate from an emotional level that helps them start listening and understanding rather than getting stuck in the same old arguments and conflicts. Instead of negative patterns based on attack, blame, counter attack, pursue, withdrawal or defensiveness, couples learn to reveal their underlying needs and emotions. This helps break the cycle of repetitive fights and misunderstandings as people learn to connect at a deeper level where they hear the spirit of the words and the underlying needs.

For example. “You never talk to me, you don’t care, you’re mean” becomes “I feel sad that we don’t get close any more. I think of the times we felt close and want it to be that way again.” Likewise, the person who withdraws might initially say, “You’re so demanding and bitchy, just back off and leave me alone—how can I talk with someone who’s always criticizing me.” From a deeper place this becomes. “ I don’t know how to please you, I feel so inadequate and lost sometimes–I just blank out. It’s not that I don’t care. I get afraid.” This in turn may elicit a new response from the partner: “I had no idea you were afraid, I thought you didn’t care.” This leads to a shift in perception that creates greater understanding and compassion, and opens the way to creating connection.

Accepting our needs
EFT is grounded in attachment theory, which explores the basis of secure attachments or connections. As we grow up, many of us are taught to disown feelings of dependency, helplessness, vulnerability or the need to be cherished and valued. Others disown their competence, power, strength and intelligence and defer to their partner’s needs while submerging their anger and resentment. As a result, these buried needs and emotions often fuel the distress and conflict in relationships. Individuals ache with loneliness, long to feel deeply understood, or are afraid to say what they need and want. EFT helps people validate and voice these disowned parts of themselves, which leads to a higher level of awareness and understanding in the relationship.

Learn to recognize negative and positive patterns
EFT goes through well defined stages to help couples recognize the patterns between them and how each one is caught in the cycle. As each person takes ownership of their part in the cycle, partners become more responsive and accessible to each other, which leads to more positive exchanges between them. The growing feelings of safety and closeness help stabilize the relationship and deepen feelings of trust.

Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy with Trauma Survivors (See book by this title, by Susan M. Johnson.)
There are added dimensions to therapy when one or both partners has experienced trauma that has shaped their lives. Early trauma, or PTSD (Post traumatic Stress Disorder) often leaves an individual with strong emotions that are quickly triggered by events that are reminiscent of the prior trauma–fear, hurt, anger, rage, sadness. The feelings seem real in current time, but these strong reactions actually come from a part of us that was traumatized, violated or neglected in the past. It is these hardwired reactions and false core beliefs that create much of the snarl in the relationship.

Therapy includes factoring in these hot or intense reactions and learning to externalize them. When someone blurts out angrily, “Don’t tell me what to do!” s/he can reflect and realize, “Oh, this feels like when I was an adolescent–I’m reacting as if you were my father/mother.” People learn to drop back and understand the source of the intense reaction–what event and age it connects with. This can include desperate feelings such as I’ll die without you, or You just want to hurt me or fury at feeling abandoned when a partner is not being attentive. Others accept disrespectful or abusive behavior from their partner because of low self esteem, feeling they deserve to be punished, or because it’s all they have ever known. They need to learn that they deserve kindness and respect, no matter what.

As each member of the couple learns to externalize the “dragons” from the past, they start to see each other in current time— another perfectly imperfect human being with fears, hopes and dreams who wants to be respected, loved and cherished. Instead of operating out of old conditioning, partners learn to become allies to each others wounded places. This becomes the foundation for kindness and respect. This process takes time and the relationship gradually becomes a more healing union rather than being a repetition of the prior trauma. (Individual therapy to process the trauma is often an important part of the process.)

Note: Many people have called me for couple therapy after reading If the Buddha Dated, or If the Buddha Married. For those of you who liked those books, this model implicitly combines Buddhist principles of kindness, compassion and understanding along with the ability to see clearly in reality. In addition it provides a clear and focused process to help with couple therapy. EFT is one of the most highly researched forms of couple therapy with the most positive outcome. As of July 2009, I have attended both the beginning and advanced trainings, and completed twenty eight hours of supervision along with an additional two-day training and conference on EFT. I have been working with this model since 2003.

Recommended Books:

Susan M. Johnson,
Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love
Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy with Trauma Survivors
The Practice of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy: Creating Connection (Basic Principles Into Practice Series)
Charlotte Kasl
If the Buddha Dated
If the Buddha Married
If the Buddha got Stuck
Women, Sex, and Addiction: A Search for Love and Power