Chris Cooper PhD

Practice Philosophy

It is said that if the only tool in your tool box is a hammer every task will require a nail. Many of the faculty in the clinical psychology program I which I trained seemed to believe that we should be trained in only one approach to therapy – that learning more than one theoretical system would confuse us. Eclectic was a most hated word because they imagined that if we knew or practiced more than one mode of psychotherapy we would throw techniques willy-nilly at clients, thereby increasing their distress. Imagine a cabinetmaker or a fine finish carpenter with one tool. Imagine this craftsperson randomly reaching into a toolbox and here sawing, there nailing, there sanding, with no pattern or purpose.To be fair to my program’s faculty, by the time I graduated some of them were beginning to embrace the word integrative.

Now imagine a craftsperson running a hand over the surface of a fine piece of hardwood, finding her way on the project by joining with the wood asking what it needs much like a sculptor who, when presented with a fresh block of marble, does not impose his will on it, but endeavors to find the form that is emerging from the stone. This is metaphoric of the integrative approach to personal growth that I embrace.

This approach is informed by

  • Depth psychology
  • Relational Psychology
  • Studies of Native American ritual and healing
  • Old and Ancient methods of healing

How I work

Psychotherapy as it is usually practiced consists of 45 or 50-minute sessions, generally once or twice per week. It can be short-term (weeks or a few months) or long-term (months or years).

Traditional psychotherapy is available in my practice. However, I have expanded my view of the therapeutic hour. One size does not always fit all. In my work over the past fifteen years it has seemed to me that some people do well with fifty minutes once a week, while some prefer shorter or longer sessions or more or less frequent sessions. In my own therapeutic journey, I have found longer sessions and a rhythm of more and less intense times of working suits me. I have tried to honor these observations by discussing the logistics of our work with my clients and devising a mutually agreeable schedule for our work.

This scheduling would likely begin with two or three meetings of an hour or two in length to become acquainted and to map out the course of the work we will do together. This work, which is directed towards self-development, self-awareness, personal growth, and healing is an active process in which both the client and the practitioner are active and involved participants.

It is important not to think of therapy as an experience in which you coming to an expert ’s office so you can present your problems or difficulties and have the other person fix them. This is your work. Your journey. And you are hiring a consultant who has knowledge about such journeys to help you.

To emphasize some important aspects of this work:

  • This is your work. You are the sculpture emerging from the block of marble. What do you need to do to free yourself?
  • Creativity is vital to this work. The kinds of change and development sought do not come from passivity and cannot be developed out of intellect alone. Whatever your creative leanings, they need to be brought into play – whether dance, poetry, painting, knitting, photography, cooking, singing, writing music, sewing, woodworking, journaling or any other creative endeavor.
  • Imagination is creativity’s companion, and is also vital to this work. How can one grow or make changes without being able to imagine?
  • Dreams can tell you a great deal about your inner world. Paying attention to them and dialoguing about them can be a very helpful tool

In accordance with these ideas, in planning work with a client I often propose working together intensively for a period of time (usually six to twelve weeks), having you work on your own on some creative aspect of this journey – again for about six to twelve weeks, then meeting together again. The pattern of these meetings and this work will vary considerably depending on the particular circumstances and needs of the client.