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 this may be a more expensive approach to counseling, in fact, it is typically less costly overall because there are far fewer sessions. 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.

Author's Bio: 

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
(905) 628-4847
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 Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America and was the first social worker to sit on the Ontario Board for Collaborative Family Law.