How the therapy process works

As a therapist I have often been asked some version of the question “how does this therapy thing work?” I received the question again today, in the form of an email, from a prospective client. This helped me to reflect on the process that I tend to use the most.  It goes something like this:

1) Take stock of your life as it is, as it REALLY is, without whitewashing, sugarcoating, exaggerating, rationalizing, justifying, or minimizing.  We have to accurately and thoroughly define reality, both your internal reality (beliefs, thoughts, feelings, affect/body sensations) and your external reality or life situation.  This is the starting point, and we continually look at this as we go along.

2) Identify what your ideal life worth living looks like in detail.  Who is in it, what is in it, where it is, what you and they are doing/not doing, etc..  This vision becomes the long term goal.  With most people, this vision gets adjusted as we go along, as one develops new awareness, new information, new experience, new circumstances.

3) Identify what it is that you presently believe, think, say, and do (both internally and outwardly) that is helping your move toward that life worth living.  The objective is to optimize those things, to do them better and more frequently.  Look at what works. Do more of that.  Build on your strengths.

4) Identify what it is that you presently believe, think, say, and do (both internally and outwardly) that get in the way or prevent you from moving toward that life worth living, or that take you AWAY from that goal.  The objective is to change/reduce/eliminate those things. 

I can tell you from my experience that it is the INNER reality that is the most difficult to access, identify, and change.  Most people have not developed a lifestyle that prioritizes or supports the kind of conscious awareness necessary to confront our own patterns in a manner that is necessary to create significant change.  Therefore, we tend to continue doing the same ineffective things over and over again, expecting change to come because we are doing it more, or less, in this place or that place, with this person or that person, in this way or that way.  When we don't get what we're looking for, we tend to blame the circumstances, or others, and we tend to look to some external source for solace or comfort.  

Some of us have internalized negative messages that we repeat to ourselves in our own voice, not remembering where they come from.  ("You'll never amount to anything", "you can do/be anything/anyone you want", "don't reach too high", "who do you think you are?", "never__________", "always ___________", "expect the worst, hope for the best", etc, etc.).  Some of us have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and/or others.  There are any number of these kinds of patterns that get in the way, many of which are relatively invisible to us.

Confronting these kinds of things is the most challenging aspect of the process for some people.  For others, giving up cherished preferences/patterns that have served them well in some way even though they are no longer working presents the greater challenge.  We all have our unique constellation of things to look at.

So, from a change creation perspective, I tend to advocate beginning, developing, and/or increasing daily practices that:

·        support cognitive flexibility

·        improve self-awareness

·        expand the capacity to tolerate distress and to broaden one's emotional bandwidth

·        increase skillfulness and satisfaction in interpersonal relationships

·        contribute to a felt sense of being comfortable in one's own skin.

In addition to regular individual, couples, and/or group therapy, these practices include:

·        Focused, dedicated mindfulness meditation

·        Written affirmations

·        Intentional observation of self – diary card

·        Daily reflection, journaling

·        Physical Exercise

·        Rehearse / Practice new skills

People often ask, "how long does it take?" My answer is, "It takes as long as it takes.  There are things you can do to facilitate the process and things you can do to retard it. The things I recommend are the things that facilitate it.  How intensely, consistently, and honestly you engage in the process and implement those things is ultimately the deciding factor.  Those who do more get more.  Those who do less get less."

David Llewellyn, MA, LMHC, CSAT

March Hold Me Tight Workshop

Would you like to stop feeling stuck in your relationship? Do you feel like you can’t do anything right? Do you feel like your partner just doesn’t care?

Spectrum Recovery Solutions will be holding a Hold Me Tight workshop for couples March 18 and 19th.

The Hold Me Tight workshop for couples will help you and your partner:

·       Affirm strengths in your relationship

·       Address negative interaction patterns

·       Understand more clearly each other’s emotions

·       Recognize underlying reasons for complex

·       Learn strategies to repair and forgive

·       Enhance emotional and physical closeness you will improve your communication

·       Become more accessible, responsive, and emotionally engaged with each other

This workshop is led by the expert therapists at Spectrum Recovery Solutions who have advanced training in Emotional Focus Couples Therapy. They bring loving attachment theory and emotional focused therapy to couples through the Hold Me Tight workshop. This couples workshop is a practical, safe, supportive, and positive experience for couples.

Dates: March 18-19

Time: 9am to 6pm

For more information or to reserve your spot today, call Spectrum Recovery Solutions at (239) 595-3022

Announcing our new group for Partners of Sex Addicts! 

This is a therapy group for partners of sex addicts designed to help cope with traumatic stress reactions, develop community support, gain a fuller understanding of sex addiction, establish boundaries and accountability, and regain feelings of self-worth. 

This group runs for 12 consecutive Thursdays starting February 23, 2017.  The group sessions are from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm. The cost is $60 per session.  This group will be facilitated by Rena Essrog, MSS, LCSW, CSAT and Pam Malloy, MA, NCC, PMHC, LPC. Rena is an expert in the treatment of sex addiction and is a Certified Sex Addictions Specialist. Pam has extensive experience in trauma and specialized training to work with partners of Sex Addicts.

Call our office at 239.595.3022 for more information or to register. 

Part Time Job Opportunity: QEEg Training Technician/Coach

Part Time Job Opportunity: QEEg Training Technician/Coach

Spectrum Recovery Solutions is growing. We provide a holistic approach to mental health.  In keeping with our holistic approach, we offer QEEg (Qualitative Electro-Encephalography) Neurocognitive rehabilitation services to our clients, for whom this therapy is appropriate.  We are looking for a self-motivated team player to join our team as a QEEg Training Technician/Coach. This is a wonderful part-time opportunity. If you, or someone you know is interested, please send the resume to: Alicia Allen at

Part Time Job Opportunity:  QEEg Training Technician/Coach

This job involves:  traveling to two different training sites in Estero and Naples; preparing and operating equipment to deliver training sessions; preparing client scalp and placement of electrodes to skin surface; explaining various components of the training process to clients; troubleshooting and correcting technical issues that may arise; entering notes for each session; communicating with clinical director and training monitor; other duties as assigned. 

Estimated hours per week: 12-24

Pay: $20 per client hour

Ideal candidates will possess the following qualifications:

  • College degree
  • Ability to communicate effectively with clients and staff
  • Ability to quickly learn and retain new concepts and terminology
  • Ability to comprehend technical language relating to QEEg
  • Ability to comprehend and explain processes to clients
  • Moderate to advanced knowledge of PC operations (Windows10)
  • Ability to work independently
  • Possess reliable transportation
  • Be able to maintain a flexible schedule, including evenings to 9PM, and possible weekend hours, responsive to client needs.
  • Comfortable with hands-on placement of electrodes to clients’ scalp surfaces

Interested parties please submit resume, with subject line “QEEg coach” to:

Workshop for Partners of Sex Addicts

This workshop is for partners of sex addicts and is a resource for partners who have been struggling with their partner's addiction. Topics include the biology of trauma, self–care techniques, and learning "What’s Your Anger Style." 

When: Saturday, November 19th, 1–5 PM 

Where: Spectrum Recovery Solutions, LLC  

9180 Estero Park Commons
Suite 6
Estero, FL 33928

Cost: $125

Presented by: Pam Malloy, MA, NCC, PMHC, LPC - Trained in:  Multidimensional Partner Trauma Model Treatment With Dr. Barbara Steffans author of “Your Sexually Addicted Spouse” and founder of The Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists 

What is the NeuroCodeX® Brain Map and Cognitive Analysis and the NeuroCoach® program?

Q. What is the NeuroCodeX® Brain Map and Cognitive Analysis and the NeuroCoach® program?

A. A brain-based healing and development technology designed to facilitate remediation, repair, or improvement of brain functioning. NeuroCodeX® and NeuroCoach® are registered trademarks of the NTL Group and used by license. 

NeuroCodeX® is a cognitive assessment and evaluation utilizing neuro-imaging techniques that measure neuro-electric biomarkers that emanate from the brain by analyzing over 300-brain functions.  These measurements compute electrical impulses that the brain naturally produces and then objectively show if they are “in balance” or “out of balance”.  If the electrical impulses are out of balance, the map and full assessment will precisely show where the imbalances are located and what effect it will have on the individual’s thinking, processing, and brain functioning ability.

NeuroCoach® is based on the results of NeuroCodeX®. Clients in our Smart Brain Solution program is given specific remediation, repair, or improvement protocols.  These protocols are based on the needs of the client, brain dysfunction, and physiology. The heart of Smart Brain Solution programs is NeuroCoach®, a computer based tool used to retrain the brain to normalized function and development. This tool is used for Neurodevelopment, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and Recovery and Addiction as well as overall improvement in the health of the brain.

Q. Who should get a NeuroCodeX® Assessment?              

A.  Adults and kids!

Adults and adolescents who suffer from addictions, emotional trauma, health trauma, physical trauma, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) through accident, and/or addictive personality traits are good candidates for NeuroCodeX®. 

Kids who have behavioral challenges, learning/educational challenges, ADD/ADHD, developmental delays, or social maturation delays are good candidates for NeuroCodeX® brain mapping and cognitive assessment.

Q. What results can be expected?

A. For adults, positive results are seen as an increase in IQ (average of 15 or greater points in IQ after 20+ sessions), increases in self-regulation, self-control, and impulse control.

For kids, the program’s goal is to help the individual’s brain catch up with an age appropriate developmental time line. Positive results are seen in improved behaviors, greater resiliency under stress, self-regulation, thinking abilities, decision making, memory, recall, improved impulsivity, better grades and an increase in IQ (average of 15 or greater points in IQ after 20+ sessions).

These changes directly affect the client’s ability to think and become more resilient to stresses of everyday life. In other words: The client’s brain and its ability will be primed and ready to accept and accommodate the interventions provided by their therapists.

Q. How long does the NeuroCodeX® Assessment and subsequent NeuroCoach® program take?

A. NeuroCodeX® (the evaluation, assessment and mapping) takes 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The NeuroCoach® program (based on the NeuroCodeX® analysis and results) typically shows the first significant changes within 10 sessions. We recommend that clients have at least 3 sessions weekly. Each session lasts approximately 1 hour. This will depend on the client, their needs, and their therapist. Long lasting changes take place between 4 and 6 months. These changes are seen as greater resiliency to stress, stronger self-regulation, stronger emotional stability, and greater impulse control.

Q. Is this an evidence-based technology?

A. Yes, NeuroCodeX® and NeuroCoach® are evidence based. All instruments have been properly psycho-metrically developed and accepted as evidence based measures. Many were developed by the National Institute of Health (NIH), New York University Brain Research Lab, or are FDA approved. None of the measures are experimental. Effective applications of these tools, methods, and techniques have been peer-reviewed and proven with multiple target populations, including AD/HD, memory, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. For the substance abuse and recovery populations these studies continue.

Q. What if I already have a therapist?

A. The beauty of Spectrum Brain Solutions is that you can choose to see one of our skilled clinicians or continue with your primary therapist/clinical team. The clinicians at Spectrum Brain Solutions are trained to incorporate the results of NeuroCodeX® and NeuroCoach® to maximize the therapeutic process. If you are currently established with a therapist/clinician, we can collaborate with that therapist/clinician.

Q. Do you have a website?

A. Yes! You can visit Spectrum Brain Solutions at

For solutions for children, visit:

Q. How do I set up a free phone consultation?

A. Call Spectrum Brain Solutions at 239-595-3022 and ask to speak with David Llewellyn, LMCH or Alicia Allen, MSW, Registered Clinical Social Work Intern.

How We Hear "I Love You"

As a therapist I often get asked the question, “Why do relationships fail?” However, I’ve yet to be asked “What makes a great relationship?” There is a powerful distinction between these two questions that essentially search for the same thing: the key to happiness with the person you chose. But why worry about how the question is asked and not just answer the question? The answer is simple.  When we ask about failure we are focusing on the negative. We wallow in all the things that have gone wrong. We get stuck on these negative reminders of the bad choice we made in our partner. But when we ask about great relationships, we focus on the things that make happiness a reality. We bask in the warmth of all those good feelings that remind us of the love we have, or at least once had and can hopefully regain.

This is a good lesson to keep in mind when looking at your relationship with your partner. Instead of looking at all the negatives, such as dirty dishes in the sink, toilet seats left up, sexless nights, we have to look at the things that put that smile on our face. You know the one. It’s the one that automatically comes out when something unexpected makes us happy. But sometimes we’ve lived so long focusing on the negatives that we can’t even remember what those smile-provoking behaviors were. That’s where hopelessness decides to step in and become a third member of the relationship. But how do we get back to happiness when we can’t even remember the last time our partner put that smile on our faces?

It’s simple. First, we need to rediscover those things that make us truly happy in our relationship. Second, we need to rediscover those things that make our partners happy in the relationship. Third, we need to do them. Hey, I said the answer was simple, not easy.

Relationships can last a long time, but it takes work! One couple I saw was married for 64 years. Now, I’m not going to say that they had a fairytale love story. They thought about splitting up, especially in the beginning. They constantly fought and found fault in everything the other person did. However, they came to the realization that there were things they needed from their partner and then there were things they wanted from their partner. They decided to really look at what are the needs and what are the wants. I remember them telling me that what saved their relationship was discovering and focusing on the needs before tackling the wants. For example, we’d like for our partners not smack their lips when they eat, but we need for our partners to eat dinner with us because that is the time we sit and talk about our day. See the difference?

We need to focus on those things that are needs so we don’t wallow in the misery. Is it when our partner tells us how much they appreciate us? Is it when our partner washes the dishes without us asking? How about when our partner shows up with a present…one that didn’t even cost a penny? Maybe what puts that smile on our face is when we just spend time doing something silly with our partner, like going to garage sales together? Or, maybe we get that smile when our partner gives us small (or big) touches, like a pat on our back when they walk by or hugs out of the blue.

Dr. Gary Chapman discusses what he calls the Five Love Languages in his book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. A love language is how we communicate our love and appreciation through our behaviors. When our partner communicates using our love language, they are doing that thing that puts that unconscious smile on our face. However, when our partner speak a love language that is different than our own, we might not see or hear their love. That can cause conflict because we don’t understand the language our partner is using. It’s like any language we don’t understand. We can try to communicate in other ways, but we’ll still feel frustrated that we didn’t get our message through completely. We can go to the finest three-star Michelin restaurant in Paris, but if all we can do is point to something on the menu, we might end up getting braised liver. Now, maybe you like that, but I certainly would have rather had a perfectly roasted chicken.

As Dr. Chapman states, there are five distinct love languages. They are Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts,Quality Time, and Physical Touch.

Words of Affirmation

Nathaniel Hawthorne once said, “Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.” He was on to something here. Words can cut and hurt. They cause damage that can last for a lifetime. Words can also prop someone up, lift their spirits, and inspire people to do great things. When your love language is Words of Affirmation, then you communicate love through verbal compliments, praises, and recognition. This isn’t just saying, “I love you” to your partner. This is verbally acknowledging your partner. Some examples are:

  • “I love your sense of style.”
  • “Wow! You really did a great job putting that bookshelf together.”
  • “Thanks for taking the kids for an hour so I can catch up on my show.”
  • “I just wanted to let you know that I’m thinking of you.”
  • “Did I ever tell you what a great kisser you are?”
  • “You are looking great! All the work at the gym is really paying off.”
  • “I’m sorry for hurting you.”
  • “I forgive you.”

These statements speak volumes to a person whose primary love language is Words of Affirmation. These words convey the message, “You are in my thoughts. You bring me happiness. I appreciate you. I love you.”

Acts of Service

For someone whose primary love language is Acts of Service, what you do is more important that what you say. Acts of service isn’t about getting your partner to do everything for you. It’s about showing love, giving praise, and providing recognition to your partner through small and big acts.  Here are some examples:

  • Doing the laundry because your partner hates doing laundry
  • Draping a blanket over your partner on those cold nights
  • Opening the door for your partner
  • Picking up dinner so your partner doesn’t have to cook
  • Taking out the dog in the morning so they can sleep in
  • Setting up the DVD to record your partner’s favorite show when they are working late.

These actions communicate, “I love you and therefore, I am taking care of you.”

Receiving Gifts

As Dr. Chapman said in his book, “Gifts are visual symbols of love.” The love language of Receiving Gifts is not about monetary value or material things. If this is your primary love language, getting a gift means that you were in that person’s thoughts. Your happiness was that person’s main goal. How wonderfully loving is that?  There are times when the gift is something costly or rare and sometimes it’s free and easily available. Here are some ideas:

  • Flowers you picked from a field
  • Seeds to help your partner start that garden they were wanting
  • A playlist of your partner’s favorite songs
  • Tickets to the concert of your partner’s favorite artist
  • A drawing of your partner’s favorite landmark or place

Quality Time

Being with your lover and spending time together, regardless of what you are doing, is the ultimate expression of love for those whose primary love language is Quality Time. It does not matter what you are doing. What matters is that you are giving of your time and attention to your partner to create memories.  Here are some things that you can do to spend quality time together:

  • Work out together
  • Go for a walk around the neighborhood together
  • Watch a movie together
  • Eat dinner together
  • Play games together
  • Go to a sporting event together

The key to conveying love with this love language is that it is a shared experience, not just two people who happen to be occupying the same physical space.

Physical Touch

Oh boy. This is where I caution men. At a cursory glance, most men will choose this as their primary love language. For men, sex can be a physical need. Do not mistake this for your primary love language. Also, Physical Touch is not sex. In fact, it does not have to be sexual at all. I met a couple who had been married for over 40 years. The wife was sick and could use a hospital bed at home. However, she and her husband were absolutely against it. They bought a queen-sized adjustable bed that was close to the ground so they could sleep together. When I asked why, the husband said, “Hospital beds are singles and we need to sleep in the same bed. She doesn’t sleep well if she can’t reach out in the middle of the night and feel me. She’s always been that way.” For this wife, Physical Touch was her ultimate love language. It helped her feel safe, secure, loved, and not alone.   Some ways that communicate love through Physical Touch are:

  • Holding hands
  • Playing “footsie” under the table
  • Rubbing your partner’s back as you are reading the paper
  • Hugging your partner
  • Kissing your partner every morning when you get up and every night when you go to bed.

Physical touch can be done deliberately or absent-mindedly. Touching can be the physical expression of your intimate connection.

So, back to that original question. How do we get back to happiness when we can’t even remember the last time our partner put that smile on our faces?   First, rediscover those things that make us truly happy in our relationship. That’s discovering your love language. Second rediscover those things that make our partners happy in the relationship. Discover your partner’s love language? Third, we need to do them. Learn to speak your partner’s love language and then talk to them in it. Again, it’s not simple and will take practice. This may not fix all the issues in your relationship, but at least you are now speaking the same language .

The Sex Addiction Debate--A Dialectic

As I read and re-read the exchanges that occur around the topic of the intersection of sex addiction research and practice, within the community of therapists and in the public sphere, I find myself drawn to what I have learned in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) training. Before I dive into that, I have another observation to make.

One of the primary draws I had to this work is the pioneering work of Dr. Patrick Carnes, whose genius, in my estimation, lies in his ability to synthesize concepts and models from various, and apparently disparate, disciplines in attempt to understand and explain the patterns of human behavior we have come to call “sex addiction” (which is only a label, not the thing it points to). In doing so, he has constructed a model that looks at these patterns from various perspectives or lenses. I find this particularly helpful as a practitioner, as it helps me in my attempts to explain to folks ways to look at their own behavior that helps them figure out how to change. The intellectual openness and flexibility required to maintain, juggle, contrast, and synthesize multiple views of the same issue or set of issues helps me to be a more balanced and humble human being, and a more effective therapist. All of the theories that we use to describe, represent, and interpret the complex dynamics of human behavior are only arbitrary mental constructs at best. As such, they are subject to all of the flaws to which any human behavior is subject, despite our best efforts to prevent such flaws. History is replete with examples of “scientific truth” that has later been revealed to be less than accurate, despite the intensity of belief or numbers of “experts” who subscribed to that “truth”. Similarly, many “proven” theories have later been disproved upon the development of more accurate or detailed measures and/or concepts.

What I make of the recent exchange is that, as in any arena of human endeavor, it is probably unwise to cling rigidly to any position regarding theories that attempt to interpret, analyze, or explain human behavior, including sexual behavior. Depending upon one’s vantage point, or the lens through which one is viewing the behavior, it may look completely different, and our interpretations might (and do) appear to be contradictory at times. This does not invalidate any particular point of view. As the dialectic suggests, it is NOT “either/or”, but “both/and”. Applied to the recent exchange, I believe it is possible to hold all positions simultaneously without invalidating any of them. Looked at from the lens of a particular neuroimaging study, it appears that there is no correlation between “compulsive sexual behavior” and the markers we know to correlate with substance abusing behaviors. AND, viewed from the lens of a practitioner with a despairing man and his traumatized partner in the office, there is absolutely something that LOOKS a lot like addictive behavior occurring, and something needs to change. Stated another way; on one hand, we don’t know very much about WHY or HOW this is occurring in the brain. And, on the other hand, we know quite a bit about interventions that seem to be effective in helping folks who want to stop their problematic behavior.

One of the things I tell my clients is “Understanding that you desperately want to know WHY you act the way you do – and in agreement that knowing why might even be helpful – the fact remains, if you continue to act that way, it will continue to have a negative impact on your life. Regardless of whether you are able to completely understand WHY you acted that way, the most important thing to acknowledge is that you must do things differently from now on.” Let’s look at what has helped other people, who are not so different from you, change their behavior and improve their lives. I invite you to consider doing those things to see if they might work for you. Along the way you might get some answers to the question, “Why?”

Is it important to figure out what is going on so we can devise more effective interventions/treatment? Absolutely, more awareness and understanding is usually better than less awareness and understanding. If something works and we don’t know why it works, should we stop doing it because we don’t know why? Of course not. We don’t know why electricity works, but we know that it works and we use it. A lot. Are diagnostic categories and concepts helpful and necessary? Certainly, we need language to talk about what we are dealing with. And it is also dangerous to over-focusing on this to the extent that we forget that we are dealing with human beings, not “diseases”. Words matter. And they are often superfluous. Getting hung up on the diagnostic labels, or any other labels, strikes me as similar behavior as many of our clients who are hung up on the label “God”, therefore reject any spiritual concept that uses that term to describe it. To gleefully mix metaphors: Sometimes we are so focused on the trees that we miss the forest. Sometimes we are so focused on the forest that we miss the tree. Our challenge is to find the middle path – avoid running headlong into the tree while we’re trying to find our way in the forest.

To Anyone In Southwest Florida Worried About the Ashley Madison Hack

You are worried for a very good reason.

You’ve learned that Ashley Madison, the infamous adultery website, has been hacked. You’ve read with growing horror of the very real possibility that the names and personally identifying information of all Ashley Madison users may soon be made public, including photographs, chat logs and all the special interests and sexual fantasies that people use to describe themselves when looking for partners.

You are worried because you are one of the names on that list.

It doesn’t matter if millions of others are also. This is about you.

You are living with the dread of imminent exposure and imagining what it will do to you, your business, your family.

You may be swinging back and forth between obsessing that your life is ruined, to reassuring yourself that you are going to be ok, that maybe the threat isn’t real. One way or the other you are likely to know the truth in a few days.

Here’s the deal: you don’t have to live this way… This can be your wake-up call.

You can have a life in which you no longer have to worry when the phone rings, when your spouse is near your phone or laptop, when the kids get online before you’ve cleared your history. You don’t have to ignore that feeling you feel when you look in the mirror, the feeling of being a fake.

If you are ready to turn your life around, consider reaching out to us. We are SW Florida area psychotherapists and counselors with experience helping individuals and couples heal from infidelity and sexual deception. Check out the rest of our site for more information about our unique qualifications.

Maybe you can handle this thing.  Maybe you can’t.   Maybe you are not sure.

But one thing is certain. You’re worried. You’re scared.

We can help.

No matter what you did, you’re not alone. Hope exists, and one day you will be able to look back at this time when you feel so powerless and afraid and realize it was the start of a new way of living.


Thanks to Bill Herring for the language and the inspiration.