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Therapeutic Definitions | Michelle Matson | Seattle Domestic Violence Counselor

Therapeutic Definitions | Michelle Matson | Seattle Domestic Violence Counselor


Therapeutic Definitions

Narrative therapy

Clients share a story from any part of their life, past or present. Together, the client and therapist notice themes, vows, roles, and belief systems the client holds on to from these stories. Looking at the story through different lenses brings insight and healing.


The extent that one can separate one’s intellect from one’s emotional self. A person who does not possess differentiation does not have a clear sense of self and others.

Attachment Theory

According to John Bowlby, our lives revolve around intimate attachments, especially with our primary caregivers (usually our mothers). When that primary relationship is lacking, we develop insecure attachments resulting in avoidant, preoccupied (anxious), or disorganized behaviors that last into adulthood. The good news is that secure attachments can be acquired through healing relationships including psychotherapeutic ones (Attachment in Psychotherapy, 2007, David J. Wallin).

Relational Psychotherapy

"Relational psychotherapy is a model driven by the client’s experience and the client’s needs. It pays close attention to how those needs are understood and addressed within the therapy relationship. The relational therapist tunes in very carefully to all of the client’s experience, and especially to the client’s ongoing, moment-to-moment, and cumulative experience of the therapy” (Relational Psychotherapy, 2003, Patricia A. DeYoung).

Lifespan Integration

“Lifespan Integration therapy is based on the hypothesis that much psychological dysfunction results from insufficient neural organization. Due to trauma or neglect experienced during childhood, there may be a lack of connectivity between isolated neural networks which represent separate selves and self-states” (The Neuroscience of Lifespan Integration Therapy, 2003-2009, Peggy Pace). Lifespan Integration is a therapeutic tool that utilizes the client’s memories from childhood through adulthood and/or specific memories of a traumatic event. By processing their “timeline,” the client integrates his or her memories, relieving stress, anxiety, and depression, and creating a more solid sense of self.


No one knows how any form of psychotherapy works neurobiologically or in the brain. However, we do know that when a person is very upset, their brain cannot process information as it does ordinarily. One moment becomes "frozen in time," and remembering a trauma may feel as bad as going through it the first time because the images, sounds, smells, and feelings haven’t changed. Such memories have a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person sees the world and the way they relate to other people.

EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information. Normal information processing is resumed, so following a successful EMDR session, a person no longer relives the images, sounds, and feelings when the event is brought to mind. You still remember what happened, but it is less upsetting. Many types of therapy have similar goals. However, EMDR appears to be similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Therefore, EMDR can be thought of as a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way.


Core to The Allender Theory is the belief that the journey of healing invites us to move from a place of cursing (contempt, shame, ambivalence) to one of blessing (compassion, goodness, delight). This occurs through telling our stories with truth and integrity as we grieve our wounds and offer blessing to the parts of us still bound to the cursed story. As we share our story with trusted others who are able to name both our deep woundedness and our deep goodness, we grow a deeper capacity to know and live into our calling and engage in life-giving relationships with God and others.



Michelle M. Ellis, LMHC | KIRKLAND Domestic Violence Counselor