Marty has changed the catgegory of his California Marriage and Family Therapist license (mfc6833) from "active" status to "retired" status. Marty will post an announcement if he reactivates his license, and reopens his counseling practice.

Introduction to Counseling & Psychotherapy
Counseling – Working With Our Surface Problems
Psychotherapy: A Deeper Exploration
Depth Psychotherapy – Rediscovering Our "Self"
Integrating Counseling & Psychotherapy
Telephone Conversation With Dr Cottler


How often do we wonder, "Why can’t I shake this nervousness or sadness?" or "Do I have to take these sleeping pills for the rest of my life?" Our intentions are good – we want to feel better – but the methods we are using often do not provide us the results we hope they would. Dr. Marty Cottler provides counseling and psychotherapy sessions that address these issues:

  • clarifying our intentions and goals about the harmony and wellness we seek in daily life
  • evaluating the methods we are using to achieve our goals
  • investigating whether our methods are working to our satisfaction
  • identifying the obstacles that block attaining our goals
  • developing new and safe methods for working with the obstacles
  • exploring new and gentle ways for reaching our goals
  • experimenting with these new methods to see how they are helping us heal

A primary theme of our civilization’s ancient healing traditions is the quest for harmony and wellness. Since ancient Grecian and Biblical times, many forms of counseling and psychotherapy have addressed this quest. In our modern era, there are different types of counseling and psychotherapy. What are general differences between these two healing disciplines?

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Counseling – Working With Our Surface Problems
Counseling frequently focuses on our current actions, stress management, conflict resolution and reduction of symptoms. An example is a communication problem where I might react to a family member who angrily criticizes me by my remaining silent and distancing myself. My actions may give me temporary relief, but I soon become upset and sad, and cannot shake these feelings. During counseling, we identify the problem – angry criticism; assess how my attempted solution – distancing behaviors, is working; discuss new ways of responding – possibly practicing gentle assertiveness; and then evaluate the results. Learning appropriate assertiveness skills might solve the communication problem. If this were the sole problem, method and goal, then the short-term counseling can successfully end – unless, for example, I become overly fearful when I try to practice behaving with more assertiveness. Why does fear stop me from appropriately standing up for myself and protecting myself from criticism? How does the fear affect my self-esteem, and so on? A deeper exploration might then be necessary.

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Psychotherapy: A Deeper Exploration
Further investigation is needed because our attempt to change runs up against obstacles that are not observable on the surface. In the above example, I did not know I would feel too scared to take care of myself by communicating with more assertiveness. Psychotherapy involves this deeper exploration and investigation.

Here is another example: what if you cannot easily fall asleep? Prescribed sleeping pills are helping a little, but you do not like the side effects of the medication. You might try other methods to fall asleep, such as relaxation strategies, but you discover these do not help and you do not understand why.

During psychotherapy, we carefully and safely explore what else might be going on in the background of your life-experience that could interfere with your falling asleep. You may be having worrisome thoughts about a loved one who is ill, or you may have a recurrent pain in your back that won’t let you relax enough to rest, and so on.

We begin putting together new strategies once we discover the pattern below the surface that might be contributing to the problem – in this example, not falling asleep. What other methods could you use to address your worries about your loved one that would help you to feel more at rest when going to sleep? One method that could help is to discuss your concerns about your loved one – safely sharing your feelings including your normal fears, your grief. Safely facing our fears and expressing our grief can have the effect of reducing worry and can help us rest at night.

How else could you relate to, and manage your pain so it will not get in the way as much when falling asleep? Exploring our pain is not easy, which is why we usually develop personal tension and other "negative” emotions like frustration, resentment or hopelessness when pain grabs a hold of us. At these times, it can be very helpful to learn what I term, "active acceptance” – not resignation. We develop the capacity to accept the pain that is there even while we work to reduce it through medical treatment. The work of "active acceptance” involves recognizing when and how we react to the physical pain with personal distress in the form of tension, and so on. Once we recognize our reactions, we start to see that our experience is not only of the physical pain, but also includes our personal suffering. In fact, our personal suffering can make the pain worse as we tighten muscles around inflamed nerves, and so forth.

At this point, we focus on safely softening and reducing our personal reactions that cause suffering. We can then better manage the pain because our personal suffering is no longer a strong problem of its own. Oftentimes, we then feel more in control, more relaxed, and sometimes, depending on our pain condition, we can break or change the pain cycle.

Identifying hidden personal obstacles that contribute to our problems, and changing how we relate with these obstacles can oftentimes make the original problem more manageable. Sometimes, as in our hypothetical sleep example, the original problem that was on the surface can go away.

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Depth Psychotherapy – Rediscovering Our "Self”
Psychotherapy is a unique experience of healing that can activate an invigorating wellness. A form of psychotherapy that is oftentimes very fulfilling and rewarding involves reconnecting with our deepest self. What is our "self”? In ancient Greece, the word used was psyche, which means "breath”, "soul” or "spirit”. A contemporary definition of self is, "I”: the experience of my being, the deepest awareness of being alive, of being a person, of myself. We carry our experience of "myself” everywhere – we cannot get away from ourselves because it is "I” who experiences life!

What has this to do with psychotherapy? "Psychotherapy” is a modern term derived from this ancient Greek word, psyche plus therapeia, which is translated as, "service”, "nurse” or "cure, heal”. Depth psychotherapy is the experience of healing our self.

In our modern lives, we frequently place to the side our deeper connection with our sense of self. Family, work, finances – the stresses and strains of modern life – lead us to cover over our deeper inclinations and quests. Depth psychotherapy intentionally focuses on an exploration of the deeper meanings in our lives – our search for purpose and fulfillment beyond our normal desires to attain sufficient security, prosperity, and enjoyment. The experience of depth psychotherapy includes seeking to develop a day-to-day life-style that manifests values such as truth, beauty, goodness, wholeness, unity, aliveness, uniqueness, perfection, justice, order, simplicity, effortlessness, playfulness. A central purpose of a depth psychotherapy experience is to help us consciously reconnect with these sacred qualities that comprise the essence of "I”.

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Integrating Counseling & Psychotherapy
Oftentimes, we seek counseling or psychotherapy for two overlapping reasons: conflicts and suffering that we have not been able to change or reduce, and a desire to grow beyond the suffering, to heal into conflict-free wellness. Resolution of conflicts resulting in enhanced wellness can take place in either counseling or psychotherapy. Actually, counseling and psychotherapy frequently go together. Practical problems are often part of our focus in depth psychotherapy. As noted above, deeper issues can also surface during counseling – working on a communication problem can trigger our desire for self-exploration. Marty works with you to resolve problems as soon as possible. When quick resolution is not possible because of unseen obstacles, Marty then works with you to uncover and dissolve the barriers to resolution, the aim being conflict-free well being.

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Dr. Marty Cottler is a licensed psychotherapist in California (Ca Lic MFT No 6833).

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