Phillip Forrence (Intern Therapist)
Phillip Forrence is a skilled intern therapist who dedicates himself to helping individuals achieve optimal mental health through a blend of client-centered therapy, holistic wellness and mindfulness / compassion practices. Phil is an intern at the Center for Growth from May 8th, 2023 until August 18th, 2024.
Sign up for the mindfulness/meditation psychotherapy group that I co -facilitate at the center for growth.
Phil attempts to deeply understand his clients and doesn’t try to “fix” them. Phil believes all people have a natural tendency to become the best versions of themselves. So, when Phil meets new clients in therapy he doesn’t see them as people who need an expert to tell them how to live. No, Phil sees clients as people who have what it takes, but are looking for a partner in their journey, a friend on the path. Phil works hard to achieve an accurate understanding of his clients’ worlds. Many people complain their therapists don’t “get” them. Phil’s chief aim is to “get” his clients. From there, Phil offers his genuine thoughts and feelings to clients. Because Phil works so hard to “get” his clients, his genuine thoughts aren’t unhelpful offhand advice. No, his thoughts represent what he makes of a situation as a compassionate third party observer. Clients find this helpful because they feel heard, understood and held in high esteem. From there, they get access to the thoughts of someone who has more emotional distance from their problems, which they find helpful.
Phil finds a natural synchrony with his clients who’ve been diagnosed with ADHD. Phil is a patient listener and understands the desire to be fully heard out. Phil understands the desire to feel accepted and valued for some of the differences that come with ADHD. He also understands a lot of the challenges that come along with the diagnosis including difficulties with medication, anxiety and difficulty working with strong emotions.
Phil sees the clients as the experts of their own experience. He’s there to facilitate them recognizing their own expertise and facilitate them becoming a more confident steward of their own life. Human beings are naturally wise and resourceful creatures. However, many of us are conditioned into thinking we don’t know how to move forward through life. Our society leads us to believe we are stuck and helpless and hopeless. However, through careful cultivation and practice in psychotherapy, we begin to open to our own capacities for self-knowledge and courageous action. Our true, positive and loving nature begins to assert itself. Within you, are all the seeds of all the tools you need to deal with your issues. Phil’s job is to give those seeds what seeds need: a little sunlight, a little water and patience. Additionally, this process allows clients to reclaim the lost and distorted parts of themselves. As humans develop, we slowly construct a conceptual sense of self. If we’re lucky, we’re showered with unconditional love that allows everything in our behavior to be incorporated into this self. However, even in the best of childhoods, some of our behaviors and characteristics are labeled as bad (our anger, our bodyfat, etc.) and we try to hide those behaviors and characteristics from the world. Or we flaunt them unhealthily in a rejection of our rejection. Through Rogerian psychotherapy, we’re able to recover all the parts of ourselves that we and society have rejected. We’re able to incorporate them and integrate them and love them. And because of this, we stop living with the tension that part of us is bad and unloveable. We come to see that we are wholly great the way we are. And then, as if by magic, we are able to change and grow toward even more happy and flourishing versions of ourselves. Carl Rogers said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself, just as I am, then I can change.”
In one on one sessions, Phil mindfully listens to his clients and tries his best to deeply understand what they’re going through. He will often reflect the client’s main experience back to them so they feel he’s right there with them. Through this process, the client’s problems become less emotionally charged, “A problem shared is a problem halved.” In addition to taking some of the weight off the client’s shoulders, this process allows them to see the problem more clearly. They feel confident going into different nooks and crannies, taking different perspectives and practicing new ways of being. Over time, clients begin to gain a sense of confidence that they can deal with the vicissitudes of life because they’ve been doing it in therapy. Situations come to seem more pliable and more workable to the client. When the problems hadn’t been so thoroughly explored, they loomed large as their boundaries seemed to go on forever, but afterward, their mechanics now seem more clear.
Phil works to be on the client’s side. As much as growth and healing occur in therapy, Phil doesn’t try to rush them. He believes them to be a by-product of deep understanding and awareness of the client’s problems. He’s not there to tell them how to live their lives, but to offer a healthy, compassionate relationship to them. The client can then use this healthy, compassionate relationship to explore his or her troubles and heal and grow from them at whatever pace and in whatever direction seems best to him or her. Phil has a background in mindfulness and compassion meditation informed by Theravada and Tibetan Buddhism. He’s happy to offer practices from these traditions to clients if they so desire them, but by no means pushes them on clients who don’t ask for them. Additionally, he has a great understanding that mental health and human flourishing are mediated by many factors including nutrition, sleep habits, exercise, community, heredity, spirituality, medication and more. Finally, Phil attempts to remain quite flexible as a practitioner. If a client comes to him and wants therapy to be done in a framework that he or she finds attractive, like CBT or DBT for instance, then Phil can incorporate that framework into the sessions. Each person has their own path toward healing based on their own internal wisdom.
Phil additionally co-leads the mindfulness/meditation psychotherapy group at the center for growth. Phil has led meditation groups for years in different contexts in addition to having a robust daily meditation practice on his own. He finds that when group members are genuinely interested in exploring their experience through the avenue of mindfulness meditation they gain unique and transformative insights into their problems. When people work to train their minds to let go of narratives, let go of reactivity, and to cultivate wisdom, insight, joy and compassion their lives change for the better. They never become perfect, they still have problems, but they’re able to steward their emotions and mental processes more skillfully. And when meditative exploration and training happens in the context of a group, people can learn from each other’s trials and tribulations. They can leverage the tribal tendencies we have as humans to launch themselves further into the growing and healing project.
Meditation, and the Indian tradition in general, has played a crucial role in Phil’s journey and deeply informs his therapy practice. As Phil sees it, all beings want to be happy and avoid suffering. Everything one does from blinking one’s eye to starting a war comes from the desire to create happiness and avoid suffering. However, this natural love and compassion is not enough. In the pursuit of happiness, people often create much suffering for themselves and others. The other key ingredient is wisdom. People need to be able to see the mechanics of suffering in order to wisely steward their own desire to be happy. The main roots of suffering, and the tendency towards more suffering, come from our illusion that we are separate from the world. The mind begins to think there’s a separate self apart from the world. The mind becomes confused and thinks that not only is this self separate but can exert control over the world or at least the mind. However, there is no separate self. There is just a humming and buzzing whole of reality. In the same way a wave is not separate from the ocean and exerts no control over it, the human being is not separate from the universe of which he is an emergent property. And when man lets go of the illusion that he isn’t but a small part of this universe, suddenly he awakens to the truth of reality: flow. And, luckily, when humans awaken in this way, they are naturally guided by their compassion not only for themselves but for all beings. They begin to see that happiness is not a zero-sum game. The more happiness one creates, especially among humans, the happier one becomes. Altruism is wise selfishness.
Additionally, Phil recognizes that human beings are natural organisms that are more comfortable in certain rhythms and relations in life than others. These rhythms include healthy relationships with our fellow human beings. These rhythms include regular physical exercise. These rhythms include eating natural foods, foods that are closer to what our ancestors would have eaten without all the extra processing done by modern food companies. Human health and happiness is facilitated by adequate sleep, freedom from oppressive governments and ancient plant medicines. Humans are happiest when energized towards a deep, altruistic meaning in life. Humans are energized by song, dance and communion with nature.
Rogers’ method of seeing people resonated deeply with the Tibetan Buddhist perspective on people on which Phil had come to base his worldview. Phil’s primary touchstone in the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, Mingyur Rinpoche, teaches that each person has a basic goodness that is their fundamental nature. This basic goodness is inherent in the human condition. Its qualities are awareness, compassion and capacity/ability. Additionally, it contains the teaching that each person just wants to be happy and doesn’t want to suffer. Mingyur calls this their “homesickness” for happiness. Every single action each person takes is made of that person’s desire to be happy and to avoid suffering. Each time you blink your eyes or are short with a co-worker or take a bubble bath you are doing that action because on some level you believe it will bring you towards lasting happiness and away from lasting suffering. When one looks at people in this way, one sees that each person is actually deeply loveable and worthy of compassion.
Natural & Ordinary Meditation
Tonglen Dedication & Progression
NPI: In Graduate School For:Masters of Science in Counseling - Clinical Mental Health Counseling
- Pennsylvania: Working under the supervision of Samantha Eisenberg, LCSW
Phillip Forrence (Intern Therapist)’s Latest TIPs:
Understanding Hurt Between Partners
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How Can Buddhism Make Me Happy?
Hey gang! Welcome to “How Can Buddhism Make Me Happy?” We’ll outline some lessons from Buddhism that can make you happier! This won’t be a systematic exploration of the …
Non-Meditation is the Best Meditation
Do you want to start a meditation practice? Is this your first time or have you tried many times before? Has mindfulness or concentration meditation left you feeling aggravated …
Pillars of Well-Being
Beginning your mental health journey? Want to be happier and healthier and curious where to start? Well, you’re in luck! In this post, we’ll discuss the pillars of well-being.…
Tonglen for Difficult Moments
Feeling down? Depressed? Anxious? Angry with someone? Particularly lonely? Want to feel peaceful, joyful and connected to something larger? Well, there’s good news! There’s a Tibetan Buddhist practice called …