There’s always an endgame to psychotherapy in Dr. Alan Winder’s view. Too often, therapy can be open-ended. You feel some relief when someone listens to your issues. But that’s a little like taking Tylenol for an undiagnosed illness: You feel a little better but you haven’t solved your problem. You don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish.
Therapy for Winder is always “solution-focused.” He works with clients to identify their goals and understand what is holding them back. His goal is always to resolve whatever problems are preventing them from being happy or healthy.
Winder treats both individuals and couples. How do you know if you will benefit from therapy? “Any person or couple who feels that their life can be improved should get therapy,” said Winder. “Therapy is a way to build helpful and important skills. Just like a dietician or a personal trainer, a good therapist helps you become the best version of yourself.”
The starting point for helping couples is understanding their motivation. It sometimes shocks couples when Winder asks them to explain why they are still together. “It needs to be based on motivation,” he said. “That’s how you work to improve things. We work on identifying why each person wants to stay in the marriage so we can define their individualized relationship goals and create circumstances where both are satisfied with the relationship.”
The pandemic is having an effect on people who are predisposed to anxiety and depression. “Research shows that people who are mentally healthy have emotional resilience. They roll with the punches and are able to feel OK even under less than ideal circumstances,” said Winder. “At its root, anxiety is the belief that you should be controlling something better, or doing something you aren’t doing. But some things aren’t in your control. My approach is to improve coping skills so you get through the day without feeling anxious. It’s based on cognitive exercises—identifying which aspects of your thinking are causing you to feel stressed, and learning to decrease the impact of these thoughts on your state of mind.”
Divorce mediation is another aspect of Winder’s practice. He became interested in becoming a certified mediator through his work counseling couples. The goal of mediation is to develop and create a separation agreement that avoids fighting in court and huge legal costs. As a mediator, he presents each item, such as finances and child custody, and helps the couple come to an agreement. He has an attorney write up the agreement and then presents it to the couple’s attorneys to review and file in court. “Mediation saves time, money and aggravation,” said Winder. “You avoid fighting and become better co-parents.”
Winder lives in Highland Park and has just opened an office there, after practicing for more than 15 years in the Five Towns. He became interested in psychology as a student in yeshiva, where he observed people talking to the rebbeim for help with issues that would have been better handled by trained psychologists. Most of his patients are Orthodox Jews who feel most comfortable with someone who understands their culture. He works with teens starting at age 16 and adults.
If you think you might benefit from therapy, couples counseling or family mediation, visit www.DrWinder.com or call (516) 345-0456 and request a no-cost 15-minute phone consultation. He is seeing clients in-person and through video calling. “There has to be a good match between therapist and client,” said Winder. “During our call we can see if we are a good fit, if you feel comfortable and if your goals and my skills match.”
By Bracha Schwartz