Hello! My name is Josh Fowler -- I am a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, and a Certified Restoration Therapist. I've been seeing clients for six years, since 2012, and have been in Wilmington running my private practice since 2013. Time has flown by as I've settled down in the local area, and I think this is a place I'll continue to stay for a long time. I've thoroughly enjoyed and have been humbled by my work with so many inspiring and amazing people here in Wilmington and the surrounding area. It would be my privilege to meet and work with you.
About My Work as a Therapist/Counselor
I work primarily with individuals and couples, along with some families, and I aim to help people put back love and trust into their relationships, lives, and identities. To expand on that just a little bit, my work is all about helping people find out how to fill that sense of what's missing, and how to right what feels wrong in life. Whatever it is you're dealing with -- physically, emotionally, spiritually -- I may be able to offer some input, guidance, and connections through my own knowledge and resources, and through the knowledge and resources of my colleagues and contacts in the local community.
I can't solve your problems for you, but you probably already know that. Most people I meet come to therapy not with the expectation that I will fix it all for them, but with some hope, and sometimes some skepticism, that things can get better. As long as you have a willingness to try, and you are able to be as honest as you can be in each moment, you can find a way.
My work is anchored in the idea that people are a duality: predictably similar to one another in some ways, and yet incredibly different from one another in other ways. With this in mind, I find it especially important to respect racial, cultural, and other differences among people. With that said, I look for the patterns that exist across many diverse groups of people. Two of these most important areas are identity and safety.
Identity and Love
Everyone has an identity, it's that thing in your mind that gives you some sense of who you are. This can be general and overall about you as a person, or it can be more specific -- such as who you are as a wife or husband, or who you are as a brother, sister, friend, etc. Who we are is important to us in every context of life -- from family, school, and even our own neighborhood and community all the way to in our jobs and careers. If your sense of who you are feels damaged, hurt, broken, or injured, the most human thing you might do is what we all do, based on instinct -- to react. Some of my clients have told me "I don't have an identity," to which I usually respond with, your identity feels empty or absent. This isn't a good way to feel about yourself, but you can bet it's very common. Unfortunately, it's just a fact that an enormous amount of people are dealing with concerns, problems, and issues in their identity.
Working with me in therapy is highly focused on understanding the normalcy of our inner need to have not just an identity but a positive identity. Unfortunately, so many of us are in pain in one way or another -- maybe from our backgrounds with our families and communities growing up, or due to relationships and circumstances in the present or recent past. So many people experience the two most common mental health symptoms - anxiety and depression - because they feel damaged, hurt, or broken in their identity. Therapy offers you vast hope to change that sense of self, not through cheesy interventions like talking in the mirror, or through magical words someone will say to you, but through a process of self-exploration, mindfulness, and paying attention to what is right there and always has been right there all along.
For many of us -- if not all of us -- what tells us we are good, respected, prized, important, and noticed is love. Basically, love tells you about your identity. However, many people haven't experienced enough love throughout life, leaving the question "Why haven't I been cared for, respected, wanted, desired, and/or loved more, or at all?" This is a tough question to answer, but it's one of the biggest questions we spend our time answering in therapy.
Safety and Trust/Trustworthiness
Just like everyone has and needs an identity, all of us also search for (whether we realize it or not) safety. This ties in partly with our drive to live, survive, and protect our families, but it also is a basic need not just for people but most animals and organisms. It's just a fact that most life forms, especially human beings, want to be safe. Many people have pets or other beloved animals, and most of us have seen when one of our pets is scared. Well, we also see the same with human behavior -- if something is off or seems dangerous, we have a natural inclination to shy away from it, hide, and/or do other things to protect ourselves. We also can adopt a fierce protectiveness of our children and family members, which shows our strong need to protect and care for those whom we love so very much.
Safety is basically an absolute requirement for individuals, couples, and families. If I don't feel safe in some way, then I may react in order to try to make my life more safe. If it's a physical threat, maybe I'll put my hands up, cover my head or face, or duck and hide. If something is a threat to my emotional safety -- for example, let's say your boss threatens to fire you if you make one more mistake this month -- well, then you may do other kinds of things as part of your reaction to make life more safe for yourself.
Unfortunately, our reactions often carry the drawback of making our long-term stability and safety worse for us, even though there is usually an immediate, short-term payoff that, for right now, makes life safer, more stable, and more secure. This happens with couples and families, too. Often we'll yell at our spouse, perhaps say something mean or critical, or be too controlling or too avoidant. While this might stabilize the current situation, it might leave the long-term effect of resentment with our spouse, causing disruptions and problems that will come back to haunt us later on. We can't stop our automatic reactions unless we understand why we react, how we react, and what our reactions are about. When it becomes clear that a short-term payoff at the price of a long-term problem isn't very wise, it becomes natural to change our behavior to something more constructive.
Trustworthiness is what makes life and relationships safe, stable, and secure. The truth is that almost nothing is guaranteed, and so there's very little in life we can say is truly "guaranteed". Still, when we're dealing with someone or something and we have a track record of that person's behavior, for example, we can usually guess how the person will react and how the situation will turn out. If someone lies a lot, avoids, doesn't do his or her part in a relationship, etc., we might make a fair assumption that he or she is untrustworthy. This doesn't mean he or she can never do right by us again -- just that his or her track record with us casts quite the shadow of doubt on the person. I often work with clients in therapy who are trying to set a better track record with their loved ones, or who are on the other end of things -- dealing with an untrustworthy loved one (spouse, child, parent, friend, etc.) and not knowing if they can trust him or her.
I offer a private office space to meet, just off Wrightsville Avenue, in a professional office park. My office suite is convenient to most areas in Wilmington, and not too far of a drive from Wrightsville Beach, Hampstead, and Leland. I see clients from all over the local area, even some from much further out of town.
If you have connected in some way with what you see here on my website, and if you're considering beginning therapy for yourself, your marriage or relationship, or your family, please know there's no commitment required from you to get started. It's sometimes the case that I see a client one or two times at the start, and that leaves them with an impression of how therapy with me will go if they decide to stick with it.
I get calls all the time from clients who did their first session or two with me, but then took a break for a while, and who are interested in starting up again and committing to a course of therapy. I also frequently see clients start therapy with a curiosity about the process, and after one session they have decided therapy could be quite helpful to them. Sometimes, people call me just for 5 minutes to ask a couple of questions and to get my direct and helpful response.
Wherever you're at, I will meet you there.
Joshua R. Fowler, MS, LMFT
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
Certified Restoration Therapist