Therapy in Indianapolis, Zionsville, and Carmel, IN


There is a difference between loneliness and being alone. Being alone can be a comfortable state of mind. The psychoanalyst Winnicott (1958) postulated that the capacity to be alone develops from the infant and small child's experiences of being quiet in the reliable presence of a mothering figure. The evolution of this capacity is paradoxical because it develops with someone else as they are repeatedly alone together. Over time, the capacity matures, and the person can be at ease with being solitary with or without another person.

However, aloneness has its limitations. There can be too much of a good thing. I will define loneliness as the subjective feeling of being alone and the yearning for more connection with others. There are few among us who haven't experienced it. The majority of us have longed for having more connection with others, at least from time to time. The wish for more may come and go in response to circumstances,  but the wish can also be a more constant and cause prolonged distress that goes on far too long to brush off and hope that it is only temporary. Relief is wanted. Most of us want to have at least one intimate relationship, be it a a spousal partner, an adult child, or a best friend (De Jong Gierveld & Broese Van Groenou, 2016). Many of us want more than one close bond.

There are two dominant theoretical trajectories to loneliness (De Jong Gierveld & Broese Van Groenou, 2016).The deficit model proposes that having too few supportive relationships is causative. What is needed, therefore, is one or more new ones. The cognitive discrepancy model does not name too few relationships as the problem. Instead, the causative factor is the difference between the quality of desired and the quality of actual relationships. The relationships already developed are lacking in enough connection. One can be lonely in the presence of someone else. What is needed then is a deepening and improved quality of existing relationships. Both models agree that, on the whole, partnered persons are more insulated against loneliness than those without partners and living alone.

In my opinion, both the deficit and the cognitive discrepancy models make solid contributions. For some, one model is much more applicable than the other. Others feel an abiding loneliness because of various combinations of too few and too disappointing relationships.

If you are concerned about your loneliness and want to understand more about it as well as to consider ways to reduce it through psychotherapy focused on relationship counseling , I would be glad to be your therapy partner .


De Jong Gierveld, J. & Broese Van Groenou, M. (2016). Older couple relationships and loneliness. In J. Bookwala (Ed.), Couple relationships in the middle and later years: Their nature, complexity, and role in health and illness (pp. 57-76) Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/1489

Winnicott, D. W. (1958). The maturational processes and the facilitating environment: Studies in the theory of emotional development. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 39, 416-420 &429.


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