John Urgola, MA, LPC

My name is John Urgola, and I am a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in the State of NJ. I hold Masters Degrees in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (2010) and Communication (2007). My passion for the work I do comes from a desire to help others and the belief that all of us have the capacity to create a life of value. Even when we feel “lost”, “stuck”, or even “hopeless”, the path to living well is out there. My therapeutic approach is all about finding the way to that path by leveraging the very qualities of human nature that make us all so resilient. To that end, my counseling philosophy goes beyond simply remediating “the problem,” and focuses on cultivating the kind of life you want to have – a goal much greater than simply “feeling better”.


My professional experiences have spanned a variety of settings, including Academic, Intensive-Outpatient, and Private Practice. I have background in the fields of human communication and counseling/psychology, and rely on the scopes of these two disciplines to guide my therapeutic approach – be it Educational, Career, Couples, or Mental Health Counseling. In general, I believe that the bulk of what drives human behavior – both the useful kind and the sometimes-problematic kind – derives from the very practical intention to help ourselves. Issues arise, however, when we begin to depend too heavily on behaviors that, though seemingly logical, end up causing us more suffering in the long run.

So why does this happen? And more importantly, what can we do about it?

First, it’s important to understand that this is not a “You” problem…it’s not even necessarily a problem…it’s just a complicated part of human nature. The debate over whether human beings are inherently built to be either healthy or unhealthy has existed for centuries, but neither one of those concepts truly explains why we are the way we are, or why we do the things we do. In reality, human beings were built to survive, and in most cases we will implement the simplest and most fundamental means to doing so – Avoidance.

Avoidance is exactly what it sounds like – an attempt to avoid, or escape, or sometimes even “fight off” something that is unpleasant. In its most useful form, it can be relied upon to keep us safe from threats in the physical world, but many times the focus of our avoidance is simply not wanting to feel a particularly painful feeling or think a particularly difficult thought.

At first glance this may seem like a sound method, but when it comes to the emotional pain that we all inevitably feel, its effectiveness ranges somewhere between questionable and counterproductive. Ultimately, while trying to avoid unpleasant thoughts and feelings may bring some relief – albeit fleeting – it sets us on a path that diverts us from our Values.

Values are the things that matter to you, and constitute the most meaningful parts of your life. They’re the things that can bring the greatest sense of joy and purpose, but also a comparative amount of pain. We want to fill our lives with these Values, of course, but the harsh truth is that we often don’t get to have them without a willingness to accept their accompanying hardest parts.

Generally speaking, the above philosophy is consistent with the principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or more commonly referred to as ACT (spoken like the word “act”). The goal of ACT, and my goal as an ACT therapist, is to help individuals cultivate Psychological Flexibility – the ability to contact the present moment more fully as a conscious human being, and to change or persist in behavior when doing so serves valued ends.

ACT is part of the so-called “Third Wave” of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapeutic (CBT) Tradition. That is to say, ACT and other Third Generation interventions rely on many of the theoretical underpinnings of classic Behavior Therapy (“First Wave”) and Cognitive Therapy (“Second Wave”), however it differs considerably in the ways that it approaches the actual treatment of psychological issues. In general, while First and Second Wave approaches focus almost primarily on the changing of behaviors and thoughts, ACT is focused more on the idea of Acceptance, as well as a commitment to pursuing the things that we truly Value. Another way of clarifying some of the differences between ACT and First/Second Generation approaches would be to say that ACT does encourage behavior change (like classic Behavior Therapy), but specifically when doing so serves valued ends (i.e. not simply behavior change to stop/prevent maladaptive behavior) – or – while, ACT does not discount the role of (thought patterns) in our emotions/behaviors, ACT focuses on changing how we relate to these cognitions, rather than trying to change the content of them (which is consistent with classic Cognitive Therapy).

There are very particular reasons that Third Generation interventions differ from earlier approaches in these ways, and the data that have been compiled over the past few decades have shown very compelling results. However, that is not to say that other therapeutic philosophies and methodologies are “wrong.” And while ACT, and CBT in general, do have strong evidence-bases, they represent one kind of lens through which to examine and comprehend human behavior. In the end, the therapeutic process is a collaborative one, and we will work together to determine the best approach for you.

16 Pearl Street, Suite 112
Metuchen, NJ 08840
(732) 902-0233

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