“I am not typically a 'silent' therapist or one who sits back and nods. If I feel that a client needs feedback or support, or suggestions to help them put words to their needs and feelings, I may take a chance and do so.”
What was your path to becoming a therapist? What inspired you to choose this profession?
I sometimes think I was born to be a therapist, but I just didn’t know it. My mother was a social worker and I have long been interested in people’s drives, motivations, and other “big questions” about human life. Following about twenty years in the fields of teaching and writing, I began to substantially deepen my own personal healing through a variety of means, and this work continues today. Through this, I began to feel that I could identify with others in a meaningful way and also bring skills to help facilitate change. That led me to social work school and specialized training in family therapy, child and adolescent therapy, addiction counseling, and other areas.
What would you want someone to know about working with you?
I think it is important to help a client feel safe and supported in the therapy room. That can often mean giving a person time and space to freely express what comes up for them: thoughts, feelings, and associations. However, I am not typically a “silent” therapist or one who sits back and nods. If I feel that a client needs feedback or support, or suggestions to help them put words to their needs and feelings, I will take a chance and do so. And, of course, I will also check with the client to see how it felt: Was this useful? Did it feel overwhelming or invasive? Was it supportive? I work mutually with clients, not at a distance from them.
What do you think is the biggest barrier today for people seeking care?
Two of the biggest barriers to care are the cost of psychotherapy and the challenge of finding a therapist who is a good fit. Regarding cost, I think it is very important to openly discuss with a client what their expectations are regarding the expense — how they value psychotherapy and how they can budget for it appropriately without triggering too much financial anxiety. As for finding a therapist who is a good fit, I believe the most important step is for a client to start seeing someone and then trust their own feelings as to whether to keep seeing that provider. Whether it turns out to be a good fit or not, the client will already have made important discoveries about their psychotherapy needs.
If there was one thing you wish people knew about the therapy experience who might be hesitant to try it, what would that be?
I would like people to know — even those who may be deeply suffering with anxiety, depression, addictions, and other symptoms — that there is within them a deep capacity for personal truth and healing. I tend to look at symptoms as functional compromises rather than solely as pathological problems to be cut out. Our overall apparatus of being has helped us cope up until this point in our lives. We are not failures, but rather successes at surviving emotionally, spiritually, and socially. Beginning with this perspective can help a client feel hope, self-compassion, and a willingness to use different sorts of coping and compromise methods.
If you could pick one or two books that influenced your approach to therapy what would they be and why?
John Bowlby's 'A Secure Base' has had a major influence on my work. Bowlby, whose work inspired the research of Mary Ainsworth and others, reminds us that a major driver of our feelings and behaviors is the simple yet essential desire to be seen, recognized, and included in the minds and lives of those who are important to us. We seek to be cared for and also to care about others. And yet, we also have a strong, adaptive need to be our own authentic and independent self. I have found that conflicts in these areas underlie many of the symptoms that lead people to seek psychotherapy.
“I sometimes think I was born to be a therapist, but I just didn’t know it.”