“Not only do I use humor to soften our approach to this dizzying adventure called life but my experiences with meditation and mindfulness create a compassionate container for our work.”
What was your path to becoming a therapist?
When I was 17, I wanted to do something different. So, I volunteered with Alzheimer's clients. At 19, I volunteered with some of Chicago's homeless clients. With this, a deep, abiding compassion for all of us who are lost ignited in me. And it led to some pretty big questions! I grew curious about the path to flourishing when everything has changed, including your body, your psyche, your thinking, your family support, or even your relationship to society. These questions deepened while working with clients with dual diagnoses of serious mental illness and developmental disability as well as when working with hospice patients, their caregivers, and those who are grief-stricken. Through this 25-year journey, I have crafted a thorough, wrap-around, fine-tuned approach created through study, practice, and teaching both social work and existential philosophy. I teach clients and other clinical social workers practical, compassionate, nuanced, deep, time-tested, and/or evidence-based interventions.
What should someone know about working with you?
Sometimes, one life-affirming, validating joke accomplishes as much as an hour of talk. Jokes help us become more comfortable with uncertainty, complexity, absurdity, and mystery. Because we’re resilient and designed to heal, we naturally develop coping skills. Sometimes, older skills do not fit newer life circumstances. Sessions discuss current coping skills, provide education on how they work, figure out how these coping skills answer previous lived questions, determine if these lived questions and coping skills are still driving current experiences, and explore if new questions, hopes, and coping skills are a better fit. Sessions create an action plan based on modern science and centuries of documented self-reflection. We modify our action plan as needed to support the formation of new habits of emotion, thought, and action. Understanding their own complexity, clients appreciate and work with themselves and others more easily while decreasing anxiety, stress, and depression and increasing feelings of connectedness.
How do your own core values shape your approach to therapy?
Not only do I use humor to soften our approach to this dizzying adventure called life but my experiences with meditation and mindfulness create a compassionate container for our work. One of my favorite phrases is "gentle, gentle"; we can be so hard on ourselves! Because I believe we are at our best and most authentic when we are engaged co-creatively, I understand therapy to be co-creative as well. In other words: I have homework too. Sometimes, that means me writing a poem that can help illustrate a point we discovered together. Sometimes, it is me practicing with the work of Daniel Seigel's The Mindful Therapist, A Clinician's Guide to Mindsight and Neural Integration. My clients and I practice opening up and exploring rather than forcing possibilities. Let's create meaning out of your past, learn to be in your present, and establish a sustainable investment in your future.
What are you most excited about within the evolving mental health landscape?
Scientific research and philosophical literature on life changes, grief, and the impact of childhood experiences on attachment and coping styles are becoming more and more nuanced. There is now even a book out on how existentialism can help us understand grief. The work on CPTSD and trauma-sensitive therapies reveals how resiliently intricate our approach to life can be. Being able to identify that intricacy yields client-specific interventions. I use this wealth of psychology and philosophy to create unique interventions for each client based on the client’s self-understanding, creative self-expression, experience of their own bodies, autonomic nervous system, styles of connecting to others (spiritual, human, non-human animal, and nature), and participation in society.
What are three things your clients typically say to you?
1. Wait, let me get my "Anne" notebook.
2. Your laugh makes me laugh!
3. I actually did my homework....
“Let's create meaning out of your past, learn to be in your present, and establish a sustainable investment in your future.”