“Through such techniques as dream interpretation, hypnosis, somatic focusing, or simply the specialized mode of therapeutic inquiry, psychotherapy can assist people in accessing a level of inner wisdom and spontaneity that they may not have experienced in a long time, if ever before.”
What was your path to becoming a therapist?
Originally from North Carolina, I lived and worked in China for several years after college before coming to New York City over a decade ago. As an LGBTQIA+ adolescent in North Carolina, I learned from an early age that the norms of society and of the family, when they are at odds with our own inner truths, have the potential to cause more harm than good.
My training in psychology began at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where I received my MA degree in psychiatry and religion. My academic work was focused on queer theory, Buddhist and existential philosophy, and the work of Carl Jung. I subsequently began my doctoral work in clinical psychology at the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology in the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. During my doctoral program, I trained clinically in a variety of settings, seeing a wide range of problems of varying severity, and at several advanced psychoanalytic institutes in the city.
What should someone know about working with you?
Therapy is unique as each individual is unique, but the most important consideration is ensuring a good working relationship between the two of us. Through that relationship, we can work together to develop a roadmap that works for you. In this way, psychotherapy becomes a different kind of space where you are empowered to explore elements of your life, your memories, and your feelings, which may feel impossible on your own. Against the backdrop of this larger work, therapy also provides help reducing the troubling symptoms that brought you into treatment initially and helps you develop strategies to deal with difficult relationships or other external problems cropping up in your life. It is also my experience that the concerns that bring individuals into therapy often involve larger questions as well, such as ultimate concerns about meaning in life or how to live morally in an immoral society. Nothing is off limits; it all depends on what you most find helpful in furthering your life’s journey.
How do your core values shape your approach to therapy?
Psychotherapy is a system of meaning-making, with a unique methodology, where the goal is to resolve symptoms and promote growth toward increased freedom, joy, and creative engagement in one’s life. The importance of turning inward lies in establishing contact with previously unknown inner resources, and this contact is established only when we confront difficult emotions, memories, and life patterns. Our hyper-rational and thinking-oriented day-to-day lives concentrate our awareness on the external world while unconscious processes remain unacknowledged. Through such techniques as dream interpretation, hypnosis, somatic focusing, or simply the specialized mode of therapeutic inquiry, psychotherapy can assist people in accessing a level of inner wisdom and spontaneity that they may not have experienced in a long time, if ever before. Additionally, my philosophy is never to pathologize individual choices and experiences in the name of so-called "normalcy."
What are you most excited about within the evolving mental health landscape?
I am most excited about the advent of teletherapy. What many people may not realize is that psychologists have been studying teletherapy for years and have consistently found that it maintains a similar structure to in-person therapy, occurs at a similar frequency, and is just as effective. This excites me because it allows more people to benefit from therapy and with greater ease. Of course, some people will always prefer in-person sessions, but for those who appreciate the convenience and comfort of teletherapy or have difficulty locating a provider near where they live, teletherapy is an exciting and growth-promoting innovation in our field.
Have you done any research-based work that you found particularly exciting? How does it inform your practice today?
My doctoral dissertation involved researching body image in gay men. What most fascinated me about this research was not how insidious harmful cultural messages about ideal body types are (that I already knew) but rather how helpful bringing the body and the connection to the body into the therapeutic process could be. We often don’t take the time to connect with our bodies or to listen to our bodies, which sometimes have an agenda different from our minds. I subsequently pursued additional research and training in therapy approaches that strengthen that connection and provide space for increasing respect and communication with one’s own body.
“My philosophy is never to pathologize individual choices and experiences in the name of so-called 'normalcy.'”