“My goal as a clinician is to help my patients feel free. In treatment, I invite them
to bring their whole selves into the room, as they are. It is then that true healing
What teachings have shaped your approach to psychology?
I’ve always been interested in trying to understand the human condition. My grandparents were survivors of the Holocaust, so from a very young age, I grew up hearing stories that made me reflect upon existential issues like impermanence, loss, meaning, and love. In an attempt to better understand
these issues, I spent time studying in Northern India, where I learned about the way Buddhists conceptualize the nature of the mind. My upbringing as well as my travels greatly influenced the way I practice, whether it be helping a Stage IV cancer patient face mortality or teaching a college student mindfulness to manage test anxiety. No matter how symptoms manifest, I believe that we are all on some level grappling with the big issues in life, including that of connection, growth, and the search for meaning.
What practices from the East do you bring to your work today?
When working with clients, I start out by gathering a full history; we explore issues from childhood, relational patterns, places in their life they feel stuck, and attempt to understand how their past affects or interferes with their present. With that said, when it comes to the development of more concrete coping skills, I often take an East-meets-West approach and incorporate mindfulness-based techniques into treatment. I’m also interested in helping my patients explore transcendental experiences, including anything that has brought them to a more mystical state, like love, spirituality, meditation, or psychedelics. I believe we have these peak, profound experiences, but often neglect to effectively process and integrate them into the narrative of our lives. When do we do this in treatment, therapy itself can become transcendental – leading to “ah-ha” moments, where it all just clicks, and you are inspired to grow beyond what you once thought was possible.
How do ideas about death help your work with clients?
The two things I’m most interested in are love and death. How do we make modern love and relationships work over time, and how do we manage our anxiety over our own mortality? While these seem like fundamentally different questions, they are actually quite linked. What I’ve found both in my research as well as clinically, is that we need to accept our impermanent nature in order to love fully and lead as rich, deep, and meaningful lives as possible. When we’re not attuned to mortality, we are far less present to the preciousness of every moment and love with the desire for other people to fulfill our needs. But, if we can let go of our ego just a bit, loosen the grip on the self that will eventually cease to exist, we can begin to truly love someone for who they are, rather than for what they provide.
What’s your perspective on the state of mental health practice today?
In general, there seems to be this trend in modern practices toward classification, grouping a patient and their subsequent treatment in with others because of a shared symptom or diagnosis. However, I prefer to take the idiographic approach, looking at the patient as a unique individual, coming in with their own particular background and set of issues. Even when we take this approach though, receiving mental health care can still unfortunately feel stigmatizing and uncomfortable. That’s why I’m excited about Alma, because its ethos helps normalize therapy. At Alma, the primary goal of therapy is the betterment of individuals.
What does a first meeting with you look like?
My goal as a clinician is to help my patients feel free. In treatment, I invite them to bring their whole selves into the room, as they are. It is then that true healing can begin. Because of this, my primary goal in the beginning of treatment is to make sure my clients feel comfortable with me. While I may be more active in the first session than I would be otherwise, asking questions to get a detailed history, I also focus on what brought them into treatment now and attempt to determine if we are a good fit. Overall, I strive to be fully present with my patients, creating a space where they can “drop in,” feel safe enough to go there and explore, so that we can do the hard work of changing together.
“Therapy itself can become transcendental – leading to “ah-ha” moments,
where it all just clicks, and you are inspired to grow beyond what you once
thought was possible.”