“One of my strengths as a psychologist is my willingness to bring my full self into the therapy room; I value authenticity, consistency, and empathy.”
What was your path to becoming a therapist?
In a family of five children, I was the peacekeeper, displaying early signs of my therapeutic nature. I wanted to be a schoolteacher, a pediatrician, or a stay-at-home mom, all roles I still very much admire. I studied chemistry and education with plans to make a last-minute decision on medical school or teach high school chemistry. With a grueling academic schedule of math and sciences, I decided I needed a class I would simply enjoy; hello, psychology! I fell in love with the world of psychology quickly, as it combined all of my interests: Child development, behavior, neuroscience, communication skills, empathy-building, and so on. I began doing research in the field of substance use and got my first job out of college at a residential treatment center for adolescents struggling with addiction, mental illness, and legal trouble. I had never experienced so much fulfillment in life prior to that job and I have been pursuing my work with adolescents, children, and families ever since.
What should someone know about working with you?
I work collaboratively with clients to identify treatment goals and the ways progress will be defined. My intake process is quite simple; much of the paperwork can be completed online prior to the first visit. Our initial sessions will allow us to get to know one another better and identify what will be addressed in therapy and how. Each individual’s needs can vary drastically, so therapy can include a variety of modalities, interventions, and experiences. I do assign goals each week, which will at times include written homework and at other times, be more experiential. I do encourage my clients to try new things and I challenge clients to move outside of comfort zones to find the progress they are seeking. I love working with a wide range of clients: Children, adolescents, families, young adults, and middle-aged adults. I specialize in relationship conflict, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, behavioral problems (e.g., aggression), ADHD, trauma, and couples/family work.
What do you do to continue learning and building competencies as a provider?
I am a lifelong learner; as soon as I graduated from my doctoral program, I was searching for new learning opportunities and trainings. In order to do this work well, it is necessary to always be expanding my worldview and knowledgebase. I work with a diverse population coming to therapy for various reasons and therefore needing a variety of therapeutic approaches. Psychology is also a field that is always learning and growing; it is my job as a professional psychologist to stay up-to-date with the research. I do this by reading, reading, and reading some more. I attend conferences and trainings as often as I can and I belong to groups of psychologists and other mental health professionals who frequently collaborate and foster learning as a group.
How do your own core values shape your approach to therapy?
One of my strengths as a psychologist is my willingness to bring my full self into the therapy room; I value authenticity, consistency, and empathy. I come into each session with the understanding that my experience as an individual is different from that of my client’s. I believe that the most useful and powerful human skill is the skill to listen to another’s story without inserting yourself into it. Of course, there can be space to relate to clients, disagree with clients, and so on. However, the first step must be listening to clients and fully hearing their stories. I emphasize the impact compassion, understanding, and cultural sensitivity can have in creating a safe and therapeutic environment for healing.
What are you most excited about within the evolving mental health landscape?
We are talking about mental health and many are openly sharing their experiences of therapy! That is extremely exciting to me. Much of my clinical work thus far has been with children, adolescents, and young adults, many with the belief that having/expressing emotions is a weakness so talking about mental health just wasn’t happening. I am seeing a shift now; we are talking about mental health in schools more, in the community, and I hope in the privacy of our homes.
“I emphasize the impact compassion, understanding, and cultural sensitivity can have in creating a safe and therapeutic environment for healing.”