“I’m constantly finding new ways to talk about issues openly and comfortably so that my clients can work through them and feel like they’re not alone.”
What was your path to becoming a therapist?
I always knew I was going to do some kind of therapy, but in contrast to my practice today, I began thinking I would focus on forensic and criminal psychology. During graduate school I was interested in learning what causes someone to act criminally. My first internship was at a juvenile detention facility where there was a lot of gangs and drugs and violence at the time. I loved working with those adolescents and families to figure out how they got to where they were, and how they were going to move on from it, too. I loved working as part of a collaborative team, which included drug counselors and police. I’ve since broadened my practice and have worked in eating disorder programs, consulted on high risk cases for ACS, was a director of supportive housing programs for families with AIDS, mental health and substance abuse, worked in the LGBT community in Australia, whatever the context, I’ve always thrived on helping people work through very serious crises in their lives, where the challenges are intense and immediate.
How has your work in high-risk crisis counseling informed your work today?
While my clientele today is very different than the individuals I worked with in the past, trauma is still trauma. We’re working through life events together. The process might be longer because the crisis may not be as “immediate” but I still want to work alongside them closely as we navigate what’s bringing them to this point and where they’d like to go. For example, I see a lot of clients today who are working through traumas related to childbirth including things like stillbirth and pregnancy loss, which is incredibly difficult. I’m constantly finding new ways to talk about issues openly and comfortably so that my clients can work through them and feel like they’re not alone.
What are your views on the state of mental health today?
Here in New York, it’s so common for someone to be open with their friends or family about seeing a therapist. But when it comes to actually asking each other how we’re doing after a loss or a trauma, it seems like there’s still a lot of stigma surrounding that genuine openness. It’s not easy to know what to say, or what to ask, or how to be fully present for each other without feeling like we’re prying. It doesn’t matter how well informed or educated we are. We can all talk about having a therapist, but how can we talk about what’s really bothering us outside of the therapy room? I’d like everyone to go deeper with each other, to talk about things openly from a place of love and support, without feelings of discomfort or distance from each other.
What does a first session with you look like?
I first ask, “What brings you here today?” Everything unfolds from there. We’ll get to the other details of their life, but I believe that first question is what’s most important to getting to the heart of the issues my clients are facing. I want them to feel comfortable talking to me about whatever it is that’s going on with them. It might be that they’re dealing with something specific where another provider would be able to serve them better, so we can understand that from the very start and I can refer them to the focused help they need. Going forward, we’ll dig into their history and family story, because all of those influences have definitely played a part in making them the person they are today. But I always start by being present with whatever they’re experiencing in this moment.
“I’ve always thrived on helping people work through very serious crises in their lives, where the challenges are intense and immediate.”