“I chose nursing because I wanted to be able to help people in a comprehensive, holistic way—to treat the whole person and not just a diagnosis.”
What was your path to becoming a psychiatric nurse practitioner? What inspired you to choose this profession?
My path to becoming a psychiatric nurse practitioner dates back to childhood when I would watch people for hours. Why do people act the way they do? Why do people react differently to the same stressors? What drives human behavior? Eventually my inquisition led me to a career in nursing. I chose nursing because I wanted to be able to help people in a comprehensive, holistic way—to treat the whole person and not just a diagnosis. As a psychiatric nurse practitioner, I can provide a safe space to collaboratively explore thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, while I also assess the need for medications and prescribe them if appropriate.
What would you want someone to know about working with you?
I begin every potential treatment relationship with a 10-15 minute complimentary phone consultation to see if we might be a good fit. The first session with me is typically a one-hour, comprehensive evaluation to gather information about your medical, mental health, social, and family histories, as well as other relevant information. I also take the first few sessions to get a sense of your treatment goals and preferences, and to collaboratively formulate an individualized treatment plan that may include medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. I have a very thoughtful approach—I believe it is necessary to thoroughly explain the treatment options available and alternatives to the treatment options, and ensure that any questions or concerns are addressed before initiating treatment.
What do you think is the biggest barrier today for people seeking care?
I think one of the biggest barriers for people seeking mental health treatment is stigma. Many people are misguided by the idea that seeing a mental healthcare provider is “weak.” Or they may think their issues are “not that serious,” or not as serious as what other people may be experiencing. They may be misinformed about psychotropic medication or about what therapy is or isn’t. Culture, religion, environment, media, politics, and other factors can influence the way we think about mental health. Breaking the stigma through education, advocacy, and providing access to care is what drives me to learn, grow, and continue working as a psychiatric nurse practitioner.
If there was one thing you wish people knew about the therapy experience who might be hesitant to try it, what would that be?
Therapy is not just for people with serious mental illness or problems in their life. Therapy can be beneficial for even the most emotionally stable person. It can serve as a safe space for self-exploration, self-awareness, personal growth, insight, skill building, and more. The benefits of therapy can be immediate for some, though they’re gradual for most. Some people may feel worse before they feel better. This is a natural process in therapy because bringing up certain thoughts and feelings can be uncomfortable at first. Another thing to keep in mind is that progress in therapy is not always linear and there will be setbacks. Think of them as opportunities to learn—and then you can recover and make progress again.
What is your approach to medication management?
Medication can provide symptom relief, but it doesn’t get at root causes of problems or encourage psychological growth. Thus, for most people, medication is used as a “bridge” until sufficient psychological growth through psychotherapy is achieved. Sometimes medication may be necessary for long periods of time—especially when there are neurological disorders, long-standing biochemical imbalances, and/or chronic psychiatric disorders. If medications are determined to be appropriate, I begin with a detailed explanation of evidence-based treatment options: the ”gold standard” approach and alternative options. I also discuss some of the possible side effects, risks, and benefits of the medications. My approach is to manage symptoms and distress with the fewest number of medications and the lowest doses that will still be effective.
“Therapy can be beneficial for even the most emotionally stable person.”