“Too many children are invisible because they are either so quiet that they are seen as “good” children and go unnoticed or so loud in their demands for help that they are regarded as “bad” children who are then punished for feeling out of control.”
What was your path to becoming a therapist?
Feeling a little left of center is a spot that’s always resonated with me. Since I was a middle schooler participating in after school groups, I was enlisted as the co-counselor, and I’ve honestly never considered another career. I often feel that those who struggle to fit into our fast paced, rule-governed, and often judgmental society are those who feel the most, think the most, understand the most, and make the most sense. They’re also the ones who carry the most labels/diagnoses for being “atypical” and often the ones who feel the most isolated. When a close friend took his own life before reaching 18, my path was cemented and every time I connect with someone who is struggling, I am aware of how dark and deep those feelings can lead us. Every time I share space with someone trying to find their way out of that darkness, I feel I honor the voices of those who weren’t able to find their way and weren’t able to find that connection…..and that I feel is my purpose.
What should someone know about working with you?
The intake process for children and families involves a minimum of three sessions. The first visit involves the whole family, the second visit involves the child independently (5+), and the third visit involves the parents alone to communicate further and discuss the therapeutic plan based on visits thus far. This may involve discussion or recommendations regarding who will be participating in sessions as well as ideas for expressive materials that may be utilized during therapy (e.g., Legos, portable sand trays, journals, paper, and pencils). Children five-years-old and younger participate with their caregivers in dyadic therapy and individual adults participate independently. Homework is recommended for those who are open to it, specifically journal work, but this is not required and all therapeutic work is driven by client receptivity.
What do you do to continue learning and building competencies as a provider?
Infant mental health, client-centered play therapy, developmental play therapy, floortime, PLAY Project, AutPlay, dialectical behavior therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, solutions-focused therapy, motivational interviewing, and brief strategic family therapy are all certifications and trainings I have pursued in my work over the past 20+ years. I have pursued training in disciplines that focus on mutual respect, collaboration, connection, and consent. A favored and specialized area of study is that of autism. Ten years ago, my autistic son and I sought support services based on connection and collaboration but we began to navigate a community of professionals that too often were focused more on control and chastisement. That journey has led me through an ongoing quest to become well-versed in therapies that provide the same respect and voice to autistic and other neurodivergent individuals as is regularly delivered to neurotypical populations.
How do your core values shape your approach to therapy?
Too many children are invisible because they are either so quiet that they are seen as “good” children and go unnoticed or so loud in their demands for help that they are regarded as “bad” children who are then punished for feeling out of control. These children grow up with mixed messages about how to get their needs met at home, at work, and in relationships. When we look deeper, we see that the cry of those who are too quiet or too loud is a cry for the support that every child needs.
What are you most excited about within the evolving mental health landscape?
There is a current movement toward neurodiversity acceptance. Through this, we are reframing the concept of “disorders” into varying neurotypes. Every diagnosis is a personality type with gifts and challenges. The way we think, the intensity of our feelings, and the way we respond to things all tend to be found more in certain personality types than others and that is where diagnostic labels come from. We assign labels to identities benefitting from support, and that’s important because it determines the help we are “entitled to” from schools, governments, and insurance companies. However, the side effect can be internalized shame, disconnect, and separation. Society can fail to recognize the importance of presumed competence and available support for all children and adults. As we reframe our understanding of these labels, we claim the right to be authentic in whoever we were born to be and are empowered to demand the equality and mutual respect every individual deserves.
How does telehealth work as a therapy environment?
The online office includes engaging telehealth adaptations, such as virtual sandtray and a whiteboard. Through collaboration with parents, more traditional sand tray, art, and Lego work remain offered and the benefits of play therapy remain easily accessible.
“When we look deeper, we see that the cry of those who are too quiet or too loud is a cry for the support that every child needs.”