“I incorporate a sex-positive approach in my work that allows LGBTQ+ persons to speak openly about sex and sexuality in an informed, affirming, and respectful environment.”
What was your path to becoming a therapist?
I always knew I wanted to be a counselor and began my graduate work in my late 20s. I spent 11 years as a high school social worker before deciding to expand my populations and experience. I had developed an interest in the consequences of trauma, specifically sexual trauma, which led me to work in a specialized sexual abuse treatment clinic. Later, I expanded my practice again to include working with persons and families living with dementia. My own identity as a gay male has shaped my interest in working with LGBTQ+ individuals and relationships. LGBTQ+ persons experience various forms of stigma, shaming, discrimination, and marginalization based on gender expression, love interests, and sexual behaviors. I incorporate a sex-positive approach in my work that allows LGBTQ+ persons to speak openly about sex and sexuality in an informed, affirming, and respectful environment.
What should someone know about working with you?
My clients are motivated to improve the quality of their lives. They may not know exactly how to make this happen when we begin working together, but they know they want to be happier and to be healthier. This may mean learning to manage anxiety, depression, and symptoms of other mental health conditions, understanding themselves and their needs more clearly, or enhancing their relationships. I typically measure progress by measuring changes in the duration, intensity, and frequency of distressing thoughts, feelings, and/or events. My intake process begins with a free consultation and an intake form so I have a basic understanding of what is happening in your life. Rather than an interview where you feel you are being quizzed, I prefer to have conversations where these details emerge naturally and safely. I ask new clients to commit to four sessions to really get a sense of our work together and see the opportunities for improving quality of life.
How do your core values shape your approach to therapy?
At my core, I believe each and every person has intrinsic worth and an ability to create the life and lifestyle they desire. Everyone makes "poor choices" throughout their lives, resulting in negative (sometimes severe) consequences. At times, these choices conflict with your belief systems, values, and the image of yourself, which elicits feelings of shame. Viewing each person with intrinsic worth allows me to look beyond behaviors and see the essence of who you are and bring that to the forefront of our work.
What are you most excited about within the evolving mental health landscape?
I didn’t expect my clients to be happy with telehealth, but it has opened the doors for people to reach a practitioner whose expertise best meets their needs. I hear again and again that it’s terribly difficult to find a gay practitioner; I’ve developed a deep respect for telehealth’s capacity to facilitate quality therapeutic relationships and promote greater access to appropriate providers. Our understanding of the relationship between neurobiology and mental health has expanded in recent years. The brain is enormously complex and at the very center of our mental wellbeing. How brain structures are shaped by life experiences and how the brain responds to situations later are essential components of modern therapy. In my practice, this has strong implications for treating anxiety, compulsive disorders, and responding to dementia.
Have you done any research-based work that you found particularly exciting? How does it inform your practice today?
I began doing research because I found myself asking the question, “How do we know?” As a practitioner, I want to know why specific approaches work best with certain mental health conditions and how to optimize care for my clients. Though I had worked prominently with youth and young families, I found myself doing research in two areas of aging. The first area dealt with the relationship between socialization and wellbeing. The second area was specific to persons living with dementia, their families, and the strategies to stimulate cognitive activity and optimize health. Working with persons living with dementia requires adapting skills to meet the unique neurocognitive abilities of the individual, provide a reassuring environment, and address care partners’ complex needs.
“At my core, I believe each and every person has intrinsic worth and an ability to create the life and lifestyle they desire.”