“I have witnessed resiliency and the importance of hope and meaning in life.”
What was your path to becoming a therapist? What inspired you to choose this profession?
My early interest in existentialism and humanistic psychodynamic theory and brain-behavior relationships led to my involvement in the field of rehabilitation psychology. I have worked with children, adolescents, and adults faced with chronic illness and physical, neurological, and learning challenges. I have witnessed resiliency and the importance of hope and meaning in life. Working with these various contributing factors has led me to a variety of roles in the field of psychology, including teaching, writing, supervision, psychotherapy, and neuropsychological testing. My experience in each one of these areas has enriched the others. Training the next generation of psychologists has also been a valuable part of my career and my professional development.
What would you want someone to know about working with you?
Our initial session will focus on developing a foundation of trust and safety and exploring the client’s goals for therapy. There is an educational component to the initial sessions; I'll explain that my role is to facilitate exploration into relational challenges and patterns and to promote self-awareness and reflection, and work with the client to develop a collaborative approach. My view of psychological health is to increase one’s ability to live a meaningful life consistent with one’s values. Curiosity, kindness, and hope are foundational to the work that I do. I'll use dream analysis as a way to understand conflict, ambivalence, and the client's analysis to solve problems. Exploration and transference/countertransference reactions are also important in that they allow me to gain a deeper understanding of the client's thought patterns.
How does collaboration with other providers play into your work?
For 34 years, I have worked in a rehabilitation hospital that applies an interdisciplinary approach to patient care. The treatment team includes physiatrists, occupational, physical, and speech and language therapists, nurses, vocational counseling, and teachers. Each discipline has its own unique perspective of the patient’s strengths and weaknesses. The role of the psychologist is to promote a holistic view incorporating clinical and health psychology, systems theory, and neuropsychology in order to gain a richer view of the client. Peer supervision has been an important part of my professional therapy, as well as the completion of a postdoctoral certificate in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. Treatment recommendations that I provide often include mindfulness, yoga, and a better understanding of the importance of sleep and nutrition.
If there was one thing you wish people knew about the therapy experience who might be hesitant to try it, what would that be?
It takes courage to explore one's life and make changes to patterns that are comfortable and predictable. I make a point to emphasize that in my practice. The therapy process promotes a safe place for clients to try out new relational patterns that can be applied to other aspects of their life. Developing self-awareness can lead to a greater sense of control. Choosing to begin psychotherapy is a sign of strength, not weakness.
If you could pick one or two books that influenced your approach to therapy what would they be and why?
My psychotherapeutic work has been influenced by the work of Stephen Mitchell and Sandra Buechler. In Relational Concepts in Psychotherapy, Mitchell crystallized a distinct relational trend in psychology, describing the clinical application of the relational-conflict model. The analytic situation is understood in relational psychoanalysis to be shaped by the continual participation of the client and therapist, as well as by the co-construction of meaning, authenticity, and new relational experiences. Old relational patterns are inevitably repeated, but the hope is that each client-therapist dyad can discover unique ways to move beyond this embeddedness to construct and negotiate new and creative ways of being with each other. In Clinical Values: Emotions That Guide Treatment, Sandra Buechler describes the intangible qualities that sustain the complex art of psychotherapy. Her central thesis is that the values of curiosity, hope, kindness, courage, purpose, emotional balance, integrity, and the ability to bear loss are the essential ingredients that the therapist uses to feel alive and effective and to sustain the conviction that the process is meaningful. Buechler’s conception of psychological health for both the client and therapist includes a willingness to learn from new experiences, a moderate level of intensity of all emotions, a curious attitude, the ability to self-reflect, and tolerating or even welcoming paradox, ambivalence, and the unknown.
“Choosing to begin psychotherapy is a sign of strength, not weakness.”