“I try to stay close to the experiences that are presented and I encourage people to keep a journal that tracks their feelings, thoughts, dreams, and aspirations (while evaluating how those aspirations are being met).”
What was your path to becoming a therapist?
My earliest experience with therapy was in college where psychology majors had the option of connecting with a patient in a large mental hospital with only two psychiatrists on staff. I developed a good relationship with my assigned patient - a 16-year-old girl - but witnessed her fall into a coma and a vegetative state as a function of insulin shock therapy. I vowed then that I would work with people in talk therapy. I became a developmental psychologist and worked clinically with children in play therapy and with their families. Over time, I began to see people in diverse age groups who were experiencing a wide range of diagnostic categories, including mood disorders and relationship issues. Throughout my process, I found my own personal psychotherapy extremely helpful.
What should someone know about working with you?
My initial approach during a consultation is to get an overall view of problematic issues, both in the present and the past. I also attempt to get a picture of my client’s support system, their family situation, and their medical history. In subsequent sessions, I address what their reaction was to the initial session, what issues seemed particularly important, and what may have been upsetting. I try to stay close to the experiences that are presented and I encourage people to keep a journal that tracks their feelings, thoughts, dreams, and aspirations (while evaluating how those aspirations are being met). I have completed an externship in EFT (emotionally focused therapy) and I bring that into my understanding of the different types of attachment to others.
How does collaboration with other providers inform your work?
Collaboration with other providers has been integral to my work; I have been in long-term supervision, including individual, peer, and group. It has provided me with different perspectives and greater feelings of competence in my work. I encourage my patients to connect with a variety of other providers, including psychopharmacologists when medication is needed for anxiety, depression, cognitive focus, and sleep disorders. I also refer them for acupuncture, yoga, meditation, neurofeedback, and 12-step programs. If I suspect a potential medical issue, I urge them to see their physicians. I will often refer patients for cognitive behavioral therapy if a more directive approach is needed. As a rule, I try to contact other providers who are treating my patients.
What advice would you give to someone who is hesitant to try therapy?
Prior to giving any advice, I would explore what, if anything, makes a client anxious or fearful about therapy. Is it something they’ve heard first hand? Or is it something they see as a social stigma or as indicative of weakness? I would stress that they maintain the same attitude toward themselves that they would have toward their best friend. I would recommend that they read a few non-professional books about the therapeutic experience. I would suggest that they have a trial run of three sessions so that they can evaluate what therapy entails. And I would strongly encourage that they relay any feelings of discomfort to their therapist.
Have you done any research-based work that you found particularly exciting? How does it inform your practice today?
I have long been interested in the effects of trauma on people and the ways in which it can hinder the experience of personal will. I have researched the literature and outlined the important components of what constitutes “freewill” and what becomes “negative will” (i.e., the inability to act on one’s own initiative). Negative will is often formed very early in life and it most often derives from a parent’s inability to allow their child to express themselves and to validate the child’s being in a positive way. It is often seen in abusive relationships where the “victim” is unable to free themselves from the “sadistic” partner. Working with patients who have abandoned their own freedom can be very difficult, but ultimately rewarding when successful.
“I have long been interested in the effects of trauma on people and the ways in which it can hinder the experience of personal will.”