“I take a comprehensive and holistic approach to therapy, paying attention to the emotional, cognitive, social, and physical lives of clients.”
What was your path to becoming a therapist? What inspired you to choose this profession?
In college, I studied biology and expected to pursue medicine and sports science. When I discovered how scientific research could be applied to human behavior to heal psychological and behavioral problems, I shifted my focus to clinical psychology. The idea of helping people directly through clinical work lit me up. I also wanted to help clinicians get better at helping people directly by improving existing, effective treatments and discovering new ones. Finding ways to reduce human suffering and improve relationships, overall health, and performance was exactly what I wanted my career to be.
What would you want someone to know about working with you?
My first priority is to understand the client and make sure they have everything they need from me to feel comfortable. In our first session, I'll listen closely and carefully assess the problems and causes of any issues. Together, we'll clarify the client's values, set goals accordingly, and revisit them regularly. We'll work to see what emotions, cognitions, or bad habits might be barriers to those goals, and find ways to eliminate or navigate around those barriers. I take a comprehensive and holistic approach to therapy, paying attention to the emotional, cognitive, social, and physical lives of clients and how all of those impact behavior. Depending on the client and their lifestyle, we may address things like sleep, nutrition, exercise, meditation, and relaxation in consultation with medical professionals.
How does collaboration with other providers play into your work?
My goal is to help my clients as effectively and as quickly as possible. That often means referring them to experts in other fields, including dieticians and exercise physiologists. I conduct a comprehensive assessment of sleep, nutrition, exercise, meditation, relaxation, relationships, work habits and performance, recreation, and bad habits for each client. Based on a full understanding of who they are and how they act, I can begin my work and also determine what other professionals can help. Coordinating care across disciplines is one of the best ways to ensure that we are helping people by addressing all areas of their life.
If there was one thing you wish people knew about the therapy experience who might be hesitant to try it, what would that be?
I continually check to see if therapy is working for clients. It requires time, money, and effort, and I want to be sure it is worth it to them. With that said, once I know what the presenting problem is, I turn to the research to understand what is most effective and discuss that with the client. I want them to have realistic expectations and to understand what the therapy process will look like. If something comes up that science hasn’t shown we can effectively treat, I'll explain that. If we still decide to address the issue, I'll rely on my clinical experience and treatments that have worked for similar issues. This is always done through a collaborative process with open communication.
Is there any research-based work you’ve done that you found particularly exciting and how has that informed your practice today?
I am a strong believer that the scientist-practitioner model improves outcomes for clients. I'm very explicit with clients about treatment options. I show them the menu of possibilities, let them know which have been shown to work for their problems, and choose a method from there. A study I published in positive psychology led me to emphasize strengths and values in my clinical work: while it is critical to reduce suffering — no one likes to experience anxiety or depression symptoms — clients also find that satisfaction improves when they have healthier relationships, discover and live their true values, cultivate good habits, and establish a healthier overall lifestyle. I work with clients to do that while also eliminating suffering. Another study I published demonstrated that cognitive interventions, relaxation strategies, motivational enhancement, communication skills, and problem solving not only reduce anger symptoms, but also significantly reduce depression symptoms.
“Coordinating care across disciplines is one of the best ways to ensure that we are helping people by addressing all areas of their life.”