“Therapy is hard, but it’s rewarding work for everyone involved—I want my clients to know that I’m invested in the process alongside them.”
What was your path to becoming a therapist? What inspired you to choose this profession?
Growing up, I was always interested in the people around me and viewed as sensitive and a good listener. It has always been important for me to understand why people do what they do and to make sure the people in my life feel heard. In high school, I had a friend who confided in me about his suicidal ideation and I did everything I could to make sure he was safe and could get the help he needed. Once I got to college, I took all of the psychology classes I could. My dean told me that I couldn’t take every psychology course in one semester, so I switched advisors. I ultimately decided that pursuing a degree in mental health counseling would allow me to have the most authentic career to who I am.
What would you want someone to know about working with you?
In the first few sessions, I try to get to know a client’s general history—that includes learning their background and what’s most important to them. I make it clear that this is a time for them to decide whether or not we’re a good match. I believe that a strong therapeutic relationship is key for vulnerability and change. It’s important that clients feel we are working together and that we both share their vision of what they want out of life. Therapy is hard, but it’s rewarding work for everyone involved. I want my clients to know that I’m invested in the process alongside them. It’s also important that clients know that this is a safe relationship, where they can give feedback, use humor, and be themselves.
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’s important to like your therapist! This may mean you have to shop around a bit to find the right one, and that’s okay. Many people settle for the first therapist they meet because it’s exhausting to search for someone else. People may also not know what a good match feels like. A comfortable, meaningful relationship with trust and honesty is an important part of building a safe environment for growth. Sometimes that growth is uncomfortable and hard, and it can involve some failures. That said, it’s also okay to tell your therapist you think that they are wrong sometimes—which is a lot easier when you have a solid relationship.
If you could pick one or two books that influenced your approach to therapy, what would they be and why?
Lately, I have been interested in research on anxiety because there’s been an increase in anxiety and stress that feels pervasive. “Dare” by Barry McDonagh teaches readers how to address anxiety in a unique way. The technique he writes about focuses on being able to accept uncomfortable feelings in order to face them. People are often taught to numb or ignore their feelings, but accepting discomfort and working through it can help clients persevere through difficult times and come out of them stronger. This isn’t always a quick fix, but I believe that mixing acceptance with courage helps people overcome many obstacles.
Is there any research-based work you’ve done that you found particularly exciting and how has that informed your practice today?
I have done a lot of work with evidence-based models in family therapy. For years, I worked in a program (that I now direct) that serves adolescents with mental health diagnoses and their families. The caregivers of these teenagers often don’t know how to help and are scared to do the wrong thing. In these circumstances, family therapy can be the most sustainable way to help. By working with the family unit, kids are able to feel supported and heard—and caregivers are able to learn skills and build confidence. Family-based therapy has been shown to reduce hospitalizations, ER visits, truancy, and drug use. Through family therapy, teenagers can create a safe space at home. That’s why it’s important to me to work collaboratively with the caregivers of adolescent clients: so things can also shift at home.
“A comfortable, meaningful relationship with trust and honesty is an important part of building a safe environment for growth.”