“I believe healing begins with hearing the stories others have to tell.”
What was your path to becoming a therapist?
During my undergraduate studies in psychology, I learned the interpersonal and introspective benefits of developing a psychological perspective in life. This led to a research position where I spent my days administering questionnaires to individuals in recovery. I planned to stay on the research path, but then I realized that I could truly support individuals in other ways. So, I traded in statistics and data for something mightier: The listening ear. I believe healing begins with hearing the stories others have to tell. I chose to pursue my doctorate in clinical psychology as it marries the best of both the therapy and research worlds. In school, I trained in psychodynamic therapy and continued that training after graduation. My internships, postdoctoral positions, and professional positions have further enhanced my understanding of CBT and mindfulness-based interventions.
What should someone know about working with you?
I see therapy as a partnership. During the intake session, I aim to establish trust by providing my clients space to share their troubling emotions, problematic repetitive behaviors, and relationship challenges. The following sessions are all about discovering new ways to understand current difficulties and increase the patient’s ability to respond adaptively to life's demands. Above all else, I look for ways to help my clients with self-efficacy, the belief that the patient can do something to improve their situation. My approach is pragmatic: We find out what works by testing it. And it’s action-based, too: We take what works and apply it. I like to laugh in session and believe that humor is a powerful tool in breaking down our rigid ways of thinking and accepting ourselves fully.
What advice would you give to someone who is hesitant to try therapy?
The only way to get better at something is by doing it! It’s normal to feel nervous about trying therapy due to fears of vulnerability and thoughts of being judged. But you’ve already taken the first step by naming this fear; you’re already working on the problem and confronting the challenge. The next step in facing the fear is to pick up the phone and call a therapist. Then, set an appointment! Then, attend the appointment! Take it one step at a time and give yourself credit for these great achievements! The vast majority of people become more and more comfortable as the sessions progress and they see themselves doing the thing they were once so hesitant to try.
What are you most excited about within the evolving mental health landscape?
The rise of technology within psychotherapy and the emerging trends in telemedicine are very exciting. From TED Talks on mental health issues to apps for meditation, from teletherapy to apps for symptom tracking, the internet has catapulted mental health to the next level. It’s gone from isolation inside office buildings to world-wide accessibility through laptops and phones. This access has the power to decrease stigma about mental illness, a major barrier to therapy utilization. It also brings education and treatment to underserved populations. This is especially important to me as I’ve been involved in providing mental health services to the underserved for the past ten years.
Have you done any research-based work that you found particularly exciting? How does it inform your practice today?
My approach is centered on the relationship between patient and therapist. I grew interested in this therapeutic alliance through my dissertation and subsequent published articles on personality disorders. The alliance is defined by agreed-upon goals and tasks as well as the bond between the two parties. I try to incorporate research-driven techniques that boost the alliance, such as facilitating the expression of emotion, being active in the session, and exploring the patient’s experience in depth. The reason I value building strong alliances so much is that research has shown that the relationship between patient and therapist is the most robust predictor of therapeutic success. The stronger this relationship, the greater likelihood that the patient will benefit session after session.
“My approach is centered on the relationship between patient and therapist.”