What is one thing that you have learned through your own therapy?
Every therapist should go through therapy of their own. Being on the other side of the “couch” gives you a real insight into just how difficult it is to sit down in front of a stranger and share your deepest, darkest thoughts and feelings. To open yourself up and trust that this other person will accept you non-judgmentally, understand you, and consistently be there for you is an arduous task. That experience leads me to feel proud of each patient who makes the first phone call to me, comes to see me, or sticks it out through those first few sessions. It also guides my desire to create a safe and accepting space for every patient.
What was your path to becoming a therapist? What inspired you to choose this profession?
Therapy was a calling for me from a young age. I started in grade school helping friends and classmates through difficult situations and was most likely one of the few 6 year olds telling people I wanted to be a therapist! When my younger brother was diagnosed with ADHD and OCD my path became even more important to me. I watched as my mother struggled to find services that were the right fit for him. I observed, often angrily, how little the school personnel understood him, his struggles, or how to help him in positive, self-esteem building ways. This developed into a passion for understanding, supporting, and educating patients, their families and loved ones, and other professionals such as school staff on living with ADHD. I am thankful everyday that I get to be a psychotherapist.
Is there an example from your daily life where you practice what you preach?
I always tell my clients that I will never ask them to do something I don’t believe in, use in my everyday life, or have used in some way. For me, radical acceptance is one of those things. When I attended my first intensive DBT skills training I soon realized that the old saying of “forgive and forget,” which had never seemed easy, needed to be replaced with radical acceptance. It was a new concept to me as a person and as a clinician that we could accept the reality in front of us not because it was right but because fighting reality that we have no control over brings us pain and suffering. By accepting reality we can empower ourselves to let go of anger, resentment, sadness, grief, and other emotions we may be holding onto. It isn’t easy and takes a shift in our perceptions but has been a freeing skill for me personally.
What would your clients and colleagues say is your therapist superpower?
My superpower would be remembering the smallest details that clients have shared, sometimes years before. I am the therapist who will remember your third cousin’s, wife’s, teacher from third grade once said something of meaning to you. I have had clients amazed by the memory I have for the minute details they consider unimportant but I find fascinating and necessary to helping them piece together the patterns in their lives.
What was one of the most challenging experiences during your training to become a therapist? How did you overcome the challenge, and what did you learn from it?
I was early on in my career and working in an elementary school when I met Anisha (name changed for privacy). She was 11 years old, funny, and sassy. We met every week and she talked about school, friends, music, everything but what I felt we needed to be talking about. Anisha’s home life was tough and I knew from her teachers that she was struggling but she didn’t want to talk about those things. She didn’t want any coping skills or interventions. At the end of the school year I was bereft as I told my supervisor that I felt that I had failed Anisha. I felt I had done nothing to help her. I walked to my last session with Anisha with this feeling heavy on my heart. Anisha handed me a note and inside the creatively folded note was a bracelet she had made me. The note explained how much our time together had meant to her and how much she felt she had learned from me. I was beyond shocked and after our session had wrapped up I went straight to my supervisor’s office to share my surprising but happy news. My supervisor was not as surprised as I was. This experience stayed with me for years to come as it taught me so much. It allowed me to see how important the safe, nonjudgmental, accepting environment I create is for every person who comes to therapy. The relationship I build with clients often means more than the interventions I offer them. It taught me, that though I became a therapist to help people, that running to quickly fix, solve, or start interventions immediately isn’t always the best solution. Sometimes the best way to achieve long term success is to slow down in order to give people the space they need to be able to accept that help and act on it.
Short Term (Solution-focused, etc.)
Ideal for those who are coming in with a specific problem they’d like to address and gain clarity on. Typically, short term therapies are present focused and do not dive deep into your past.
Structured therapies are goal and progress oriented. Therapists may incorporate psychoeducation and a specific “curriculum.” In order to stay on track, therapists may provide worksheets and homework.
Insight-oriented (Psychodynamic, Existential, etc.)
Exploring the past and making connections to present issues can help clients gain insight. Getting to the root of the issue and finding deeper self-awareness can help with long-term change.
Non-directive (Humanistic, Person-centered, etc.)
Going with the flow and seeing where it leads.
Behavioral (CBT, DBT, etc.)
Focuses on changing potentially unhealthy or self-destructive behaviors by addressing problematic thought patterns and specific providing coping skills.
Trauma Focused (EMDR, TF-CBT, etc.)
Recognizing the connection between trauma experiences and your emotional and behavioral responses, trauma focused therapy seeks to help you heal from traumas.