“Life is slippery, here, take my hand.”
No one escapes this world unaffected. We all have multiple challenges that can cause us to wonder
why we just don’t feel as happy as we would like or feel we deserve.
That can look and feel like burnout, being overworked, codependent or pleasing others but not
yourself. Emotional stress is exhausting. People often fear failure, worry about defining success, or
just feel like “I’m not ok.” It’s not uncommon to have some things going well in your life and finding
you only can focus on the negative.
I believe in many ways therapy gives you permission to feel what you feel. You have the right to be
sad or angry, frustrated or unfulfilled. It’s hard when those around you may minimize your discomfort,
or discount it all together. Or you just don’t have someone you can talk to about certain things.
It is not unusual to spend a long time before making that first call to a therapist. I understand that completely. But, before you immediately dismiss the idea, consider this: Research has shown that verbalizing feelings can have a significant therapeutic effect on the brain. In other words, getting your worries out in the open (even the “insignificant” ones) is a good thing for your well-being.
I have been trained and use a variety of therapy techniques over the year. As we begin, it’s important to talk about what kinds of techniques might be useful for you and always focus on what’s helpful or not helpful in the therapy process.
Many people who have mental health challenges feel that they are singular in their experiences. They wonder why others who have experienced similar challenges seem like they can handle things way better.
Truth be told, we don’t know how others are truly managing nor are we the only ones experiencing the same challenges. Many times that in itself is incredibly helpful and empowering. Mental Health is a health issue. To paraphrase actress Kerry Washington : I go to the dentist when I have a toothache, a doctor when I have a sore throat, so why wouldn’t I see a therapist when I’m experiencing heartache?
That is not to say, that emotional struggles should be treated like medical problems, however, it is healthy to seek help of a professional when things just don’t feel right.
Create a Strong and Loving Partnership
Communication - Learn how to talk so your partner will listen. Learn how to listen so your partner will talk. Learn how to have productive conversations instead of conflict.
Love & Respect - Are you getting what you need to feel loved and respected? Is your partner? Learn how to show each other your love in the ways that are important to you.
Priorities - Couples can waste years fighting about "how things should be
done" and "who should do what." Not necessary! Learn how to create
agreement and peace in your home.
Finances - Money is a source of conflict for many couples.
Learn how to get on the same page and work together to create the financial
reality you both want.
Enjoyment - Sexual intimacy, friendship, and fun are essential to a healthy
relationship. Rediscover the person you fell in love with. Learn how to
reconnect and enjoy each other again.
Tools & Skills - Stress, bumps in the road, and disagreement are inevitable. I'll teach you the skills and tools you need to handle life's challenges together and keep your love strong.
Couples counseling is hard work, and not just for the therapist. If you're part of a couple in distress, you may feel that there's no way out of your troubled relationship. There are many myths out there that talk about how couple’s counseling doesn’t work. The reality is more about how often couples wait too long to work on the stress that marriage can inevitably bring. If you are thinking your marriage could benefit from some couples counseling, then chances are you should act now. Couples who decide to work on issues as partners can and do find ways to strengthen their marriage.
There are many evidenced based practice techniques to help couples including the materials previously mentioned from the Gottsman Institute. I believe that “homework” is helpful as it places structure into the therapy and often provides focus. This requires commitment on the part of both partners to truly want to find the means to make changes.
According to Gottsman, some of the key areas of focus include:
Changing the “blame game”, and accepting your role in the situation.
Re-acquainting yourself with fondness and admiration Solving “solvable” problems first
Ensuring safety in sharing Improve Communication: Practice Listening and eliminate perceptions with reality
Focus on strengths: Past, Present and Future Dreams The happiest and most successful couples are the ones who take care of their relationships. They ask for help and support when they need it to help their relationship thrive and grow. Couples who are committed to having a great relationship prioritize them and are willing to invest time and energy into learning how to keep their relationships happy, healthy, fun, and joyful.
Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it turned into a butterfly…
I’ve often said that I’ve never met a teenager I didn’t like. Some people just love
working with teenagers, other’s do not. That’s just way of the world. Teenagers
often require something different. They are a bundle of thoughts and feelings
and often feel that no one understands. And in many ways they are correct until
you allow them to explain. My thoughts on working with teenagers stems from
doing a lot of listening and work hard to try to understand what they are feeling.
Just because others seeing adolescent struggles as “just part of growing up” it’s
important that learning and growing is incredibly challenging.
Many adolescents display symptoms of anxiety and depression. Sometimes those symptoms are extreme, sometimes not as much, but the symptoms are real. Cognitive Behavioral techniques are often helpful in therapy as well as strategizing alternative behaviors. Often teens are brought to counseling because of “behavioral concerns.” Unlike adults, at times, depression in teenagers can look like anger as opposed to traditional symptoms of depressions. That’s why it’s important to look at what teenagers consider traumatic events in their lives and how their experiences are shaping the choices they are making.
Safety is always paramount when it comes to all of my clients, but especially working with adolescents. It’s is not unusual that stress and depression leads to suicidal thoughts and ideations. This often can be scary for everyone involved. In working with teens and families, it’s critical to take such thoughts seriously and develop safety plans to ensure that these feelings can be managed.
With children, a child’s presentation or concerns are rarely in isolation. I believe in using Family Systems theory to address both a child’s behavior and the impact on the family. That being said, a child also needs a safe relationship to process their family life and relationships. Family sessions should be included in any treatment with children as well as often individual sessions with a parent to help them identify strategies for managing their own emotions around the parent/child relationship.
“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.” ― Laurell K. Hamilton
I have had many opportunities to become involved in the Trauma Sensitive/Trauma Informed
perspective as it has transformed social work practice over the past 20 years. I believe strongly
in the taking a trauma informed approach when working with clients.
When I began my training, I had a very limited understanding of trauma. Of course it was clear that
trauma, as defined is and emotional response to a terrible event. It was understood that there might
be emotional reactions, possible PTSD symptoms that needed to be worked through. I came to learn
however that we all experience trauma differently, and that many events in our lives evoke the same
I spent a number of years involved with some excellent trainers as a part of the Sanctuary Model which also addresses work environment. The model speaks to the areas of impact of trauma which include safety, emotional management, loss and future. We are impacted in our perspectives in all of these areas and it helps to examine them in treatment. The model has trained me to be sensitive to such areas as Safety ( both psychical and emotional ), Emotional Management ( How we respond to others without getting hurt or being hurtful ), Social Learning ( building relationships where we benefit from others ), Loss ( the impact of loss in our lives ), and Growth ( Learning to focus on the future and embrace change ).
A trauma informed perspective revolutionized how a therapist should work to understand their client. The primary philosophy dictates that when trying to understand, you never ask the question “what’s wrong with you,” but work to ask and understand “what happened to you.” Our experiences shape us in so many ways, and I want to work with you to understand the impact of the experiences you have had in your life.
Learning about the stages of healing can be distressing, motivating, upsetting or uplifting. And often all of the above at the same time which is difficult. No matter how you feel, your reactions are not wrong. I believe trauma treatment empowers you to work at your own pace and helps you become the collaborator in your treatment. I respect individuals that understand both the challenge of addressing difficult issues and the courage to want to make change.
There are many different specific therapeutic Trauma Models and I often use several pieces of different treatments to help find what works best for you. In trauma treatment, I encourage a lot of reading about others experiences to help validate you are not alone in the challenge.
“A day of worry is more exhausting than a day of work.” – John Lubbock
Stress and occasional anxiety for adults is a normal part of life. You might feel anxious when faced
with a problem at work, before taking a test, or making an important decision. But anxiety disorders
involve more than temporary worry or fear. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety
does not go away and can get worse over time. The feelings can interfere with daily activities
such as job performance, school work, and relationships.
Depression is a common yet serious disorder. Often times individuals feel depressed but may
be more experiencing situational depression tied to a current loss or stress. True depression
results in more debilitating responses and may need a combination of talk therapy and medications
which we can discuss as necessary. First and foremost, we work on coping skills, safety planning, s
upport systems and ensuring safety as you identify your needs and challenges.
Psychotherapy or “talk therapy” can help people with anxiety disorders and depression, To be effective, psychotherapy must be directed at the person’s specific anxieties and thoughts and tailored to his or her needs. It can be helpful to try to identify specific situations or thoughts that intensify stress. Sometimes initially therapy can cause discomfort because we are dealing with troubling issues. I believe it’s important to talk about the discomfort, not ignore it, and work together to be “ok” between sessions.
A typical “side effect” of psychotherapy is temporary discomfort involved with thinking and talking about difficult issues.
Often Cognitive Behavioral Therapy ( CBT ) is recommended with anxiety. I have participated in several CBT trainings and am certified in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy ( CF-CBT )
Early in my career, I was fortunate to participate in a specialized training in attachment as it applies to
adoption and foster care. I trained with Holly Van Guilden who is an internationally known expert.
Children in such situations often struggle. Subsequently I have learned that attachment challenges
impact everyone, not just these individuals. Attachment is developed through early experiences that
we then transfer to new experiences as we grow.
My interest in this area has led me to become a trainer for Adoptive Parents for many years first for
the Baker Victory Adoption program and now at AdoptionStar. I have been honored to meet parents
who in adopting a child show the commitment and dedication to make a difference in a child’s life.
Attachment theory speaks a lot about developmental milestones in infancy and early childhood and
how interruptions may affect the development of certain skills. It is often helpful to work with parents
to recognize gaps in learning and understanding that their child may lack in one area but still have many
Reactive Attachment Disorder is a difficult and challenging disorder often impacting children with significant disruptions in their lives. It is difficult to change attachment styles, however there are various specific interventions both individually and as a family that can help strengthen connections. Treatment with children often helps parents understand their child in different ways which ultimately can help the whole family.
Being a child who is adopted can be a confusing notion especially in late adolescence and into adulthood. Individuals can struggle with the unknown, wondering about the reasons for their adoption, wondering “what might have been,” and wanting to understand their connection to a “birth parent”. This confusion can be challenging for adoptive parents because it’s so difficult to understand. Open communications both about feelings that arise are critical in these situations. The more recent growth of social media and alternative ways to discover birth parents has made these issues even more difficult. In treatment, helping individuals untangle these difficult feelings as well as validating the mixed feelings is often helpful.
Feel At Ease/Create Balance/Be Present/Take Time For You/Accept Life As It Is
Although I am not a therapist trained specifically in mindfulness, I believe strongly in many of the
concepts and techniques used in the mindfulness philosophy. These concepts are and can be are
integrated in therapy. More on Mindfulness...
“Mindfulness is about observation without criticism; being compassionate with yourself.”
“Mindfulness is wordless. Mindfulness is meeting the moment as it is, moment after moment after moment, wordlessly attending to our experiencing as it actually is. It is opening to not just the fragments of our lives that we like or dislike or view as important, but the whole of our experiencing.”