In an effort to help you ascertain whether I offer a way of working that feels right for you, I’ve answered questions people seeking therapy typically ask. If you have more questions, please ask me! I would be pleased to hear from you.
So how does this therapy thing work, anyway?
I’m glad you asked. You come into my office and we have a conversation. I am interested in everything that is on your mind, so I listen very carefully to you. I ask questions; I reflect back what I am hearing from you; and we work together to understand the nuances of your words, thoughts, and feelings. Psychotherapy is a way of being together that is deep and connected. We don’t have a lot of practice in our culture in communicating this way, so please don’t be concerned if you believe you “can’t” do this. You can! It’s my job to help you develop this way of communicating with me and, more importantly, with yourself. We will work together so that you become more attuned with your inner life and more comfortable sharing it.
How does talking together solve my problems? Can’t you just give me advice?
Talking together in therapy helps people find ways to solve their own problems. I am not an expert on you; but you are. I am trained to help you learn to better know yourself: your motivations and your strengths, and also the parts of you that don’t feel so good. We mobilize all these parts in therapy to learn who you are, what you want, and what is keeping you from achieving what you want. This is not to say that I won’t weigh in with my observations regarding what is going on in your life. But they are hypotheses that we will work with together rather than advice that I think you should follow.
Can I just read about whatever my concerns are? Maybe there’s a book that can help.
There are lots of great books. I can even recommend some to you, if you wish. However, books can’t take the place of the relationship that we experience together in psychotherapy. There are ways of knowing and being that occur only in the actual experience of relationship; we can’t fully understand them by reading or hearing a lecture on them. The therapeutic relationship should help you to know yourself in a new and deeper way.
You keep talking about therapy being a relationship, and it’s freaking me out. That sounds pretty terrible. I don’t really like relationships.
Good for you for identifying and communicating your discomfort. We spend our lives continually navigating a space between separation and connection that feels comfortable. Where this comfortable space is varies considerably from person to person and even within the same person. There’s no “one size fits all” journey, and we work together to create a therapeutic space that feels right to you and in which you can thrive.
How long does therapy take?
The short answer is that it depends. Some people want a short, goal-directed therapy; others prefer a longer, open-ended and exploratory therapy. Many people coming into therapy don’t know what they want, and that’s just fine. As the work proceeds, we will both have thoughts on the therapeutic journey we’re undertaking together. There may be times when you can’t imagine staying in therapy a minute longer; there may be other times when you can’t imagine ending. Both feelings are normal, and both feelings can help us gauge where you are in the process.
Does going to therapy mean there’s something wrong with me?
Only if there’s something wrong with being human. In therapy, we look at and get to know all of your feelings – sadness you’ve tucked away in a compartment of your heart that you haven’t dared to open, playfulness you may remember from your childhood, anger that could tear down buildings, joy that feels like a song in the core of your being. Therapy is about exploring your humanity, which includes (gently and compassionately) understanding those parts of yourself that have caused you pain. In understanding comes strength; in strength comes change.
Are there different kinds of therapy?
There are. I work using a variety of models, but the foundation of my practice is rooted in contemporary relational psychoanalytic theory. Other therapeutic orientations may be more directive and behaviorally based. I am happy to speak with you further about whether what I offer may be a good fit for you. If you find yourself wanting to work in a different modality, I can provide you with recommendations.
Do you work with individuals? Couples? Families?
I work with all of the above. I’ve had the privilege of working with clients of varying ages: infants in connection with their parents, children, adolescents, and adults in all life phases and varying configurations, including individuals, couples and families.
Does therapy work differently for children? What about for adolescents?
It does. While my guiding principles are the same regardless of my client’s age, there are two elements that modify my therapeutic work with children. First, the language of children is play. It is how they relate and communicate, and I meet them in that space. I engage and observe my child clients at play, working with them in the play language at which they are so adept. Further, I believe that helping children means supporting parents. My primary goal with a child client is to strengthen the family system. Before I meet with a child, I meet with the child’s parents to establish a working partnership. As the work progresses, I continue to communicate closely with parents as we monitor the child’s well-being.
With adolescent clients, I am sensitive to the formidable developmental task of separation that they are undertaking. This life stage can be challenging for both parent and child, and I can serve as a safe space for all parties navigating these waters. Healthy development does not mean that children “outgrow” their parents as they pass through adolescence; rather, it means that parents and children find new ways of relating as children move toward adulthood. I work with adolescents and their families to facilitate these new ways.
I have a great affinity for working with children. I completed my graduate school concentration work with children, youth and families; field placements included working with toddler/mother dyads, middle school youth, and high school youth.
Are there particular issues in which you specialize?
Human beings are too fascinatingly complex for me to limit my practice to specific subgroups. My work with different age groups and issues has informed and broadened my thinking as a clinician. Rather than specialize in issues, I like to say that I specialize in a perspective. That is, I believe that we all have a profound wish to understand ourselves and others and to be understood. This wish is central to the many issues my clients bring to our work, including depression, anxiety, trauma, addiction, and loneliness. My main area of specialization, then, is facilitating the fruition of that wish for understanding.