I work with individuals and groups around many different areas including depression, anxiety, trauma, personality disorder, relational problems, adjustment difficulties, life transitions, and others. I specialize in working with sexuality (i.e. sexual function and dysfunction, dating, relationships, sexual orientation, gender non-conformity, transgender issues, sexual compulsivity, sexual trauma, and more). I also have experience working with severe eating disorders, trauma, and grief/bereavement. I have worked in the field for over 11 years in various settings: an inpatient psychiatric unit, college campuses, community mental health clinics, a therapeutic nursery, a residential treatment facility for the diagnosis and treatment of sexual addiction/compulsivity/trauma, an outpatient psychiatry clinic, and a residential treatment facility for women with eating disorders.
How does PSYCHOtherapy work?
There's a lot of thoughts and feelings on this question. Some of my own are as follows:
1. It's very important that you feel a connection with your therapist. One of the most significant and enduring findings about therapy is that it works best when you develop a strong relationship with your therapist. If it seems like you and your therapist "click" and they understand you, this is a great sign as it suggests you might be more likely to feel comfortable opening up and sharing. If you feel uncomfortable with your therapist, it might be best to look for another therapist.
2. Making meaning of and understanding yourself and your pain will help you to understand yourself and manage that pain in the future. While it is important and paramount that you experience a reduction in your distress, I believe that the more we understand ourselves and our experience, the more we can lead happier, fuller, and richer lives, not just while therapy is happening but long after you have stopped.
3. While making meaning of and understanding yourself and your symptoms can be important, it is also important that you make changes in your life. Self-knowledge is a great thing that often leads us to make changes on our own. However, if we don't use the insights we have about ourselves and our experience to make changes in our lives, we can sometimes stay stuck in our rut. This might look like me asking you to think about something before our next session or to try out a new behavior.
4. What happens in therapy can be almost as important as what happens outside of therapy. People often come into therapy and replicate some of their own individual and interpersonal dynamics. For example, a client may struggle with finding it difficult to open up to others in their personal, familial, or romantic relationships. It is all but certain that pattern would continue in therapy. The great thing about therapy is that it allows the client and therapist to talk about what is happening in the moment in a way that a client might not do with those in their life outside of therapy. While this conversation could certainly be very emotionally stimulating, consider the effects it might have one someone who doesnt have the space to do that with someone in their own life. Additionally, therapists are trained to notice these replications and discuss them in a way that hopefully benefit clients. As a client in this situation likely becomes more comfortable doing this in session, they will also be more likely to do this outside of session.
6. Related to the last point, It is important that you experience therapy. Becoming emotionally engaged in therapeutic work is much more beneficial than "just talking." When therapy is a cerebral exercise that stays too close to the surface, it hinders us because we don't allow ourselves to be changed on a deeper level by the therapy process.
7. Much of your progress depends on how much work you put in the therapy process. No one would argue that change can be an inherently difficult, slow process. To help this be easier, you can help by pushing yourself to really reflect on your experiences in and outside of therapy and consider making changes to your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. My role is that of a collaborator, not someone who will tell you what to do.
In terms of technical approach, I come from a relational psychoanalytic perspective. This perspective believes that: 1) emotions, and the expression of emotions, are important , 2) paying attention to thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that we avoid can help us understand the conflict that we have about them, 3) we have patterns that we repeat in our minds and our relationships with others that need to be understood to make changes in our life, 4) what has happened to us in our past significantly affects our present and understanding how they do relate will help us in the present, 5) understanding our relationships with others helps us to understand ourselves more, 6) the therapy relationship helps to make changes and provides a place for our interpersonal patterns to play out so they can be examined, and 7) things like dreams, day dreams, wishes, and fantasies offer insight into our intrapsychic world. Psychoanalytic psychotherapy is effective as both a once-a-week treatment as well as a multiple sessions per week endeavor. Having sessions more than once a week allows for a deeper experience that has shown to help people not only experience less distress but also to change long-standing, entrenched personality traits and patterns. There is a prevailing belief that 'Freud is dead" and that psychodynamic therapy does not work. This simply isn't true as there are many studies showing its effectiveness. In addition to working psychoanalytically, I am also versed in cognitive behavioral therapy, person centered therapy, emotion-focused therapy, and motivational interviewing.
More practically, I meet with clients for two to three evaluations sessions to get a mutual understanding of what is causing their distress. If after a few sessions clients feel comfortable working with me (and I with them), we come up with a treatment plan and goals we can work on together. My approach is collaborative in that I help you as you understand and make your way through your struggles, but I will not do it for you. When clients come to see me, I make the assumption that things have gotten to the point were they are motivated to make changes. We will build off from this to help you achieve reasonable results. Therapy can be short-term (often seen as around 10-12 sessions) or longer term (6 months and longer), depending on the severity of your distress and your desired goals. As mentioned above, clients can also be seen more than once per week if they are in severe distress or if they are looking for a deeper experience.