“While lasting change in therapy occurs within a trusting relationship focused on increasing insight and knowledge around one's patterns, I also utilize other practices besides talk therapy to both further that process, and to improve quality of life from the beginning of the therapy relationship.”
What was your path to becoming a therapist? What inspired you to choose this profession?
I have always been interested in people and their stories. I began my graduate career studying literature, philosophy, and religion, but realized I wasn't interested in gaining knowledge, so much as in discovering how people live lives of connection and meaning. This led me to pursue psychology and psychoanalysis, where I complimented my academic work with clinical experience in outpatient clinics, college counseling centers, and inpatient psychiatric hospitals. I have found that my practice as a therapist is enriched by my prior academic training in numerous ways. For example, Buddhist philosophy has been concerned with the workings of the human mind far longer that the term “psychologist” existed in English. I have found that insights from this tradition augment the findings of scientific psychology and psychoanalysis even beyond the extraordinarily helpful addition of mindfulness practices like meditation.
What would you want someone to know about working with you?
One of the most powerful elements of therapy is that it is a unique experience for each individual. To that end, I offer a free initial phone consultation, followed by a first session focused on assessment and collaborative planning. While lasting change in therapy occurs within a trusting relationship focused on increasing insight and knowledge around one's patterns, I also utilize other practices besides talk therapy to both further that process, and to improve quality of life from the beginning of the therapy relationship. For example, I can utilize mindfulness, grounding practices, and self-hypnosis to help individuals improve coping skills around anxiety and depression, while they also serve as powerful avenues for self-understanding in their own right. These experiences can help to make the therapeutic relationship feel safe enough to truly encounter and explore the anxiety, depression, trauma, or relationship difficulties, which necessitated therapy in the first place.
What do you think is the biggest barrier today for people seeking care?
I am often asked by individuals in my personal life (often after they have told me some difficulty they are having), “Do you think I need therapy?” I usually answer, “Everyone can benefit from therapy.” I answer this way because I want to change the perspective on therapy from something someone needs to something someone wants, and too often, a fear or stigma around being perceived as having some kind of “problem” prevents people from seeking help. The truth is, therapy should be rewarding, although sometimes challenging, work which helps support an individual's health, well-being, and personal growth. In the same way there is no stigma attached to going to the gym, doing yoga, or meditating, and there need not be stigma attached to going to therapy.
If you could pick one or two books that influenced your approach to therapy what would they be and why?
Rather than a specific book, I would say the entire genre of poetry has strongly influenced how I view and approach therapy. Poetry is a particularly good analogy for therapy, because in writing poetry the poet attempts to use language to bring about a change in the readers' experience, often restoring to them a source of vibrancy and imagination that has gone missing. Part of the magic of therapy is discovering each individual's unique poetic language – the language which allows them to feel connected to themselves and the world – and how experiencing that in the therapeutic relationship can translate outward into the rest of their life. A specific book I would mention is Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel, because through this book we see how all words, ideas, and techniques are merely ways to direct us towards a deeper and ultimate goal, although that goal may look different for different people.
Is there any research-based work you’ve done that you found particularly exciting and how has that informed your practice today?
My research has been particularly focused on the intersection of trauma and the LGBTQIA+ experience. I have done additional work exploring mindfulness practices, hypnosis, and attitudes and experiences towards the body. Therapy allows us to recognize how we may have become stuck in ideas, patterns, or past experiences, so that we can be freed from them. This is especially crucial for groups targeted by hostility and prejudice in our society, such as the LGBTQIA+ community, but also including people of color, individuals deemed not “neurotypical,” or anyone who does not fit into society's oppressive ideas about how one “ought” to be or behave. My research has shown me the power and importance of exploring how a greater sense of freedom and autonomy is possible in an individual’s life – whether this freedom is from external systems of oppression, the painful effects of history, or harmful ideas about the self.
“The truth is, therapy should be rewarding, although sometimes challenging, work which helps support an individual's health, well-being, and personal growth.”