“The relationship between therapist and client becomes this little laboratory that allows us to figure out what’s going on, how to change things up, and how to access healthier and more fulfilling ways of living.”
What’s your approach to therapy?
While I come from the relational-interpersonal school of therapy, I blend a range of techniques from a variety of modalities and tailor my approach to the person with whom I’m working. My approach is based on the premise that we develop strategies for dealing with the inevitable pains and challenges of life and while these may work for periods of time - like in childhood or as a college student - circumstances change and these strategies begin to fail us. Therapy becomes a place to become more aware of what is no longer working for us as well as a place to try to do things differently. The relationship between therapist and client becomes this little laboratory that allows us to figure out what’s going on, how to change things up, and how to access healthier and more fulfilling ways of living. It’s impossible to sound authentic when talking about authenticity, but I believe that good therapy involves honesty and realness on the part of the therapist and client. By asking my clients to be increasingly authentic with me in in the room during a session, my hope is that it helps them become better able to bring greater levels of authenticity within themselves and with others out in the world and thus have more access to the person they’d like to be.
How has your research influenced your practice?
As a doctoral student, I was inspired by my work with refugees to take a closer look at the experiences of displaced people more broadly. In addition to specific findings about social dislocation, my research suggests that we all need a place to have our feelings with others. It’s when we are alone with our feelings that we really suffer. Therapy can be a place where people can safely have their full range of feelings with someone else. It can also be too much to feel certain things on one’s own so having a supportive therapist there can be a necessary part of processing something like trauma, questions about identity, or issues relating to taboo topics like sex. My research also suggests that therapy is an important place to explore what’s not working with our relationships so we can ultimately experience a relational “home” outside the therapy room and address the barriers to being more connected with others in our life.
What’s your view on collaborating with other clinicians?
One type of collaboration that’s essential is supervision. I often tell my clients, “You can’t see the back of your own head,” and the same is true of therapists. I draw on feedback from other practitioners to keep me on my toes and enhance my perspective. I also often collaborate with clinicians of different disciplines, like psychiatrists and alternative medicine providers. It can be tricky and sometimes we might be on different pages about the correct approach, but to me that’s great because it challenges me to think critically and then we can figure out why we are making certain choices when we do.
What are the biggest barriers today for people seeking mental health care?
There’s so much stigma surrounding mental health today that it keeps people from seeking care until their problems grow to a point where they can’t put off asking for help any longer. Men in particular seem to have a hard time listening to their own emotional signals, which is likely a result of the way our culture teaches young boys to ignore their emotions from an early age. Men often won’t come in for help for emotional pain or loneliness because they feel like they should just tough it out on their own and our culture continues to reinforce this belief. This is problematic not only for these men, but for all the people in their lives as well as on a systemic level. Why wait until your emotional pain becomes unbearable or leads to destructive dynamics in your relationships? It’s kind of like resisting going to the gym; once you come in and feel the benefits of working with the therapist that’s right for you, it’s no longer all on your shoulders. This support can be immensely powerful and life changing. It’s the initial and sustained effort that’s challenging even if it feels worth it later.
“It’s impossible to sound authentic when talking about authenticity, but I believe that good therapy involves authenticity and realness on the part of the therapist and client.”