“...I’ve been meeting with cancer patients over the last four years, helping them navigate the challenges they face from the hardships of their disease. People would think that [Sloan Kettering] is such a hard place to work, but it’s actually so much more about life than death, and the work is really powerful.”
What was your path to becoming a therapist?
I knew I wanted to be in the helping profession from a young age. Growing up, my friends and family always came to me for advice with any type of problem or dilemma, and I really enjoyed listening, getting to know their stories, giving feedback, and helping in whatever way I could. As an undergraduate at Colgate University, I studied psychology and served as a research assistant for a social psychology professor looking into the racial climate on campus, which was fascinating for me and convinced me that I was destined to be in the same field. After graduation, I worked on a clinical psychology intervention at a hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, conducting an HIV Prevention Study for urban teens. So even before grad school, I had access to real clinical work, and I loved it. That’s what made me decide to pursue my Master’s in Social Work at Columbia, and now I work with all kinds of clients to provide that same high level of care.
What is your clinical focus today?
After school, I started working at Sloan Kettering, where I’ve been meeting with cancer patients over the last four years, helping them navigate the challenges they face from the hardships of their disease. People would think that it’s such a hard place to work, but it’s actually so much more about life than death, and the work is really powerful. In my private practice, I often work with people who are experiencing life-threatening illnesses, and I also help families working through grief over the loss of loved ones. The skills I’ve developed throughout my career have been invaluable in helping a whole range of clients. Recently, I’ve also been working with young adults who are facing life transitions and dealing with anxiety and depression in addition to teenagers who are experiencing anxiety related to sports performance and school.
How do you use group therapy and collaboration with other providers in your work?
Group sessions are incredibly powerful. In an ideal setting, I focus on facilitating the meeting and the individuals in the group are the ones who really lead the conversation and are constantly stepping up to help one another. Sometimes, through the power of helping someone else, someone can see that they themselves have the skills and the self-awareness to realize they’re better off than they thought they were. And the power of connection is so profound. Throughout my career, I have learned how valuable it is to collaborate with other professionals when working with clients. It is essential to have the space to debrief and examine your own progress as a therapist. I’ve also recently been conducting co-therapy family sessions with Jacqueline LaGrassa (fellow Alma member), and I have grown so much from that work. We’re able to draw from each other’s strengths while still being fully present in the moment, providing our clients with unprecedented and impactful care.
What does a first session with you look like?
I like to start by getting a sense of the person’s expectations for therapy and why they’ve decided to pursue it, perhaps for their very first time. Then, I lay some groundwork about what they can expect us to cover during the session. Next, we’ll have an open conversation so I can get a thorough assessment on their current state. I want to know why they have decided to seek out therapy at this moment, find out what issues they want to work on, and what changes they want to make for themselves. I also want to know what they feel like they do well, and what their strengths are. At the end of the session, I always ask for feedback to see whether they think we’d be a good fit and if they feel confident about continuing to work together and moving forward with the things we’ve discussed. It’s really a collaborative process, through and through.
“I want to know why [a patient has] decided to seek out therapy at this moment, find out what issues they want to work on, and what changes they want to make for themselves.”
Interested in speaking with David?