“I believe being open and providing a humanized experience is key to helping mental health grow as a discipline.”
What was your path to becoming a therapist?
Before I went to college, my grandmother sat me down and said, “We need one of two things in this family: another architect, or a therapist.” In school, I quickly found out that architecture wasn’t for me, but the creativity and design that I loved about it were still waiting for me in psychology. Thinking about what’s going on in someone’s mind, having them literally draw it out, sometimes acting it out – it’s all very creative.
After college, I worked in a lockdown facility for at-risk youth in Indiana, helping kids that were dealing with sexually maladaptive behavior, borderline personality, OCD, and chronic suicidality. In New York, I started working with the LGBTQ community at the Conover House, providing HIV patients with individual and group therapy sessions multiple times a week. Now at Brooklyn Minds, I meet with people of all ages and backgrounds to creatively collaborate with them to improve their mental health.
How does your approach to therapy differ from others?
I practice mentalization-based treatment, which is so effective because it allows both myself and the person I’m working with to be very open and honest. It’s about understanding that there are always two perspectives happening in a conversation, and accepting that and being actively aware of them from the very start. I get to act like a person and respond with my actual feelings to what we’re talking about, instead of forcing a flat affect and staying removed. We can be direct — I can say, “You look bored right now, and so am I – how about we go get ice cream and talk about what’s going on today?” That creates a uniquely authentic connection between us, and makes our work that much more powerful.
How does your work involve collaboration with other providers?
I love working with a team. It’s the key to providing people with the best possible care. When working with high-risk individuals, I know I have the support I need to put our heads together and talk about the best way to respond to someone who is expressing serious suicidal thoughts. I also collaborate with educational consultants, family therapists, police officers – anyone that interacts directly with our patients will have insights that are important to share with everyone else. That’s the way we can be most effective and truly help a person.
What’s your perspective on the state of mental health care today?
We are seeing a lot of positive change in the field – the more we understand the brain and how our society works, the better care we can provide. That said, we’re still not at the level we need to be. Aside from the serious financial hurdles, there’s still a lot of stigma surrounding the idea of seeking out care. So I do everything I can to remove that stigma. I’m not going to throw big words at you, I’m going to talk like a real person. We don’t have to do our work together in an office all the time, we can go outside and do activities together. I believe being open and providing a humanized experience is key to helping mental health grow as a discipline.
What does a first session with you look like?
We start by talking through whatever the person is coming in with at that moment. I ask a lot of questions to get the broadest picture of their current state. Then I’ll ask specific questions to see if there are any patterns to their past and present behavior. I strive to be caring and curious, as well as honest and aware of the way the conversation is going. I’ll admit when I make a mistake – maybe I didn’t say something exactly how I meant, and I can ask them directly: “How would you phrase this?” I’ll often use my whiteboard to sketch out thoughts or ideas – they say that if I didn’t have the whiteboard, a part of my brain would be missing. That’s the inner architect in me.
“Thinking about what’s going on in someone’s mind, having them literally draw it out, sometimes acting it out – it’s all very creative.”