“I start every intake with one simple goal: to reach a shared understanding of what is really at the root of a person’s difficulties AND to understand their strengths.”
What was your path to becoming a therapist? What inspired you to choose this profession?
I walked into medical school to be a child psychiatrist, after volunteering at St. Vincent’s hospital in their inpatient children’s psychiatry unit for two years as an art therapy volunteer. I learned that kids really need the help, and that I really loved working with them − I didn’t take a weekend off for 2 years so that I would never have to break a promise to “see you next week.” As a psychotherapist, it was my first mentalization-based treatment training in February of 2015 that changed my life! I learned there was a modality that fit with who I am as a human, which gave me a magical tool kit that would allow me to engage deeply unwell people who are wrestling with chronic mistrust and often chronic suicidality. This was something my 6 years of residency and fellowship didn’t teach me to do! I have continued to pursue this passion for MBT to the point that I am now an “official” supervisor, which means I have demonstrated to the people who created the therapy that I can teach it at the highest level, and thus any training done with me “counts” just like if you did it with the creators in London for credentials and advancement. I’m the first person in America to complete this official certification process, which is a real honor. My team and I also remain engaged in research to replicate or validate several variations on the model, for example in adolescents and children.
What would you want someone to know about working with you?
Like all of us at my group, Brooklyn Minds, I start every intake with one simple goal: to reach a shared understanding of what is really at the root of a person’s difficulties AND to understand their strengths. Only then can we determine what the right treatment plan might be, including psychotherapy of various modalities, what might be the right medications—or often it is determining what we can “deprescribe”—and even deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) for depression, OCD, and other mental health issues. Yes, that is a powerful magnet for your brain that helps when pills can’t help or aren’t an option.
What excites you most about the evolving mental health landscape?
The advent of new and highly effective interventional approaches to brain health like ketamine, esketamine, dTMS, and others, many of which offer help in situations in which other treatments have repeatedly failed. It’s exciting to see psychiatry catch up to interventional cardiology! We now realize sometimes it’s vital to interact directly on the brain, and quickly, as opposed to the months we have to wait with most standard approaches. The heart doctors have has ways to save your life immediately from a heart attack − and now we can do to the same for life threatening hopelessness.
If you could pick one or two books that influenced your approach to therapy what would they be and why?
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace taught me a tremendous amount about the internal experience of people suffering with addiction, and Kay Jamison’s Touched with Fire helped me understand bipolar disorder better than any class in all of my medical training.
Is there any research-based work you’ve done that you found particularly exciting and how has that informed your practice today?
At Brooklyn Minds we are doing research into both psychotherapy for high-risk and hard to reach children and adolescents who struggle with thoughts of suicide and self harm, as well as working on novel approaches and indications for dTMS, particularly in children and adolescents. We also have some basic science work on how we can measure our impact without expensive brain scanners.
“Heart doctors have has ways to save your life immediately from a heart attack − and now we can do to the same for life threatening hopelessness”