The common thread throughout my work is pursuing authentic identity as we cope with challenges that make us question who we are. My clinical interests include:
Depression: Although many people think of depression as feeling overwhelmingly sad, it can look different in different people. For instance, depression can be characterized by irritability and anger in some–often in men and boys. In others, depression may be an inability to enjoy things in life or feel motivation to pursue one’s goals. And in others, it can be a pervasive sense of sadness, hopelessness, and low self-worth. Regardless of how your depression manifests, I believe you deserve help to find a way through it.
Anxiety: I think of anxiety as our internal alert system needing some fine-tuning. Our brains and bodies are equipped to go into fight, flight, or freeze mode when our safety and survival depends on it. However, for many people, this internal alert system is too sensitive–like a dog that barks as if every person or car passing the home is a threat to its family. Anxiety makes ordinary situations or experiences feel threatening and dangerous. Many people try to avoid anxiety-provoking experiences, but end up missing out on life-giving and joyful experiences at the same time. Learning to appreciate and work with your internal alert system in order to reduce anxiety symptoms can be incredibly freeing.
PTSD: Post-traumatic stress disorder can develop after a person experiences trauma. I think this definition of trauma is very good: “Trauma is when we have encountered an out of control, frightening experience that has disconnected us from all sense of resourcefulness or safety or coping or love” (Tara Brach, 2011). PTSD is actually your brain trying to reestablish a sense of safety, albeit in a way that is not sustainable. Teens and adults may develop PTSD after a single event, or as a result of chronic traumatic experiences. Symptoms may include intrusive thoughts or flashbacks, irritability, mood swings, nightmares or difficulty sleeping, shame and feelings of worthlessness, feeling numb, difficulty concentrating, and others. If you or your teen are experiencing these types of symptoms, please know that it does not have to stay like this.
Religious Trauma: We all have a need for community and meaning, and many people meet this need through religion. I am happy to work with clients of any faith (or lack thereof). Some religious communities exert control over members in a way that is unhealthy. It is often painful to have to choose whether to stay in a community that is harmful in some way, or leave and lose your support network. Religious trauma refers to this experience. If you are struggling to cope with the self-doubt, confusion, grief, betrayal, and shame that come from being in an intense, controlling religious environment, you deserve a safe and supportive place to process and heal.
Sexuality and Gender: We are immersed in expectations about sexuality and gender. Consider how naturally most of us assume a person is heterosexual unless they say otherwise, or how easily we ask, “Boy or girl?” when a baby is born. It can be very difficult to live authentically as oneself if that authentic self is not cisgender and heterosexual. If you need support in your journey toward authenticity, I would love to work with you. I also welcome clients whose partner or child has come out to them as LGBTQ. Even if you are supportive of your newly out loved one, this type of disclosure can evoke many different, often conflicting emotions. I believe therapy can be a safe, nonjudgmental environment in which to process these emotions.
Chronic Illness and Severe Allergies: Having a chronic illness or severe allergy can be life-altering and incredibly stressful. Symptoms of chronic illness are not only physically damaging, but also take an emotional and psychological toll. Moreover, if you live with chronic illness, you will encounter many people who don’t understand what this experience is like, and you may feel disbelieved, dismissed, or worse. It can be isolating and demoralizing to be unable to socialize as you used to. Being diagnosed with a severe allergy or allergies can be similarly distressing and isolating. Food–such an essential part of basic survival as well as social connection–may now feel like a danger. You may feel very angry at your body for letting you down, or hopeless about a future that looks so different from what you imagined before. For teens, receiving a diagnosis of chronic illness or severe allergies can be uniquely overwhelming. If your teen has recently been diagnosed with a chronic condition and you have concerns about how they are coping emotionally, please contact me to see if therapy might be a good option.
Death Acceptance: We live in a culture that idolizes youth, and considers death a taboo subject. It’s a disservice to ourselves and our loved ones to let myths and fears drive our understanding of death. When we make room for death as an inevitable part of life, we can face all of the the tangled fears and worries that cluster around death in our minds: loss of loved ones, running out of time to achieve our goals, missed opportunities, spiritual questions, fear of pain, uncertainty, concerns about aging, becoming more dependent on others, and on, and on. Death is part of our reality. The question is, can we face that painful reality with compassion and curiosity, or will we continue to pretend it isn’t there?
Body Positivity, Fat Acceptance, and Health at Every Size: We live with social values that say thin bodies are good (and result from good choices), fat bodies are bad (and result from bad choices), and that anyone with a bigger body should be trying to make it smaller. The extent to which we can modify the size of our bodies long-term is wildly overestimated. As a result, people with bigger bodies are given the perverse message that they should be making the effort to shrink themselves through dieting even though research indicates diets don’t work long-term. Dieting is like the penance assigned for the sin of having a larger body. With this conflation of weight and worth or goodness comes shame, and lots of it. I believe it’s tragic how many people feel they need to wait until they are physically smaller in order to pursue what they want in life. If you have been misled by the messages that say you need to modify your body to be attractive, worthy, happy, or at peace, I’d love to help you unlearn those things and realize how worthy you already are.