As a therapist at our Livonia location, what challenges do you specialize in treating?
As a marriage & family therapist, I specialize in relationships of all kinds. I generally see this through couples therapy but also work with all kinds of family dynamics between individuals handling things like conflict, prejudices, religions, or just plain differences of point-of-view. With couples, my work includes pre-marital through divorce adjustment with everything in between; sexuality, trust, infidelity, parenting issues, step-parenting, religious or cultural struggles, GBLTQ or alternative lifestyles, and the many areas of conflict between divorced people with children who are struggling to work with ex-spouses. I also spent 18 years working in treatment for addictions so these issues can be handled along the way as well, especially with a person recovering and seeking to further understand relationships post-treatment.
What do you find is most important about your role as a therapist?
I see my role as a therapist as a mirror. It is a non-judgmental and empathetic position. I also see therapy as an art and so it is important for me to be curious, open-minded, and to know that the person sitting in front of me is the expert on themselves and they have come to me because they are struggling with the ability to see their mastery over themselves. I offer many ways of looking at the same issue until we find, together, through work, the way that works best for the client(s). I am experiential, I believe clients need to take on experiences to see the benefits of change and extending themselves. My role is to encourage and facilitate this, offer suggestions at times but to seek out from the perspective of the client, their own inner resilience.
In your opinion, how do you help people?
I offer people help, I do not help them in my opinion. In my experience, using the metaphor of food, I offer the varied groceries and things the client might never have considered, I show them healthy options, I offer them statistics, good practices, mindful approaches, and so on. In the end, the client can still walk out with the same hamburger and fries. I do not judge this, people are not always ready to make changes and sometimes they see the options and refuse them. This is fine, it is their lives, not mine and I do not take that personally. I tell clients all the time that most of the work happens outside the office and they do that work. I see it as hubris to say I did it. Sure, I offered options, I brought the groceries but they did the work and I want them to take full responsibility for that and I hope for them, they are happy with the results of their work. Of course, the other side of that is that with now seeing and tasting these new options that are more healthy I have planted the seed for those who refuse the change. My hope is in the future if they again venture out to seek a therapist the initial work we did will have an impact.
What is something that you wish people knew about your specialties, or about therapy in general?
I would be happy if people understood that marriage & family therapists are specialists, that we are here in MI, and that we can be the most effective in all areas where people have relationships which are everywhere: work, home, families, enemies, conflicts, your religious community, parenting, your relationship to your addictions, etc. We offer therapeutic approaches most other counselors do not use and the systemic approach is amazingly helpful. At the same time, we are not limited to this. We work with individuals and use many of the traditional psychological theories as well. Our approach just allows us to look more deeply at outside influences that affect the client and consider them in our way of doing therapy.
Can you describe an influential person or experience in your life?
The most influential counselor in my life was and is my mentor. He backed the idea that therapy was an art and was exceptionally beneficial to me in so many ways. He opened me up to Jungian Analysis, I sat in on his sessions, he taught me while teaching others, we became good friends but at the same time, I gained insight into humor in the session and professional boundaries. He never answered my questions but just asked more and more until I found my solutions with client issues and even how to not take it personally. He made me question my motives and look to the client for direction at times. It was an excellent experience. All my experiences with him are memorable and I will continue to treasure and seek guidance when I need to. He graciously allows me to do this.