I've always sought to understand.
In high school, I devoured books by Thoreau and Emerson, loving the pursuit of what seemed like the secrets of life.
In college, at Penn, I majored in Philosophy and continued diving into life’s big questions:
Why are we here?
How does the world work?
What is good and evil?
It was fascinating to read so many brilliant thinkers’ answers to these questions.
Often the most interesting material I found wasn’t in my classes. I read Creative Visualization, by Shakti Gawain, and was taken with the idea that we essentially create our own reality with our beliefs. San Francisco seemed to be the epicenter for this kind of thinking. Halfway through college, after considerable thought, I decided to make a move.
I transferred to UC Berkeley and quickly found trainings in San Francisco in “belief management” – rather than inferring beliefs from our experience, what if it’s the other way around? What if we believe first, then experience follows? It’s like the phenomenon of the self-fulfilling prophecy: if I believe I’m a terrible public speaker, chances are I will be. Studying these ideas, and the move itself in pursuit of answers, was making me feel very alive. Life was feeling magical.
I soaked up the progressiveness and outdoorsy-ness of Northern California. No one I knew in Philadelphia went camping. Suddenly, I was worshipping at the altar of REI and going into the backwoods of the Sierras for days at time. Northern California was gorgeous, and I thoroughly enjoyed my several years there.
After a visit to the east coast, I started to feel the pull to move back. For all my affection for California, the Northeast still felt like home. Also, it was time to choose a career after spending a couple of years working various jobs. I wanted to formalize what I had been studying for many years, so I decided I would get a doctorate in psychology in order to do research.
I enrolled in George Washington University’s Clinical Psychology PhD program. However, something happened on my way to a career in research: I loved doing psychotherapy. Sitting with someone, putting all my attention on another person, helping them with a struggle, was incredibly rewarding. I had worried that talking with people about their problems all day would feel like a heavy burden. I had my own problems; why did I need others’, too?
But these early days of clinical training introduced me to a phenomenon I had never considered: by extending appreciation, it was possible to avoid being pulled under by the heaviness of someone’s issues and instead stay above, holding a safe space for them. Helping others was a different kind of answer than the philosophical ones I had so doggedly pursued growing up. I decided to work with clients full-time after graduation.
For my last year of training – my Internship – I came full circle by counseling students at the University of Pennsylvania, where I’d studied the great thinkers years earlier. I then spent an additional two years on staff there. I also served as a Visiting Clinical Assistant Professor in Psychology at Drexel University, where I supervised doctoral students. So much is happening for people in college and graduate school. In my practice today, I still see a large number of students. It’s a privilege to assist people at this junction in their life.
I enjoy gadgets and tools and cutting edge technologies. I love playing with different treatment modalities to see what’s most effective in helping people (myself included) move through life’s challenges. Anxiety and depression and their assorted cousins can make life difficult, heavy and intense, even a house of horrors for those of us with more than our share. A healing relationship between therapist and client is a powerful way to come out the other side of many issues. Sometimes, though, something else is required.
In 2007, I trained in a treatment called Heart Assisted Therapy (HAT), a therapy similar in some ways to Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). HAT allows me to help my clients make significant progress on certain issues that are often treatment resistant to conventional talk therapy, like PTSD and other conditions rooted in deeply buried experiences.
Also, people who have a highly developed intellect at their disposal, invaluable in many areas of life, often create problems for themselves trying to figure out or think away their pain. HAT isn’t thinking or talking about the problem, but a protocol for gently clearing the many layers of mental debris in order to resolve the problem at its core. The mind (and body) have some amazing built-in ways to heal. HAT taps into this intrinsic ability.