(Sorry, that was a bit of a trick–the Qs are for you, not for me!)
Have you experienced something that you need to revisit?
Many times we race through the aftermath of something painful or difficult in order to put daily life back together and only later—weeks or years later—do we realize that we have some work to do in order to re-process the experience, find meaning and heal. Pain cannot be ignored forever. I assist people in doing so without derailing their daily lives.
Have you suffered a traumatic loss?
That’s also a bit of a trick question—almost all losses are traumatic, even if you do see them coming. My contention on this issue goes beyond the clinical, because I am a survivor of traumatic loss myself and I do not believe that anyone—therapist or not—can truly understand the experience unless they have suffered it, just as I don’t believe anyone who hasn’t survived addiction can truly understand that affliction. My greatest passion is supporting clients through this often very dark night and emerging stronger, lighter and—believe it or not—more open to the world.
Do you constantly beat yourself up?
There are a lot of reasons why people are hard on themselves. Sometimes it has to do with our society’s focus on “individual” achievement and success. Sometimes it’s because our parents beat up on us—sometimes it’s because our parents didn’t push us at all. Sometimes it’s because things have occurred that make us feel less like crap. I help people investigate and then embrace and nullify the inner critic.
Are you torn as to whether or not to leave your relationship?
An investment in another person and all of the nostalgia and attachment, as well as all of the inevitable pain and disappointment that come with relationships can make it very hard to see clearly whether to continue. I help individuals and couples get to the root truth and make that choice.
Do you suspect that your family of origin really screwed you up?
The template for all of our relationships is created by the relationships we have with our mother, father, siblings and other immediate family as children. Even simple imperfections in those relationships can have long-lasting (and often unconscious) effects. I help people to repair and clean up attachment issues from childhood so that they can go on to have fulfilling relationships that don’t echo past ones.
Do you tell yourself that you have no reason to be sad?
Despite the huge growth of counseling as an industry, people all too often still fall into this trap of dismissing their pain. There are many reasons for this. I deeply enjoy helping people to work toward elimination of this type of thinking and, instead, address the cause of the sadness/depression.
Do you feel shame and guilt about your privilege?
One of the discoveries I’ve made in clinical work is that there are many, many people with plenty (or a lot) of money, higher education, and/or intelligence that suffer from depression—and because they are privileged they are less likely to admit it—what could they possibly have to complain about? Often, this is reinforced by family members. I have developed a useful method of inquiry to move past this very painful belief, which involves deconstructing the myths about wealth, intelligence and happiness.
Are you constantly promising yourself to pick up your art/creativity/passion again but failing to do so?
As an author who has been a teacher, organizer, teaching artist, full time student and now therapist, I empathize. Figuring out how to get to your drawing table (whatever that is) is more complicated than time management—it involves re-thinking and revaluing all aspects of your life. I know how to support clients in this counseling process.
For male-identified people: Do you struggle with what it means to be a man, or to be strong? Have you been taught that men shouldn’t show emotions?
The psychological gender violence of our society is really sad to me. I have encountered far too many kind, wonderful men who are torn up inside because of destructive and false messages they’ve swallowed about masculinity. I have undone many of my own and delight in helping other men do so through therapy.
For female-identified people: Do you struggle with your relationships with men? Have you had experiences that make you wary or downright frightened of men?Or do you struggle with maintaining platonic male friendships?
As a feminist male, one of the things that I’ve enjoyed most in counseling is connecting with women of various ages and providing a different emotional experience. Misogyny and sexism have done a number on women (and on men) and I love working through all the myths as well as very real personal experiences so that fulfilling relationships again become possible.
Are you having a crisis of spirit/religion?
As a spiritual person but non-religious person, I have found myself well-equipped to explore meaning and doubt with religious people. I have heard the very real pain that “believers” of a certain faith experience when they begin to doubt. My spiritual worldview is such that I genuinely like the push and pull of this struggle and enjoy making it more curious and playful than heavy and wrenching.