I have been working with survivors of sexual, emotional and physical violence since 2011. I use a non-pathologizing approach, believing that you are more than your symptoms, and that post-trauma reactions are normal, expected and workable. With the support of therapy, I believe that you can set a firm foundation for your health and healing process. I will help you develop the practice of feeling well, balanced, and at ease within yourself. We will work on learning mindfulness and coping skills that make sense in your life. I work with adults, children, and adolescents, and I am trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), including Trauma-Focused CBT, as well as insight-oriented and psychodynamic therapies.
I utilize TFCBT with children 6-18, CPP with children 0-5 and their caregivers, and TFP with adults. I believe that cognitive behavioral techniques (such as challenging beliefs about the self, relationships, men/women, what one “deserved,” etc.) can be effective in addressing cognitive distortions that are developed in survivors after experiencing trauma. However, I recognize that we all have different ways of processing our experiences, and if some clients do not connect to a CBT-oriented treatment, I tailor the treatment to fit the needs of the particular person.
I believe in the mind-body connection, and in helping survivors feel that their bodies can become safe places. I regularly encourage trauma-informed yoga practices as a way to help people connect their mind and body (and spirit, if they are interested in the spiritual aspect of healing).
My post-graduate training has been almost entirely focused on working with the effects of trauma and PTSD, including various evidence-based models of treatment that work specifically with survivors of sexual, emotional and physical violence. These models are: Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Child-Parent Psychotherapy, Seeking Safety, Trauma-Focused Psychotherapy, and Attachment, Regulation and Competency for families affected by complex trauma. I have been trained in Risking Connection, a framework for practitioners which focuses on the importance of creating a genuine connection with clients by practicing authenticity and vulnerability. Additionally, I have incorporated mindfulness, grounding and breathing techniques into my work, in order to address the physical and spiritual aspects of managing trauma.
My Interest in Working with Survivors
I believe that we all have the right to feel hope, and the ability to heal from the experience(s) of trauma. I have seen trauma-focused therapy work with many children and adults; I’ve seen huge amounts of change occur, and I’ve seen resiliency in people. I feel confident that I can provide a safe space for people, and that I can help create a trusting and authentic relationship with my clients. I’m also drawn to this work because I’m a survivor and I know that it is possible to heal. While we don’t forget our experiences, we can learn that they don’t have to rule our lives, that we are absolutely able to find peace, and feel love, connection and dignity.
My Approach to Trauma-Informed Care
Trauma-informed care is incredibly important to me because so often trauma survivors receive inaccurate care, as their reactions to their experiences are seen as internal symptoms of a disorder rather than as trauma reactions, and they are often misdiagnosed and/or inaccurately medicated. This type of care only increases the sense of disconnect and stigma that sexual violence survivors already experience. I believe that anyone affected by sexual violence has the right to be treated with dignity and respect, and that includes helping survivors recognize that their reactions are normal and expected after the trauma(s) they’ve experienced, and that it is possible to work with the strengths they already possess to help decrease their trauma reactions.
How My Practice Holistically Addresses the Impacts of Sexual Trauma
My approach takes into account that trauma affects the mind and body. Our memories and responses are stored in the body, and we need to be able to process/release these experiences, along with talk therapy. The experience of trauma is very body-based in that it affects the nervous system, or “sets off our alarms,” and it can become very difficult to regulate ourselves. Some trauma reactions physically manifest themselves (as in stomachaches, headaches, or muscle tension). I believe that to effectively heal from trauma we need to be real with clients about the mental, emotional and physiological effects of trauma. When we experience sexual violence, we may “leave” our bodies in order to survive the experience. We may then feel afterwards that our bodies are dirty, or too frightening to inhabit, or we’re angry at our bodies for betraying us. Our bodies become living reminders of our trauma.
Survivors need to be able to “come home” to their bodies again, to feel that the body is a safe place, and to experience a sense of grounding. That is why in my work I emphasize physical grounding and mindfulness practices during sessions, to help address any triggers or issues that may come up. It is also important to recognize that symptoms are actually reactions, and that these reactions are normal and expected for those whom have experienced violence. I help clients prepare for any post-session reactions as well, coming up with “safety” or “action” plans as needed. I also psycho-educate my clients about the ways in which trauma affects the brain and nervous system, and the ability to manage/regulate stress. Mindfulness practices can be very effective in re-teaching the brain and nervous system that the danger is past, and to help “turn down” the body’s alarm system or fight/flight/freeze responses.
Modifications for Survivors
I understand that trust is difficult to achieve and easy to break, and knowing that, I work on being direct, transparent and authentic in each interaction, and sensitive to the ways in which survivor clients need to maintain power and establish their own sense of safety. I create a safe and collaborative space with clients before beginning to process the trauma directly. I provide psycho-education about trauma reactions, so that clients may see that their experiences are normal and expected. I support clients in identifying mental, emotional, and physical coping strategies for managing overwhelming emotion/memories, and we practice in session. I help clients create a plan for managing overwhelming triggers. After setting that foundation and creating a strong therapeutic alliance, it will feel safer for survivors to process the trauma together in session.
Other Areas of Expertise
I have been working in social work since 2005. In that time, I have provided therapy and support services in private practice, schools, mental health clinics, transitional housing shelters, and non-profit agencies serving families. I’ve worked with teen parents and their children, those dealing with post-incarceration adjustment, issues relating to homelessness, addiction, and with people living with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. I have facilitated groups with adults and adolescents in helpful coping strategies, healthy relationships, and feelings management. I’ve worked with children and their caregivers, utilizing play and structured activities to build skills in managing thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and recognition of strengths. I also have experience supervising and training other therapists and graduate-level interns in trauma-focused clinical social work.
I hold appointment spots for sliding-scale clients. I am committed to the belief that we all have the right to quality treatment, regardless of economic status.
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