Lately I have had a lot of talks with brave souls, reaching out for support as they endeavor to get clarity and work on themselves. During my free consultation by phone these individuals have expressed some desire about the type of therapist they want.
“Are you the type of therapist that is… interactive?” they ask.
“I want someone who will talk with me, not just sit quietly the whole time.”
“Of course!” is my typical response. Of course you want to have a therapist who is active in the room, who is curious and present and wants to know more. Someone who is eager to understand things in the hopes of shining a light into the unknown parts of your psyche so that both of us can get clear about where things are stuck.
“I’ve only had experiences with counselors who say very little, and that’s really not what I’m looking for. I want feedback and direction. I actually swore off therapy for a long time because of these experiences, but I’m finally willing to give it another shot.”
Hearing stories like these makes me incredibly sad. I know the courage it takes to pick up the phone and say “hey, I am struggling here and I need help.” The courage it takes to go into a stranger’s office and spill the beans about the ways you’ve been doing things you don’t want to keep doing, the ways you are suffering or are clueless about how to remedy things in your own life takes guts. To go through all of that and find yourself feeling alone and without engagement can be deeply disappointing, at best. For individuals that are struggling with feeling isolated or have a long history of not feeling seen or heard, it can be re-traumatizing.
All therapists have their own unique style of relating. Some therapists use modalities that are very directive, such as in the case of cognitive behavioral therapists and dialectical behavioral therapists. Analysts typically say less and listen more. While I do not identify as a “directive” therapist per se, I would say that my style is engaging.
I want to know what’s happening in your life and what you make of it. I want to hear your reasoning and your motivations. I am curious about your thought processes and your belief systems. I am listening for the places your feel well and strong and clear and the places that you harbor fears, uncertainly and self doubt.
I have tools and skills to share when you are ready to begin to make changes and try something new.
As an engaging therapist, I very much want to connect with you and, together, do the important work of exploration and growth.
Asheville is such a wonderfully unique community. An oasis of open-mindedness and diversity amid an otherwise deeply conservative bible belt. In the abundant therapeutic community we have, your options for providers are many. When it comes to wanting to talk about some of the most intimate aspects of your humanity, your gender identity or sexual life, the provider you choose for counseling can determine the success of your endeavor.
I offer a sex-positive approach, which promotes safe and consensual expressions of sexuality. It is my view that sexuality, in its many forms, is a healthy and life-giving part of our human experience.
Sexual experience is not the same for everyone. Not everyone chooses monogamy. Everyone does not identify as the gender they were assigned at birth. Sexual attraction to the “opposite gender” is not always the case. It is vital to honor these variations in our experience.
I offer gender-affirming care in my psychotherapy practice for individuals that identify as gender diverse, gender nonconforming, transgender, genderqueer, or nonbinary.
In my counseling practice I work with:
- Monogamy and Polyamory
- Sexual Identity
- Gender Identity
- Sexual Self-Esteem and Confidence
- Sexual Dissatisfaction
As a cisgender female identifying woman (pronouns: she/her/hers) I am aware of my own privilege and I am not an expert on, nor do I truly understand what it is like to be trans or gender nonconforming. However, I do have a deep respect for these experiences and can support, affirm, and hold space for individuals on these journeys.
Also, while I am not a certified sex therapist, and I do not provide couples therapy, I can offer a knowledge base of issues faced by individuals struggling in the areas of gender, intimacy, sexual preference, and anxiety related to sex.
I offer an accepting, non-judgmental space to explore your unique sexuality and challenges you are facing.
Contact me today to see if we’d be a good fit to work together.
I am currently in the process of reading Kristen Neff’s book Self Compassion and just came across, seemingly for the millionth time, the reference to “putting on your own oxygen mask first.” In case you haven’t heard this frequently used in-flight instruction demonstrating the importance of self care, I am here to break down why it is simply the greatest psychology metaphor of all time.
Psychotherapy and Exploring The Self
So much of what we psychotherapists are doing with our clients is exploring The Self: the self as separate from family of origin, from partners, parents, friends, children, and siblings. So often, the reasons that elicit the need for psychotherapeutic services are relationships gone wrong. Early childhood trauma, parents that were too self absorbed or uneducated on the basic needs of infants and young children or the lifelong impact of not meeting those needs, and unsatisfying or abusive adult relationships often leave individuals feeling confused, stuck, and anxious and lead people to seek help.
As we look at what has transpired within these relationships, and how they have become sources of pain, we also begin to look more closely at the self of the person who has sought our help. Together, we begin to inquire. Who is this person? What are the needs of this separate self?
What we often find is that the self has needs, desires, and ways of being that are distinct and unique. Taking good care of that separate self is one of the chief tasks of adulthood. Hence, the analogy.
We, as adults in relationship with others, must become good stewards of our own experience so that we can, in turn, be good caregivers to others.
An Experiment for Cynics
Don’t believe me? Here’s an experiment: for the next week, avoid doing anything simply because you enjoy it. Commit only to doing things that are in the service of others: your kids, partner, friends, colleagues, etc. Notice how you feel at the end of that week (if you can make it that long!). Exhausted? Irritable? Angry? Resentful?
How are the relationships themselves? Strained? Tense? One-sided?
When we care for others at the expense of caring for ourselves, ultimately, relationships suffer and everybody loses. A burned-out, overworked and anxious employee is hardly in a position to offer the same level of clarity, creativity and critical thinking as someone who has a balanced work/play/rest lifestyle. An exhausted, energetically depleted mother can not give the same level of presence and empathy to a struggling child as a mother who is rested and well cared for.
Back to The Metaphor
The instruction given at the beginning of every commercial flight states “in case of an emergency, put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting someone else.” This clearly illustrates how caring for yourself is paramount in order for you to truly care for others. Breathing is a symbol for life, for being. Inhabiting a human body requires regular care and maintenance: rest, food, water, touch, movement. If we don’t tend to the needs of the body we get sick. Tending to the needs of the psyche/soul also sustain life, infusing it with meaning and understanding, allowing us to make connections, grow and evolve. Taking a holistic perspective requires that we view ourselves as consisting of many parts: mind and body; soul and spirit.
As adults, we afford ourselves and those in our care the opportunity to experience true generosity and abundance when we are able to tend to our own metaphorical gardens. Otherwise we run the risk of showing up for relationships empty handed, without resources and craving that someone else will fill us up. Not only can this lead to disappointment by expecting from others what they may not be able to give, but this caring for ourselves also serves as a protective function. When we do show up for relationships in desperate need for affection and attention, we open ourselves up to victimization by predators who may give us something, but ultimately take more than what’s offered.
Essentially, this metaphor encourages us to help others. It stresses the importance of being able to be there for others in their time of need. But who are you going to help if you can’t breathe?