I am a psychologist and psychotherapist with a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Detroit Mercy who approaches therapy with empathy and a willingness to be creative. For me as a therapist, creative means embracing the energy and vitality of the therapy encounter. Therapy is collaborative; I seek to learn what is valuable to my patients: how they see the world, their goals, and their reasons for seeking therapy. My skills don’t matter if I’m not in tune with what my patients need from me. This not only varies from patient to patient, but also session to session, and understanding this requires flexibility and a desire to learn about the life of each individual who sees me.
While it is essential to understand how and why a person has become stuck, it is just as important to understand how it shows up in and affects a patient’s day-to-day life. To do this, I approach therapy actively with an eye toward giving people direction that they can put right to work. The way an individual or couple communicates and relates often finds its way into the therapy room and our relationship. This presents an opportunity for patients to test out new ways of approaching the world and relationships in an environment that is safe and confidential.
Many of our difficulties stem from attempts at avoiding pain and discomfort. In trying to do this, however, we can actually end up bringing about what we fear most. We like the familiar, but I believe that purposefully trying out new ways of relating has the potential to produce considerable change. I try to notice and bring attention to changes, however small, that may otherwise go unnoticed. While discussing painful experiences is important, good therapy celebrates what patients are doing well and builds on this.
Through work in hospitals, university clinics, and private practice, I have helped teens, adult individuals, and couples with depression, management of work stress and anxiety, social anxiety, relational challenges, decision-making, and chronic pain and illness management. In particular, I help patients realize that anxiety isn’t as scary as we think and is, in fact, natural. Everyone has anxiety. I work to help patients understand what this means for them as individuals and how they can use anxiety to their benefit. This certainly applies to my work with adolescents who I help understand how they’re feeling, what anxiety looks like, and how to better talk with others about it. Teens may inherently have some difficulty identifying, labeling and therefore, expressing their emotions. I speak differently with younger patients, changing wording and manner of relating to develop these skills. Metaphors, analogies, and play all assist in this process.
My intensive training in health psychology fostered my passion for working with patients with chronic pain. Pain is subjective, complicated, and interrelated with emotionality. I help patients understand what pain is, why we have it, the purpose of it, and how to live with and in spite of it. Pain can often be viewed as a signal that tells us something. With chronic pain, this signal is no longer useful and patients don’t have to keep listening. Instead, I help patients find ways of improving quality of life despite the presence of pain. Using a new angle to approach these common yet unpleasant experiences can be of considerable value.