Areas of Specialization
You may hear people talk about being "traumatized" or discuss a "traumatizing event". One of the important things to understand about trauma is that it's not the event itself but rather the mind's reaction to the event that results in someone being "traumatized" to a greater or lesser degree. Because of this, two people could experience the same event and react very differently. Whether your trauma has been caused by one or multiple events, and whether that/those event(s) seem "big" or "small," your pain is valid, real, and you can heal. With major events including the global pandemic, political upheaval, violence, and ongoing racial/gender/sexual orientation injustice, many of us are feeling the effects of trauma. Your story and your pain are unique, and I would be honored to have the opportunity to help you on your path to healing.
While trauma occurs in those who directly experience an event, secondary or vicarious trauma can occur in those who are exposed to video, audio, images, or stories of an event. First responders (including law enforcement, fire, EMS, and dispatchers), therapists, and loved ones of those experiencing trauma and/or post-traumatic stress may experience vicarious trauma, and the effects are often similar to direct trauma. Just as with direct trauma, individuals may react differently to exposure to vicarious trauma. What is important is to understand that pain is pain, whatever you are feeling is valid, and feeling effects of trauma from witnessing or hearing about another's traumatic incident is not a sign of weakness. Instead, it is a sign of your humanity and empathy for others.
Post-Traumatic Stress Injury
There are many misconceptions surrounding what is currently most commonly referred to as PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Stigmas associated with post-traumatic stress include that this only happens to people in certain professional (military, law enforcement, etc.), it only occurs in response to major events directly experienced by the individual (see more about secondary/vicarious trauma on this page), that it results in the person affected becoming violent, and that it is incurable. In truth, post-traumatic stress takes on many forms, can result from many different events, and can be healed from. There is currently a movement to refer to this condition as an injury, rather than a disorder. Why is this significant? Think of psychological trauma as an injury to your mind, in the same way that a physical trauma is an injury to your body. When we hear "injury" we often immediately understand that healing is possible, although it make take time, effort, and one or more professionals to help us along the way.
I worked as a 911 dispatcher for five and a half years. I understand that as a member of public safety and emergency workers, you may have had experiences with therapists who "don't get it" and may also be concerned about how seeking help may impact your career. I have the capacity to hold whatever you need to work through, and I am bound by legal and ethical requirements around confidentiality. You help everyone else in their worst moments. I would be honored to help you.
Did you know that suicidal thoughts are incredibly common? Many people are afraid to admit to thoughts of death or ending their lives, in part because the thoughts are terrifying in and of themselves, but also out of a fear of how people will react. I have worked as a 911 dispatcher as well as a crisis hotline employee (including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline). I have extensive training in crisis counseling, including suicide intervention, and I am certified by the American Association of Suicidology. I can talk to you about your thoughts, what's driving them, and plan with you on what next steps may be best for you. Often, simply being able to talk openly about your feelings is enough to help you feel better, and be safe.
How does this even work?
If you've never visited a counselor or other psychotherapist before, even picking up the phone to make an appointment can feel overwhelming. Stepping through the doors or logging in for your first appointment can be even more so. What you can expect is some paperwork (which I will provide to you before your first visit), and then a discussion with me where we will discuss some "housekeeping" items (including confidentiality, fees, and other administrative topics). We will talk in more detail about how I do counseling, and we will discuss together your specific circumstances and set some goals for our work together. You can expect all of this to be done in a respectful, safe, and judgment-free manner. Cussing is allowed, and humor is encouraged. The important thing is for you to feel free to be yourself, no matter how much of a "hot mess" you feel like you are.
My Philosophy of Counseling
I approach counseling from a person-centered philosophy. I believe that humans are innately good, and that each person is born with unique talents and personality traits. I believe that humans are motivated to grow and develop in ways that are consistent with each person reaching his or her full potential. I further believe that each person's experience is unique, and that in order to understand someone, we must approach him or her with empathy and non-judgment. In my view, each person's talents and personality are impacted over the course of his or her life by such factors as family, society, culture, and language, leading each individual to develop a unique perspective of the world. I think that each person's talents and personality can be nurtured and encouraged, which will lead to personal growth, or discouraged through neglect and/or abuse, which will lead to behaviors and attitudes that may not work well in the long term, as the person attempts to find ways to cope with pain. I believe that wellness occurs when we are able to process past pain and release it, replace unhealthy coping strategies with healthy ones, fully accept who we are as individuals, and form healthy relationships with ourselves and with others.
As a person-centered counselor, I believe that our work together should be a collaboration, driven by you and your needs and wants. Some of the important concepts that drive my work include the following:
We all have a need to be regarded in a positive way by the people who are important to us (parents, partners, children, friends, etc.).
We all have a desire to be loved unconditionally.
We all seek to be able to make decisions for ourselves and to be in control of our lives.