I specialize in the following areas:
I notice myself commenting in therapy with adults about the need for a class in middle-school or high-school that teaches mental health: learning how to be kind to ourselves, working with internal negative messages, and finding what one's path or purpose in life is. Instead, what I often see is an internalized message that one's inherent value is strictly dependent on output or production. We all learn this in school and then in jobs later on. A more hopeful approach would be that a person could accomplish great things, but with one's value in-place from the beginning. Being dependent on the outcome to feel ok about ourselves leaves us depending on things to go our way to feel ok internally. Life often doesn't go that way for many of us.
Many teens have a debilitating fear of what others think of them. They learn to become complacent with silencing themselves, rather than in respecting their own internal voice. I have worked with teenagers who saw the value in working on their identity, gave themselves space to figure out what their process was, and who started adulthood already working on good self-care patterns. It changes our interactions to relate from an internal belief system based on resilience and self-worth vs. relating out of feelings that one is "not enough" or "too much." These are both extremes that miss the target of being authentic in how we relate to others.
This quote from Brene Brown resonates with me on this topic: “You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” I wonder how many teens struggle with life's challenges in the midst of feeling like they don't belong or that they are unlovable. Why not help to encourage healthy patterns early-on instead of waiting until unhealthy patterns take control and dominate a person's life?
Modern culture often tries impose rules onto men and women about who they should be, and this can minimize a person's internal experience. In response, people are often alone in the areas of life that are most personal and important. I often hear that emotions are inconvenient and something to stifle, when they are really signs that something deeper is happening that a person is trying to ignore. I think a lot of us grow up not having healthy role-models when it comes to showing emotion. It takes strength to be vulnerable in difficult or painful stories from the past.
I believe we need more voices advocating that emotions are valid and needed, and they can increase intimacy instead of leading to suffering in silence/loneliness. I have seen reparative work be done where there is a history of neglect or abuse. I am passionate about helping others discover more of who their authentic-selves are despite a culture that is harsh and minimizing of real harm that occurs. Sometimes additional support is needed especially if the norm is to remain quiet or unresponsive in the face of adversity. It is inspiring to see clients step into their resilience and grow in an ability to grieve their losses. Identity also faces a maturation process when we look at what needs to be grieved, we face the cloud head-on, and we stop running from what is plaguing us.
How Family Systems Impact the Present
Patterns from the past can run under the surface and get ignored in the fast-pace of daily life. Clients often tell me that they need to just "get over it" or "not be so sensitive" when the opposite is actually needed. Every human needs to be given space to process not only pain and hurt from growing up, but also talking about what parents/caregivers did well. Our stories can have power over us when they haven't been processed, examined, and given the emotional weight they deserve. Some of the hardest work on ourselves is in spending time looking at significant stories from our formative years, and coming to new realizations of the impact on how we currently relate with others. It takes courage to face the things that have power over us, and to allow painful feelings to run their course through us.
Children grow up thinking that their environment was the norm. In later years, they wonder about the impact on them in the present. Repetitive patterns keep happening in the present, and what "worked" in younger years often does not work in the present and in different environments. The goal in our work together is to examine what happened, feel it deeply in an environment of trust, and have a companion with us in places that have been previously experienced alone. Restorative work can come when we show ourselves kindness in new places, compared to old ways of being that were harsh and full of feelings of being unworthy or not enough.
There are unique challenges for anyone who has experienced a different culture than the one he/she grew up with. It is extremely difficult to live between worlds and to not fit in with either a home culture or the culture away from home. I feel passionate about acculturation issues as it can be complex to navigate cultural changes that coincide with psychological changes occurring as a result of being immersed in multiple cultures. A therapist I respect immensely once told me that I lived as an exile in order to be of aid to others who are also exiles. It is a path of feeling alone, isolated, and a person can feel like they have lost their identity due to being overwhelmed by multiple systems with different values or norms.
It can seem like an impossible battle to not fit in with either culture, and even more difficult to have conflicting experiences with differing ways of existing. These culture stories we carry are sacred and need to be treated with kindness and care. There is a lot of suffering and feeling misunderstood when one's identity has been up-rooted between cultures. Learning to exist with this tension takes time and patience to increase one's capacity to bear more within oneself. There is richness and depth in a multi-cultural person, and at the same time there are stories of harm related to culture that need to be processed.
Some of us have lost a sense of comfort from spiritual beliefs that no longer feel relevant to internal/external struggles in life. There are often stories of harm and disillusionment in seeing leaders not have integrity with what is preached vs. their actions. I feel passionate about examining how the church impacts kids/teens growing up. Some grow up to realize they sacrificed their own sense-of-self in order to belong with a system telling them who and how to be. It is disheartening to see how many people suffer with identity issues as a result of how others in the church engaged with them growing up. Church ideally would be a place of community, belonging, and healing compared to how common it is for people to be harmed or missed in it.
Our Work Together
Therapy ideally would be a place that is a safe environment for trust, risk, and new possibilities to form. Often times, we don't see that freedom and choice are closer than we thought they were. I am passionate about how early attachment issues affect our current relational patterns. We all have scripts or patterns that we learned growing up that do not work for us as adults. Learning to re-parent ourselves often takes a third-party-view to help us see what is blocking or hindering us from leaning into our authentic-selves.