There is a school of thought that therapists and counselors must be “blank slates,” revealing little to nothing about themselves, so as not to detract from or suggest bias towards a client’s issues. I was taught this in grad school, as was most every other therapist I know. But although maintaining professional and therapeutic boundaries is important, and personal information or opinions should be used with discretion and common sense, there is something to be said for allowing a therapist to be humanized, especially since therapy is often made or broken by the therapeutic relationship. With this in mind, I wanted to use this first foray into blogging to introduce myself a bit further, and allow potential (or current clients) to learn a bit more about why I do what I do, and for whom I am a good fit.
I did my undergraduate education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and graduated with a B.S. in Psychology in 2004. Although psychology degrees can tend to be pretty generalist, I completed my Advanced coursework with three semesters as a Counseling Center Paraprofessional, which equipped me with a solid foundation in the basic therapeutic skills (active listening, empathy, forming a relationship), and allowed me to work with the student body in various non-clinical ways (workshop series, partnerships with student organizations, events around mental health issues). After graduation, I spent several years in Chicago working and volunteering in education, substance abuse prevention, and sexual assault survivor advocacy.
In early 2008, I began applying to grad schools for a Masters in Social Work, and applied to Tulane as my one outside-of-Chicago school (what can I say, it had been a particularly tough winter!). I was thrilled to be accepted, and graduated with my MSW in December of 2009. I was soon hired for a position with the Tulane Dept of Psychiatry as a therapist for a research project involving children and adolescents with PTSD.
While both trauma and the under-18 population were of interest to me, I could never have realized how much of a turning point this job would become. As I sharpened my clinical skills through intense supervision and collaborative case review (nothing like watching yourself on video!), I also began my true education in the many iterations, manifestations, and presentations of trauma and toxic stress. The more I heard from my clients’ stories, and the more academic literature I read, the more things connected to me.
The impacts of trauma and/or adverse childhood events (stay tuned for a deeper dive into those in a future blog post) are wide-reaching, startling, and often misunderstood. They are also too vast to write about briefly. Suffice to say, not only do we live in a highly traumatizing world, but it is also one which does not always provide space and resources for healing. Many people do not even realize that they have experienced trauma, or how various other factors can contribute to strengthening or buffering the effects of these events. Currently, trauma is moving more front and center, as people are realizing not only how prevalent it is, but also how wide-ranging the effects are, and I feel lucky to be a very small part of the efforts to heal.
Once the grant ended on the Tulane project in 2012, I moved to a group private practice setting, still working with children and teenagers, but also more with their families. During this time, I attained my licensure in Clinical Social Work, and became a mother myself. The convergence of raising my own child and moving into working with children under six provided a multi-dimensional perspective of not only early childhood development, but also the struggles of being a new parent (also wide-reaching, startling, and often misunderstood). I grew to have a great respect and compassion for the parents I worked with, who, like all parents, are doing the best we can with what we have, often in the face of immense obstacles. In working with children, I learned to really explore and tune into the histories of their parents, because so much from our pasts can come roaring to the surface when we become parents.
As time went on, I realized that the work with parents was where my true interest, energy, and skill appeared, and left the group practice to start Highwire Therapy, serving adults and older adolescents. I continued to learn about complex and developmental trauma, adverse childhood events, attachment, parenting, perinatal mood disorders, and toxic stress, while also working to educate myself about the systemic and socio-political factors of trauma. Additionally, I sought training in other considerations for treating trauma and toxic stress, beyond the traditional cognitive-behavioral modalities.
In 2017 I completed a 65-hour training for a Trauma-Informed Yoga Teacher (TIYT) certificate, which provided me with a thorough understanding of how the brain and body are impacted during trauma, and how to use both the brain and body to heal. I am also trained in Maternal Mental Health via an 18-hour training by Postpartum Support International, and I am currently finishing up the last few consultation hours of my EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) 50-hour Basic Training (you can check out the EMDR tab on the home page for a short blurb and some links about that if you are interested). And, because I enjoy being a perpetual student, I am also currently in the midst of my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training. Because of all of this training and education, I am able to provide an eclectic, personalized, and holistic approach to healing. I don’t believe one modality works for all people, just as one client may experience the same event in an entirely different way than another. I do believe fully in the resilience and bravery of humans, and I have high respect, compassion, and empathy for each new client I meet.
I named my practice Highwire Therapy because so much of what we struggle with in life involves feeling like we are balancing on the narrowest of wires between two worlds- before a traumatic event and after; the part of us that is a parent, and the part that is everything else; being well and unwell; being unsure of how much of ourselves to give to the world and how much to protect for ourselves; feeling burnt out and feeling satisfied; the blunted lows of depression and the tightly-coiled springs of anxiety. I invite those who are having trouble navigating these worlds to work with me to hopefully find balance, steadiness, and safety within your lives.