Therapy with Carolyn
From your perspective, what is therapy?
Therapy is a safe, nonjudgmental space to help you process your challenges and harness your strengths. We will collaborate together to shed light on patterns that contribute to suffering so you can develop more agency in your own life. We will also identify tools and strategies to help you practice new ways of showing up for yourself.
Please share 2-3 anonymized examples of how the work can play out and/or look in the room so that I can form a visual or narrative of what to expect.
Client A comes to therapy to navigate recent relationship challenges that led to diminished self-esteem and depression. I help Client A explore the root of these feelings, articulate values and personal strengths, practice setting boundaries, notice patterns from family history that she may be repeating, and identify opportunities to build confidence and community outside of the relationship. Sometimes I have Client A assert her needs by speaking to an empty chair so she can play out imagined conversations with significant people from her past and present.
Client B feels wracked by career anxiety and perfectionism. We explore the history of Client B’s expectations for themselves and whose voice these expectations represent. We take a closer look at Client B’s catastrophic thinking (i.e. consistently anticipating worst-case outcomes) and challenge these thoughts with alternate possibilities. We incorporate deep breathing and mindfulness strategies to help the client feel more grounded in the present moment. Client B practices these strategies at home and at work and reports back how it goes during session.
Client C has experienced past traumatic events that he has recently been reliving in the form of intrusive thoughts and nightmares. We talk through the related feelings, noticing physical sensations that arise in the body. We practice deep breathing and mindfulness, and sometimes we use art to express things that are hard to put into words. When he is ready, we may use an empty chair to practice having challenging conversations that have been too hard for Client C to say in the outside world.
Couple D comes to therapy to navigate a recent infidelity and decide whether or not they want to stay together. I help them articulate a shared definition of their problem and explore their investment in the relationship. We identify historical patterns and early childhood wounds that have led to the painful cycle they keep repeating together. We utilize some creative, experiential exercises to uncover fears, reconnect to desires, and shift perspectives. We determine and actively practice new communication patterns, and the couple experiments with these new strategies at home between sessions.
Are there any philosophies or values that inform your work that I should know about?
I ground my work in psychodynamic theory, which basically means that my office is first and foremost a safe space to talk with a compassionate guide. I layer in creative, experiential strategies that access the root of current and historical obstacles, and I will sometimes bring in more concrete strategies drawn from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).
As a clinical social worker, I have focused my training on relationship dynamics (particularly within couples and families) and creative arts therapies. My multifaceted professional background as an actor, teacher, and entrepreneur has uniquely honed my understanding of complex human emotion, interpersonal relationships, and the role of the body in storing our personal histories.
4. How much do you share about yourself during our time together and why?
In order to make sure the session stays focused on the client, I don’t often volunteer information about myself unless I believe it will add to the client’s experience. However, I follow each client’s lead and am happy to answer questions that will help clients feel more comfortable working with me. I will usually explore the curiosities behind these questions first so I can better understand how the client is seeking to connect with me.
5. How participatory are you during sessions?
My sessions are a balance of actively listening to the client’s experience, identifying and exploring patterns I’m seeing, and guiding the client to process thoughts and feelings through body-based, creative, or concrete problem-solving exercises.
6. Do you assign homework, activities, or readings for me to do between sessions? Why or why not?
I occasionally suggest small homework assignments, such as tracking thoughts and feelings throughout the week or experimenting with new communication strategies. The type and frequency of assignments vary based on the client’s individual needs as well as the level of time, interest, and investment they have in completing homework.
7. How will our relationship be different than relationships I have with friends/loved ones?
Friends and loved ones, no matter how much they care about you, often have a vested interest in certain outcomes in your life. As a therapist, my only intention is to help you understand the obstacles getting in the way of your happiness so you can reach your own goals. Without those ulterior motives, we can uncover the thoughts, feelings, and values that are truest to you rather than those that have been pasted onto you by others. The confidential nature of this relationship also provides an opening to discuss topics that may be difficult to broach when you don’t know how they will be received by loved ones.
8. Is there ever a time when you would encourage me to leave or graduate? Or how do I know when it’s time to end or move on, or time to stay and explore more?
We will review your progress and update your goals regularly so your treatment is always moving forward. If we decide together that you have achieved your goals and are functioning in a healthy, sustainable way, we will discuss ending the treatment. My door is always open if challenges reemerge.
9. Where did you work before going into private practice?
I worked at a community mental health clinic (Park Slope Center for Mental Health), working with a range of clients from ages 6-70 with a wide variety of diagnoses. I also worked as an in-school therapist at a 7-12th grade charter school in South Philadelphia.
10. Have you received any training beyond your Bachelor’s?
I received a Master’s in Social Work (MSW) from NYU. I am accruing credits towards becoming a registered drama therapist and psychodramatist as well, and I engage in various workshops and trainings to enhance my clinical skills on an ongoing basis.
11. What led you to become a mental healthcare practitioner?
I worked in the performing arts for most of my life, and I was consistently fascinated by the intricacies of human motivation and connection. A majority of my acting work had therapeutic applications, whether it was empowering audience participants to overcome challenges and deepen relationships in long-form, dramatic improvisations or helping medical students develop self-awareness and strengthen interpersonal skills that could help them become better physicians. I also noticed that family, friends, and even strangers on the train would often open up to me about their lives (particularly their relationships) and seemed to value my counsel.
12. What is the best part of the work for you?
It is a true honor that clients trust me with the deepest parts of themselves: their fears, their desires, their secrets. I love that we have a dedicated space to courageously probe these depths together. Witnessing the growth that follows is an inspiring reminder of the resilience of the human spirit.
13. What is unique about the work you do, or how have you found your work to be different than your colleagues’?
My work tends to be a bit more experiential than most talk therapists. I don’t follow one therapeutic modality religiously but work very intuitively, pulling from various disciplines based on each client’s specific needs.
14. How do you approach diversity in the room or working with clients who may come from a different background than you?
I explore what identities are most significant to my clients and encourage them to share what it’s like to work with someone with differences in these areas. I do my best to educate myself about any specific cultural practices that may inform our work together, and I actively listen to and learn from my clients about their unique experiences within those frames of reference.
15. How can you tell if I am benefiting from working with you?
I will check in with you regularly about how you are feeling, so it is always a mix of what you report and what I am observing in your mood and way of relating to me in session.
And benefitting doesn’t just mean feeling happy all the time! Therapy can be a challenging process that brings up a lot of emotions in the process of healing, but I’ll know you are progressing if you are actively working through challenges to better understand and cope with them.
16. How can you tell if I am feeling stuck, unseen, or unheard?
Transparency is incredibly important to our work together, so I always encourage clients to share with me if they have any concerns. I may bring it up too if I sense discomfort. These conversations can be incredibly productive in deepening the therapeutic relationship and even noticing patterns with other significant relationships in your life.
17. How long should I commit to being in therapy, at least in the beginning?
Length of commitment depends on the nature of the challenge you’d like to tackle, but 3 months is typically a good starting point for short-term treatment. I start off meeting with clients weekly, then as we see a client’s progress we may reassess the frequency of sessions.
18. How should I prepare for my first session with you?
Just show up! I will send you some paperwork to complete, which you can do in advance of our first session or you can wait to discuss it with me in person. Some clients find it helpful to think about their priorities and goals before coming in, but we’ll start wherever you are.