Therapy with Cristina Maria
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.
Working with me involves uncovering patterns and the scripts that are often working out of our awareness, but deeply impact our behavior. Often I’ll ask you to tune into your body and to notice the beliefs and thoughts that are present with your experience. This can shed light on your behavior and help you to make more aware choices when confronted with life stressors. Our work together may include traditional talk therapy, art making, movement, breath and body awareness, dream work, and role play. Feelings and sensations are your inner resources, therefore, I will support and challenge you in taking responsibility for your growth through your embodied experience.
I point out to Jodi that she is smiling widely and laughing as she speaks about her sadness. This prompted me to ask her to make a direct “I-statement” about her sadness and to notice her body as she does so, rather than speaking about it more generally. After some time she responds, “I have so much sadness inside and I don’t know how to get it out.” After this statement, she begins laughing again and then becomes slightly tearful as she stays with her experience. I ask her, “What is happening?” Smiling she states, “I feel angry because I’m serious.” I say, “You’re not taking yourself seriously.” Her smile disappears and she reframes her statement, “I’m angry that I’m not taking myself more seriously.” I ask her to stay with her anger and to notice what happens next. Jodi, no longer smiling, expresses thatshe feels her sadness more fully and also experiences gratitude for learning how nuanced her feelings are.
Are there any philosophies or values that inform your work that I should know about?
I work from a phenomenological stance, meaning that I do not privilege one experience over the other, but work with you to understand what your experience is and what is the function of the behaviors and thoughts around it. Instead of trying to take away a feeling or ‘fix you/change you’ we are using the resources you do have (even if they are limiting you in the present) and expanding on them or using them differently.
I believe we first have to ‘turn on the lights’ around behaviors so you can really make an informed choice from a well explored place to do something different rather than rushing in the dark to “fix them.”
How much do you share about yourself during our time together and why?
Because I work form a somatic and relational perspective it is important that I communicate your impact on me, i.e. how I feel with you in the room. I do so in order to facilitate your understanding of how your thoughts and behaviors function in your life. This is very different from sharing my opinions or offering advice, which I seldom do. I do not feel that advice-giving, interpreting, or offering opinions facilitates your self agency or helps you arrive to the core of what is operating for you around dissatisfying behaviors. (That being said, I do not believe in absolutes and have, yes, at times, offered advice or an interpretation to my clients when I feel it makes clinical sense).
How participatory are you during sessions?
Therapy is a co-created experience and the ensuing relational dynamics between therapist and client are explored in session to aid you, the client, in deepening into your experience. Therefore, I am participatory and directive, meaning, I will offer experiments for you to try or reject so that you can explore a feeling, thought, or belief that is operating in your life in order to arrive at more clarity and awareness.
Do you assign homework, activities, or readings for me to do between sessions? Why or why not?
I will often ask a client when they notice something about themselves in session to take note of when and how it lives in their lives outside of session.
How will our relationship be different than relationships I have with friends/loved ones?
Like any relationship, ours will be different from other relationships, as no two are the same. While I may not share personal details about myself (although sometimes I do, because I enjoy cracking jokes from time to time), I am present with you in the room, meaning, I am allowing myself to have and feel my own emotional/somatic experience in order to explore with you your emotional experience. However, I only share what will further your understanding of your experience and I will not share what I do not think would be relevant to your development. I do not believe that a person can truly know their own experience if the other person/therapist is playing the “blank screen” role as all situations are co-created.
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?
I believe that is an exploration and conversation unique to every client that is important and necessary to have. Some people who come to therapy, meet their personal goals, and move on, while others come to therapy to engage in a process of self exploration that is on-going in their lives. Sometimes people discover that their reasons for being in therapy change over time, impacting their decision to leave or continue.
Where did you work before going into private practice?
-HeartShare, Preventive Services: I worked as a case planner and art therapist for families with children at risk of foster care placement, to aid them in navigating the different systems impacting their lives.
-New York Psychotherapy and Counseling Center, Outpatient Care: I provided individual psychotherapy sessions to children, adolescents, adults, and families.
-Kings County Hospital, Adult Psychiatric Inpatient Care: I provided individual psychotherapy, group art therapy, treatment and safety planning to adolescents and adults who were in mental health crisis and subsequently hospitalized and required to live on the psychiatric unit for a brief period of time.
Have you received any particular training beyond your post-Bachelor’s training?
I have completed a post-graduate clinical fellowship in Gestalt Psychotherapy as well as a 2 year training program in Developmental Somatic Psychotherapy at the Somatic Center. I trained in the Parenting Journey group process for parents navigating difficult situations in their family. I have also completed the Hearing Voices Network training to facilitate groups for those with alternative perceptual experiences (i.e. visual and auditory hallucinations, alternative beliefs around reality, etc.)
What led you to become a mental healthcare practitioner?
I truly love being around people and learning about their experiences. It is quite moving and an honor to be brought into another human’s experience in a safe therapeutic environment.
How do you approach diversity in the room or working with clients who may come from a different background than you?
I believe that every client comes from a different background than me, and therefore I treat them as the expert of their experience. I am comfortable naming differences in the room and exploring how this might be impacting my client’s experience in therapy and in their lives.
How long should I commit to being in therapy, at least in the beginning?
It’s always best to give therapy some time, at least 2-3 months. This provides an opportunity to establish a working therapeutic relationship in order to safely move through a range of experiences with your therapist. This includes when you are feeling stuck, uncomfortable or even disappointed with therapy, as these experiences often mirror and/or point to a dynamic occuring in your life outside the room.
How should I prepare for my first session with you?
There is no need to prepare anything. Therapy is an exploration of the self. Let’s get to know you, just as you are. If you do want to prepare, I’d love to hear about what you want to get out of therapy and your ideas about what therapy is or can be.
Do I need to bring anything with me?
Do I need to be mindful of anything in particular while commuting to your office?
My office is located near several trains by Herald Square and Grand Central Station in Manhattan.
“I can't say enough good things about the therapist you matched me with earlier this year, Cristina. She is amazing and therapy has truly changed my life for the better! Thank you for providing this service.”
“Cristina’s attunement is just as palpable with clients as her interest in supporting growth. Cristina strongly believes in the work she’s doing and creates space for clients to be themselves and to find new ways to express themselves.”