Therapy with Erin
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.
Example 1: A client comes to me with anxiety about where she’s going in life - particularly, she worries about career and relationships. The anxiety has become something that’s getting in the way of feeling confident about taking a step forward on either front. Together, we go over ways of managing anxiety in the moment, so it doesn’t become overwhelming. Then, we take a step back and think about where the anxiety is coming from. Does it have a deeper message in the context of this individual’s life? What is the fear of making a wrong choice stemming from? What might some healthier strategies look like?
Example 2: A client enters therapy with me for a persistent sense of “imposter syndrome,” which manifests as not feeling confident professionally, or that their life measures up to others, or feeling that they haven’t succeeded in becoming a fully fledged adult. This also often manifests as difficulties setting boundaries with others, particularly parents or people in positions of power. As a first step, I usually normalize these thoughts and feelings - most people experience them! Together, we try to identify the perceptions (and misperceptions) that contribute to these persistent doubts and practice new ways of framing these worries to take the intensity out of them and understand them as a part of growing into the next stage of adult identity.
Are there any philosophies or values that inform your work that I should know about?
I strongly believe that therapy has a greater chance of being successful when it feels like there’s a good fit between the client and therapist. I encourage people I’m meeting for the first time to take a few days and think about how it felt to tell me personal, important things, and I also think about the interaction. If the client or I feel that it’s not the right fit, I let them know this and help connect them to others who I think would be better for them.
How much do you share about yourself during our time together and why?
I generally adhere to the principle that a therapy session is about my client, not about me. However, when I feel that sharing something about my own life or experience can help with my client’s therapy, I’ll share that. Likewise, if a client wants to know something about me, I welcome these questions - they can help me seem like a real person and encourage a connection. If there’s ever something I think would not benefit my client to know about me, I’ll explain why.
How participatory are you during sessions?
VERY participatory. I am a highly collaborative therapist - I listen closely, and offer my own reflections and interpretations throughout the session. I see this as one of my most important tasks in the therapy session. And if someone’s feeling stuck during a session, I’ll help explore this, too.
Do you assign homework, activities, or readings for me to do between sessions? Why or why not?
I occasionally encourage my clients to try an activity that I think might benefit them (for example, journaling, meditating, exercising, or socializing). Likewise, if someone asks me for resources or readings, I’ll provide that. However I don’t assign homework per se - I’ve found that clients often don’t do it, which can unintentionally replicate a feeling of them “failing” at therapy.
If I have never been to therapy before, what should I expect? How do I know if I should go, and how do I start?
What to expect may differ depending on the kind of therapist you see. I start by asking a lot of questions - about my client’s history, current struggles, their goals, their strengths. When someone has been trying to cope with a difficult feeling or circumstance, and things still don’t feel manageable, this could be a good time to start therapy.
Start by asking trusted friends if they’ve seen a therapist who they’d recommend, or if their therapist has someone they can recommend. Have a conversation by phone with therapists until you find someone who feels worth meeting in person. This might take a few therapists before you find the right fit. That is totally okay, though - not every pairing is going to be a success. You want to be reasonably sure you’ll be comfortable before starting the hard work of therapy.
Finally - don’t start therapy if the weekly commitment is going to be a challenge. Therapy is work, no question about it, and it’s a weekly commitment. If you can’t make the commitment, you run the risk of the therapy being a disappointment.
How will our relationship be different than relationships I have with friends/loved ones?
You will not have to take care of me, is the bottom line. You can get angry at me, express frustration or disappointment, tell me things that feel mortifying, and I’ll still be meeting you at the same time next week. You can experiment with different ways of building a relationship and navigating closeness with me as a therapist, which you can then bring into the rest of your life
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?
This is a very individual question. Generally when someone has addressed the issue they came to therapy to work on, and feels there is no more work, or work they’d need to do in partnership with a therapist, it’s time to consider transitioning out of therapy. The ending is just as important as the beginning, though - I ask that my clients tell me in advance when they feel ready to stop, so we can have a thoughtful conclusion to our work together.
Where did you work before going into private practice?
I worked for several years at a community mental health center, providing psychotherapy to adults, teens, and children, and interned in a hospital setting. Prior to becoming a therapist, I worked in public health.
Have you received any particular training beyond your post-Bachelor’s training?
I’ve done postgraduate training in perinatal mental health, clinical therapy with adolescents, and cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.
Do you have experience working with any types of obstacles or people in particular?
The majority of my clients have struggled with anxiety at some point in their lives. Often my clients have trouble setting boundaries with parents and friends, managing significant life transitions, or dealing with the challenges of balancing personal and career goals.
What led you to become a mental healthcare practitioner?
I had worked for several years in the field of public health, particularly on issues of HIV and harm reduction. The part of my work I always liked best was talking to people who were on the receiving end of services, and building connections with them that led to better programming. Although I was accustomed to dealing with these issues at a conceptual and societal level, I decided that I wanted more direct connections with people.
What is the best part of the work for you?
Meeting New Yorkers - there is literally never a day of my job that is boring, or when I’m not moved by something a client shares in session. Some jobs force people to leave their authentic self outside the office, but with therapy I get to be fully present and feeling, otherwise the process suffers.
How do you approach diversity in the room or working with clients who may come from a different background than you?
I’m a clinical social worker by training, which means I’m trained to think about my clients not just as a collection of symptoms, but as people who’ve been shaped by their environment, by personal experience, by government policies, and of course by their own natural abilities and inclinations. This means that I always try to connect with each person’s individual experience and perspective, and it allows me to appreciate and connect with people from many different backgrounds. My therapeutic experience is broad, and I have had clients with a wide range of profiles, whether sexual, demographic, socioeconomic, or otherwise.
How can you tell if I am benefiting from working with you?
This will vary between individuals, but some signs that therapy is working include: trusting your gut more, placing your needs first, an increased sense that you can handle what comes up, improved relationships with others, being able to reflect more on why you’re thinking or feeling a certain way (and coming to your own conclusions!), or being able to reflect on how you affect others.
How can you tell if I am feeling stuck, unseen, or unheard?
Ideally, you’d be able to identify this feeling and tell me about it. I encourage my clients to talk to me about how they feel about their therapy relationship with me, sometimes by asking this directly - that can feel intimidating sometimes, but it gets easier the more we do it! If I see that you’re grappling with the same level of difficulty for a while, though, without any change, I may suggest a different approach.
How long should I commit to being in therapy, at least in the beginning?
Therapy is often a long-term process, although often people will feel its initial benefits after a few weeks. I ask that prospective clients who choose to work with me to try it for three months. If, after that time, it doesn’t feel like a good fit, I ask that we talk about what’s happening between us. Sometimes this helps “unstick” the therapy and gets things flowing; sometimes it doesn’t, in which case having a thoughtful conclusion to the treatment is also important.
How should I prepare for my first session with you?
There’s no preparation really! Just be ready for me to ask a range of questions about you, what brings you to therapy, and your history.
Do I need to bring anything with me?
Nope. Just yourself.
Do I need to be mindful of anything in particular while commuting to your office?
No; it’s generally very accessible by train and bus. The ups and downs of the MTA are something to bear in mind though!