Therapy with Julia
From your perspective, what is therapy?
People frequently don’t understand why they behave the way they do, why they continue to get into troubling intimate relationships, stay in a job or career they no longer enjoy, or struggle with their family relationships. I believe the most interesting, intimate and dynamic relationship we can have is the one we have with ourselves. The purpose of therapy is to understand the motivation behind our feelings and behaviors so significant personal shifts and fulfillment begin to occur outside of therapy. This is what a good therapeutic relationship can provide, and it can be a life-changing experience.
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.
A) A young woman came into session upset about the past weekend when she celebrated her birthday. She said she felt let down and sad that certain people had not made a “big enough deal” or “hadn’t reached out at all,” and her feelings were “beyond hurt.” She described feeling like she’d been punched in the stomach and could not get herself to stop crying over the disappointment. She was confused by her strong reaction and wanted to understand why she was so triggered and upset by this. I asked, “What were birthdays like in your home growing up?” She explained that her father, who was not very present in her life, would often say he was going to come to her birthday party and would not show up, but would call and say “happy birthday,” or sometimes would completely forget, leaving her feeling “abandoned and heartbroken.” Getting to the original emotional injury helped her to better understand her reaction to her birthday, which she “dreads every year as I know I’m going to just be disappointed.”
B) A man in his early thirties came to therapy to deal with a recent breakup. He cited feeling incredibly sad about the break-up, even though while in the relationship he felt “smothered” and described himself as avoiding emotional connection, something his girlfriend had continually pushed for. I asked, “What would emotional connection look like for you? Do you have any idea?” He responded by saying he wanted nothing more than to be emotionally available for connection, he just didn't understand how to open up—it felt too vulnerable. This became a landmark for his personal work and we began to explore when he learned that being vulnerable in relationships did not feel safe for him. He knew what his relationship destination was, and I, as the therapist, was there to help guide him to the place where vulnerability felt safer, and thus help him reach his landmark of being emotionally available and connected in romantic relationship.
C) A woman was distraught over her relationship with her husband. She said that no matter what she did, her husband criticized her and made her feel like a failure. She couldn’t seem to ever do anything right. I asked, “What was it about your husband that you were attracted to the first few months you were dating?” Her answer was that he was attentive, always called her and texted her, let her know where he was at all times— “He actually told me he would never leave me and that made me feel safe.” She shared that her mother had been a heavy drinker and would leave her and her younger sister alone in their house. Her father worked long hours and she believed he was having an affair. She had been “made a parent to my sister when I was just ten years old. She’d (mother) leave me to take care of her and we would never know when she was going to come back or where she was.” I asked if she saw a pattern, if there was something familiar about the way her husband treated her. Over time she was able to see how her fear of abandonment, coupled with her history with her mother, brought her to her current relationship, and we worked from there to get clear on what she wanted for herself and in a relationship moving forward.
Are there any philosophies or values that inform your work that I should know about?
Therapy is the act of building a relationship. Even though the relationship is different than a normal one we’d have with a friend, we are practicing what a healthy relationship looks like. I value honesty in the room and encourage my clients to be very honest with me regarding their experience in the room. If I say anything that doesn't sit right with them I value their honest feedback and the discussion that follows that admission.
How much do you share about yourself during our time together and why?
I may share something about myself, but only when I believe it will benefit the client and whatever we are working on. I carefully think about when to share about myself. When I do, I let the client know that I am going to share something about myself and why I think it will be beneficial to our process. Once I do share, I check in with the client to see what it was like for them to hear me share what I shared, if they think it was beneficial, and allow them to ask any questions they may have.
How participatory are you during sessions?
I tend to listen, then interject and ask questions to promote a more in-depth conversation. I will hypothesize a thought or idea about an issue and always check it out with you to see if you agree, or have a different insight. I view the work as collaborative.
Do you assign homework, activities, or readings for me to do between sessions? Why or why not?
On occasion, but only after I have known the client for a long period of time and understand their personal values. Generally, I do not, as I believe you need to know if the assignment makes sense for a client, and that, I think, can only be known after a longer working relationship when you have a clear understanding of the client’s values and beliefs.
How will our relationship be different than relationships I have with friends/loved ones?
Talking with friends and loved ones usually promotes personal sharing for both people. This is not the same kind of relationship that we will have, as I am here as a guide to help you through your personal issues, not to share about my life. It is a time just for you, the client, to open up and be heard and supported.
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 everyone can benefit from therapy, though there will come a time when a client has met most of his/her goals and can move to every other week or to occasional check-ins to make sure his/her goals are continually being met. If the client is no longer in need of therapy, I let them know that it is still okay to come if they are continuing to grow. Moving past the stage of needing therapy and into the stage of building a life that is beyond just being “okay” is one of the most exciting stages of therapy for clients.
Where did you work before going into private practice?
I worked as clinical staff at an inpatient substance use rehab, and then had a private practice as a therapeutic sober coach for several years.
Have you received any particular training beyond your post-Bachelor’s training?
I attend trainings regularly, ranging from CBT/DBT, Psychedelic Integration, Undoing Racismat the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond.
What led you to become a mental healthcare practitioner?
My interest in therapy began in high school, when I was trained as a peer counselor and worked on a teen suicide hotline. Like many of my colleagues, I was the friend whom classmates confided in and looked to for advice. As a young adult in New York City, I began to explore my own history and behavioral patterns in therapy. Over the years I’ve explored numerous self-reflective and therapeutic modalities, through which I’ve developed a depth of understanding and compassion regarding human behavior. I am deeply fulfilled by the work I do, and I find that my clients recognize and appreciate our mutual investment and collaborative relationship.
What is the best part of the work for you?
When the clients begin to understand how their past is affecting their present and they are open and connected to their vulnerability in a healthy way. Those moments when you can see they’re processing how their actions and behaviors are learned, and that with support and self-knowledge, they can shift how they relate to themselves and thus to others.
What is unique about the work you do, or how have you found your work to be different than your colleagues’?
Understanding why the client is coming to therapy and creating a treatment plan or goal-oriented planwiththe client, I find, sets me apart. In conversation with colleagues, I find that they often create their treatment plan, or the plan for what they are going to work on with the client, in the background and don’t consult the clients about his or her personal goals and what they hope to get out of therapy. In collaborating with my clients and returning to their original reasons for coming to therapy, we can collaboratively create their plan for therapy, with my help and guidance.
How do you approach diversity in the room or working with clients who may come from a different background than you?
An open dialogue about why a client of a different background picked me is a good start to approaching diversity in the room. If we, as therapists, are creating a blueprint for our clients in how to relate to others, honesty and communication must be modeled. In consideration of the fact that we can make no assumption about a client’s culture based on their appearance, I would remain curious and gather information so the client can let me know about how they identify within their community, culture, race, and ethnicity. I listen to the client’s language used to describe how they identify and use their language with them.
How can you tell if I am benefiting from working with you?
I work with a collaborative treatment plan that helps us to look at the goals the client has for him/herself. We get clarity of their hopes for therapy and regularly refer back to those hopes and their short-term goals to see where we are in the accomplishment of them. This gives a clear picture of what they have achieved through therapy and helps me as the guide to stay true to where the client wants to shift and grow.
How can you tell if I am feeling stuck, unseen, or unheard?
Depending on how clients have learned to express their needs throughout their lives, there could be a variety of presentations of a client being stuck, unheard, or unseen in the work. I would notice if the client is questioning their progress if they are less engaged in the room, responding with “yes” and “no” answers, or when the client is not motivated to bring in distressing material.
The more indirect ways I notice clients are disengaging are when they will cancel sessions or will become less involved while in session. This is an opportunity for discussion, as it’s an integral part of the therapeutic process, since they may have not been able to have honest conversations about what they are lacking or needing out of relationships in the past, and this can be practiced in session.
How long should I commit to being in therapy, at least in the beginning?
How should I prepare for my first session with you?
Think about what is bringing you to therapy at this moment in time. If you’re unclear, I will help and ask appropriate questions to get clear.
Do I need to bring anything with me?
Do I need to be mindful of anything in particular while commuting to your office?
The actual entrance to the office is on 53rd Street between Park and Madison, closer to Madison.
The elevators get busy, so give yourself a few extra minutes to get upstairs. Be mindful that only a certain block of elevators go to the 21st floor, the doorman should direct you to the appropriate elevators.
“I have had the pleasure of working with Julia for almost three years as her colleague and supervisor. Julia excels in her ability to engage clients and helps them to feel comfortable in the room. I have observed her empathy with clients firsthand as we co-facilitate a women’s process group. She is able to apply complex theories of attachment, development, and human behavior in a way that allows her clients to increase their self-awareness and make healthy decisions in their lives. I highly recommend Julia for any client who may be struggling to work through difficult relational dynamics, as she excels in this area. Clients who seek treatment from Julia will experience acceptance and a genuine positive regard.”
“I've been in therapy before & my experience with Julia was vastly different, in a positive way. She helped me to understand why I behaved the way I did in relationships & the issue I had about being with someone who would treat me well. That was my goal going into therapy with her & she listened to me & what I wanted to work on. I'm in a good relationship & I credit my work with her for getting me to this point. Forever grateful!”