Therapy with Rebecca
From your perspective, what is therapy?
Therapy is a warm, nonjudgmental environment where we focus on our personal needs in order to grow. Since talking is cathartic, therapy provides a place where we are listened to, acknowledged, and heard without having to censor ourselves for fear of upsetting family or friends. Therapy also helps us better understand the messages we unconsciously tell ourselves, including where these messages come from and how these messages may be impacting our self-esteem and interpersonal relationships. Finally, therapy helps us better understand how we operate in relation to others and how patterns of relating can impact our emotional well-being.
Please share 2-3 anonymized examples of how the work can play out and/or look in the room
One recent client discussed anxiety and depression in anticipation of the holidays, since her family attempts to understand her eating disorder but “just does not get it.” My response: “It sounds like not only has your eating disorder been a difficult challenge in your life, but this challenge has been compounded by your family’s inability to empathize with how much pain you’ve been in. If your mother was in the room with us right now what would you like her to know about your eating disorder?”
Another client discussed the loss of her closest friendship following the death of her mother, one year prior. The client said: “It pains me that my friend is not able to be there for me when I need her the most.” My response:: “Death changes us and often alters how we see ourselves and our relationships. It sounds like your friend doesn’t know how to relate to you now that you’ve lost your mother. Unfortunately, losses of relationships are common after we’ve experienced significant loss. Has anyone in your life surprised you by their ability to show up for you after the death of your mother?”
A heterosexual couple came into therapy arguing over the man repeatedly leaving his clothing on the bathroom floor for days. The woman states that she feels like she has to “clean up after him” and “resents it.” The man says that when the woman states how cleaning his clothing off the floor makes her feel, he then feels criticized, unappreciated and then withdraws. My response is: “It sounds like you’re in a pattern of interacting that triggers you both. When Alice sees Tim’s clothing on the floor she feels overburdened by having to take on the responsibility of cleaning up both your messes. This causes Alice to react by approaching Tim in a way that he perceives as critical and angry. Then Tim feels inadequate and abandoned, which causes him to withdraw and act defensive. Does this pattern feel familiar to you? Does it happen during other arguments?”
Are there any philosophies or values that inform your work that I should know about?
My work is guided by social justice and humanistic values. I believe that our relationships have the power to heal us. I believe that people change when they own their strength and sense of empowerment, feel understood by those closest to them, and when they shift their understanding of the problems that trouble them.
How much do you share about yourself during our time together and why?
I share things about myself when it promotes or advances the work – either feelings that come up for me or certain experiences I have had. I often explore with clients how much they want to know about me personally and tailor my sharing to the needs of the client. I share elements of myself that I think promote healing.
How participatory are you during sessions?
My sessions are interactive, lively, and mutually participatory.
Do you assign homework, activities, or readings for me to do between sessions? Why or why not?
I often ask clients to journal, chart or pay attention to certain things between sessions. I have suggested that clients listen to podcasts, read books or watch movies that might help them better understand a certain problem they’re facing. Tasks assigned are always co-created with the client.
How will our relationship be different than relationships I have with friends/loved ones?
Talking to friends or loved ones about challenges in your life can be cathartic and meaningful. However, therapy is more than just venting or chatting. Unfortunately, film and media depictions often make therapy seem like two people just talking. Through therapy you will learn how to manage emotions, challenge negative beliefs about yourself, learn new perspectives on old situations and people, and learn constructive techniques for self-soothing such as breathing and journaling. Also, unlike your friends and loved ones, a therapist has no emotional stake in your situation and can therefore provide unbiased guidance.
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?
People should enter therapy, accomplish their goals, and take the tools they learned to lead fulfilling lives. Some people benefit from weekly long-term therapy as a form of self-care. I encourage you to leave therapy or graduate when your goals are achieved. This might mean that through our work together you’re finally able to express yourself to your mother without getting into a fight, improve your self-talk and/or have a steady pattern of healthy behavior, and feel more comfortable with yourself and in your relationships.
Where did you work before going into private practice?
I currently work part-time as a therapist in Henry Street Settlement’s Mental Health clinic, where I facilitate grief groups and provide psychotherapy services to a racially and socio-culturally diverse caseload of clients.
I also hold a full-time job at the Henry Street Settlement as the Parent Center Program Coordinator. In my full-time job I facilitate groups for family -court-mandated parents, expectant parents, and parents of babies/toddlers and parents impacted by trauma using evidence-based group curriculums. I currently write curriculum and facilitate groups for parents with special needs children, as well as for an emotional-regulation group for parents.
I have also worked as a school social worker for young adults (ages 17-21 years old) who were struggling with their identities while transitioning from high school to post-secondary careers or college and as a research assistant at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College.
Have you received any particular training beyond your post-Bachelor’s training?
I received my master’s degree in social work from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College in 2013 and have since been trained as a field instructor for social workers (SIFI) at Adelphi University. Since then I have had the pleasure of supervising many graduate students in social work.
I am currently a trainee at the Ackerman Institute for the Family in family/couples therapy and the use the Ackerman Relational Approach. I have also trained in the facilitation of Parenting Journey- a 12-week group for parents- and Bright Beginnings Prenatal and Parent-Baby at the Ackerman Institute.
In addition, I have attended many workshops including Undoing Racism at the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond and Ambiguous Loss and the Myth of Closure at the Ackerman Institute.
Do you have experience (5-10 years+) working with any types of obstacles or people in particular?
I have worked with clients who have experienced sudden loss both individually and in groups. This loss can be due to the death of a family member, the mental/physical deterioration of a family member/loved one, the loss of a job, or the loss of a relationship.
I have extensive experience working with families, especially in the field of parenting.
Additionally, I have worked with clients who struggle with eating disorders, and those who have been victims of sexual abuse. I have worked with people who are depressed, anxious or are having difficulties with life transitions.
What led you to become a mental healthcare practitioner?
When I was a child my mother had a private practice as a psychotherapist in our home and still does. I grew up surrounded by her and her friends/colleagues talking shop and collaborating on difficult cases, and I was drawn to this work from the beginning. I believe it is my calling.
What is the best part of the work for you?
I am honored to be trusted with people’s most inner thoughts and stories. My biggest reward, in terms of being a therapist, is to help clients see themselves and their families in a new light.
What is unique about the work you do, or how have you found your work to be different than your colleagues’?
I utilize a frank, direct, empathetic, and occasionally humorous approach with my clients. I work from a relational perspective, paying close attention to patterns of interaction, and how interactions either accentuate or ameliorate problems. I use a trauma-informed lens and am keenly aware how trauma affects the mind and body.
How do you approach diversity in the room or working with clients who may come from a different background than you?
As a trainee at the Ackerman Institute for the Family I am trained to “locate” myself in the room with all clients regardless of whether the client and I appear to have different cultural/racial/religious backgrounds or seemingly similar ones. I typically do this within the first three sessions while I am developing a rapport with the client and we are discussing what our work together will be like.
Location of self is the process in which the therapist initiates a conversation with a person/couple/family about similarities and differences in their key identities, such as race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation and religion and how these things could potentially influence the therapy process. In extending this invitation to the individual/couple/family to discuss and reflect on the intersection of their identities, I am laying the groundwork for these issues to be raised throughout the course of therapy, as I think they are pertinent to people's experiences.
How can you tell if I am benefiting from working with you?
You’re benefiting from our work together when you’re able to relate to people in a more authentic way. Therapy is working when you’re able to self-soothe and calm yourself, and when you’re able to engage in more positive self-talk.
How can you tell if I am feeling stuck, unseen, or unheard?
Clients are typically stuck, unseen or unheard when they stop making progress or regress (more than in a temporary way). I explore within myself and with my client why they are stuck and use it in the treatment. I say, “I am noticing that we are stuck lately and that things are not changing, either for you, or in our sessions.” Since stagnation in therapy often mirrors stagnation outside of therapy, a shift in the direction of therapy can create change and growth for the client.
How long should I commit to being in therapy, at least in the beginning?
Assuming we are a good fit, I would suggest committing to 3-6 months of therapy in the beginning. There is no set length of treatment depending on what you want and need. Some people come to therapy with a very specific problem they need to solve and might find that ten to twelve sessions is sufficient. Other people come to therapy with more complicated issues and may need a few months or longer to begin to understand and resolve these issues. Other people come with long-standing problems and may benefit from longer-term therapy that can last up to years.
How should I prepare for my first session with you?
There’s no need to prepare anything for our first therapy session, if you don’t feel like it. If you’d like, you can take some time to think about what you’re looking to get out of therapy. This provides direction for our sessions and sets up a starting point to chart your progress along the way.
Do I need to bring anything with me?
No, just yourself!
“Working with Rebecca has been a transformative experience for me. Rebecca is approachable, genuine and exhibits strong boundaries and excellent clinical judgment. Rebecca goes above and beyond for every client she works with. Rebecca is the kind of person who makes co-workers and clients feel instantly comfortable. She is able to be present and insightful with everyone.”