Therapy with Sarah
From your perspective, what is therapy?
Therapy is a way to help people figure out what they want from life and examine what is stopping them from getting there. Therapy is a way to help people analyze areas they would like to change and collaborate with the therapist to adjust unwanted behaviors or thought patterns that are holding them back. Therapy is also a safe place to get support when people are going through a hard time.
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.
One person I worked with was struggling with anxiety and distress, mainly due to her mother not supporting her sexual orientation and same-sex relationship. Together, we talked through different ways to negotiate interactions with her mother and worked to identify unconscious ways this rejection had unknowingly impacted her life and way of thinking so she could overcome some of her negative thought and behavior patterns.
Another person I worked with noticed she had a pattern of getting into relationships where she was not treated well. We examined how and why this pattern may have started and why it was continuing. We discussed different options in negotiating relationships and examined choices she was making when it came to choosing partners.
Another person I was working with wanted help as he negotiated a long-distance and open relationship with his partner. We worked together to help identify what he really wanted from a relationship, and how to better communicate his needs with his partner. We also discussed how being transgender has impacted him in terms of dating. We talked through ways to cope with his social anxiety in order to overcome barriers he has had in dating.
Are there any philosophies or values that inform your work that I should know about?
I mostly work from a psychodynamic/insight-oriented perspective, which basically means that the goals of therapy are to increase the client’s self-awareness and understanding of the influence of the past on present behavior, which ultimately helps the client resolve conflicts and unwanted behaviors in their lives.
I am currently receiving additional training through The White Institute, which focuses on interpersonal/relational psychodynamic therapy.
4. How much do you share about yourself during our time together and why?
I try to keep the focus on the client during our session together. I believe the therapist should be there for the client, and sharing a lot about the therapist’s personal life could negatively impact the therapeutic relationship. That being said, I am open to answering questions about myself during the consultation if there are certain things that would help you make a decision about finding the right therapist. I may also share my thoughts and opinions of how the therapy is going when relevant.
5. How participatory are you during sessions?
I would say that I am pretty interactive. I let the client take the lead when talking about what is on their minds, but I will frequently reflect back what I am hearing, ask clarifying and guiding questions, and offer some interpretations or analysis when appropriate.
6. Do you assign homework, activities, or readings for me to do between sessions? Why or why not?
Not usually. Homework is not typically part of psychodynamic insight-oriented therapy. However, if the client is interested, I may recommend certain activities to help gain more balance in life, such as acupuncture, relaxation techniques, meditation, groups, or yoga.
7. How will our relationship be different than relationships I have with friends/loved ones?
A therapeutic relationship is different in that it is a totally confidential safe space to talk about what you are going through. The therapist is unbiased, has no personal investment in your life, doesn’t judge you, and does not expect any emotional support in return. A therapist also uses their mental health training to help guide the sessions in ways a friend/loved one would not.
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?
I would say that once you feel you have accomplished what you have set out to accomplish with therapy, it could be time for you to end, however, some people discover new areas they would like to explore, or they would just like to continue to some degree for ongoing support, and that’s fine too.
9. Where did you work before going into private practice?
For over 15 years, I worked in a non-profit setting with young adults who were experiencing homelessness, were LGBTQ, or were in foster care. I also worked with children, families, and adults involved in the foster care system.
10. Do you have experience (5-10 years+) working with any types of obstacles or people in particular?
I have extensive experience working with the LGBTQIA+ population, people in non-traditional relationships, as well as young adults and adolescents to help them manage stress, clarify identity issues, support them through transitions, and help modify destructive patterns of behavior.
11. What led you to become a mental healthcare practitioner?
I am passionate about helping people understand themselves better and enhance their lives.
12. What is the best part of the work for you?
I love building supportive therapeutic relationships with people and witnessing how gaining a better insight into their lives creates change.
13. What is unique about the work you do, or how have you found your work to be different than your colleagues’?
I am very open-minded. I have a strong background with lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, questioning, and transgender populations. I have also worked a lot with people in “non-traditional” relationships, poly, and open relationships. I’m sex positive and kink friendly. I also have a good understanding of social justice and oppression and am able to use that in therapy when applicable.
14. How do you approach diversity in the room or working with clients who may come from a different background than you?
I think it’s important not to make assumptions and examine your own bias throughout the course of the work. I also think it’s important to recognize, verbalize, and empathize when prejudice and systemic oppression is impacting your clients.
15. How can you tell if I am benefiting from working with you?
When you start to gain more clarity and understanding about your life, what you want from it, and barriers that are keeping you from achieving it.
16. How can you tell if I am feeling stuck, unseen, or unheard?
I like to create a safe space where someone feels they could let me know if they are feeling unheard or unseen. Ideally, I would always encourage someone to talk to their therapist if there is something the therapist is doing that is bothering them. Many times, discussing a problem or difficulty in therapy/with the therapist can ultimately lead to a stronger therapeutic relationship. That being said, if I get a sense that someone is feeling stuck or unheard in therapy and they aren’t talking about it, I would bring it up with the client.
17. How long should I commit to being in therapy, at least in the beginning?
In the beginning, I think you could get a good sense of the work and the relationship with the therapist within 3-6 months. If you are interested in longer-term, deeper change, you should plan on attending therapy for a longer period of time.
18. How should I prepare for my first session with you?
Just be prepared to discuss what brought you to therapy and ask any questions of me you would like to know.