Therapy with Sheri
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?
I personally feel anyone can benefit from therapy, as therapy takes different forms for different folks. It can range from being a place to excavate and heal deep wounds, to a place where life transitions are processed.
Generally when a person reaches an impasse in their life or they find themselves stuck in a place of prolonged stasis or suffering, working with a trusted therapist can offer the impetus and the insight to heal and grow.
An initial consultation is an opportunity to share your history and discern if you feel a potential collaboration could ensue with the therapist. It is always important to feel comfortable and safe with whomever you decide to work with.
Do any values or philosophies inform your work?
I have a deep appreciation for Jungian psychology and the incorporation of the creative arts into the recovery process. I believe the integrity of the therapeutic bond between the client and the practitioner is the foundation to all healing. Although I’m an ordained interfaith minister, my spiritual leanings are couched in eastern philosophy and humanism and I am receptive to exploring whatever paths resonate for a client.
What are a few examples of what it would be like to work with you?
I assisted a client with dramatizing an internal split by bringing to life his relationship between his “addict” and his “slave.” We assigned a name to the addict and the slave, and the client determined where the addict and the slave were located in the room. The client enacted a dialogue between the addict and slave by physically positioning him/herself in the location the addict and the slave were. As the addict and the slave, he vocalized the perceived internal conflict from both the addict’s reality and the slave’s reality. The therapeutic goal is for common ground between the slave and the addict to be discovered so that resolution and harmony can be achieved.
I offered concrete information to a client evidencing signs of trauma, due to ongoing emotional abuse by a person in her life who lacks empathy and shows signs of sadistic cruelty. This client learned about how the abuse led to her feeling so confused and unsure of her reality. Specifically, I explained what gaslighting is; a form of subtle and strategic manipulation designed to make her doubt her perceptions. This ensures dominance and control. I also informed my client how smear campaigns -- deliberate lies and accusations perpetrated by the narcissistic abuser -- have contributed to her emotional difficulties.
A client who is a fine artist brought in a painting to explore what it revealed about his psychological process.
4. How participatory are you during sessions?
Naturally, I listen on metalevels, but my style of engagement is active involvement. I feel this is essential, especially for folks struggling with addictive disorders and complex trauma, as they oftentimes lack a foundation of secure mirroring.
When parents mirror their child, they demonstrate empathic understanding of the child’s world through compassionate rapport, holding the child’s gaze, and validating his/her feelings. This results in positive self worth and an authentic self. For many of my clients who were maternally deprived of mirroring, they require the participatory engagement to experience that they matter.
5. Do you ever share about yourself with during therapy sessions? Why or why not?
I co-authored a play which conveyed the plights of four teenage girls, and one of the characters was based on my story. An animated film short based on my story was also created and aired on PBS. So many of my clients are privy to aspects of my life.
However, my personal journey does not enter into our sessions unless the client initiates dialogue. In those instances, the discourse carefully adheres to the needs of the client. Overall, the creative and selective use of self has been very positive.
On a lighter note, I do share who I am in terms of my appreciation of the arts, travel and worldview. I feel this establishes a meaningful connection that facilitates healing and thriving.
6. How can you tell if I am feeling stuck, unseen, or unheard?
One of the many functions of a therapist is to intuit meta communication, meaning underlying messages not being consciously expressed, but rather received and interpreted by the therapist based on cues conveyed through body language and visceral attunement. Accordingly, the therapist may question a perceived tension or a sense of guardedness that is not being vocalized. This can open up exploration around feelings ensuing in the therapist-client relationship and the possibility that material coming up in the sessions may be triggering fear and resistance.
7. Is there ever a time when you would encourage me client to leave or graduate therapy? How might I know when it’s time to end or move on, or time to stay and explore more?
In psychodynamic work, therapy can progress for many years, encompassing many incarnations. What began as an intensive weekly process requiring stabilization and excavating deep traumatic material can evolve into twice-monthly sessions focused on thriving as a new parent and enhancing one’s career or marriage.
The need to explore life and discover where one belongs and what fosters inspiration, independent of parental supervision, is the hallmark of becoming an adult. This “rite of passage” is replicated in the termination phase of therapy. When a client has made substantial life affirming gains and original symptoms that were present when they began therapy are no longer an issue, then addressing the option of reducing sessions and/or moving towards closure would occur.
8. How will our relationship be different than relationships I have with friends/loved ones?
The therapist-client relationship is unique in that the therapist serves as a witness and ally, committed to guiding the client in a life affirming direction. It is not appropriate for the client to accommodate the emotional needs of the therapist. Hence the client is allowing him/herself to be fully vulnerable to another whose intimate details are not exchanged.
9. Do you assign homework, activities, or readings to do between sessions? Why or why not?
I often suggest nonfiction and fiction books to read which pertain to a client’s struggles and interests. I also utilize resources for clients to engage in outside of sessions such as bodywork, workshops, creative outlets and classes.
10. Where did you work before going into private practice?
I worked for 14 years in the public and private sectors of NYC in the addiction and mental health fields as a clinical social worker, treatment coordinator, and clinical supervisor. Within agency settings, I worked with forensic populations, women who were sex trafficked, and folks struggling with issues and diagnoses like addiction, schizophrenia, homelessness, being deaf, and having histories that involved complex trauma.
11. What is unique about the work you do, or how have you found your work to be different than your colleagues’?
My extensive personal history of healing and thriving from complex trauma and co-current disorders affords me a complex eclectic blueprint for navigating the stages of recovery. I draw from both traditional and holistic modalities and utilize the language of metaphor through hypnotic techniques, dream analysis and the creative arts so as to access the inherent wisdom of the subconscious.
Hypnotic techniques are a natural way to induce a trance state so that the power of the subconscious mind becomes more accessible. This assists with encouraging desired changes. Likewise, in a dream state, the subconscious (meaning the part of the mind that is powerfully aware) offers wisdom and guidance. Accordingly, exploring the deeper meaning of the dream can be instrumental in understanding oneself better.
12. How do you approach diversity in the room or working with clients who may come from a different background than you?
As an interfaith minister, I have a foundational comprehension of world traditions. I am also a world traveler and love learning about different cultures.
13. How long should I commit to going to therapy, particularly in the beginning?
Committing to a minimum of six months affords a substantial length of time to assess the efficacy of the collaboration as well as the strength of the therapeutic bond between the client and practitioner.
14. How should I prepare for my first session with you?
Prior to meeting for an initial consultation, I will send you a policies form delineating treatment expectations. I will also have clarified logistical concerns like fee, insurance, location, time, etc. When we meet at my office, I conduct a full 50 minute or 90 minute assessment, in which I take a full history and discuss the direction of treatment. This is the only session in which I take notes. If we both feel we are the right fit to pursue ongoing sessions, we will proceed with setting up a set time to meet for ongoing sessions.