Therapy with Stephanie
From your perspective, what is therapy?
Therapy is a safe space where you can sit with a trained therapist once a week to work through challenges and get support on achieving your therapy goals. In therapy, a safe space is where you are not judged and you can feel heard, validated, understood, and supported. My goal is to help my clients feel empowered to improve their lives and overcome life’s challenges. Examples of therapy goals are: improving your self-esteem, learn effective coping strategies, build relationship skills, and cope with life circumstances.
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 recent client expressed feeling excessive worries and wondered about ways to alleviate her symptoms (racing heart, difficulty breathing, and sweaty palms). I began by providing psychoeducation about anxiety and followed by normalizing what she was experiencing by informing her that anxiety is common and is a response to a life situation. I then helped her explore how she can become more aware of her symptoms as they arise and suggested coping strategies that she might be able to try outside of therapy.
-A heterosexual couple came to therapy to work on their communication. When exploring further about their communication style, they talked about ways they avoided talking about their conflicts, but then would “blow up over seeing a dish in the sink.” I responded to them by saying, “It seems like there has been a pattern of avoidance between the two of you, but then your triggers are expressed really quickly at times. What happens after that? How would you say this way of communicating has affected your relationship?”
Are there any philosophies or values that inform your work that I should know about?
I strongly believe that people are resilient and able to overcome any life struggle. Therapy can be a great medium to be able to achieve this goal. As a therapist, I am committed to the wellbeing of my clients, and I go above and beyond to cater to their needs. I understand that life can get difficult, and sometimes a little help from a professional can make things better. I enjoy empowering individuals and bearing witness to their healing and growth.
How much do you share about yourself during our time together and why?
I share things about myself only when I find that it is appropriate and beneficial to the client. For example, I share feelings that come up for me or things that I enjoy for the purpose of building a relationship with the client. Although it might be difficult for some, it is important for clients to be aware that therapy is an investment in themselves and should be focused on them!
How participatory are you during sessions?
I am very participatory and engaged with my clients throughout their sessions. For the most part, I take the lead when working with children and adolescents. When working with adults, I allow them to take the lead and participate as deemed appropriate.
Do you assign homework, activities, or readings for me to do between sessions? Why or why not?
I often assign homework, activities, or readings between sessions—depending on the client and their needs. I have asked clients to practice a relaxation exercise outside of the therapy session and to track/journal their thoughts, feelings, or dreams. I have also offered book suggestions. I believe that clients’ progress is also contingent upon the work that is done outside of their therapy sessions.
How will our relationship be different than relationships I have with friends/loved ones?
While seeking help from friends/loved ones is important and helpful, getting help from a therapist is unbiased and objective. I am trained to support you through a different perspective than a close friend or family member, while shedding light to unhelpful thoughts, new perspectives, and understanding your feelings better.
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?
Definitely. Clients don’t need to be in therapy forever. If a client has achieved their therapy goals and has expressed readiness to end therapy, I have a conversation with them about graduating. I then begin the termination process to prepare them for life after therapy, while also making sure to celebrate this accomplishment. More importantly, I remind clients that it is okay to return to therapy for what’s known as a “booster session,” or if other things come up for them.
Where did you work before going into private practice?
I currently work at Henry Street Settlement, a non-profit organization on the Lower East Side of Manhattan as a school-based mental health therapist. I provide individual, group, and family therapy to students in grades K-12 who are experiencing depression, anxiety, trauma, ADHD, and adjustment issues with school, family, or peers. Before working in their School-Based Mental Health Clinics program, I worked in their outpatient mental health clinic seeing adults ages 18-70 for therapy.
Have you received any particular training beyond your post-Bachelor’s training?
I received my Master’s Degree from Fordham University Graduate School of Education. Since then I have received training in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT), neurocounseling, mindfulness-based stress reduction, art therapy, Internal Family Systems (IFS), and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). I’m always seeking to attend trainings to expand my knowledge and increase best practice.
What led you to become a mental healthcare practitioner?
I did some soul searching when I was in college about being able to pursue a career that I found fulfilling and would make an impact. I then learned that my college offered a counseling minor. I loved learning about counseling and the way that my counseling professors made me feel (validated, understood, cared for) and I wanted to do the same for others. I also wanted to make an impact in my community by destigmatizing mental health and empowering others who needed support in finding their voice.
What is the best part of the work for you?
Being able to bear witness to a client or family’s growth—whether it is seeing them overcome a traumatic experience or hearing them talk about utilizing their coping strategy outside of therapy. It is amazing to be able to see clients use their tools and believe that they can make changes in their lives.
What is unique about the work you do, or how have you found your work to be different than your colleagues’?
I believe that therapists are different from others because they are empathic and trained to understand others’ perspectives. People have found that talking to me helps them feel understood, validated, and heard—I know that these types of conversations aren’t always experienced with everyone.
How do you approach diversity in the room or working with clients who may come from a different background than you?
As a woman of color, I value diversity and welcome the conversation in the room anytime. I’ll ask questions about your background, culture, race, gender, age, and sexual orientation because it is a part of who you are and I’m curious about how it has shaped you. Even if you are someone with a similar background as me, you might still have a different experience. I enjoy learning from others and welcome any and all conversations about diversity and how I can better understand you.
How can you tell if I am benefiting from working with you?
There are different key factors that I can notice about you benefiting from working with me. Not all need to be present, but some hints are if you notice you feel less anxious, depressed, sad, stressed, and/or symptomatic; you notice feeling better overall; you are practicing and improving coping skills outside of therapy; you come prepared to sessions with things to talk about; and/or you’re feeling and thinking differently about things in your life than you did when you started working with me.
How can you tell if I am feeling stuck, unseen, or unheard?
I’d like to begin by saying that feeling stuck, unseen, or unheard is common in therapy. When I’ve noticed clients feeling this way, there’s usually something that we are unable to make progress in and sometimes that is an indicator of how things are going outside of therapy or within the therapeutic relationship. I encourage my clients to be honest with me if they are feeling stuck, unseen, or unheard so that we can find a solution to foster change and growth.
How long should I commit to being in therapy, at least in the beginning?
Although there is no set time for how long one should be in therapy, I recommend at least 3 months to build a rapport and begin making progress towards your treatment goals. Everyone comes to therapy with different mental health histories and can make significant progress in 3-6 months for short-term therapy; however, some may need long-term therapy and can be in therapy for one year or more.
How should I prepare for my first session with you?
You don’t have to do much to prepare for our first session. My only suggestion is to come with your therapy goal(s) in mind so that we can begin to set the platform and know which direction to take.
Do I need to bring anything with me?
Do I need to be mindful of anything in particular while commuting to your office?
No, I will send directions to you before our first appointment.
"After working with Stephanie Rojas for five years, I can confidently say that she is one of the most thoughtful, reflective, gentle, and kind therapists (and people) I have ever had the privilege of working with. I would highly recommend her to support you in your journey through whatever challenge or change you find yourself facing." -Landis Bejar, LMHC