My Approach to Helping
All of us need to have our stories received with understanding and compassion in order to feel good about ourselves, to make meaning of our hardships, and to grow. I work from the assumption that everything we do - including behavior that on the surface may appear unhealthy or even harmful - originates from some basic human desires: to feel connected to and cared for by others; to be "seen" and appreciated for our authentic selves; to have a sense of purpose in and belonging to something greater than us as individuals. Under ideal circumstances, these needs are met in the course of daily life, by those closest to us, from childhood onward. However, we all know that life doesn't always conform to ideals. That's where a therapeutic relationship can fill in some of the gaps, allowing us to move through the "stuck" places.
To help you do that, I will listen carefully to what you are saying, and make gentle but honest observations about patterns in your thoughts, emotional responses and actions. I will ask questions that help you to better know what you need, to understand your life choices, and to more compassionately relate to yourself and those around you. I will offer alternative ways to think about both your strengths and your struggles, and help you to identify new avenues towards overcoming the obstacles you face. My approach includes suggestions for specific and practical tools you can implement to help alleviate your suffering, or to make unavoidable pain more bearable.
More Info About My Practice
I became a therapist as a result of many years of community activism, and after working in various social service capacities with individuals who had experienced multiple life traumas, including homelessness, multi-generational poverty, incarceration, severe mental illness, long term unemployment, and chemical dependency. When I went to graduate school, I chose a degree program and training that specifically looked at individual mental health as something that is embedded in a larger network of social, historical, and political realities. The issues I work with as a psychotherapist sometimes differ in content than those I saw as a social worker, but the subjective experience of pain is very much the same, as are the tools needed make changes in one's life.
My office is located in the ActivSpace building in the Mission district of San Francisco, at the corner of 18th St. and Treat St. I offer a free initial consultation, have day, evening and weekend appointments, and my office is dog friendly.
Importance of the Client-Therapist Alliance
Multiple studies have demonstrated that the theoretical approach a clinician utilizes is a secondary factor in determining the outcome of therapy. All styles of therapy are roughly equivalent in efficacy, so long as they occur within the framework of a warm, empathic and trusting relationship between therapist and client. This is because we are social beings, and our brains function optimally when we feel safe, calm and accepted. For most of human history, being expelled from one's tribe meant almost certain death; therefore, our brains have evolved to require positive mirroring from other people. In the context of nurturing interpersonal relationships, we are able to take in new information about ourselves, and learn additional skills for handling the challenges we face. In order for our work together to be its most effective, I focus a great deal on building and maintaining a warm relationship with you, and work from a stance of openness, compassion and non-judgment.