What did you see first… a rabbit or a duck?
There are times in life when people experience shifts in their understanding of things…
A task has changed from something that’s a chore to something you love – or the other way around.
You discover that something that used to be difficult has now become easy.
You know you feel blue, and now you also know you will get through it.
A parent or a leader is no longer perceived as ‘perfect’ but as another person with their flaws.
A group of people no longer seem strange but familiar and loving or, they are no longer perceived as caring but as controlling and dominating.
The memory of an event no longer dominates your thoughts but has taken its place in the background.
These insights can be tiny or big, and with them come the realization that tasks, events, feelings, and people may stay the same but it’s your perceptions of them that changed. When this happens, the pieces of your experience may fall together in different and often beneficial ways.
- One of the goals of therapy is to help you notice, clarify, access, and harness these shifts for your own personal benefit so that you can become more independent and confident without fear, anxiety, pain, and self-blame.
Learning to change our perceptions also can enable us to:
- Choose which feelings and perceptions we wish to have.
- Be more compassionate toward ourselves and others.
- Be more in tune with the feelings of others.
- Pull others closer.
- Feel more comfortable in our own shoes.
Charting a course to your recovery…
There are different ways to change our perceptions.
People often do it through becoming more aware of their thoughts and feelings or learning how things work – through education.
I learned about the importance of this when I started working with ex-cult members and later with adoptees and their families. I realized that individual’s or children’s initial perceptions of groups or adults (in the case of children) could change significantly. I discovered that by helping them look at their experiences differently, they could benefit without the blame, shame, and guilt they had been feeling.
My work with clients integrates these pieces so that individuals can begin to step back and look at their experiences with fresh eyes and within a new context that will support them going forward.
Once we have found new perspectives that work for you, I will help you strengthen and reinforce them, if necessary, or help you apply your new insights to other aspects of your life.
I see people of all ages: individuals, couples, families, and groups. The one issue I prefer to refer elsewhere is couples who are having marital difficulties. I strongly suggest that you find someone trained as a marriage counselor, as it is a specialty for which I do not have the training. If you have other issues as a couple, I am more than happy to see you.
Here’s an overview of how we’ll work together…
First, I begin with all my clients by listening, very carefully, to your issues as you perceive them. I must hear your story – how you see yourself and what goals you have for therapy. If you are not sure what to work on, we can work on that also.
Once we have a goal, we can begin to look at what might be preventing you from achieving it. Do you want to feel better in your relationships with others? Great! What kind of relationships have you had in the past, and what roles have you played in them? What kind of people or groups were you dealing with? In what ways did they support you or prevent you from succeeding? Could any of your past relationships, self-perceptions, or limitations have made it hard to achieve your goals today?
People who have experienced trauma, such as some adoptees or victims of abuse, may have had complicated relationships. Were you neglected or abused when you were young? If so, by whom? Is it possible that your relationship with your abuser has impacted your ability to move forward? Are you more susceptible to being victimized? Do you find it hard to trust other adults? Understanding your relationship with your abuser will also help you recognize and let go of the self-blame you have.
The same is true for ex-cult members or victims of unethical psychics.
The same can be true for some people with disabilities. Have you been shamed so much for disabilities that you have experienced that as traumatic? In addition to working on tasks to make your life more manageable, we will address some of these issues so that you will feel calmer and more in control of your thoughts and feelings.
Together, we will pick these issues apart so that you can tell the difference between how your roles and those of the people around you differ. The perceptions of children, for example, are very different from those of adults and learning how they can be especially freeing when viewed from an adult perspective.
We will do this in a way that will help you feel safe during this process of exploration.
First, our communication with each other is confidential by law. Secondly, I do not judge you. I am here to help you. My desire is always to help find the best way to help you, depending on the best ways that you learn and process information and experience.
So, whether you learn by doing, reading, or listening, we will find out what methods work best for you. We will work at your pace so that you do not feel lost, overwhelmed, or traumatized. This way, we can also be sure that we have covered the areas we need to.
You will learn about how the brain and the body work together to both heal and protect you. This will help you understand why you have some of the experiences you do. As a result, you will begin to see that these feelings don’t just come out of nowhere but have a source and a function. This helps many people start to feel more in control of their feelings and to be kinder to themselves.
I often talk about ‘psychoeducation,’ a form of therapy that blends education with therapeutic skills. Mainly, it uses education to help clients learn what to expect in certain situations and then supports them in dealing with these realities. Learning about depression, anxiety, and many of the elements in traumatic experiences can be vital in helping people master their situations.
My goal is to help you learn how to do this for yourself and, by being able to see the pieces differently, make changes you didn’t know you could.
By learning that it is possible to view things differently, it will be harder to stay stuck and easier to imagine multiple alternatives and solutions to problems. This may require some practice, but it is a skill worth learning. I started with the photo of the rabbit/duck – as a reminder that some things can be both.
Anxiety and Depression
We will work together to help you figure out if there are any underlying reasons for depression and anxiety and show you some techniques either to stop the feelings from starting or to prevent them from overwhelming you. I may use some Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques in this process – like getting you to notice if something you are thinking sets off your feelings.
I will teach you ways to understand more about how depression and anxiety affect your mind as well as your body. I believe that both anxiety and depression have common sources and that they can have profound effects on the way we feel physically as well as mentally. Some of these feelings will begin to go away as we understand where they are rooted.
I will refer you to a doctor for medication if necessary. I may also recommend other alternatives, like exercise and diet, when appropriate.
Most importantly, I will help you stay connected to people while you are grappling with these feelings. Depression can be especially isolating, and maintaining connections with others can be crucial to your recovery.
If you’ve had a traumatic experience (accidents, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse), I will help you understand how and why your mind and body have reacted to the trauma the way they have.
We will also determine non-intrusive ways in which to let go of some of the past and understand how others may be experiencing you so that you can improve your relationships with them.
I will help you determine what kinds of activities will help you move past this and refer you to the most appropriate resources, such as EMDR, once we have identified the next steps.
If you have adopted, were adopted, or are considering adoption, you may need to examine these issues by understanding your experiences as well as those of others. I will show you how.
Gaining insight and understanding of your parents, the birth parents of the child, and the child in the context of the adoption is most helpful. The world of adoption has changed dramatically in the last 30 years, and I will help you catch up.
For some people and children, adoption has been traumatic. Gaining an understanding of how trauma may have affected the process can be a significant piece – which sometimes gets overlooked. Recognition can be especially helpful if your young or adult adopted child is challenging to parent, or you, as an adult adoptee, are having problems in your relationships.
ADHD and Executive Functioning Skills
If you struggle in these areas, you may benefit from understanding the brain chemistry behind it.
Executive Function (EF) is what we think when we remember to get up in the morning. It’s not the ‘getting up.’ It’s the realization that it needs to be done. Executive Function problems get in the way of accomplishing tasks. They affect planning, organizing, and follow-through.
ADHD can overlap with EF. With ADHD, you may be able to strengthen a part of your brain through Neuro Bio-Feedback Training (NBFT), which will retrain the brain so that it runs more smoothly. This is something that can be learned like riding a bicycle and can make ADHD medication unnecessary. I work closely with an expert who provides NBFT if you want it. NBFT is a new technology that harnesses brain waves to do tasks and build mental strengths in underutilized areas.
Many folks with ADHD are depressed and anxious because of their difficulties with other people.
They may often feel ‘out of sync’ with others, often interrupt others, and may have trouble speaking too loudly or too softly. People with ADHD also have trouble managing tasks in school or at work. This may annoy others, and the constant criticism and self-criticism can be very discouraging.
I will also help you learn new coping mechanisms. I especially enjoy showing kids how to gain mastery over day-to-day tasks in preparation for high school, or college… and helping people of all ages cope in the workplace. We will explore daily coping strategies, rewards systems, study strategies, and positive ways to reinforce behaviors.
My style with ADHD and Executive Function clients can be more structured, depending on your needs as I help you learn to manage your behaviors more effectively.
Cults and Controlling Relationships
If you’re an individual or a family that has been affected by cults, high-intensity group experiences, controlling relationships, or experiences with unethical psychics, I would love to work with you.
I’ve been doing this work since 1980, helping people who struggle with conflicts caused by their group or relationship involvement. Some of these conflicts might involve having family members who are still in the group or, in some cases, out of the group – who disagree with your choice to leave or understand why you got involved in the first place. You may have friends you can no longer talk to. You may have trouble explaining your time in the group on a resume. You may have difficulty learning to live in your new community. There are many others.
I do not presume that your group or relationship experience is “good” or “bad.” I help you determine that for yourself. I do, however, provide you with explanations for different kinds of group/relationship behavior that may enlighten your perception of what you have gone through. This frees up many people to make choices they did not know they had.
One example might be learning that your leader was intimate with other members of the group. By learning how he manipulated others, and how common this can be, you might decide to reach out to an old friend in the group you previously thought was disloyal and now realize was conned.
My style of working is a blend of warm and supportive counseling…
… and either a more analytical or structured process—depending on your needs and wishes.
I listen more than I talk.
If I know of a resource that might be beneficial to you, I encourage you to check it out.
I do a fair amount of education in some sessions, especially around the new brain-health related science and group dynamic issues.
No matter your challenges, though, I’m here to support you every step of the way.
I grew up as the daughter of a prominent psychoanalyst…
… and went through psychoanalysis myself.
I learned the importance of exploring the roots of my beliefs and the way my perceptions affected my decision making. I also learned how to follow the emotional vs. rational logic of my thinking. My dad encouraged me to ask why people believed what they believed. But unfortunately, he knew nothing about cults.
I was later drawn to social work, which has a more supportive style than analysis. I found that social work was much more focused on the way people related to biological, psychological, and social aspects of their lives. It makes more sense to me to include all aspects of a person’s life to understand them, but I still think that being able to follow your emotional logic can be very helpful.
Wondering how I got my insight into “high-intensity groups” or cults?
I began college majoring in the classics and ended up in religious studies at Barnard College (Columbia University). My senior thesis was on the ancient cult of Mithraism.
I was recruited into a Large Group Awareness Training (LGAT), called est, my senior year in college. This group insisted that you not wear a watch or sit next to a friend during their indoctrination. They also used a lot of hypnosis without telling us. Most importantly, they had a secret philosophy we weren’t supposed to tell non-members about. My time was consumed trying to find other people to go through their program.
I left est two years later, but it gave me a lot of insight into what it is like to be part of a high-intensity group or cult and how difficult it can be to leave.
I learned that hiding the real purpose of cults is quite common, and I would never have joined had I known its philosophy. I also discovered that many groups use techniques that have a lot in common with hypnosis: praying, chanting, and speaking in tongues are a few, which enable groups to reinforce group behavior. I also learned about the psychology of totalism which I often go over with ex-members and their families.
In 1980, I co-founded what later became the largest chapter of a self-help group providing education to the public about cults, helping families and ex-members. I was highly active in that group for over ten years. I then moved out of state.
I adopted two children from Kazakhstan.
That’s what got me interested in adoption, especially the post-adoption problems that many parents are not taught during their adoption process. I learned that understanding my children’s experience of their adoption was just as important as understanding my own as an adoptive parent.
In 2009, some friends and I formed a non-profit agency, Post-Adoption Educational Services, Inc., to address these needs.
Soon after this, I received my Post-Masters Certificate in Adoption and became an adoption social worker and did home studies. I then became a licensed clinician with my LCSW.
Raising adopted children got me interested in ADHD, Executive Function, Neuro Bio-Feedback Training, and Trauma, especially Attachment Disorder. I am not an Attachment Disorder therapist, but I am Attachment Informed. I will be happy to discuss whether you need an Attachment Therapist and to support you if you decide that you do.
I love helping families decide whether they want to adopt. I am no longer licensed as an adoption social worker in Connecticut, but I can support you in getting through the adoption process in other ways.
When I’m not in the office…
I have bred and shown dogs for over 30 years as a hobby. You may encounter one at the office, which is why I want to know if you have any dog allergies or dog phobias in my intake questionnaire. Please let me know.
Otherwise, you might have a buddy on the couch with you if you need one. Only dogs certified as a “therapy dog” will be present at the office.
I also make jewelry for fun from “metal clay.” If you don’t know what this is, ask me… or Google it, and you’ll get to see some images.
Reach out… I’ll be here!
I hope that sharing some of my stories has helped you get to know a little more about me. I’d love to know more about you, and together we can see if we are a fit.
So if you think you may be ready for a new perspective, give me a call and make an appointment. I offer a free 20-minute consultation: (860) 717-4400.