What would you like people to know about you as a therapist?

I am just as human as everyone else is. I know it can be scary to reach out to a new therapist. Thoughts like ‘Will this therapist really understand me? Will they judge me? What if they can’t help me? What if they think I’m crazy and lock me up?’ are normal to have, especially if you have an anxiety disorder. These thoughts can also make it really difficult to make that initial contact and open up to someone new. I think the most important thing for everyone to know about therapists is that we’re human too. We’re not perfect. We worry if clients won’t like us. We worry about messing up and saying the wrong thing no matter how much training and experience we have. We are right here with you in the beautiful mess of being an inherently imperfect person and we are ready to face and embrace that imperfection with you.

On a similar note, I strongly believe that the therapeutic relationship is a relationship between equals. I bring my training and experience in ERP to the table, and you bring your expert knowledge on you. Together we string the two together to reach your goals and stop anxiety from ruling your life. I think people sometimes assume that therapists are these all-powerful experts, and that can feel intimidating and keep people from courageously showing their true selves in therapy. The truth is, I can only help you if you are courageously you. The skills I’m trained in have to be applied to each client individually (your specific symptoms, your specific goals). This means talking about uncomfortable topics, being honest about intrusive thoughts and even the most “ridiculous” worries, and being true to who you are and what you want. I use a compassionate, nonjudgmental approach to help clients feel safe in being open and honest in therapy and face their fears. One thing I repeat a lot in my practice is how normal client’s symptoms are in relation to their anxiety disorder, and how completely not alone clients are in their journey.


What made you want to specialize in ERP?

I first learned about ERP while I was still in graduate school and attended a local training (Exposure Therapy for Anxiety Disorders) by Tracey Lichner. At the time, my focus was on learning Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and graduating, but I immediately told my supervisor at the time, “I don’t want to do DBT. I want to do exposure therapy.” I continued DBT, which I am very grateful for learning, but began training in exposure therapy with my second supervisor who saw my passion and skill for exposure. Exposure therapy made sense to me. I struggle with my own anxiety at times and had to learn, before exposure therapy was a thing, how to face my own fears in order to participate in my life and reach my goals (something I continue to work on/practice today). Exposure changes lives. I know it works. I believe in it. I love being creative with exposures and seeing clients gain strength and confidence by facing their fears. Exposure therapy is a lot of work, but it can be so transformative and I consider myself lucky to be able to walk alongside my clients through that process.


How has ERP impacted your life?

In the best (and sometimes hardest) way. Like I said before, I’ve had my own journey with anxiety and learning to face my fears in therapy in the past without having the framework of ERP (I had an amazing Cognitive Behavior Therapy therapist). My therapy experience changed my life way back in high school (I learned I don’t have to believe everything I think and, WOW, was that amazing when I finally put that into practice!). My therapist helped me gradually face my fears as I learned that my thoughts don’t have to control me. One thing I am strongly committed to is continuing my exposure journey now that I have the words and framework for it. My latest exposure; opening a private practice with two other lovely, talented, compassionate, and all-around-bad-ass women. It’s scary, it’s so exciting, it’s hard, it’s up and down, and I’m doing it because it’s my dream. That’s one (big) example of an exposure for me that I’m still working on today. Sometimes my exposures are a lot smaller. Like telling someone what I need or saying no. I still get anxiety from these things and sometimes they are still hard to do, but I know how to not let anxiety or thoughts control me or hold me back. These continued exposure practices keep me humble and connected to my clients who are working on exposures themselves.


remy the dogWhat do you like to do in your free time?

My very favorite thing to do in my free time is spend time with my dog, Remy. This is likely one of the first things you will learn about me if you come to me for therapy. Remy is so important to me (and the most amazing dog ever). I also really enjoy hiking/exploring new places, trying new restaurants and breweries, organizing/re-organizing, working on house/landscaping projects, reading books for fun, and spending quality time with my team of amazing support people. Comedies, crime documentaries, and psychological thrillers are also favorites of mine. Recently, with the lockdown, I’ve been finding joy in playing board games, taking walks with Remy, stopping to recognize the beauty that is around me that I am sometimes too busy to acknowledge, reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown for book club (highly recommend anything by Brene Brown), learning new recipes (cooking has historically been challenging for me but I’m learning), working on my meditation practice, and connecting with friends and family in any safe way possible.


What would you say to people who are on the fence about exposure therapy?

Take the first step (do your first exposure) and reach out to potential ERP therapists for help and more information. It can be so challenging and we can let a million things get in the way, but it can also be life-changing. Notice what is getting in the way. Is it thoughts of not wanting to be judged? Is it worries that therapy won’t work? Is it time? Write those things down instead of ruminating about them/trying to figure it out on your own and then focus on action. Talk to a potential therapist and get more information. Bring up your barriers. We will work with you to figure out what makes sense for you. Many therapists are happy to answer questions and give more information even before you schedule an appointment.

Here’s what to expect if you do schedule an appointment: The first session is likely going to be a session to see if exposure therapy is the right fit for you. This means sharing your history, your current symptoms, and your goals for therapy. If exposure isn’t the right fit, the therapist will point you in the right direction. If it is the right fit, you will likely start developing an exposure hierarchy collaboratively with your therapist. An exposure hierarchy is a flexible guide (not set in stone) of fears to repetitively face in therapy going forward. Then exposures begin. You will likely start with an exposure that feels difficult but manageable to you. Remember the first time you drove a car? Or the first day of a new job/school? You were likely nervous (and maybe excited too) because of the unknowns. Remember surviving that and the feeling of accomplishment you got after (‘I did it!’ or ‘Phew, that was hard, but I survived and got through it’)? That’s exposure. If you get this far, you will get the opportunity to learn that you can do more than you ever thought.