I view these specialties through the lens of attachment & inner child wounds. Many of the following areas of focus tend to overlap.
I also specialize in supporting Highly Sensitive People (HSP), empaths, musicians, artists, Latino/a/x, and LGBTQIA+ communities.
Everyone feels some level of anxiety once in a while but sometimes a person can experience high levels of anxiety regularly. Overwhelming, recurring, or “out of nowhere” dread can be distressing. Anxiety can cause intrusive or obsessive thoughts, rumination, excessive worrying, or even panic attacks. Anxiety is an emotion that is intended to aid in our survival by anticipating danger, protecting ourselves from harm, and trying to keep us safe. However, anxiety can become debilitating when a person is consistently in this high alert state. Anxious behavior can be inherited, learned, or both. Anxious caregivers are likely to have anxious children or model anxious behavior for them. Having a stressful upbringing or traumatic life experiences can also increase the likelihood of anxiety. Therapy can be helpful to understand and process the root of anxiety while cultivating healthier ways to respond and cope with this feeling.
Self-esteem exists on a continuum from high to low and is the degree to which one feels confident, valuable, and worthy of respect. Those with high self-esteem often feel good about themselves, can take constructive criticism, and feel self-assured with their progress through life. Those struggling with low self-esteem often feel shame, self-doubt, and engage excessive self-criticism. Self-criticism can be a healthy way to increase self-awareness and achieve personal growth, but excessive or cruel critical self-talk can be a barrier to healthy self-esteem and peace of mind. Low self-esteem, shame, and self-criticism can often be rooted in childhood experiences such as having an overly critical parent, cruel peers, shaming authority figures, or simply from not having enough positive, yet challenging opportunities that help children gain feelings of competence and adequacy. This can impact a person to feel and internalize false, limiting narratives about themselves such as one being inadequate, bad, wrong, or unworthy of love. Others may struggle connecting with others and being authentically themselves for fear of others seeing the “real” them and rejecting them. Therapy can be helpful for identifying shameful emotions and false narratives that carry a low opinion of oneself, and cultivate self-love and compassion.
& Family of Origin
One's family of origin—the family one grew up in—is the place where a person learns their values, beliefs, how to communicate, process emotions, and get needs met. Attachment is the ability to form emotional bonds with other people and our family of origin creates the blueprint for our experience of attachment. A secure attachment is formed when children can rely on a consistent, attuned caregiver for their sense of physical and emotional safety. However, in some families, an insecure attachment can form when caregivers are not consistent or attuned leading to difficulties forming relationships throughout life. Families can experience dysfunction due to abuse, substance abuse, mental illness, physical or emotional neglect, and not adequately demonstrating love. Many of these families hold the shame-based unspoken rules that you cannot talk about family problems, you cannot trust anyone, and you cannot feel your feelings. Common attachment wounds are the fear of abandonment, rejection, and feeling “not good enough” or “unlovable.” Therapy can be helpful for a person to process the impact of their childhood, cultivate a loving relationship with themselves, and learn healthier ways to relate to others.
Emotional dysregulation is a state of feeling overwhelmed by the intensity of emotions that is difficult to manage. When in this state, it can affect your ability to think, communicate, and act rationally. This may be due to stress, traumatic life experiences, relationship issues, or a life-long pattern from not having learned how to tolerate and cope with distressing emotions as a child. Often emotional overwhelm can be related to a culmination of stressors or unprocessed emotions that feel like they are bleeding into seemingly unrelated parts of your life. Emotions that are commonly difficult to feel and cope with are fear, sadness, guilt, shame, and anger. Therapy can be helpful to process the sources of emotional overwhelm, expand tolerance for distressing emotions, build emotional insight, and cultivate healthier ways to respond and cope with their feelings.
Relationship Dynamics & Communication
Relationships can be a source of love, fulfillment, and support. However, there are disagreements and challenges in even the best of personal, platonic, or professional relationships. When challenges are left unaddressed, tension builds, familiar coping mechanisms get activated, and the relationship can struggle. Often each person wants to be heard and both leave the conversation feeling unheard, misunderstood or misinterpreted. It's how we communicate during disagreements that can either lead to a continuous cycle of arguments and conflict or understanding and connection. Past wounds that stem from early childhood relationships, previous romantic relationships, or other areas of life may also affect how we communicate and interact in relationships. Therapy can be helpful to understand what is contributing to the cycle of conflict, learn how to have healthy dialogue during disagreements, navigate challenging discussions, build insight and tools to communicate in ways that help everyone feel understood and validated.
Parenting is the fulfilling, yet challenging, process of raising children and providing them with protection and care in order to ensure their healthy development into adulthood. It's the parent's responsibility to help children develop daily living skills, social-emotional skills, and appropriate behaviors since children are not born knowing how. Some parents become stressed by a particular parenting challenge or recurring situation while others may experience stress due to having a child struggling with emotional overwhelm or tantrums, defiance, mental health concerns, or behavioral issues. Parents may find help for the child but leave their own emotions unaddressed allowing stress and overwhelm to build up, impacting their parenting and relationship with their child. Therapy can be helpful for parents to have support of their own, get guidance on navigating parenting challenges, and learn skills to address their parenting concerns.
A person with codependent tendencies often prioritizes others’ well-being over their own, struggles with setting boundaries and denies their own needs. They may feel excessive guilt or anxiety when prioritizing themselves or asserting their own desires, needs, boundaries. Codependency involves depending on outside sources to build an identity and validate self-worth. If a person does not see their inherent worth, they may rely on the sense of “being needed” to feel worthy. Codependent people often feel responsible for others’ happiness and struggles while also hiding their true thoughts and feelings to avoid upsetting others. Codependent behaviors are usually rooted in childhood as they were necessary for survival. The behaviors may have been modeled by a caregiver, learned from having their emotions ignored or punished thus internalizing the message that their emotions and needs are not worth attending to. Codependent behaviors are present for adults who may have grown up in an enmeshed family. Examples of enmeshment are a lack of boundaries, stifled autonomy, excessive closeness, and undifferentiated family roles such as a child having to take care or responsibility for their parents' needs. Therapy can be helpful to process where codependent tendencies stem from, learn how to set boundaries, and build a healthier relationship with self and others.
Adjusting to change, even when it’s positive, can be difficult and stressful. A person can expect to experience a significant amount of change over the course of a lifetime. Changes, such as marriages, births, starting school, and new jobs, are generally positive, although accompanied by their own stressors. Other major life transitions, such as moving, retirement, caregiving for a parent, and entering the “empty nest” phase of life may cause a significant amount of stress. Adjustments and transitions, as the words suggest, are periods of time in a person’s life where they are adjusting to their life transitioning from one way of being to another. Therapy can be helpful to process the variety of emotions that arise during a life adjustment or transition and to have support while experiencing a stressful event or unexpected phase of life you’ve never experienced before.
Perfectionism is often defined as the need to be or appear to be perfect. It’s often seen as a positive trait but it can lead to self-defeating thoughts or behaviors that make it harder to achieve goals. People who are perfectionists may believe that nothing they do is worthwhile unless it is perfect, procrastinate until they can do a task perfectly, engage in debilitating comparison, and fixate on trying to achieve a flawless execution rather than being proud of their progress, learning and hardwork. Perfectionists can also struggle to let go of control – trying to exert influence over one’s environment or the actions or behaviors of another person. Having the excessive need to assert control may be due to the fear of the unpredictable and ambiguous or the fear of losing control itself. Typically, this fear may stem from traumatic events that left the person feeling helpless, powerless, and vulnerable. As a result, they may turn to the external world to find ways to assert their incessant need to feel in control. This may look like micromanaging or orchestrating the actions and behaviors of others, or maintaining rigid rules regarding routine, diet, or cleanliness and order. Attempts to control their environment, themselves, or others can become overwhelming and exhausting. Exerting this need for control over others can cause distress in intimate relationships, workplace settings, families, and other social groups. Therapy can be helpful to process the root of perfectionism and controlling tendencies, cultivate love for one’s imperfections and flaws, and learn ways to cope with life’s uncertainties.
Narcissism is excessive self-involvement that causes a person to be so preoccupied with their own needs that they don’t notice, or actively choose to ignore, the needs and feelings of others. Almost everyone will occasionally engage in narcissistic behavior. People with excessive narcissism, sometimes referred to as “narcissists,” can be excessively fixated on themselves, while their behavior seems to be directed at gaining approval from others. Relationships with people with high levels of narcissism can feel superficial or used as a source of admiration as a means to feed their ego rather than a channel for mutual intimacy. People with excessive narcissism rarely seek therapy because they may neither notice nor care about the effects of their narcissism on others. However, therapy can be helpful to gain understanding and insight into narcissistic behaviors, repair relationships, build awareness of others, and cultivate empathy. Narcissistic tendencies by one person in a family can affect the entire family system. Therapy can also be supportive for those who interact with a narcissist to build understanding about how the person's narcissism affects your life and learn how to set strong boundaries.
When a person feels a lack of meaning or purpose they can adopt a general indifference toward life. Without such meaning or purpose, experiencing the inevitable challenges and suffering in life can feel even more overwhelming, confusing, and painful. A meaningful purpose can help guide us every day and over the course of our lives, helping us make important decisions, resolve internal and external conflicts, plan for the future, choose friends and partners, and make sense of suffering. Without meaning or purpose, a default purpose tends to be to avoid suffering as much as possible. If this is all life means, we are sure to suffer more because the human mind and spirit are nourished from creativity, accomplishment, fulfillment, and meaning that avoiding suffering cannot provide. There is no single definition of spirituality but it is often referred to as the belief in a greater existence outside of humankind. The practice of spirituality goes beyond the constructs of religion and connects individuals with something larger, such as the universe itself. Therapy can be helpful for a person to explore their values, beliefs, needs, and goals which can help build a sense of meaning and purpose in life. It can also be helpful to explore and discover a relationship with spirituality that aligns with the individual, cultivating a feeling of oneness and meaning that goes beyond our human existence.