When I grew up my parents reached out for mental health treatment for my brother who was 11 months older. The care they received impacted our family in lasting ways and over time I realized that finding good mental health treatment was crucial.
I became very curious to learn and understand what made positive change possible and what gets in the way and keeps people stuck. After completing graduate school at The University of Michigan, it became clear that this was just the beginning of my journey. I eagerly sought out extensive post-graduate training from leaders in the field of therapy and will be forever grateful to these dedicated individuals.
As a young therapist, I trained at Philadelphia Child Guidance with Salvador Minuchin and learned that family therapy could be very successful when it is built on strengths and empowering people. I worked at Child Study Center in Fort Worth in an era when psychiatric hospitals dismissed clients with eating disorders for non-compliance. To help those families, we set up a team approach modeling the program at Philadelphia Child Guidance. We saw these children begin to eat again by utilizing a form of structural family therapy that included a therapeutic lunch. We saw families where a child was a brittle diabetic and family therapy allowed them to stay home and reduced the number of emergency flights to a specialized hospital in Denver. We also worked with the Fort Worth fire department and young children who set dangerous fires. We learned that there was a predictable pattern of need that could be interrupted and make remarkable changes.
This led to an outstanding 2-year training course at Southwest Family Institute in Dallas that was led by psychiatrists who believed in the power of families. With their supervision, I began seeing families that were considered too difficult/severe. We worked very hard to empower these families and saw some significant successes. It was my honor to be put on the faculty of Southwest Family Institute and asked by one of the psychiatrists to help supervise therapists at an inpatient hospital. The psychiatrist was an outstanding teacher and helped the therapists see they could make a difference.
Afterward, I was asked to set up a counseling center on base at Carswell. It was a privilege to be a part of this group and work with a staff who dedicated their time to learn and implement various therapies in a team approach. We included a Solution-Focused therapy specialization after an amazing training experience in Milwaukee with the founders of the model. That experience taught us a great respect for military families and the unique way they live their lives.
Ridglea Family Guidance was formed from the centers counseling staff when we were offered the opportunity to become the main referral source for Harris Hospital and received 100 referrals a month.
At Ridglea Family Guidance we offered individual, family and couples therapy for children and adults. We continued to seek training utilizing Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment, David Burns’s method of treating anxiety and depression; Narrative therapy, and meditation, and became specialized in working with eating disorders. For over 12 years our group provided a support group for the sufferers, a DBT group, a dietitian and a team that consulted with each other. Unfortunately, managed care became a hindrance over time and the focus changed. My way of providing therapy dramatically changed after learning about Internal Family Systems (IFS) and the ability to treat trauma without retraumatizing. This is a type of therapy that empowers each of us to listen to ourselves and all those conflicting thoughts in a different way. It provides a way of healing issues we thought would always plague us and fosters compassion with ourselves and with others. I am now an approved consultant that helps train therapists in IFS and have learned to incorporate EMDR in my approach.
At this point in my career, my desire is to see clients and give back to the therapeutic community. To my delight, more practitioners are being trained in IFS and see its benefits to individuals, families, and other communities. I am particularly interested in helping new therapists receive quality supervision and would like to help provide a process where more therapists can be trained in family therapy with eating disorders where healing happens at home; parents are empowered, and family grows together by being part of the solution.