From your perspective, what is therapy?
Therapy is a space one intentionally gives oneself with another person who is curious, compassionate and trained to maintain listening through these two lenses. The relationship that results is unique. Your choices, desires, and needs are explored without being inhibited by their impact to the therapist as they would be with friends, family, colleagues or lovers. This exploration with a therapist develops insight into the patterns of behavior that these choices, desires, and needs affect in your life. With this insight you can then choose to practice differently to achieve different outcomes…in mood, in relationships, in career satisfaction, in developing a life full of meaning.
Please share 2-3 anonymized examples of how the work can play out and/or look in the room so that I can form a visual or narrative of what to expect.
– With one client who was feeling like he was no longer able to recover from the continual challenges and setbacks he was facing as the CEO of his company, we first explored and took a thorough inventory of his baseline habits, beliefs, strengths, values, goals, lifestyle, physical and psychological symptoms, and relationship patterns. We then explored the function that these have played throughout his life, keeping and improving upon what was working for him and finding alternatives for what was no longer effective. We iterated weekly, all the while instilling a deeper sense of meaning which guided each choice.
– With another client, we explored her core belief that “I will never find true love” by taking a careful look at each of her romantic and key family relationships, her developmental history, and many unique circumstances that shaped her internal experience of ‘otherness.’ Once the connection between these aspects of self is understood, a shift takes place in the experience of self and self-in-relationship.
– Another client attending graduate school had narrowed her life to attending school and work in an effort to avoid the triggers of her panic disorder which she had had since high school. She had avoided traveling in trains, cars, airplanes or accepting any invitations from friends or family that required this of her. She had been on multiple medications since early adolescence to help her control her symptoms and never dreamed she would be able to be off of them. After a collaborative commitment to working together with CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) and Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy, she has conquered her fear of having panic attacks, her fear of all forms of transportation and fear of relationship. Three years later, she is an avid kayaker, vacations out of the U.S., and is engaged to be married. And she is medication free!
Are there any philosophies or values that inform your work that I should know about?
I don’t believe that there is an absolute value to anything in the natural world. The beauty of humanity is that we have the ability to select what we imbue with value, or judgement. This means that nothing is inherently good or bad. Our interpretation is the key to whether there is suffering or action. There is a Buddhist tenet that holds that pain is a given, suffering is an option. All humans experience pain. Not all humans must suffer during this pain. Suffering results from mental and emotional responses to pain. How we interpret the pain signal will determine the extent of the suffering. It’s a balance between what realities we can accept and what we can and should change.
How much do you share about yourself during our time together and why?
I will be transparent with you about how and with whom I identify if that is important for you and our work together. I will respond honestly and transparently to all of your direct questions. If there is a question I am not comfortable with or decline to answer, I will tell you why.
How participatory are you during sessions?
I follow what I call “benevolent curiosity.” My role in the room is to ask questions and use my own emotional bell weather system to reconstruct what you are experiencing in your life from your perspective. As this picture develops color, texture, flavor, harmony and context for me, I’ll have more questions, experiential exercises, relaxation/productivity techniques, reading suggestions, and interpretations for you throughout each session. This feedback, psychoeducation, and interpretation will be informed by my extensive training and education in neuroscience.
Do you assign homework, activities, or readings for me to do between sessions? Why or why not?
Yes, often. While we work together on developing insight during our sessions, it’s between sessions when you have the opportunity to put these insights into practice in your life. Being able to take home specific tools to use in tough situations or emotionally charged moments allows for you to experience the learning and gain confidence. It’s like learning a language – you can go to class once or twice a week but it takes using the language on a daily basis to become fluent and confident. In a lot of ways, therapy is learning the language of emotional intelligence and in-vivo experience is vital.
How will our relationship be different than relationships I have with friends/loved ones?
No matter how loving and supportive the relationships in our lives are, there are always unconscious biases that the people in our lives have when listening and offering advice/support. While we will definitely develop a strong relationship based on respect, the choices you make (apart from coming or not coming to session) do not impact my life. This provides for the condition of benevolent curiosity that I am able to maintain in our work together.
Is there ever a time when you would encourage me to leave or graduate? Or how do I know when it’s time to end or move on, or time to stay and explore more?
In our initial consultation call, I’ll usually suggest that we meet weekly for the first four weeks so that our relationship can gain momentum and I can learn about your current life and relevant history. We will then decide on a weekly or monthly basis how our work together should proceed. Everyone is unique in terms of their process and needs. After several months you might feel prepared to wind down the work on a more intensive weekly level, and feel that a monthly or quarterly “check-in” session is what you need. While the process of therapy brings profound integration of experience, personal responsibility, and insight that produces lasting change, our personalities, traits, and instincts tend to be steadfast. Returning to therapy at intervals is a good idea to maintain the benefits, motivation and integration of experience.
Where did you work before going into private practice?
I was a serial entrepreneur before going back to school in 2002 to become a therapist. I developed an adult incontinence product called Rejoice, a wine importing business, and a women’s lifestyle media brand. All paths lead me to my favorite part of the ventures which was building the team and learning about human motivation and resilience.
Have you received any particular training beyond your post-Bachelor’s training?
After completing one year of a clinical psychology Master’s program at Columbia’s Teacher College, I completed the MSW program at Columbia receiving my MSW in 2007. I completed a two-year psychoanalytic psychotherapy certification program at the Contemporary Freudian Society in 2010. I completed multiple trainings in DBT, Motivational Interviewing and CBT through Columbia and NYU. In 2017, I completed certification through the Neuropsychoanalysis Association and am a member of the International Neuropsychoanalysis Society. I became an adjunct professor at Columbia School of Social Work in 2016 where I teach Advanced Clinical Practice and Understanding Depression and Bipolar Disorder.
What led you to become a mental healthcare practitioner?
I reverse-engineered my career choice. I always had a fantasy of being an old wise woman, like Yoda, who had the power to help young Jedi locate the courage and resilience within themselves. I also want to write fiction. So I thought, how can I develop a lifelong career to support the learning and exposure to people from whom I can learn?
What is the best part of the work for you?
It is a pure honor to be invited into my clients’ lives to experience the best and the worst (and everything in between) with them. I never feel like I have wasted a second of my day. Time is precious and this is time well spent.
What is unique about the work you do, or how have you found your work to be different than your colleagues’?
I encourage my clients to lead active, purposeful lives, so I therefore encourage that we check in week by week to make sure our appointments are necessary, beneficial, and convenient rather than fix a weekly time for an indefinite period. My goal is to become a partner to foster resilience, providing you the tools to be independent. At the same time, developing a strong rapport and relationship is imperative and lasting.
How do you approach diversity in the room or working with clients who may come from a different background than you?
I ask how and with whom you identify. I am transparent with my own. I ask that our differences be an ongoing discussion and consideration in our work together.
How can you tell if I am benefiting from working with you?
You will be thinking about our sessions during the week. You will be mindful of your instincts, emotions, choices, decisions, motivations, and consequences as you go about living each week. This mindfulness will inevitably lead to discomfort (because it’s change) and also relief. New outcomes will begin to start appearing for you as a result.
How can you tell if I am feeling stuck, unseen, or unheard?
I will become aware of your ambivalence, frustration, and desire to avoid meeting. I will ask you, but also I hope you will tell me.
How long should I commit to being in therapy, at least in the beginning?
I suggest that we schedule a consultation call to discuss this as each situation is unique. In general, I would recommend that you commit to a minimum of 4 weekly sessions and then determine if continuing weekly or bi-weekly is more appropriate. Clients can experience great shifts and relief in this time period but it is usually a function of the practice and dedication that one devotes to the between-session implementation. Committing to a period of 6 months to a year is usually my recommendation.
How should I prepare for my first session with you?
I will ask for you to complete a client contact and intake form with birth date, medical and psychiatric history/family history. Otherwise, we will start by discussing what in your life brought you to set up the appointment and why now. I will guide you from there.
Do I need to bring anything with me?
A copy of your insurance card if you would like a superbill to submit for out-of-network reimbursement.
“I wanted to let you know that I feel as though I’ve learned a great deal in Professor Carville’s course. In fact, this is the kind of class I hoped to have when I enrolled at Columbia. I have had a couple classes which approached behavioral therapies with uncanny uniformity in readings and assignments around the bare bones of CBT, so I have appreciated and benefited from Professor Carville’s approach, which goes deeper, providing more context, nuance, and a way to integrate other modalities.”
-2nd year MSW student
“Thank you for the countless acts of care that you provided to me when I was not at my best. You hold such a significance in my life, in helping through this grand transition and growth. I can see now that it is not YOU who does anything for me, but I am the one who completely helps myself. No one does anything to me, it is how I perceive the world around me, and how I respond that matters most.”
“Thanks once again for honoring me with your intellect and your ingenious insight! I wish I had recorded the Mon session — There were so many aha moments!”