On this page, I write about my development as a psychologist, how my interests evolved, and the areas of expertise I acquired along the way.
My first permanent job after moving to Boulder in 1979 was with Boulder Mental Health Center. I worked at the MHC for 6 years and received excellent on-the-job training in working with people with severe mental illness. These years provided a view of the extreme in the range of human behavior, taught me the medical model and the importance of medication in treating certain symptoms, and impressed upon me the value of supportive services in addition to psychotherapy. I am happy to see people in my practice who suffer from major mental illness when outpatient psychotherapy is all that’s needed.
After I had my second child in 1986, I left the Mental Health Center to work as a clinician for an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and to focus on my private practice. An EAP is a program provided by employers to help employees access mental health and substance abuse services quickly and seamlessly. The EAP therapist assesses the employee’s problem/situation, and either provides short-term therapy under the auspices of the EAP or refers the employee out to more intensive or longer-term treatment. My work in this setting helped me develop skill in doing short-term therapy, including approaches like solution-focused therapy. I also gained experience in assessing substance abuse problems and determining what level of treatment to recommend.
In my private practice during the 80’s and 90’s, I was developing an expertise in women’s issues. I had been influenced by the women’s movement as a young woman and had done my dissertation for my doctorate degree on sex role differences. During this period, there was a growing awareness of the prevalence of sexual abuse and rape, and I went to workshops and trainings to learn how to work with these issues. I worked with many women who had experienced these traumatic events, and began to learn about the psychological manifestations of trauma. I was trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), a technique that is used to help resolve traumatic memories and help people become less sensitive to them. Along the way, I worked with many women with eating disorders and learned about the dynamics of eating disorders and about cognitive and behavioral approaches to treating them. I also worked with many women with sexual dysfunction as a result of past sexual trauma, and I learned about the human sexual response cycle and how to work with difficulties that arise in various parts of the cycle.
In 1991, in addition to my private practice, I began to work at the University of Colorado, Boulder in Dr. David Miklowitz’s lab in the Department of Psychology. Dr. Miklowitz was studying psychosocial treatments for bipolar disorder and was doing outcome studies to see what treatments worked best for people with mood disorders. Research and the scientific method had always interested me. I received my Master’s Degree in Experimental Psychology before switching to Counseling Psychology for my Ph.D. and I had collaborated on some small studies prior to my joining Dr. Miklowitz’s lab. Working in the lab for twenty-five years introduced me to several new interests. I gained an extensive knowledge of the treatment of bipolar disorder in adults and children. Since many of the psychosocial treatments we were using in our studies were family therapy approaches, I gained a lot of experience in doing family therapy. We were finishing up data collection on our final randomized study when my position at the lab ended at the end of 2016. We were looking at the question of whether family therapy with children who are exhibiting mood problems can prevent the onset of full-blown mania and bipolar disorder. Data analysis is still underway.
Being married myself, I can attest to the challenges in maintaining a healthy long-term relationship. I’ve always enjoyed doing couples therapy, and I’m now studying a powerful theoretical and clinical approach called Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). EFT is based on attachment theory. It follows from the premise that, while the attachment bond with a primary caregiver is essential to the survival of an infant, as an adult the attachment we develop with our significant other is equally significant, and threats to that bond can generate emotions of life-or-death intensity.
Throughout my professional career, I have been introduced to concepts from Eastern philosophy by several colleagues and teachers. I believe that practices like meditation and mindfulness, although difficult to master, probably offer some of the simplest and most direct avenues to good mental health.
In describing the bodies of knowledge that have most influenced my development as a psychologist, I would be remiss in not mentioning Descriptive Psychology. Descriptive Psychology was developed by Dr. Peter Ossorio at the University of Colorado. I was fortunate enough to have been able to sit in on some of Dr. Ossorio’s classes when I moved to Boulder, and I have found this approach so incredibly useful that I have continued in a Descriptive Psychology supervision group since that time. Descriptive Psychology is concerned with the accurate and complete description of persons, their actions, and the worlds in which they live. A useful description of a problem conveys the solution.
This is a brief overview of what I have learned so far. The amazing thing about my work, and for this I am exceedingly grateful, is that there are always new things to learn and people I am privileged to get to know who inspire me to learn those things.