Little children have minds of their own and, from the first
day of life, enter into relationships with the people who take care of them.
Infants, toddlers and preschoolers constantly change and learn new things, and
pose new challenges for their caregivers. Child rearing can be deeply rewarding
at best, and traumatizing for both parent and child at worst. Usually it is
somewhere in between with a mix of good days and bad days, good moments and bad
moments, moments of joy, laughter and warmth, and moments of disconnection, anger
The most powerful parenting tool is understanding of oneself,
one’s history and feelings, hopes and dreams, and particularly one’s own
attachment relationships with one’s parents. As Lieberman (2005), an expert in
the field of early childhood mental health, points out, “ghosts in the
nursery,” the unprocessed emotional injuries that we carry around, can get in
the way of connecting with our own children. Little children make sense of the
world and themselves through their relationships with their parents.
My approach to helping you develop your relationship with your
child is not by giving advice, but by helping you discover the parent you want
to be, and to develop your trust in yourself. Parenting is always trial and
error. Making mistakes is generally not the problem; being unable to reflect on
mistakes and learn from them is. I am here to help you develop your “reflective
capacities” or what Peter Fonagy (2006)
calls mentalization: The ability to keep your child’s mind in mind and to learn
how to repair your connection after moments of breakdown.
The latency period from 6 to 12 years of age is usually
the most conflict free time in a child’s life. When all goes well, the child is
oriented toward the world and learning. However, if the child struggled with
forming a secure attachment earlier in life, his or her relationships with
teachers and peers might be negative and get in the way of learning. Loss and
trauma affect each child differently and can disrupt his or her functioning and
Supporting a child in making sense of what
happened, supporting his or her ability to not get overwhelmed by emotions, and
understanding that it wasn’t his or her fault are some of the things we would
work on in therapy. Depending on the age of the child and personal inclination,
I would engage the child in play or art therapy. It might also be necessary to
include the parent in therapy and conduct dyadic therapy to support the
reestablishment of trust and attachment.
Adolescence can be a challenging time. Hormones
change the body and emotions. The adolescent becomes a stranger to him or
herself. Conflicts with parents increase. The search for autonomy and identity
intensifies. Peer pressure becomes hard to manage. Sometimes earlier trauma and
experiences of loss resurface. The good news is that adolescence is also a time
of neural plasticity, that is, a time when people can significantly alter their
neural networks. Due to the late development of the prefrontal cortex, adolescents
struggle to consider consequences to their behavior.
As parents we want the
best for our children and give them advice so that they don’t repeat our
mistakes. Unfortunately, that seldom works, at least not the way we think it
should. Adolescents want to be independent, but nevertheless need the support
of caring adults when they face problems. As a therapist I will support the
adolescent’s development of self-esteem, ability to regulate his or her emotions,
and navigate the tension between an authentic identity and peer pressure. I
will also help them to reflect more deeply on their relationships with
significant people in their lives.
There are many reasons why you might consider psychotherapy.
Psychotherapy means, “care of the soul”. In our busy lives we at times forget
to take care of ourselves. Things we do begin to lack depth and meaning. Often
it takes an event in our outer life, such as a loss, an injury or other impasse
that halts our usual way of living, to turn our attention inward. We wonder
about the meaning of life and what we are called to do with the time that is
given to us.
While I have taken care of individuals with bi-polar, psychotic,
mood, depression, anxiety, PTSD and other disorders, I am committed to treat, not a diagnosis, but a unique human being. I believe that symptoms or behaviors that
we don’t like in ourselves nonetheless have meaning. Before we try to get rid
of them, we should understand them and what they are trying to tell us about
our life and vocation. As Thomas Moore says: "Care of the soul is a
continuous process that concerns itself not so much with "fixing" a
central flaw as with attending to the small details of everyday life.”