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About Me

I have been working in the mental health field for over 20 years and I have worked in a variety of settings including psychiatric hospitals, community mental health, employee assistance, and now private practice. What I love most about what I do is learning and understanding my clients' individual histories and current life situations. Therapy is not a "one size fits all" treatment plan, everyone's story is unique and their story has to be heard. My clients and I work as a team to figure out what the goals of therapy are and to try to reach those goals as best as we can. My job is to guide, not lead, a client on their journey.

I specialize in working with children, adolescents, young adults, and adult populations. I enjoy working with young people to discover who they are and to help them navigate the transitions that life brings them. I also enjoy working with difficult family situations and helping families heal from tough times. 

My job is to listen in an open and honest manner. What I want to offer to potential clients is knowing that I am a safe person to talk to and will listen in a non-threatening and non-judgmental manner. Your confidentiality is of the utmost importance to me.

Education

  • Clinical internship  Borgess Adolescent Partial & Inpatient Program 1999

  • M.A. Counseling Psychology with a focus in Marriage & Family Therapy, Western Michigan University, 1999

  • B.A. Psychology, Western Michigan University, 1995

Affiliations 
  • Therapist/Partner, Kalamazoo Counseling, and Assessment Center (2018-2021)

  • Therapist, Child and Family Psychological Services ( 2009-2018)

  • Therapist, HelpNet Employee Assistance Program (2005-2009)

  • Home-based Psychologist, Kalamazoo County CMH/SA Services (2002-2005)

  • Therapist, The Delano Clinic (2000-2007)

  • Therapist, Borgess Adolescent Partial & Inpatient Program (1999-2002)

Special Interest
  • Child/adolescent therapy

  • Family therapy including divorce & blended family issues

  • Anxiety and mood disorders in children & adults

  • Parent education

  • Mindfulness practices

  • Gender/sexual identity issues

Issues
Green Succulent Plant
 
  • ADHD

  • Adoption

  • Alcohol Use

  • Anger Management

  • Asperger's Syndrome

  • Behavioral Issues

  • Bipolar Disorder

  • Chronic Illness

  • Chronic Impulsivity

  • Codependency

  • Coping Skills

  • Depression

  • Divorce

  • Domestic Abuse

  • Emotional Disturbance

  • Grief

  • Infidelity

  • Life Transitions

  • Marital and Premarital

  • Obsessive-Compulsive (OCD)

  • Oppositional Defiance

  • Parenting

  • Peer Relationships

  • Pregnancy, Prenatal, Postpartum

  • Relationship Issues

  • School Issues

  • Self Esteem

  • Self-Harming

  • Sex Therapy

  • Sexual Abuse

  • Sleep or Insomnia

  • Sports Performance

  • Stress

  • Suicidal Ideation

  • Teen Violence

  • Transgender

  • Trauma and PTSD

  • Women's Issues

  • Impulse Control Disorders

  • Mood Disorders

  • Bisexual

  • Lesbian

  • Gay

  • Bisexual Allied

  • Body Positivity

  • Gay Allied

  • HIV / AIDS Allied

  • Lesbian Allied

  • Queer Allied

  • Adults

  • Adolescents / Teenagers (14 to 19)

  • Preteens / Tweens (11 to 13)

  • Children (6 to 10)

Accepted Insurance Plans

  • ASR Health Benefits

  • Aetna

  • Apostrophe

  • Behavioral Health Systems

  • Blue Care Network

  • Blue Cross

  • Blue Shield

  • BlueCross and BlueShield

  • Cofinity

  • Magellan

  • Michigan Education Special Services Association

  • Optum

  • UnitedHealthcare

Self Esteem

Does anyone remember the fictional character Stuart Smalley from the television show Saturday Night Live?  This SNL character from the 1990's was the host of his own self-help show Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley.  Stuart would start out his show by looking in the mirror and saying “I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”  He would also use other phrases such as “stinkin-thinkin”, “compare and despair”, and “I am a worthy human being”.  As silly as all of this sounds, Stuart Smalley had the right idea.

 

Self-esteem refers to your overall opinion of yourself, specifically how you feel about your abilities as well as your limitations.  When you have healthy self esteem, you will feel good about yourself and feel deserving of respect from others.  When your self-esteem is low you may constantly worry that you're not good enough and you may not put enough value on your thoughts and opinions.  Self-esteem forms starting in early childhood and several life factors will effect the way we feel about ourselves. Some of these factors include how others respond to us throughout our lives, such as parents, teachers, peers, and other influential people we encounter over time.  When we receive positive and encouraging messages from these people we tend to feel good about ourselves and have more confidence.  When we receive negative messages and criticism from influential people in our lives, it is likely that we will feel worthless and will struggle with poor self-esteem.  Other factors that can effect our self-esteem are our experiences at home, school, work, and in the community, an illness, disability, or injury, our age, our role and status in society, and media messages.  

 

The good news is that all of these influences in our lives, positive and negative, don't have to dictate how we feel about ourselves.  Some of the most brilliant and talented people we know may still question themselves and their abilities if they never had a solid foundation of encouragement and positivity in their lives.  People with disabilities may see their disability as a strength rather than a roadblock if they've learned resiliency and strength.  Our thoughts and beliefs about ourselves are the foundation of whether or not we have a healthy self-esteem.  Even if we had discouraging messages sent to us as a child, we have the ultimate control and ability to change these messages.  We can recognize rational versus irrational belief systems and once we're able to do this, the process of changing our thoughts can start.  We can't rely on others to make us feel better about ourselves, the change has to come within us.  So, even if this change starts with a simple statement such as “I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me?” at least it's a start!

Trauma

Trauma can be defined as an emotional response to a distressing event.  These events can range from something minor such as a non-life threatening accident to something more severe such as sexual or physical violence.  Reactions immediately following a traumatic event can include shock and denial however longer term reactions may also occur.  These reactions may include unpredictable mood changes, sleep disturbances, flashbacks of the event, physical symptoms such as headaches and nausea, and relationship difficulties.   These reactions are very typical after dealing with a traumatic event but an individual may find that it is difficult to manage these reactions, often feeling stuck and being unable to move forward with their lives.

 

The good news is that we as human beings have a natural resiliency and can learn to move forward after experiencing a traumatic event.  Once we realize that our reactions to a traumatic event are normal we can learn to manage the symptoms that we may be dealing with.  Rather than be upset with ourselves for not being able to “let go” and “move on” in a timely fashion, it is important that we take the time to utilize appropriate coping mechanisms to manage our symptoms and learn to be compassionate with ourselves.  It may be easy to show empathy towards other human beings for their struggles but sometimes it is hard for us to be able to do this with ourselves during our own times of distress. 

 

First, we must give ourselves time to adjust after experiencing a traumatic event.  This is the time to be patient with ourselves and our changing emotions and to mourn the losses we've endured.  This is where empathy for ourselves comes into play.  What would you tell a loved one if they've experienced something difficult?  Would you tell them to move on and just forget about it or would you reflect on their reactions and tell them that what they're dealing with is normal and ok.  It is also important to reach out to others and ask for support, friends and family members who will listen and empathize are great resources.  It is also very helpful to talk to others who have also endured a similar traumatic experience.  Joining a support group for survivors of trauma can give someone a place to express themselves openly and to listen to others who have endured similar experiences.  It's important to not feel alone when trying to cope after a traumatic event. 

 

Engaging in healthy personal habits can also help someone cope after a traumatic event.  This may include trying to make sure you are eating healthy foods on a regular basis and getting physical exercise.  Anxiety after a traumatic event may make it difficult for someone to feel hungry or energetic however it is important to be aware of this and find ways to make it easier to re-engage in healthy habits.  Getting back to regular routines is also a good way to feel “normal” again after a traumatic event.  These routines are predictable and oftentimes we look forward to them.  This is also a good opportunity to look into engaging in new and positive activities, such as reading, getting outside more, learning relaxation techniques, or pursuing a new hobby.  However it is also important that during the time of healing from a traumatic event that we do not make any major life decisions such as changing careers or letting go of important relationships.  These changes are stressful enough when someone isn't recovering from trauma.

 

Seeking professional help is also another option for when someone is struggling to move forward from their traumatic experience.  If someone is continuing to experience persistent feelings of distress and hopelessness after a traumatic event, a licensed mental health professional can help someone understand their symptoms as well as support a survivor in learning how to cope and develop a plan for managing their lives.  

 

The great and wonderful poet and writer, Maya Angelou, who dealt with much adversity in her life described resilience the best:  “I can be changed by what's happened to me.  But I refuse to be reduced by it.”