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Featured Therapist Interview
I’m a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, and depression at the Chico Center for Cognitive Behavior Therapy (cbtchico.com). I offer individual psychotherapy for adults, and I also provide teletherapy. In addition to my clinical work, I’m a lecturer in the Department of Psychology at California State University, Chico, author of the anxiety management self-help book, “Show Your Anxiety Who’s Boss,” and author of the “CBT and Me” blog at Psychology Today. I earned my doctorate in clinical psychology from DePaul University in 2004 and I’m a Diplomate of the Academy of Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies (A-CBT).
First, we would like to know a little about your practice.
What are your personal strengths as a practitioner?
The process of therapy can be somewhat mysterious to patients, and I truly admire anyone who is willing to be open about their struggles and put trust in a professional to help them. As a psychologist, I take my responsibility to patients seriously. I believe it’s important to
- Normalize psychological distress and the challenge of participating in therapy
- Remain nonjudgmental, supportive, and empathic when authentic vulnerabilities are revealed
- Bring both genuine regard for the patient as a human being and high ethical standards for professionalism to the therapeutic relationship
- Educate patients on the nature of distress and dysfunction and why symptoms are likely to persist
- Clarify the mechanisms and benefits of acceptance, change, and growth
- Collaborate with patients to ensure that the work we do together is designed to help them move toward their goals for therapy
- Encourage change at a rate that’s reasonable for the patient
- Be flexible and open to feedback to ensure that patients benefit as much as possible from the process of therapy
My greatest strength as a practitioner is that I aim to incorporate these ideals and practices as consistently as I can in my work with patients.
What “tips” can you offer to colleagues just opening a practice?
One tip is to be a specialist rather than a generalist. If you have advanced training and the expertise to provide outstanding treatment for specific conditions, particularly those for which there is a great need for high-level treatment, or if you do excellent work with a specific population or age group, make that the focus of your work. Patients will appreciate your commitment to providing the highest standard of care and you will develop a reputation as the “go to” practitioner for certain concerns or populations.
Another tip is to remember that there is so much more to developing a successful practice than being a great practitioner. You will need to learn about most aspects of running a business, including accounting, marketing, website design and maintenance, processing fees and claims, professional networking, office management, and so many other things we don’t learn in our graduate programs.
How do you remind your patients of their strengths during the therapy process?
When patients share that they had a good week, I like to ask what led to the improvement-why are things so much better? If they’re unsure or if they believe that external events were responsible, I ask if we could explore together whether their own insights or actions also had an impact.
I sometimes bring attention to certain cognitive changes they made to understand themselves or their relationships in more realistic and useful ways. I might also point out a newfound willingness to accept and tolerate a reasonable amount of uncertainty when they prepare to move toward meaningful challenges of the future. Another easy-to-overlook strength is flexibility in relating differently to difficult emotions. And I regularly give credit to patients who are brave enough to accept the risks that come with engaging in important but anxiety-provoking activities. It can be easy to minimize or dismiss these “small wins,” but I think it’s important to at least recognize them and remember that, collectively, they can have a big therapeutic impact.
Are you involved in other types of professional activities in addition to your private practice?
I teach courses in abnormal psychology, personality, and wellness at California State University, Chico. I also try to be active in popular media as a source for magazines, newspapers, or radio and TV news programs. I enjoy giving invited presentations to students in university courses or community organizations.
We would also like to know a little about you personally.
When not practicing CBT, what do you do for fun?
I really enjoy HiFi and home theater equipment! I’m not very knowledgeable about the technical side of audio gear or psychoacoustics, but I love music and the quest for amazing sound. I also like preparing elaborate meals, especially breakfast, high fiving my awesome cat Abraham, working out, and traveling.
We are also interested in some of your views of CBT.
What do you think is the single most important thing CBT can do for your patients?
It’s hard to identify just one thing, but a message I communicate regularly is that CBT can help us learn that our thoughts and feelings don’t always have as much significance as we initially think they do. Some of our inner experiences can be useful signals or cues to action, some are learned responses that aren’t as important as they once were, and others are just strange or scary annoyances that don’t have much meaning at all.
CBT helps patients learn to understand and respond to their STUF-sensations, thoughts, urges, and feeling labels-in new, flexible, and more useful ways, and that frees them up to spend more time and energy on activities that make their lives meaningful. In a nutshell, I’d argue that CBT helps patients reappraise and selectively respond to psychological events so that it’s easier to prioritize value-driven action.
Where do you see the field of the behavioral therapies going over the next 3-5 years?
I imagine the field will continue to move toward embracing transdiagnostic perspectives, which help patients and practitioners recognize the common threads of all emotional disturbances and the strategies that are useful for addressing them-assessing readiness and motivation for change, setting specific and achievable behavioral goals, attending to the different elements of emotions, learning new ways to appraise inner experiences, responding with restructured beliefs or acceptance, practicing skills in daily life, changing behavior (e.g., behavioral experiments, behavioral activation, and assertiveness), and collecting behavioral evidence to support new learning.
How do you use the local or social media to educate your community on the benefits of CBT?
I try to appear as a source on local news broadcasts when mental health issues are covered. I believe in the value of cognitive and behavioral methods, so I want to offer practical suggestions for addressing psychological concerns when I have the opportunity. I like to share accessible CBT information on Twitter and Facebook, too!
Finally, we would like to know your opinions about ABCT.
How long have you been a member of ABCT?
How has ABCT helped you professionally?
I love networking with ABCT members! Thanks to the ABCT conventions and listserv, I’ve developed some amazing friendships and professional relationships with clinicians and researchers all over the country. I live in a small area, so I’m grateful to ABCT for giving me the opportunity to connect with so many wonderful, like-minded people!
For more information, please see my video:
My blog: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cbt-and-me
My practice website: https://www.cbtchico.com/
My book: https://www.amazon.com/Show-Your-Anxiety-Whos-Boss/dp/1684034051/