Have you ever been in therapy with a therapist where you didn’t “click”? Or had a phone consultation with a therapist who seemed like a less-than-ideal fit but you felt pressured to start therapy with them? If so, you are not alone. Unfortunately, these are common experiences.
It can be challenging and time-consuming to find a therapist with availability, nonetheless one that you connect with. Often, it feels like really expensive speed-dating, in a time when you should just be able to focus on your mental health.
What’s more, according to research conducted by Norcross and Lambert in 2011 on Evidence-Based Therapy Relationships, individual’s outcomes in therapy are enhanced by a strong therapeutic alliance with their therapist. This research serves as a guiding principle for us at Two Chairs, and we pay a lot of attention to making sure this relationship is set up for success from the outset.
We accomplish this by building out a team of therapists with diverse backgrounds and clinical expertise, and constantly refining our client-therapist matching system.
After an initial consult appointment with us, we match you to one of our therapists considering considering the following factors (among others):
No matter what, a good therapist should:
With that in mind, we’re excited to introduce you to some of the therapists that make up our clinical team across the San Francisco Bay Area. They share about why they got into the field of psychology, what gets them excited about working with clients every day, and what mental wellness means to them.
I was part of a social justice organization in college that was led by a psychologist. It gave me insight into how powerful and transformative it can be to have support and space to work on mental wellness. Having the chance to feel heard with empathy and compassion can have a profound impact on our individual struggles and overall wellbeing.
When I see clients master skills and gain insight that produces progress towards their goals for change, I feel energized!
Mental health is the relationship we have to the way we feel, think, and behave, as well as how we interact with each other. Mental wellbeing allows us to build awareness towards this relationship and how it aligns with our values. This awareness should take into account a person as a whole, including the ways in which their biology and sociology have impacted and continue to impact their current psychology.
I hold space for my feelings by talking about them openly with my loved ones. I also make sure to engage in activities that help me cope and deal with heavy emotions, whether that's getting active with physical exercise or a soothing journaling session with some candles lit and light music in the background.
I lived overseas for most of my developmental years, and despite the many differences in culture, belief systems, language and community structure, I found that fundamentally people all long for the same securities. We strive for interpersonal connection, love, acceptance, and for our lives to have purpose and meaning.
Most of us wear a 'mask' that we use to emotionally protect ourselves in daily life, and I wanted to create more spaces in the world where people could feel safe exploring who they are underneath. I felt that if the therapeutic experience could help just one person find greater peace with themselves, then they may one day afford that opportunity to another, and to another, and so on.
I find myself loving the little things—the way a client's eyes light up as they find meaning behind a phrase, the way a body will unfurl when it feels truly accepted, the subtle shifts from early-session-frowns to later-session-smiles. I love being there to witness and help support these moments.
I don't know that mental health will ever have a definition that works for everyone, as I have found the state of 'mental health' to be incredibly unique to each person. But for me, it is a feeling of peace. For example, ask yourself: what does it even mean to be happy? And not just the easy signs like smiling or enjoying little moments of your day. How do you know you are happy when you sit in silence, alone in a room? How does your body feel? What thoughts, or lack of thoughts, roll by in your mind? I know I am happy and in a good state of mental health when I feel at peace, when thoughts about the past or the future are simply thoughts, and I feel little to no anxiety about the idea of impending change.
I allow. I know that sounds frustratingly simplistic, but I allow myself to feel like doing nothing, or to paint, or to run, or to stretch. I allow myself to eat the chocolate, or to garden, or to sleep in a little longer, with some obvious constraints per my work hours. I think now is the time for allowing yourself to be, whether it is exploring something new, or even exploring how it feels to not be okay. Goodness, if we allowed ourselves the opportunity to be non-judgmentally curious about ourselves the way in which we are curious about a stranger, what might we learn?
I've always been very curious about people, and love hearing the stories they have to tell. Clinical psychology is a field where I can lean into this curiosity and help others navigate periods of high stress and difficulty to find deeper emotional stability.
It’s fulfilling to make intimate human connections, witness my clients' courage in taking chances and finding newly discovered, strong places within themselves. Being an agent for growth and healing is what gets me excited about showing up for this work every day.
For me, mental health encompasses so many important aspects of living a full life:
The activities I’ve been doing to stay balanced while sheltering in place are things I try to prioritize no matter what’s going on in the outside world—getting enough rest, staying true to my routine, running, listening to new music, and taking delight in time spent with my family.
I began my career as a psychological scientist, studying happiness after adversity, but felt that I was missing a critical ingredient—the humans themselves. So, I chose to make a career shift, from studying people to working with them directly. It has been more enlightening that I ever could have imagined.
Aiding and witnessing the transformation in a client's self-concept from one that is based on the perception of deficits, to one that is based on realizing their unique strengths is profoundly empowering.
Rather than conceptualizing mental health as the absence of deficits, I see it as everything on the spectrum from merely surviving to thriving.
I cultivate my own mental wellbeing by actively attending to my intellectual, emotional, social, physical, and spiritual needs. For example, I have been meditating since I was 18 years old, and this practice has become part of my foundation. In addition, I find that volunteering to help those in need keeps my heart open and my perspective broad.
Throughout my childhood I had always been inspired by the helpers—teachers, counselors and coaches. My first job out of college was working for a group home with youth which opened my eyes to all new types of helping roles. After working there as a residential counselor for 4 years I decided to take the leap and continue in Social Work, a field that allowed me flexibility to take on a variety of helping roles, from crisis management to clinician.
It has been so exciting and inspiring to be the first touchpoint in a client's mental health journey. I am honored to sit with clients as they share their experiences, sometimes for the first time and to work alongside them as we unravel tangled thoughts together. It's incredible to witness the bravery clients display in the room.
I believe mental health is a state of psychological and social wellness that looks different to each of us. When we are operating out of a place of wellness we are able to maximize our potential, effectively and authentically engage in relationships, and manage stressors proactively as they come. Over time, I have come to recognize that this is not a stagnant state that can be "achieved," rather one that evolves with different contexts.
In many ways, nature has been a constant in my life when nothing else seems to make sense. Paying attention to the changing seasons, weather patterns and growth of plants is so grounding to me. When I have the time to get outside I will often try to pick a plant or single leaf to focus in on and notice all its tiny details, from the way it looks while waving in the breeze, to the way it smells or how it feels in my fingertips. This helps me to focus on the present moment and consciously choose to take joy in noticing the little things.
I have a vivid memory of a friend in high school whose parents were going through a divorce and watching the decline of their mental health. I saw first hand how external factors can influence a person’s internal experience. Shortly thereafter, I got the chance to experience what it was like to peak behind the curtain of the sacred therapy room and find the magic that is the therapeutic process. Seeing a friend benefit from mental health support and also experiencing it myself, I promised to cherish the gift of awareness and insight that I had received by being of service to others.
It sounds cheesy but the best part is being able to witness their courage. Our society doesn't always do a great job at showcasing the courage it takes to ask for help. Being able to not only witness but support client's through their journey is such a humbling experience and also a great privilege that I do not take for granted.
Mental health refers to everything that goes on in your internal, cognitive world—your thoughts, emotions, and your physiological responses to those thoughts and emotions. My definition has evolved over time as I continue to learn the various factors that can contribute to and influence our internal experiences.
Especially considering how others are suffering, I often find myself thinking, "but others have it worse so I can't complain". While that might be the case, I still need to be able to support myself regardless of how much better or worse I think I’m doing. Ultimately, the way I’m taking care of myself is by practicing self-kindness and self-compassion.
I worked in corporate marketing for many years and I enjoyed it very much. However, in my mid 40's, I had a breakthrough—a spiritual awakening that allowed me to discover that I wanted to be a healer in the second part of my life.
I particularly enjoy the distinct individuality of each client and their stories. Over time, the joy is in the connection with my clients, and seeing our relationships ebb and flow.
Mental health is the cornerstone of health itself. While it is important to seek help when in crisis, I believe it should be considered a preventive measure, much as an annual check up or exercise are. Difficulties are inevitable but our mental strength to deal with them depends on the tools we have acquired while we are not in crisis.
I have a checklist in my journal and hold myself accountable to 4 tasks every day:
I believe that it is a uniquely human experience to desire connection and recognition, and to utilize self-awareness to make meaningful change in one's life. As a mental health therapist, I am an integral part of an individual's support system in their pursuit of mental wellness. I feel privileged to bear witness to the resilience and strength in each of my clients every week.
I cherish the opportunity to walk through difficult times with my clients, supporting them in finding what brings them joy and fulfillment in their lives. I practice in a strengths-based framework that relies heavily on the relationship that I form with each of my clients. In this way, while clients are learning from me, I too am constantly learning them.
I believe that mental health is defined differently by everyone. Discovering what mental health looks like for each of my clients is so important because this process inherently allows the client to reflect and reclaim their vision of what is possible for themselves by setting their own terms. The work comes in both defining what it means to them and building the tools necessary to realize it. I also believe that mental health is an ever-evolving goal that requires clients to consistently check in with themselves over time and adjust as needed.
During these particularly distressing times, I have found that keeping to a consistent sleep/wake routine as much as possible and adding movement in some form to my everyday has kept my spirits high and outlook positive. Also, connecting with my loved ones is a big part of what brings me joy, and finding little moments of gratitude has been invaluable.
If you or someone you know is seeking mental health care, you can reach out to our Care Coordination team at [email protected] or by phone at (415) 202-5159.
If you or someone you know is experiencing an emergency or crisis and needs immediate help, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. Additional resources can be found here.