If you’ve ever wondered certain things about your therapist, especially one who specializes in OCD/anxiety like me, then you are in the right place! I’m dropping some of my thoughts on the common questions I get asked by clients - and sometimes by my friends or colleagues.
Why did you get involved in this work?
I’ve always been a little bit of an anxious kid. I remember being nauseous before school because I didn’t want to go. Lo and behold, on the first day of school, I was always the first one to raise my hand and introduce myself. When it came to those ridiculous icebreakers teachers had us do to get to know each other, I always volunteered. From an early age, I knew that scary things became less scary when you faced it. When I learned about Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) in college, something clicked for me. I knew I wanted to help other people overcome their fears and anxieties so they could feel stronger, braver, and more confident. From that point, I became interested in the disorders that generally respond to ERP, which led me to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and related anxiety disorders. The rest is history.
Are you a people person? How do you recharge?
Becoming a therapist actually helped me realized how much I am NOT a people person. People tell me I come off as extroverted in that I tend to be loud, confident, and direct. But when it comes to what drains me, and how I recharge, I am 100% an introvert. After talking with clients all day, by the time I get home to my family, I’m emotionally spent. It takes a lot of work mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for me to set boundaries around work so I can still have something to give to my family when I get home. For recharging, I try to schedule time to meditate daily, I work out almost every morning so I can have my alone time, and I usually spend my evenings watching The Office (mindless TV, nothing emotional for me after a long day of therapy) and going to bed at 7:30 PM. Rock on.
Do you have any other recommendations besides exposure and response prevention for OCD?
Unfortunately, ERP is the gold standard treatment for OCD and anxiety. When it comes to recovering from OCD and/or anxiety, exposures and response prevention will be necessary. With other anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety or social anxiety, you may be able to do other techniques including cognitive restructuring or relaxation exercises in addition to the ERP process. But at the end of the day, if you’re wanting to find any other way out of your OCD other than going *through* the hard stuff (i.e., ERP) - chances are, you will end up spinning your wheels - or worse.
Do you do exposures with your kid?
Hahah. Actually, my husband and I are both therapists - even better, my husband also works with people who have OCD and anxiety. So Eli is either screwed or set in the anxiety department, depending on how you look at it. For the most part, my husband and I are pretty solid as far as helping support our toddler i doing things like challenging his anxieties, so on and so forth. We also want him to take things at his own speed and be okay saying no if he is not ready. For where Eli is at right now, almost 3 years old, this comes out usually in the form of not giving into rigid demands he makes. For instance, if we give Eli a blue cup instead of a green cup, he might freak out. Any other day, he might freak out if we give him a green cup instead of a blue cup. Such is toddler life. We try to do what we can to NOT promote this rigidity and encourage him to be more flexible by not giving into these requests. At the same time, we are parents first before we are therapists. We feel strongly about using our intuition in the moment and doing what we feel is best to support our toddler. All in all, we try to embrace the exposure and response prevention “lifestyle” with Eli, but it’s definitely not a perfect process.
What are some things you would view as an exposure?
When explaining ERP to someone, I actually use some of my own fears as examples. One major example is bees/wasps. Exposures for someone who is afraid of bees (aka MOI) might include being alone in a small room with a bee, laying down in the grass, smelling or walking through a field of flowers, listening to sounds of bees buzzing, etc etc. The response prevention would be things like not running away, not swatting at my leg or the air around me, not asking my husband to come in and get the bee/wasp away, not doing self-assurance that “it’s just a bee, it’s not that big of a deal”, so on and so forth. Other things I may view as an exposure would include hearing my son cry, driving at night or in a rain storm, receiving feedback, and leaving my house messy especially before guests come over. The good news is - I naturally expose myself to these things all the time and engage in response prevention as best I can.
There you have it. With that all said, it's important to note that some things are better left unknown when it comes to the therapeutic relationship. The truth of the matter is that the therapist is there to serve the client - it’s not about us (i.e., the therapists). Knowing that, I can totally understand how sometimes people have questions as it relates either to me or to their therapeutic work. And if and when it’s appropriate to answer these questions, I usually don’t have a problem doing that.
What else have you wondered about therapists? If you have any other questions or curiosities, let me know on Instagram! I’ll do my best to answer.
Xo. - J