Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Board Certified Art Therapist
After years of experience across populations and clinical settings–whether working with grade school students at a Title I elementary school, inmates at a maximum security prison, at-risk teens at a substance abuse outpatient rehabilitative clinic, or meeting with the overwhelmed and under-supported single parent in their own home–I’ve learned several things remain consistent. First, it is important to always meet the client where they are; by taking the time to understand the client’s current situation and mindset, realistic goals can be set for treatment. Second, the human spirit knows no bounds; every individual is capable of healing and change, no matter how great a perceived loss, tragedy, or dilemma.
My clients trust me to be a facilitator of their personal journey to mental wellness because I can be real with them, more than a blank slate presence to echo their thoughts or feelings. I establish a trusting and comfortable therapeutic relationship that does not censor the client, but encourages their expression. Whether dissecting an internet “meme” for life metaphors, exploring the joy and challenges of social media interaction, or role playing the voice of a problematic authority figure, my flexibility to adapt to the client’s style makes me relateable. It is not beneath me to take an impromptu dance lesson from a child “expert” in Fort Night videogame dancing in order to build rapport and ease anxiety in session (though I have yet to conquer “The Floss”). When this level of comfort has been developed in the therapeutic relationship, clients are more willing to allow me to challenge cognitive distortions or play devil’s advocate when processing issues. Humor is my personal favorite coping mechanism, and I enjoy bringing it into sessions when appropriate.
In addition to being a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC), I possess extra credentials which allow me to utilize art making and the creative process to help clients reach clinical goals. As a nationally registered and board certified art therapist (ATR-BC), I believe human beings possess an intrinsic drive to create; this drive spans the gamut of art, music, entertainment, ideas, and beyond, and is directly linked with mental wellness. Art therapy can supplement traditional talk therapy or take the place as primary methodology for achieving mental wellness. The most common concern I receive in relation to art therapy is: “But I’m not an artist!” One does not have to be an artist or possess any basic level of artistic skill in order to benefit from art therapy. Art therapy provides an alternative mode of communication using hands-on, evidenced-based practices.
The past six years of my post-graduate career have been spent providing community-based therapy to children, adolescents, families, and couples in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties. I have taught introductory art therapy and art in wellness courses at the University of Tampa and assisted in developing the university’s undergraduate program in art therapy. I continue to lead regular therapy groups at the Children’s Cancer Center in Tampa, providing support to families whose child is battling pediatric oncology or chronic blood disease. I partner with the local charity Hands Across Tampa Bay to deliver counseling to victims of domestic violence. I have been a member-in-good-standing with the American Art Therapy Association since 2011 and held a position on the board of the Florida State Chapter, having served a two year term as secretary from 2016-2018. As a member of the Suncoast Mental Health Counseling Association, I enjoy meeting with therapists all from all over the state to continue education on the latest counseling techniques. I am also a Certified Fitness Trainer (CFT) and believe whole-heartedly in the mind-body connection that is stimulated through regular exercise and a healthy diet. My next big career endeavor is keeping up with the training required to certify my Labrador-Australian Shepard puppy, Jetty, as a bona fide therapy dog (pun intended)!