My approach to therapy is conversational and forward thinking.
Vulnerability = Courage.
Every client I have worked with wants to feel alive and more connected. We all want a better life, and most of us are one hard decision away from getting there. My training as a psychotherapist and experiences as a human lead me to understand that most problems are relationship problems, and perhaps the hard choices we make need to begin with challenging conversations.
Brené Brown’s work around shame has revealed, “There is no courage without vulnerability.” So, making hard choices and having tough conversations will always require risk and some exposure to our fears, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities. But people who can find the courage to embrace hard choices will break barriers, live boldly, and become whole humans.
Transforming one’s life begins with an honest reflection on formative experiences, accepting possibility, sorting out core beliefs and values, and finally engaging in choice and practice for an outcome of change.
No matter where or when we are, change is possible. A richer life is ahead.
I'd rather talk than diagnose.
Research shows us that the most effective element in therapy is the rapport between the client and the therapist. The days of benevolent listeners and blank slates are beginning to fade into the past as clients want to hear a new perspective or have a meaningful exchange about their feelings and experiences.
As your therapist I guide, coach, and nurture. I will bring contemporary philosophies and evidence-based practices into our sessions in a way that honors where you are now and nudges you toward your potential.
Come prepared to focus as much on the present and future, because when you choose to practice living differently, you can have a different life.
I think people can change.
Perhaps you grew up in an environment that tamped down your optimism and served you limiting beliefs about yourself and the world. Trauma, failures, and heartbreak may have restricted your ability to excel or embrace yourself fully.
By constructing a more accurate, compassionate, and hopeful narrative about your life, you can make new choices for yourself, practice new ways of living, and eventually change how you think, feel, relate, and achieve.
You may feel cemented in a life you didn’t choose, but when we render patterns of the past useless, they tend to disappear on their own.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I know first-hand the process it takes to live unapologetically and more fully self-actualized.
I’m a consumer as well as a provider.
Feeling safe is essential to good therapy.
As a young adult, I worked as a youth care worker in a psychiatric hospital, providing in-patient care and support for children, adolescents, and their families. There, I found the work of therapists to be an integral part of helping families understand how to adapt to the behavioral health needs of their children.
Unfortunately, there was little intervention or education for the families, so many children would leave our care and return to the exact environment of their original emotional traumas.
The young patients I attended came from broad-ranging backgrounds, but each presented some behavior in school or at home that appeared harmful to themselves or others. It was common to have patients who had attempted suicide, threatened a peer or family member, or suffered terribly from eating disorders and substance abuse.
These were extraordinary circumstances for the patients and me. At 20 years old, I was two years senior to the oldest patient. I quickly learned how to de-escalate a potentially volatile situation and rapidly respond to a crisis.
The reward in work came when the patients would begin to soften their defenses and sit one on one to talk about their pain. I would never know what life would be like for them after they left the hospital but knowing that, for a moment, they felt safe enough to open up was my first experience as a “therapist.”
Therapy provided the guidance I needed.
It was during this time that I sought counseling for myself. I was ungracefully struggling to come out of the closet, reconcile my faith with my sexuality, and end an unhealthy relationship with my first lover.
My first therapist, Margaret, happened to be a lesbian. While married to a man for many years, she raised a gay son. Her insight into my reality was so close to the truth that she seemed mythical.
She guided me through the end of the relationship and helped me see that I could be okay as I am.
Several years later, I had my second experience in therapy. Hank was a mature man in his 50s and had a gift for fatherly compassion. I went to see Hank many times over about ten years. After struggling to complete my college education, I went to Hank and asked him to help. He seemed perplexed at the proposal, but I told him I needed him to hold me accountable.
I told Hank that I knew I could graduate after I became a student again. His role was to make sure that nothing distracted me. He helped me celebrate my successes as a student and accept who I was becoming as a future social worker.
I learned and practiced.
As an older student in 2006, I returned to the University of Kentucky to graduate with a BASW (C’08) and advanced standing MSW (C’09) in Social Work.
As a non-traditional student, my experience working in mental health and programs for children gave me a unique perspective on what I was learning and how I actualized the knowledge in my life and community.
Upon completing my MSW at the University of Kentucky, my clinical training included in-patient psychiatric care for adults, community mental health with minority groups, and direct services for LGBTQ+ older adults in Chicago. Seasoned and expertly Licensed Clinical Social Workers in Tennessee and Illinois supervised my clinical work.
Working with people and their communities.
My approach to therapy is rooted in advocacy.
My work now focuses on the mental health needs of members of the LGBTQ+ community and those with diverse perspectives. My work with LGBTQ+ older adults has informed me how to work with LGBTQ+ clients across the lifespan. The LGBTQ+ aging population has many unique needs requiring special consideration when working with them.
Many LGBTQ+ seniors live in isolation due to a cultural history of feeling unsafe disclosing their sexual orientation over a lifetime. This isolation increases their dependence on informal social services networks and decreases their likelihood of accessing mainstream professional aging services or health care. This isolation leaves many LGBTQ+ seniors at risk for significant socio-economic and psychosocial challenges such as poverty, poor health care, growing older alone, and fear of non-LGBTQ+ services.
These sensitive issues for LGBTQ+ seniors often become compounded by a lack of culturally competent service providers. I devote much of my professional and volunteer work to creating awareness and advancing a conversation about the issues facing mature and aging LGBTQ+ people.
Special consideration must be given to the inclusion of LGBTQ+ seniors when developing programs to help meet their challenges in aging.
The Senior Pride Initiative. One of my favorite projects.
Utilizing tenants from the Community Participatory model, in the spring of 2013, I created the Senior Pride Initiative, a grassroots coalition of professionals in Lexington, Kentucky, concerned about the representation of LGBTQ+ elders in mainstream aging services. The initiative began with direct input from LGBTQ+ seniors requesting education and access to information regarding end-of-life issues and health care.
The Senior Pride Initiative aims to improve the quality of life for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people by raising awareness of the unique issues and needs they may face in aging. This work allowed me to connect with a select group of LGBTQ+ advocates across the country in programs like SAGE, the LGBT Elder Initiative, the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, and the Center on Halsted’s Senior program in Chicago, where I worked directly with LGBTQ+ older adults.
My work has been recognized publicly through receiving the Lexington Fairness “Jennifer Crossen – Out for Fairness Award” in 2012 and a featured story, “Training Day: National Resource Center Teaches LGBT Cultural Competence,” in Aging Today September – October 2012 issue.