I chose the name "Two Spirit Counseling" for my practice because it captures the core philosophical and theoretical foundation for what I do. In my work with many different people, I have seen several examples of polarities that create suffering when they are in conflict or out of balance. For example, many people describe a sort of battle between their rational mind and their emotions. They will say things like, "Rationally, I know I shouldn't feel this way or act this way, but I can't help it." People often get stuck when pure logic and reason do not help them resolve their issues or feel better, and often they are intensely uncomfortable with their emotions. Many of us have not been taught how to understand and honor our emotions, which have a language of their own and don't necessarily follow the rules of logic. In fact, we are commonly taught that emotions are bad, or criticized for being "oversensitive" or "irrational" if we show emotions.
Another example of a duality that comes up frequently is the contrast between the "false self" (the self that comes out in public or the self we pretend to be) and the "authentic self" (i.e., who we really are, what we truly desire, aspects we might be afraid or ashamed to show others). If we are not able to distinguish between our false self and our authentic self, or if we struggle to let our authentic self show up in the world, we can begin to feel disconnected from ourselves and might experience a sense of hopelessness, depression, anxiety, loneliness, irritability, or simply a lack of fulfillment and contentment.
"Two Spirit" also refers to the balance between the masculine and feminine energies that exist in all of us. The masculine energy is oriented toward "doing." This is the part of us that problem-solves, takes action, uses intellect, logic, and reason, and strives for independence, dominance, and mastery. The feminine energy is oriented toward "being." It is the part of us that is open and receptive, intuitive, sensing/feeling, and oriented toward interdependence and cooperation. Our society tends to overvalue the masculine spirit and devalue the feminine spirit. It can be destructive to our physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual health when we internalize this imbalance by favoring our own masculine energy over our feminine energy. In other words, it can create problems for us when we are chronically "doing" and rarely "being." To be fair, it can also be problematic when the imbalance goes the other way and we spend most of our time lingering in the feminine and not utilizing our masculine, action-oriented energy effectively. For each one of us, male or female, we move toward wholeness and health when these "two spirits" exist and function in harmony with each other.
These are just a few examples of how the dualities inherent in nature can contribute to psychological and emotional struggles when they are not in balance. As a therapist, my role is to help people become more conscious of these different aspects of themselves and how conflicts or imbalances are contributing to the issues bringing them to therapy. I draw upon various theories and techniques (psychodynamic, Gestalt, interpersonal, and mindfulness-based approaches) to help people become more aware and accepting of themselves, and to begin moving toward wholeness by integrating mind, body, emotions, and spirit. I find it useful to explore with clients the factors that created the imbalance in the first place (e.g., early trauma or abuse, messages received from family, or cultural oppression and experiences of prejudice and discrimination) in order to decrease shame and increase self-compassion. Starting from a place of compassion and self-acceptance is essential for real change to occur.
Of course, "Two Spirit" also refers to the horse and human spirits working together to heal and learn in the process of equine-facilitated learning and personal development. Horses have been a catalyst for the evolution of human consciousness throughout history and still have much to teach us.
I am passionate about working with eating disorders/disturbances, interpersonal trauma/abuse, and other issues related to identity development and self-worth. My approach in therapy is warm, genuine, person-centered (as opposed to symptom-centered) and collaborative. I sincerely believe that my clients already possess the answers they are searching for, and my role is to help them access their inner wisdom by providing a safe space to explore the deepest aspects of themselves. In order to create this sense of safety, I listen closely without judgment, interact with genuineness, provide empathic reflection and feedback, and treat clients with respect and unconditional positive regard.
~ Lao Tzu
B.S. in Psychology, 2004
University of WI-Madison
M.S. and Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology, 2012
University of Illinois @ Urbana-Champaign
Predoctoral Internship, 2010-2011
Wardenburg Health Center, Psychological Health & Psychiatry Clinic
University of Colorado-Boulder
Licensed in Illinois since October 2013
Completed Eponaquest Apprenticeship in March 2017