Therapy is many things: a relationship, most importantly. A place to evolve. A collaboration. A way of exploring the edges of yourself and learning skills for personal transformation. Mindfulness is a tool for therapy as well as a personal practice, and it provides wonderful resources for evolving to a place of peace and freedom in our lives.
Mindfulness allows us to be present in each moment and fully experience our own thoughts and feelings. It helps us to set aside habitual thoughts and stories to access our own deepest wisdom. There are many theories and methods that have contributed to how I work as a therapist (attachment theory, object relations theory, behavioral theory, psychodynamic theory, client-centered therapy), but my own practice of mindfulness and meditation has changed my work dramatically. These are the skills for going directly into the inner experience and opening up new possibilities.
The skills practiced during sessions are skills for living. All the work we do in therapy can be applied to dealing skillfully with emotion, relationship, and the circumstances life presents. As my clients develop their own way of practicing mindfulness and meditation, they need me less. Awareness clarifies, and lights the way to finding happiness within yourself.
The way that we work together depends on your needs and preferences. The tools that work for a child are different from those for an adult, of course. And people with different temperaments, spiritual traditions, and life challenges need different approaches. We work together to find your personal path for healing and change.
I have a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Maryland Graduate School at Baltimore. My clinical training was specialized in working with children and adolescents, as well as families. My doctoral research was in the area of the neuropsychology of ADHD and social relationships. For many years, psychological testing was a part of my practice, and I have helped families advocate for their children at school, make educational decisions, and develop realistic expectations for their children.
During the last several years, my personal path has included meditation and mindfulness. I have attended extended silent meditation retreats with the Insight Meditation Community of Washington and Tara Brach. I am pursuing training as a meditation teacher with Tara Brach and other IMCW teachers, which I find to be an integral aspect of my work. My personal meditation practice and the skill of mindfulness, being present and aware in each moment, is powerful in my life, and it is a skill I am happy to share with my patients as it is relevant to their own personal path. The research on meditation demonstrates that it is a powerful tool for enhancing focus, coping with anxiety, and dealing with illness, stress, and strong emotion. Meditation is also a method for obtaining deeper insight and understanding of the self.
In my post-PhD training and experience, I have continued to work with children, adolescents, and families. There are some specific areas of work with adult clients in which I have developed knowledge and experience. I have particular interest and experience in the following:
- Working with families and/or couples who have family members with ADHD, including developing a realistic understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals, accepting those family members just as they are, developing strategies for improving individual functioning and the quality of life in the home.
- Working with people of all ages who struggle with all anxiety, feelings of uncertainty or inadequacy, fears, and worries.
- Supporting individuals with chronic health problems in pursuing optimal health through holistic approaches, as part of a treatment team.
- Supporting young people who are struggling with issues of identity, and/or who are experiencing obstacles to moving forward to an independent life.
- Supporting couples who are transitioning to a different stage of relationship. If separation or divorce are chosen, I support the couple in moving forward with kindness and care for each other, and with a genuine focus on the best interests and developmental needs of the children.
- Supporting individuals who are experiencing extreme change that has placed them on a spiritual path of transformation.
What I believe:
- I believe strongly in patient rights, and I believe that therapy is a collaborative relationship.
- I believe in the integral relationship among all aspects of the person: physical, emotional, cognitive, spiritual, social, environmental.
- I believe patients have a right to be supported in pursuing alternatives to prescription drugs if that is their choice.
- I believe we can move toward optimal health in body, mind, and spirit, and that optimal health goes far beyond absence of illness.
- I believe we have within ourselves a capacity for healing our brain, our bodies, and our spirits.
For parents who prefer to avoid psychiatric medications, there are many resources for treating emotional and behavioral symptoms in children. Symptoms associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression, and anxiety, as well general challenges managing emotions, forming relationships with peers, or going to school are often amenable to holistic interventions.
A part of my work about which I have great passion is supporting health and wellness in children. I have been working for more than ten years with pediatricians, functional medicine doctors, naturopathic doctors, and acupuncturists who provide holistic, alternative treatments for children and adults. I provide a road map for exploring alternative treatment options, based on the successes and challenges of the many families with whom I have worked in this manner.
To help improve self-calming skills and self-awareness, I teach mindfulness-based strategies which are tailored to the individual’s needs. These strategies are based on the following skills:
- observing how our thoughts create problems
- noticing how emotions feel in the body
- learning to transform feelings in the body
- breath work
- exercising the brain to improve focus
In addition, I utilize storytelling, play, and talking to help with a healthy metabolism of life experiences.
Because it is essential that children are supported at home in utilizing the strategies, parents are included in a portion of most sessions. Sometimes whole families work together to develop new ways of dealing with emotion, so the emotional climate of the home can become more peaceful and more orderly.
In some cases, after trying a variety of strategies, parents decide that medication should be included as an aspect of treatment. They are able to make that decision with greater confidence when they know they have really tried other options. In addition, with other interventions in place, I believe that treatment effects can be obtained with less medication.
The treatment team for working with children at The Center for Mind-Body Therapies includes:
- Cynthia Wilcox, Ph.D., Psychologist
- Donna Acree, N.D., Doctor of Naturopathy
- Kate Carter, Acupuncturist
- Dawn Burke, Massage Therapist