Learn About My Approach and What Sessions Are Like
This blog post will teach you about my approach and provide some example client journeys to help you understand how I work.
This blog post will teach you about how I work, including how it compares and contrasts to the modern medical approach. It will overview my training, provide an example client perspective on sessions with me, and provide several example client journeys to help you better understand what it's like to work together.
The Modern Medical Approach
Let's start by comparing and contrasting my approach to the modern medical one. In the midwest (and in the United States in general), many therapists use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or "talk therapy" as their main methods. This is because CBT is easy to quantify and is therefore backed by a lot of research. It is preferred by insurance companies and hospital settings because it is straightforward and aligns well with the allopathic (science-based, modern) medical model. The allopathic medical model is good at parsing things apart and matching specific treatments to specific symptoms. This can be extraordinarily helpful in some cases, such as when you break a bone. Likewise, CBT is good at parsing thoughts and behaviors apart and applying specific strategies and tools to achieve desired outcomes.
I believe that, at times, CBT and talk therapy are helpful. In fact, I frequently recommend psychoeducational books to clients and incorporate talk therapy into my sessions. For most of my clients, though, these methods skim the surface or merely provide temporary symptom relief unless the root of the issue is also addressed.
The Holistic Approach
In my personal experience, many symptoms my clients experience have deep roots, are interconnected with other issues and aspects of their life, and need healing at the root in order to truly transform. They are not as straightforward to treat as a broken bone. Also, many problems my clients experience are not only emotional, behavioral, or mental, but also spiritual and physical. Therefore, my work is largely holistic in nature. The word "holistic" is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as "characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole."
My Therapeutic Approach
Alternative and holistic therapy involves seeing you as a "whole person," taking your body, mind, emotions, relationships, behaviors, and spirit into account to help you heal. I enjoy working along the whole spectrum from your deepest pain and trauma to your highest potential and innate wisdom. I like to help you plumb the depths to reach newer heights. I do not merely want to relieve your symptoms, I want to help you thrive, experience optimal wellness, and feel empowered and self-sufficient by the time you are finished working with me.
To do this, I incorporate transpersonal (spiritual; whatever that means for you) counseling, somatic (body-based) therapy, experiential therapy, trauma work, and talk-based work for an integrative, whole-person approach. I am informed by both evidence-based western treatment models and holistic, eastern, and earth-based wisdom. Integrating these things together into a cohesive whole is my passion.
I have a master's degree from Lindenwood University and am a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor. I have gone abroad for training in yoga (in India), mindfulness (in Thailand), TRE (in Thailand), and Internal Family Systems (in Spain), and have taken my Applied Shamanic Counseling and Depth Hypnosis classes through a school in California. My Psychedelic Therapy training is through an institute in Colorado. I make it a priority to stay up-to-date on the developments in my field and to receive training that most aligns with who I am and what I feel called to offer, and also, what I see that the world needs.
What Sessions Are Like
You may be wondering what sessions are like. Here is an example client's perspective:
"This is what sessions with Emma and I are like. Sometimes we start by continuing on the same topic from last time. Other times, I come in and tell her what's been going on in my life to catch her up and also to decide how we're going to spend the session.
Then, we are usually doing some kind of deeper process, like IFS, Depth Hypnosis, or shamanic journeying. Emma usually has me close my eyes and go into my inner world. Honestly, it's pretty trippy in there. It kind of feels like I'm dreaming. I get now why Emma calls it an "altered state of consciousness" because that's definitely how it feels. I'm exploring things deeply that I didn't know were there, or barely knew were there. Sometimes this "deeper thing" is the root cause of my pain, trauma, or problem and we are working to heal it. Other times, Emma is helping me moderate conflict between two parts of myself. Sometimes, Emma helps me connect to my inner wisdom and it honestly feels very mystical and like a spiritual experience for me and I really love that. When we do any of these things I feel so much more in touch with myself.
At the end of the session, we usually talk a little bit about what happened. This feels important because it's almost like my "thinking brain" needs to process it. Because when I'm in that altered state, I'm not thinking the way I normally do. This integration at the end feels important to apply what just happened to my life.
Emma is definitely helping me set goals and try to get to them, and to change my emotional/mental state and behaviors like other therapists. But the process to get there is a lot different. We aren't just talking most of the time. It feels deeper and like we are really getting to the root of things. And then I am noticing the changes really happening in my life. I really like it!"
I have created some client archetypes to illustrate how I work. I do not use actual client profiles in order to protect my clients' identity.
Case 1: Lauren
Lauren is a sensitive, introverted young woman. She loves to read, draw, write, and contemplate the mysteries of the universe. She has a rich inner life and is very spiritually inclined. She loves reading about different religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Daoism. She came to me because she felt very lonely. After COVID-19, she felt especially isolated and wasn't sure how to make close friends. Even though she enjoyed spending time alone, she longed to meet other people who she could share herself with.
As we worked together, Lauren revealed that she had several ideas for places where she could meet people. However, she was scared to go and wasn't sure what to say. Lauren hated small talk and was insecure that she had anything valuable to share. Using Internal Family Systems, Lauren found an inner critical voice inside of her head that sounded a lot like her big sister, a gregarious, popular person who had always wanted Lauren to be more "interesting" and to "stop being so sensitive." This critical voice kept her from feeling confident to express herself.
We healed both the inner critic and the sensitive, criticized inner child part of her. This helped her feel more confident and realize that her sensitivity and creativity were gifts. Lauren learned that she was an enneagram type 4, and gained clarity on how to grow as a type 4. Lauren began attending yoga classes and met like-minded friends. She started performing her spoken word poetry. Also, Lauren had always wanted to become a counselor herself, but her mom had not approved of it. During our work, she gained the courage and confidence to enroll.
Lauren also wanted to use our time together to deepen her spiritual life. She had always longed to connect with something "beyond" her, but had never had a "mystical" experience. Lauren specifically loved shamanic journeying, because she experienced a direct connection with what she considered to be sacred. She gained guidance and wisdom from this connection, and felt much more mystically connected like she had wanted. At the end of our time together, she felt more confident, connected, and spiritually tuned-in. She maintained the practices of shamanic journeying and individual IFS work independently. She was happy in counseling school and made several like-minded friends who could meet her at the "depth" she craved.
Case 2: Timothy
Timothy never felt very satisfied in his life, and wasn't sure why. For a long time, he self-medicated with alcohol and video games. This numbed the pain and took his mind off of his dissatisfaction. However, Timothy cared about his health, and realized his drinking was impacting his health and relationships. So he began going to AA. Getting sober was challenging, but he stayed sober for an entire year.
During this year, Timothy also started making other changes in his life, like exercising and eating healthier. However, even though he was sober and cultivating healthier habits, this didn't solve everything. In fact, his mental health stagnated, and he was experiencing anxiety and depression.
He found out about the work of Dr. Gabor Mate, and realized that he had been self-medicating for deeper pain and childhood trauma that was now showing through as anxiety and depression. He had always thought his problems weren't "that bad," and was surprised to find out that his childhood experiences did, in fact, impact him. He pored over books and podcasts and learned a lot about himself and the patterns that were contributing to his emotional and relationship issues. Inspired by what he was reading, he even traveled to Peru to do an ayahuasca ceremony, which he reported was powerful but confusing to him. He was frustrated because, despite all he was learning, his issues weren't healing. This is when he found me.
Together, Timothy and I worked to tap into his innate healing potential, his "core self" and inner guidance. We also developed a regular meditation practice for him. He was excited to see that this stopped him from spiraling when he was triggered. We worked to recognize what his triggers were. I used techniques from psychedelic integration and harm reduction to help him make sense of his ayahuasca experience. We recognized the "parts" of him that were trying to protect him, and normalized them. Timothy was emotionally moved to realize that his protective parts, such as the part that used to drink, the part that likes to play video games all day, and the part that isolates him from others, were actually trying to protect him from pain. Timothy also liked learning TRE to help him somatically process some of his anxiety, stress, and trauma.
Using Internal Family Systems and Depth Hypnosis, I helped him heal the underlying pain that had never been addressed. Over time, Timothy became self-sufficient in working with the different parts of himself on his own, and found that he steadily had more and more access to his "core self." He relied on the opinions of others less and less, and was able to tap into his own guidance and wisdom about his life. He felt more spiritually and mystically connected, and developed spiritual practices that felt true to him.
As he made these changes, he realized that his urge to drink and play video games as a means of escape diminished. He started opening up more to others, risking being more authentically himself, and experienced the deep benefits of true, authentic connection for the first time in his life. By the end of our work together, Timothy was confident in his habits of mindfulness meditation, TRE, exercise, and nutrition, and had fostered several deep friendships. He was at peace about his decision to abstain from alcohol, and no longer craved it. He still played video games in moderation, but used it as a tool for connection with his friends, rather than an escape. He also started rock climbing for exercise, connection, and excitement in his life. The last time Timothy and I met, he no longer felt anxious or depressed, and was happy to feel socially connected and healthy like he had wanted.
Case 3: Rose
Rose came to me because she was struggling in her relationships. For a long time, she had tried very hard to be a good friend and a good person. She gave a lot to her friendships, showered her romantic partners with love, and had chosen a career as a nurse where she could help others. But for some reason, she found herself becoming increasingly angry and irritable with her loved ones and dissatisfied with her work. She wasn't sure why. In our first session, Rose cried because she thought being angry was counter to the good, caring person she had always wanted to be. And she wasn't sure who she was without her helping identity. She came to me wanting me to tell her what was wrong and give her the tools to fix it.
Instead of telling her what was wrong myself, I showed Rose how to connect to her own innate healing potential, her core self and a compassionate inner guide using Internal Family Systems and Depth Hypnosis. Rose asked her inner guide what was at the root of her angry outbursts. Her inner guide answered that she was giving so much to others that she didn't have much energy left for herself. Her own needs were being neglected, and she had never given herself time to explore who she was and what she wanted for herself.
Rose was surprised by this at first, but soon realized how true it was. As she took inventory of her needs, she realized that she was not sleeping enough, not eating consistent meals, not drinking enough water, and didn't feel valued in her relationships. She also had no time to cultivate her own hobbies and interests.
Rose recounted her childhood. Her father had left their family when she was 10, and her mom became depressed as a result. As the oldest child of 4 children, she became the caretaker for her siblings and mother. Her mother always commented how helpful she was, which made her feel worthy and proud. Being a helper became her identity. Little did she know as a child that this set the stage for consistent self-sacrifice and linking helping with worth.
Rose realized that she closely identified with the enneagram 2 personality type, and gained clarity on what she needed to do to become healthier. Rose reparented her inner little girl and developed a strong connection with her, deepening her sense of inherent self-worth. She learned that boundaries and self-care are essential, and how to identify and care for her needs. She also learned how to listen to her intuition and inner guidance more, and practiced using her voice to set boundaries and express herself. As she did this, she felt stronger. We used suggestion hypnosis to reinforce and strengthen these new patterns.
After Rose began setting consistent boundaries, she found that not only were her needs taken care of, she was much less stressed, angry, and irritable. She became much more naturally loving, and commented to me that "she didn't realize what true love was before our sessions." She had always thought love meant self-sacrifice, but now she realized that boundaries are essential for true love to shine through.
With new boundaries, Rose felt much better in her friendships and regained her passion for nursing. She had more free time for new hobbies as well. She reconnected with a love for drawing and spending time in nature that she had before her parents divorced, which had been lost when she took on responsibility for her family. These hobbies strengthened her sense of self. At the end of our time working together, Rose felt confident in who she was, more centered, and more loving towards herself and others. She was also surprised and happy to realize that as she made these changes, her long-standing back pain and chronic fatigue melted away. As she realized her inherent worth, she naturally chose relationships where she felt more valued. Previously single, she met a new romantic partner and experienced the joys of receiving, as well as giving.
Unpacking These Examples
These case examples cover just a few of the issues I help clients with, but share some common themes. As you can see, I help clients tap into their sense of personal spirituality and innate healing intelligence, instead of telling them what's wrong or what to do. I help them get to know themselves more deeply and heal the root of their issues, so they can feel more free and become more authentically "them." I also help them identify, cultivate, and maintain healthy habits that will support them after our work is over. These changes have implications on a spiritual, mental, emotional, behavioral, relational, and physical level.