Sharing your life with a stranger…

Everyone who comes through my door is nervous. After all, I am a stranger, and they are considering sharing their life story and typically some pain that has been building for a while.

Everyone is worried about doing that first session “correctly.” They want to give me the “right” information I need and hopefully not cry too much. And they don’t want me to think they are “crazy” or too broken to be “fixed.”

They feel very vulnerable and are afraid to hope that this process might actually make a difference in their lives.

Settling in to have a conversation…

I warmly welcome them; offer some coffee, tea, or water; and invite them to have a seat on a spacious white sofa where they can get comfortable. If they prefer, they can stretch out on the chaise end of the couch and put their feet up.

Since I loathe paperwork, everyone will have completed those necessary details online via the client portal before they arrive. I will take a few minutes to cover the “housekeeping” stuff – like what confidentiality covers and the two main goals of that first session. And then we start.

People tell their story at their own pace.

I take a lot of notes in the first couple of sessions because all the details in anyone’s history are very important. Sometimes people work backwards, and sometimes they start right at their beginning. There is no right or wrong here.

And I am leaning in and listening ever so carefully. Each time, I am astounded that another precious human being has taken the brave step to invite me into their inner world. They are offering me the privilege of connecting with them at a profound passage in their life.

Mirror, mirror on the wall…

As our time ends, I share a mirror image of what they have described and the beginnings of a roadmap for our new journey together. I encourage any input or questions that may be percolating.

And I always ask about how they are feeling now as they prepare to leave. Most often it is relief that they took this first step, amazement that I understood so well, and a new sense of hope that their future is going to be better.

I have a new diving partner!


She was in kindergarten, and I was in 5th grade.

We lived out in the country with the houses spread far apart, so I barely knew her. There had been stories that she refused to talk in school. I spent hours in my head trying to sort out this puzzle – why was she doing this, how were people treating her because of it, had something bad happened at school?

What would I say to help her understand the “why” of all of this? Ironically, decades later my daughter would do the same thing in pre-school!

I grew up in a rural area in upstate Western New York State. I was the first to go to college in my family and started to get a hunger for traveling and exploring the wider world in my early teens. When I was 16, I was an exchange student for a year in Antwerp, Belgium, where I had to learn French and Flemish, simultaneously. It was a tough year on many levels and the depressive episode I experienced that year was very formative.

College and beyond

I received my BA from Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, including a sophomore semester in India. I was very fortunate to have a wise mentor/professor/advisor who helped me pull together the pieces of my story and encouraged me to apply to graduate programs in psychology. The next chapter led me from the rolling hills of Western New York and Pennsylvania to the hot, dusty flatness of Waco, Texas.

Being a “good girl” over-achiever, I skipped a master’s degree and went straight for the doctorate while working several jobs to pay the tuition bills and getting all the scholarships I could rustle up. I chose to specialize in clinical psychology at Baylor University because of the depth of training. They provided a unique preparation for encountering the broad range of human experience.

Baylor offered stellar classroom training, as well as 3,000 hours of practicum experience in psychiatric hospitals, a juvenile probation department where I completed psych testing, and an outpatient rehab program helping people rebuild their lives after catastrophic injuries.

My APA-approved clinical internship in Wichita, Kansas, and two years of post-doctoral work took place at Wichita State University Counseling Center and UKSM-Wichita medical school where I specialized in the treatment of eating disorders. I opened my private practice in 1991 after working for four years as a staff psychologist at a private psychiatric hospital.

Part of my inherent design is a powerful curiosity to try to make sense of the world – especially fellow human travelers. I am also an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person). When I figured this out in the late 1990s, it made so many things make more sense in my life story.

I thoroughly enjoy helping others explore their unique design. If they meet the criteria for Highly Sensitive Person, it is gratifying to provide them with resources and educational material about their design. We also explore creating a life that welcomes their HSP traits and enhances their ability to nourish themselves.

I never solved the puzzle of why my neighbor in kindergarten refused to talk at school – but I continue to find people and their life stories a rich universe worth exploring.

When I am not working…

I met my husband of 34 years while in graduate school at Baylor, and he currently works as a clinical psychologist at the VA here in Wichita. Our daughter is married to a great guy, and they live in Kansas City. I enjoy reading, interior design, time with friends, and volunteer work.