Who I Am
I grew up in the Puget Sound region and have lived in the area most of my life. I completed my undergraduate education in British Columbia at Trinity Western University and enjoyed the opportunity to live somewhere that was both a different country and culture yet still shared the geographical beauty of the Pacific Northwest. I chose the name Salish Sea Counseling to encompass my love for this unique region of the globe. After graduating with a bachelors in psychology I attended the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology where I received my masters in counseling psychology in 2011. My experience at the Seattle School deeply engrained in me two core beliefs that I bring with me into my work. The first is the belief that fundamental to any effective therapy is the depth of the relationship that forms between a therapist and a client. I am passionate about studying and developing therapeutic theories and techniques, but at the end of the day to me it is more important to allow these to take a backseat to a compassionate, attuned, honest, and playful relationship. The second is that you will only take your clients as far as you have been willing to go yourself. For me personally this has involved exploring and working through a history of severe, complex migraines dating back to early childhood. In my personal work I have come to see how these painful experiences impacted me mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. But what has been even more significant than understanding the impact of the migraines has been coming to see these initially traumatic experiences as catalysts for growth in my life. I began to see that behind the pain and suffering was a deep thirst for wholeness and fulfillment in life, particularly in the places where I had suffered the most. This vision of life that looks beyond adjusting to society and managing symptoms to an existence enlivened with love, joy, and peace has been the gift that has come out of my own work, and it is the vision that I bring into the work I do with each client; not merely to help them manage their lives, but to awaken in them the sense of truly being alive.
Professionally I have had the privilege to take this vision of wholeness with me into a variety of settings. I interned at an adult rehabilitation center where I worked with adults who often had seen their lives disintegrate at the hands of their addictions. I was able to sit with them in the hopelessness that often came with their predicament. And I was also able to see the other end of their suffering, when their recovery truly took hold. It was an honor to get to sit with them in the despair and having done so, to celebrate the joy of recovery with them.
I next had the opportunity to work with adolescent boys in a group home setting. Most of these boys had behavioral challenges that were too severe for them to be placed in typical foster homes. Most of them also dealt with severe attachment issues related to childhoods that no child should have to go through. In this setting I witnessed what suffering looks and feels like when it is directed at you. I dealt with extreme violence on a daily basis and saw trauma worn on these boys' sleeves. This work was as raw and vulnerable as about anything I could imagine. But through all of this what kept me going was the vision that these boys were not condemned to being products of their upbringings. In their moments of rage, aggression, and cruelty I saw a deep longing to be comforted, understood, encouraged, and loved. the wounded animal lashes out at those who try to help because it has no frame of reference for receiving care. Such was the case with these boys. In such a setting love is maintaining that no matter what the person does your compassion for them will not cease and that your vision of a better life for them cannot be destroyed by any of their actions. Working in such a setting was challenging, but it was also immensely rewarding to be let into the world of those who rarely felt safe enough to let their guard down and let others into their lives.
I have since worked in outpatient settings with all ages and various concerns. I've worked with people ranging from those on the verge of taking their lives to those who by all measures are functioning well, but have a deep sense that there is more to life than merely functioning. I particularly find myself drawn to those whose experience lies outside of societal norms, consensus reality, and other boxes used to condition people as to what is and isn't acceptable. I find such outsiders often can feel crazy, like something is fundamentally wrong with them, but I don't see it this way. Siddhartha renounced a life of wealth and status and ventured to discover a truth that lied outside of his societal norms, Jesus withdrew to the desert to confront the devils of this world, Dostoevsky wrote Crime & Punishment in a week of manic fervor, Van Gogh turned the torment of migraine into profound works of art, and even today, many comedians like Jim Carrey and Robin Williams have transfigured their mental illness into something much more. What I see is that beauty and wholeness are not the absence of suffering, but the fruit that comes from fully facing our suffering. Such a direct confrontation of what Carl Jung called the Shadow is fundamental to the emergence of the true self. Stan and Christina Grof referred to this process as "spiritual emergency," the transition from a mundane life to a life fully lived often involves both a disruptive crisis or "mental breakdown" and an emergence of a higher form of conscious awareness. My intention is to support my clients through this process of both falling apart and becoming whole.