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NJ Psychologist | Complex Trauma & Eating Disorder Specialist

What is “complex trauma”

…and what will therapy for complex trauma look like?

Complex Trauma

Trauma refers to our psychological and physiological responses to extremely upsetting life circumstances. When we undergo multiple traumatic events, particularly when each traumatic event builds upon the next, this is referred to as “complex trauma.” For example, abuse, neglect, harassment, and discrimination are often experienced as complex trauma. Often, complex trauma exists in the context of relationships, and impacts our ability to trust or connect with others in the capacity we wish to.

From my perspective, therapeutic progress is facilitated predominately through the strength of the trust, warmth, and openness of the relationship between therapist and client. My allegiance to this relationship is something I will always fight to protect and prioritize in our work together. I operate from a relational-cultural therapeutic orientation, meaning that I believe most psychological problems are rooted in disconnections from individual and systematic sources of support, and thus, a key part of healing must involve attention to and prioritization of re-establishing meaningful connection. Usually, for me, this begins with creating a deep and profound connection with my client and using this as a thread throughout the duration of the therapeutic relationship. In my opinion, healing cannot exist without connection. The role I play in my therapeutic connections is, whole heartedly, the privileged highlight of my lifetime. I hold the utmost gratitude for each person who has allowed me to play this role in their life. I have gained respect for experiences I previously could only imagine, grown personally and professionally, and seen the most beautiful parts of humanity in the light my clients’ souls have brought into my life. These uniquely vulnerable, personally-yet-oddly-professional relationships truly are so strange and special – and I believe that they are the key to healing from complex trauma.

While all of my therapeutic work deeply values relational-cultural principles, and I always center the importance of the therapeutic relationship, I also utilize other therapeutic techniques in treating complex trauma. I am certified in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), both types of therapy designed for trauma survivors.

What are “eating disorders”

…and what will eating disorder therapy look like?

Eating Disorders

In the most reductionistic way, eating disorders are psychiatric disorders marked by a variety of behaviors including, but not limited to, preoccupation with body weight or shape and/or food, excessive restriction of food, binge eating, and/or use of inappropriate compensatory methods for eating (i.e., purging, compulsive exercise, fasting), causing clinically significant levels of impairment or distress. More concisely, when weight, shape, or food occupy our thoughts and feelings more than we would like, an eating disorder is likely.

Every person with an eating disorder is unique, and there is no singular cause for these disorders. Thus, there is no singular treatment that will fit for all clients. In my approach to treating eating disorders, I aim to collaborate with my client to utilize evidence-based treatments that best suit their needs and desires. With all clients, I operate through the lens of Health at Every Size (HAES), which is the idea that we all deserve to pursue health and have access to equitable healthcare – regardless of our body size.

At the end of the day, as an eating disorder clinician, I want my clients to live their fullest lives. I want them to have a full shot at recovery, and I believe in full recovery and life outside of the eating disorder. I believe that 99.9% of the time, this is possible and worth it. I also believe that eating disorders are deeply functional, and that they exist to serve a real psychic function. I believe that recovery doesn’t always feel worth it. I believe that recovery from an eating disorder sometimes feels like a lose-lose situation, where you either choose to do the thing you’re most afraid of in hopes that you might feel better (even though that’s not certain), or you choose to do something that slowly kills you (even though that isn’t very certain either) but at least feels good.

I sometimes wonder if the reason why so many people don’t recover in the standard system that we offer for recovery, is because the system itself is so flawed, or if it’s because the eating disorder itself is so aggressive. When I think about this, I usually land on the notion that it’s a little bit of both, like most things in life; it’s not all black and white. Eating disorders are particularly aggressive mental illnesses, and I don’t blame anybody for being “noncompliant“ with a treatment system that feels oppressive and asks you to do something you’re deeply afraid of, while villainizing you for having a mental illness that you didn’t choose to struggle with. This is why I aim to empower my clients in our work together by collaborating to achieve the most accessible version of recovery. I utilize harm-reduction models of treatment, in addition to aspects of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT). I am also certified in Enhanced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Eating Disorders (CBT-E).