Here I am with my daughter!
I see therapy as a way of organizing your inner world and the feelings that get stuck there. This is not an easy process, especially because many of us have not been shown how to deal with our emotions, or have never had the experience of emotional attunement to understand its importance. What we learn to do is to cope on our own with distress, which is too heavy of a load for the nervous system. Many of us do not have the experience of a caregiver helping us with our emotions as children. Have you ever had the stressful experience of being told not to cry, that your anger isn't welcome, to pull yourself up and focus on the task, not how you feel about it, being yelled at for expressing sadness, or being ignored for "behaving badly"? As children we get these messages, even if these words are not explicitly used. Without feeling understood emotionally, we learn to cope in a variety of ways to feel better immediately. We learn to rely on ourselves to feel better in these moments, when we actually need help with our painful feelings, even deserve the help. Without validation, we learn to turn away from others, away from our feelings, or become easily defensive because managing the discomfort alone is too painful.
Fast forward many years, and you become an adult who continues to use the same coping strategy - because it has worked in making you feel better. The only problem is in your most important relationship, it gets you in trouble. You are not trying to cause trouble, far from it! But that very coping strategy that helped you feel better as a child, sends a different signal to your partner. What you are trying to do is manage your own distress, but the signals get crossed, and you end up sending a message about them or what the other did wrong. This happens because you do not have healthy experience in communicating your emotions.
It does not have to be this way. Learning to use your emotional muscle takes practice, and it pays off. Through Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, you can learn to cope relationally, so that in your worst moments, you can have confidence that you will receive help from your love. It's amazing that with love, the weight of your distress does not double when you share it. What you are left with is a sense of relief, feeling understood, and feeling connected. Your nervous system actually thanks you for it.
I know that sharing the message of the importance of emotional engagement is my calling because of how motivated I am to respond to my toddler aged daughter with attunement. Especially when she is experiencing any heightened emotion (aka tantrum!). I want her to experience the feeling of "feeling felt" or feeling understood. My hope is for her to have the experience of being able to organize her emotions (with my help of course), so that when she is an adult, she will not get stuck in one way of coping (that doesn't really work!). My hope is that she will have a plethora of experience in coping relationally, so that she has more practice than I did in being in a healthy, adult, loving relationship.
I want to start a movement! When the couples I work with start to feel safe, I know that not only are they getting practice in re-connecting with their most important person (each other!), they are also able to transfer the emotional skills to use with others they love too. And spreading more love in this world feels pretty important to me!
License & Education
Licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist in Maryland since 2010
Master of Science in Couple and Family Therapy, University of Maryland, 2010
Clinical Supervisor in the State of Maryland, 2017 - current
Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT): Externship and Core Skills
from Washington Baltimore Center for EFT
Mindsight Immersion with Dr. Dan Siegel
Certified Mental Health Integrative Medicine Provider (CMHIMP)
Certificate in Nutritional Psychology
from the Center of Nutritional Psychology
Certificate for Perinatal Mood Disorders: Components of Care
from Postpartum Support International
Nutrition and Mental Health
I am specifically trained to help couples, families, and individuals resolve personal and relationship issues. During my graduate training, I served couples and families at our on site clinic, at the University of Maryland. I also had opportunities to grow in diverse settings outside of the clinic. Upon graduating, I began working with families going through separation and divorce by providing groups to kids and seminars to parents. I also started working at Jonah Green and Associates, LLC, where I provided therapy for adolescents and for families. Soon thereafter, I started with the Linkages to Learning Program with YMCA Youth & Family Services, as a school based therapist in a middle school, and I was promoted to Director after four years in the program. In 2014 I started my own practice with an emphasis on working with couples.
In addition to my emphasis on healing relationships, I have more recently become more aware and knowledgeable about the importance and the impact nutrition has on mental health. This is a brand new area, and I am excited by how much research is going into this new field! I am enjoying my work in helping each client to use additional nutritional tools in regards to improve their life and well-being.
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Board President for Metro Marriage and Family Therapists, Inc. (MetroMFT)
American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT)
International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT)
Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADS)
"Kirsten is extremely supportive and insightful as a therapist."
"Kirsten is a wonderful therapist with a calm and genteel demeanor."
"Kirsten gave [my teen] the tools to deal with her anxiety and understood how to help her."
"She understands how to work with each of her clients and provides the guidance that helps to achieve a happier life."
Kirsten is available for virtual appointments. Find a therapist near me!
Find out more!
Couples Therapy Perinatal Mental Health Integrative Medicine for Mental Health