The first week in December marks the nine year anniversary since I began my journey as a DBT provider. As I look into the new year, I’ve begun focusing on my rebrand which has been in the works since August. I’m simplifying my marketing, and transitioning my blog back to my main site.
In beginning this process, I realized that I did not want to migrate all the articles I had written over the past 5 years. These posts offer examples and discussions of many of the DBT Skills and concepts of complex trauma; however, I no longer feel connected to the version of me, that woman in the past, who wrote them.
This journey for me has been a decade of unravelling. Reaching the position of licensed therapist and quickly realizing it didn’t offer me the life of fulfillment I had envisioned (and worked consistently for) since I was 14 was a real bummer. Don’t get me wrong, I owe so much to the years I spent at the DBT Center – the training I received built the conceptual foundation for all my work today. And to be honest, there’s a part of my soul that still grieves for the life I thought I’d have when I entered private practice after graduation – it was what I truly desired at the time.
Truth is though, working in mental health very quickly opened my eyes to the level at which my own shit had not been addressed. Being employed in group practice also illustrated that many in my chosen field had not addressed their shit – the career can be a great distraction to keep you too busy to engage in your own shadow work.
The realities of working as a therapist were also always extremely anxiety inducing for me. While I enjoyed the one on one sessions with clients – I dreaded the notes, the mandatory meetings, the insurance calls, the overall CYA vibe of healthcare. The demands of professionalism (lack of authenticity and genuineness) and the power dynamics also always made me incredibly uneasy. I now can contribute this to my neurodivergence, which was still improperly diagnosed at the time.
It’s been 6 years this month since I left the Center. Personally it’s been a crazy ride. Lots of unlearning, releasing, surrendering, letting go attachments that did me harm, facing my shadow full on. This period in my life has not been easy, but it was necessary. Cleansing by fire, allowing that which no longer serves me to be burned away. I’ve traversed through it. I am on the other side.
In tandem with doing my own work, I’ve also picked up a few new skill sets along the way. I am now certified in Reiki, a 200 Hr Yoga Teacher and a LENS Neurofeedback provider. All of these services help fill in the gap of mind/body that I knew traditional Western psychological medicine had ignored from my own mental health journey.
The path was not near as straight as I had anticipated it to be (turns out neither am I lol). And yet, everything is as it is supposed to be. I love my coaching work with clients. My people are some of the most amazing, talented, creative, beautiful spirits I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, and I get the joy of spending an hour a week helping them to strategize showing up as their best self. Like me, they often possess spirits of unending potential that somehow along the way, they were taught to self extinguish.
While DBT has stayed at the heart of my work with clients, over the years my clinical understanding of the crux of my clients difficulties has evolved. I initially focused on working with clients diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. With the publication of Bessel Van Der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score in 2014, the conceptualization of C-PTSD began to enter the general therapeutic lexicon. I immediately felt trauma to be a much more compassionate lens for examining the struggles of my clients, especially with the lingering cultural bias (and misunderstanding) towards personality disorders.
In 2021, the algorithm gods of TikTok introduced me to the #actuallyautistic and #latediagnosed communities. Neurodivergence has always been part of my conceputal understanding of BPD. Marsha Linehan states that BPD evolves over time from the interaction of an invalidating social environment AND a biological predisposition to high sensitivity. I was trained to understand this along the lines of HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) or even those who identify as empaths. Occasionally we did discuss the intersection of ADHD and the biological aspect.
The characteristics of biological sensitivity include:
-larger breadth of emotional experiencing
-sensitivity to stimuli (sound, touch, taste, texture)
All traits associated with neurodivergence. Huge gender bias exists in the diagnoses of BPD. Huge gender bias also exists in the psychiatric misdiagnosis of women who are on the spectrum. I think there’s something there.
From my current level of understanding it is the intersection of neurodivergence and the chronic invalidation of a world that wants you to be one way, when you’re fundamentally wired another, that leads to a life of chronic emotion dysregulation. DBT offers an algorithm of behaviors to help navigate the world more effectively. It’s a valid tool that most neurodivergent individuals can adapt to use successfully – it’s straight forward, it makes sense, it offers visual decision trees.
What I’ve realized though, the most effective aspect of my work in the past few years, is guiding clients to create a life that is effective for their true neurodivergent needs. Identifying specific vulnerability spots and accommodating for themselves in ways that optimize ability to perform. Figuring out how to make life decisions based on what will have the highest impact on quality of life instead of choosing what you believe you’re “supposed to do.” It’s these shifts that can be truly life changing.
It was my true acceptance of that in my own life, that allowed me to see it was time to drop my license when it was up for renewal this August. I had spent years, trying to fit into that mold, but it didn’t fit my heart/soul. I always felt uncomfortable in the title of therapist. Inauthentic. Not to mention, these last few years as the politics of my home state have radicalized, I’ve also seen the potential of how mental health licenses can be weaponized against women and trans individuals. I want no part in that.
Not going to lie – it took some shadow work to let go of the prestige of the title AND it was the right decision for me. I’ve always had a little bias about the title of coach even though it is what I have branded myself as for almost four years now. I can acknowledge that, and am also aware of where it was deliberately introduced in my career.
Titles don’t really matter though do they, they’re just made up concepts to maintain our hierarchal societal existence. What I do know – I’m living a career of alignment. My work with my clients allows me to be one who walks beside, to help navigate your path and get to places you actually desire. I get to be a part of clients uncovering their greatest self that resides within. That’s a pretty fucking cool gig if you ask me! And it’s exactly the one I was put on this earth for.
If you’re looking for someone to play this role in your life & my style resonates, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I offer a free 30 minute video chat to see how we vibe. Getting to connect with amazing souls, is one of the great payouts of this job.
As we go into 2023, I am looking at what the physical progression of my practice will look like. While I have enjoyed the benefits of virtual practice for the past few years – I am ready to resume face to face services and hope to be in a place to offer that by Summer ’23!
📷Enjoy the picture of baby therapist Jamie on her way to DBT Intensive Training in Middletown CT circa 2014.
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