Dr. Grace’s Approach

Approach on a lovely sunny wooded path

“The level of differentiation is the single most important aspect distinguishing a therapist from a technician. Differentiation is the ability to maintain a non-anxious presence in the face of another’s anxiety. It does not mean being uninvolved or indifferent. It is the ability to tolerate pain for growth.”  ~David Schnarch

Dr. Grace’s Approach to Counseling, Psychotherapy and Consultation

I value authenticity, empathy and the therapeutic connection, and I practice these while working with my clients. I actively participate in the therapy work. I believe that true, meaningful connections can be an important part of the healing process, and can help build confidence and deeper self-awareness.

Likewise, a safe and engaging environment is crucial for growth and healing, and it is my aim to provide clients with a welcoming and safe atmosphere.

I believe that therapy is a place for self-expression and healing, and I work to provide a venue that is just right for each client to learn and practice emotional skills, improve communication, and develop a keener awareness and understanding of themselves and others.

I also believe counseling is a collaborative process, where my job is to facilitate my clients’ growth. This means that while my clients get relief from the pain of their challenges, they also come to know themselves better. In other words, my clients learn to understand and work with their emotions, they gain skills to manage their emotional reactions, and they gain insight about their families and other relationships.
Game plan

Together, we create a game plan. As a strengths-based, humanistic, and eclectic therapist, I believe it is important that we work together interactively. I also often use family systems, cognitive, interpersonal, narrative, holistic-oriented, relational-cultural, developmental approaches, a spiritual approach, mindfulness techniques, play therapy, art therapy, music therapy, and sand tray work.

Essentially, I am an integrative therapist. What that means is that I have extensive training in a variety of modalities and use them as called for.

When describing my approach, I explain what informs my thinking while I’m doing my counseling work. Please explore other pages on this website to learn more about me and my specializations.

I describe some of the approaches I use below (please click the tabs below to learn more):

Strengths Based Therapy

I start looking for strengths upon first meeting my clients, and no matter how long the list already is, I keep finding them. They might be obvious, or maybe not yet even realized, but I believe that seeking, learning about, and emphasizing my clients’ strengths is essential to therapy.

Personal strengths are power-houses for the work of overcoming challenges. As a strengths-based therapist, I see my clients as experts in their own work, and because of this belief, even if I am the facilitator to change, I see myself in partnership with my clients as they face the challenges and triumphs of their work

A Humanistic Approach

I believe each person, each client, is incredibly and beautifully unique. Humanistic psychology describes the individuality of each human, and supports a holistic approach to counseling work.

One focus of humanistic psychology views how deep feelings and self-concept influence behaviors. This motivates an exploration of each client as a whole person in all his or her unique individuality, where multiple perspectives are used to regard a situation.

I deeply value the humanistic view that people are innately good.

Family Systems Therapy

Family systems theories, including Narrative Therapy, are foundational to my work. From this therapeutic viewpoint, individual clients are seen as part of, and interconnected with, larger systems— primarily the family. As a systems therapist, I believe it is important to explore how my clients relate with their own extended personal contexts— and not only their families, but also their school or work, their community, their culture, era, and other external influences.

As a Narratively informed systems therapist, I see my role as partner to my clients, on their journey of authoring their own stories.

To learn more about Narrative Therapies, see that category on my Links page.

Relational-Cultural Therapy

When I say I that I work relationally, I am describing a specific type of empathy, a sense of mutuality, and a contextual awareness that I believe is essential to therapy work. Relational-cultural counseling includes a sense of partnership in therapy, where I work to help my clients experience feelings of being truly understood and partnered on their path. Part of this includes providing a safe “container” for my clients, so that they can more easily trust me to hold them in compassion and care.

Another important aspect of Relational-cultural therapy is that it explains growth and development as part of learning about relationships, as well as the disconnections and re-connections in life.

A Spiritual Approach
Incorporating spirituality into psychotherapy is part of a holistic approach. A sense of connection with matters of spirit—whether it includes an experience of nature, devotion to spiritual or religious beliefs or practices, the wonder of science, meditation, or other ideas, values or beliefs—can be part of healing, gaining a sense of being better connected with the world, and feeling more whole.
Existential Therapy

With existential therapy, we work together to create balance, and to promote acceptance without overwhelm. This perspective helps us explore how you make meaning in life, your connections, relationships, and sense of purpose.

Existential therapy adds additional perspective, so that you can process internal conflicts (and subsequent choices) in a way that supports you to blossom in the present, without becoming overwhelmed or preoccupied with a potential future.

Play Therapy

Play therapy is as diverse as it is fun. It is an important part of my practice, and can be essential when working with children. It can involve games, toys, puppets, cars, costumes, crafts, or even physical movement (such as sword play, dance or catching lizards). Play therapy is way to help clients, especially children, achieve optimal mental health.

Even gifted children (and adults) who have strong verbal skills can benefit from play therapy, which provides an alternative means to process emotions, challenges, and what is going on in their lives. Play therapy has been shown to improve social, emotional, behavioral and other mental health issues.

Not just for children, I also have therapeutic games and crafts geared specifically for teens and adults. Play therapy can help clients resolve conflict, solve challenges, and learn positive preventative coping skills.

For further information, please view this short video, which explains how play therapy works:

Art Therapy

Many of my clients really like doing art projects. More than a fun and entertaining way for children to learn therapeutic skills, art therapy can be part of a deep healing process for people of all ages. It can also provide an enjoyable way to practice positive coping skills, as well as providing space for for creativity and personal reflection.

Child, teen and adult clients can make meaning of their lives via art projects, improve self-esteem, find strengths, and become more self-aware. Creating art can also bring about profound insight and understanding of relationships, coping, responses to stress and trauma.

Sandplay (Sand Tray Therapy)

Sandplay is the process of arranging small figurines and representational objects in therapy sand that represent an inner state of being. Therapy sand has the properties of both wet and dry sand, so it can be light and sandy or molded and sculpted.

Sandplay is a powerful therapeutic technique in that it can change how clients view themselves within their world, and bring their inner world out, to an expressive world. It also gives space for deep healing, processing and discovering new outcomes. Sandplay is especially helpful because it can be a non-verbal way to communicate when verbal communication is difficult or does not feel right. I utilize a complete sandplay set-up in my office, and children, teen and adult clients are all welcome to sandplay.

To start sandplay, I ask clients to choose figurines to place in the sand. Clients typically shape or mold the sand before placing the figurines. Molding play sand can feel really good—it allows for expression of emotion, plus the texture of the sand on the hands can be calming and relaxing.

When choosing figurines, clients pick whichever they are most drawn to, even if there is no obvious reason for making those choices. It is actually very easy to get into the process of building a sandtray world. It is an inner experience of creativity, guided by the subconscious. Also, it is okay not to know the meaning of the scene that is created. The strength of sandtray work is that it is healing and powerful, even if the outcome is not explicit.