Interview with Danielle Nicholls-Slovinski, LMSW, IMH-E(IV)
What is your specialty?
I specialize in working with children and adults who have experienced trauma, or really hard events that made them fear for their safety or the safety of someone else. I particularly specialize in helping families with very young children work through trauma. Sometimes people feel like they should just “get over” things that have happened to them, but it doesn’t always work like that. Sometimes we all need more support, especially after experiencing something traumatic.
What made you want to become a therapist?
I first realized I wanted to be a therapist when I was in high school and started learning about the different theories behind behavior and emotional well-being. I recognized then that I was fascinated with how our brains and bodies respond to our experiences in the world, and how therapy can actually change brain chemistry and processing! Over time, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on my own life experiences, which has shaped the models of therapy with which I resonate most.
What can clients expect when they first come to therapy? What is a typical therapy session like with you?
Therapy can feel intimidating at first, and I want all of my clients to have the experience of therapy moving at his/her own pace. It is important that we have time to develop trust in our relationship, and so most of the early sessions are about my getting to know who the client is, what s/he is hoping for from therapy, and experiences that might make it easier or harder to engage in therapy. With adults this is often a free-flowing conversation over time, and with kids it often looks like engaging in play and other activities that help the child communicate who s/he is and what s/he needs. The beginning of therapy is also a time when clients get to know my style and can ask questions about the process. Over time, therapy sessions can look different for every client because I tailor each session to the needs of the person in the therapy space.
How have you seen therapy be helpful to your clients?
Therapy is meant to be a space of exploration and growth, and I’ve seen that be the case for many people. I’ve worked with children and families who have been able to deepen their relationships, use those relationships to resolve behavioral concerns, and learn new ways of interacting with each other and the world. Some clients I’ve worked with have talked about feeling like fuller humans through the process of therapy because they’ve gained greater access to their emotions and are no longer preoccupied with hard experiences. Others have learned that they are worthy of time and attention, and have grown in their sense of self and purpose. My role as a therapist is to create and hold a space for clients to bring anything they need to in order to work through the barriers impacting their lives.
What do you think are the most important considerations when looking for a therapist?
It’s so important to look for a therapist whose style is a match for the goals you have in treatment. There are lots of different ways of doing therapy and being a therapist, and finding the person you feel you can build a connection with is the most important piece when finding a therapist.
What do you hope your clients walk away with?
My hope is that all of my clients grow in their important relationships with others and in their relationship with themselves. People need other people, and it’s through relationships that we can continue to grow and thrive. When we can understand ourselves and our relationships, change becomes not only possible, but inevitable!