Therapist Gabrielle Ferrara MSW LSW

4: Gabrielle Ferrara – The Promising Future of a Therapist Who Sees a Therapist

In this podcast interview, Gabrielle Ferrara reveals how she decided which undergraduate and graduate schools to attend to help her become a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) and therapist in New Jersey. She explains why she got into the field of social work and discusses her plans for the future including what it takes to get your Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) licensure in NJ.

Gabrielle has experienced many “firsts” in the last six months.  She has graduated with her master’s degree, started a new job, got engaged to someone she dated in high school, and had her blog “Therapist Who Sees a Therapist” go live on Psychology Today with an article titled “Why Showing Emotion as a Therapist Is OK Sometimes.” She explains that it is OK to show empathy and compassion for others because we are all human. However, as a therapist, she needs to be aware of countertransference as it can be harmful to the client if it goes unchecked.

As a rising mental health professional, Gabrielle admits that she is passionate about her career and providing the therapy that many people seek and need during these unprecedented times. In fact, she submitted a letter to COVID-19 frontline workers on The Mighty thanking them for their hard work and dedication. She reminds them to put on their COVID-19 mask, as well as their mental health mask, so they can emotionally endure the chaos they see daily.

Gabrielle identifies the five words that she uses as a therapist and how they have helped her better understand her client’s experience. She shares why she is passionate about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and discusses one of her favorite psychological theories. Gabrielle currently works at The Counseling Center in Middlesex, NJ as a Substance Use and Mental Health Therapist and has become a “Super Contributor” on The Mighty.

Connect with Gabrielle: Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn
Connect with the Show: Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn

Interests and Specializations

Gabrielle specializes in substance use and mental health issues. She is a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) and works with both adolescents and adults. She is interested in the therapies used to treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) including Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) Therapy which is a form of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Gabrielle is also interested in the use of dialectics, dialectical statements, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). She is working toward licensure as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). In New Jersey, all LCSW candidates must complete two years or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical social work experience with at least 1,920 hours spent providing direct client services.

Education

Bachelor of Arts (BA), Psychology/Criminology (2018); University of Miami.
Master of Social Work (MSW), Clinical Social Work (2020); Rutgers University.

Counseling Certificates and Licensure

LSW – Licensed Social Worker

Other Links of Interest

https://thecounselingcenter.com/
https://www.nami.org/Home
https://iocdf.org/

Podcast Transcription

Bradley
(00:00:13)
Welcome to the Master’s in Psychology Podcast where psychology students can learn from psychologists, educators, and practitioners to better understand what they do, how they got there, and hear the advice they have for those interested in getting a master’s degree in psychology or related field. I’m your host, Brad Schumacher, and today we have the privilege of talking with Gabrielle Ferrara. After graduating from Morristown High School, Gabrielle attended University of Miami where she received her BA in Psychology and Criminology. She then attended Rutgers University where she received her master’s degree in Clinical Social Work (CSW) with an emphasis on mental and behavioral health. Gabrielle served as a Mental Health Counselor and she did her internship at the Immediate Care Psychiatric Center in Parsippany, NJ. Gabrielle is a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) and currently works at The Counseling Center in Middlesex, NJ as a Substance Use and Mental Health Therapist. Gabrielle…Welcome to our podcast.
Gabrielle
(00:01:12)
Thanks, Brad, I’m happy to be here. My name is Gabrielle Ferrara and I’m really honored to be on your podcast. So, thank you for having me.
Bradley
(00:01:20)
Well, you’re welcome. Thank you for being on the podcast. I know that a lot of our listeners are going to get a lot from you today. You have a lot of things going on, especially in the last six months. I mean you’ve graduated with your master’s degree, you started a new job, you got engaged…Congratulations!
Gabrielle
(00:01:37)
Thank you, thank you.
Bradley
(00:01:38)
And you actually have your first blog post on Psychology Today, so a lot of exciting things in the last six months.
Gabrielle
(00:01:44)
Yeah, it’s been an exciting time.
Bradley
(00:01:47)
So, let’s go ahead and get right into it. I kind of wanted to open up the floor for you and ask you to tell me a little bit more about yourself other than what was in the introduction. You know what I did with the introduction for all of our audience members.
Gabrielle
(00:02:00)
Yeah, so I mean you covered it pretty well in the introduction, but I’m from New Jersey born and raised. I’m currently still living where I grew up in Morristown. Just getting into the field of social work and starting my career. In my free time, I have an adorable little rescue dog that keeps me busy and keeps me on my toes so. Yeah, I mean I just I’m really happy to be here talking about my experience and my writing and my, my career at this point.
Bradley
(00:02:28)
Well, good. How did you actually decide to get your Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Criminology? What made you decide to go that route?
Gabrielle
(00:02:37)
So, it’s actually a funny story. I started college as a premed neuroscience major and then I realized that there was a lot of science and math involved in that that I was not interested in, so I…But I still really had a passion for mental health and the brain and all that stuff so the next logical step seemed to go into seem to be to go into psychology, so I switched my major psychology and began taking some courses and saw that there was an overlap between mental health and the criminal justice system, and some of those common themes among the two fields. And so, I added a criminology degree as well and kind of combined the two and got to see some of the overlap and it was an incredible combination of studies and field work and just a really good overall experience.
Bradley
(00:03:32)
Yeah, and you know, based on our research on the website, we are seeing more of that overlap with criminology and psychology and more of those psychologists are needed in the criminal justice system as well, so it’s interesting that you chose that route. You know the next follow up question is what is, you know, at what point did you come up with the idea of becoming a therapist?
Gabrielle
(00:03:56)
Yeah, so that is something that didn’t stand out to me at first. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with my psychology and criminology degree. I considered going into the FBI, some sort of police, criminal justice work. And then, I ultimately settled, not settled…I mean settled not the right word, but I made the decision to be therapist and go into clinical work based on my own experience in therapy. And I think we’re going to get into that a little bit later, but my own experience in therapy and my good and bad experiences with different therapists really motivated me to want to give back and to be that person for someone else because I’ve had very good therapists and not so great therapists over the years and that just kind of comes with the territory, but it really motivated me to want to continue studying psychology, understanding it, understanding people and being that person for others to connect with.
Bradley
(00:04:50)
Well, that’s actually interesting. Now that you brought that up, if you don’t mind, I’m going to go ahead and share my screen and I’m going to share one thing with you and the audience. I liked your tagline here and you should see the Psychology Today website here and here is your most recent blog post “Why Showing Emotion as a Therapist is OK Sometimes”. And if you notice on the left side, your tag is Gabriel Ferrara “Therapist Who Sees a Therapist”. Tell us a little bit more about that and how you came up with that idea.
Gabrielle
(00:05:21)
Yeah, so I actually got that idea from a book I read earlier this year. I think it might have been late last year actually, and it was a book by Lori Gottlieb. She’s a psychotherapist and author and also a speaker, and she has a memoir called “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone”, and in that memoir she talks about her own experience as a therapist and also her time that she spent going to therapy. And that book really resonated with me, and it was the first time that I had connected so deeply with a therapist who also goes to therapy themselves. And I knew that a lot of therapists go to therapy and it’s something that we’re encouraged to do in grad school but reading that book really made me feel like it was something normal and it was something not just normal, but an asset. It was a strength to be in therapy myself and also be on the other side of being in that helping position.
Bradley
(00:06:20)
Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. I mean it would add some credibility and some credence and you can share a little bit and actually, you know, relate with your clients as well going through therapy yourself. Do they ever ask you “Hey, what are you going to therapy for?”, and do you share that? Or how do you handle that type of question?
Gabrielle
(00:06:39)
I haven’t gotten that question specifically. It’s one of those things that I don’t disclose it. There’s a kind of a grey area with self-disclosure in therapy so obviously my writing is out there and if they, my clients, Google me or anything like that, it’s going to come up so it’s not something I’m hiding, but it’s something that I don’t bring up myself unless it’s relevant or helpful or the clients bring it up. But, as you can see through my internet presence in my writing, it’s not something I’m hiding, so if it did come up, I would be, I’d be reserved and make sure I’m protecting myself, but also honest that, you know, I’m a human being. I have things that I struggle with. I have things that my therapist helps me get through and that makes us all just human beings. It kind of levels the playing field, so it’s not me, it doesn’t put me on a pedestal above my client because I’m in a therapist role because I also have been on the other side of it, so it kind of levels the playing field a little bit.
Bradley
(00:07:37)
Yeah, I agree. I definitely agree there has to be that fine line you can relate to them, share that you are also seeing a therapist, but at the same time we’re here to focus on you. Let’s refocus it on you and your needs so…
Gabrielle
(00:07:49)
Right.
Bradley
(00:07:50)
What, what kind of prompted you to come up with this idea to actually submit this to Psychology Today about showing emotion?
Gabrielle
(00:07:58)
So, I had an experience that I talk about briefly in this piece where a client was sharing something with me that really resonated for me. And on behalf of protecting myself and the client, I’m not going to share the details, but the experience was something that I could relate with to, and something that hit home for me based on my own personal life. And I caught myself starting to tear up a little bit and it wasn’t noticeable, I really don’t think the client even noticed, but that’s OK it’s, that’s not the important part here, but it led to a moment of self-reflection for me in a moment for me to say, OK, I’m having this reaction, I need to remember where I am, I need to remember my role and who I am, and who I am to my client. But I can also accept that I’m a human being. I’m having a human reaction to something that my client was sharing. So, the goal behind writing that article was to normalize that experience because I think sometimes there’s a misconception that therapists are meant to just be kind of stoic…not stoic, but they’re not meant to show emotion or to show that their clients are affecting them, so I just wanted to normalize that experience and it was a moment of self-compassion for me to allow myself to know that that’s OK to feel that way, and it was also a moment to share that knowledge and share that self-reflection out in my writing.
Bradley
(00:09:27)
And I, you know, I can kind of relate to that. My mom is a licensed psychologist herself and I know kind of in the old days and I’m going to ask you this…Have you found talking with other people in the field that that used to be kind of the norm? As we don’t talk about me as the therapist or the counselor. We focus everything on you now. It’s kind of blending and a little bit more forgiving. Hey, I can share some of my reactions and my thoughts with you, but we still have that line…It might have been moved a little bit…but is that your feeling as well?
Gabrielle
(00:10:00)
Yeah, my whole kind of idea of therapy going into the field as a professional is that, at the end of the day, the bulk of the work that’s done in therapy is built out off of that human connection we built off of that mutual human experience. So, if a therapist is not allowing themselves to be human and to be just a natural person, there’s not going to be any work that’s done in the therapy room. There’s no intervention or theoretical model that can be applied affectively if the client does not feel that connection to their therapist and does not feel like there’s a mutual sort of respect and understanding. So, at the end of the day, I think that connection is most crucial, so I’m not afraid to kind of allow that to happen. Allow that to transpire in the room.
Bradley
(00:10:53)
No, that’s a good answer. I understand and appreciate that. I think your clients definitely appreciate that when they’re talking with you as well. Let’s…let’s go back and circle back because I like talking about how did you consider going to Graduate School and how did you actually decide to go to Rutgers University?
Gabrielle
(00:11:10)
Yeah, so I, when I finished my bachelor’s degree, I was trying to figure out what to do next and where to go forward in the field of psychology and it became quite clear that it would be in my best interest to get a graduate degree just in terms of the jobs that were available and the work that I wanted to do. So, I went through a different…couple different options. There’s obviously PhD programs there PsyD programs, so a Doctor in Psychology. And then there’s master’s programs, so master’s in clinical psychology, master’s in social work. And I actually had a friend whose mom had recently graduated from the Master’s in Social Work Program at Rutgers and highly recommended it, had a really good experience. So, I looked into it a little bit more and just, there were some benefits as well to moving home and living at home while I was completing that degree. So that factored into my decision as well, I was able to commute, so I looked into the program at Rutgers and it’s one of the top programs in the country. I think it’s 17th in the country. Last I checked, don’t quote me on that, but it’s definitely top 20 in the country, so it really just seems all around like the best, the best option for me.
Bradley
(00:12:22)
Yeah, and I understand what you were trying to say about getting home because before that, correct me if I’m wrong, you were out in Miami out in Florida…University of Miami. So, tell me about your, some of your experiences and do you have any fond memories of attending the University of Miami.
Gabrielle
(00:12:38)
I loved yeah, I really loved University of Miami. It was the first time I got away from New Jersey. I was, like I said, I was born and raised here so there was some homesickness and anxiety that kind of comes with the territory. In hindsight, it was a great experience for me to explore that aspect of my mental health. Kind of just anxiety and adjustment to new situations, but all in all, it was a fantastic experience at Miami. I had a couple of different, um, experiences out in the fields there as well. I had an internship with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) there, which was a really good experience for me. And of course, I made a lot of friends and connections and professors and things like that.
Bradley
(00:13:19)
So, you know, I’m glad that you brought up the professors because one of my questions is, you know, can you think of anybody that had an influence in creating your career or your path…your career path? And, if so, can you talk a little bit about that in terms of how they influenced you and what was really crucial for you in making some decisions?
Gabrielle
(00:13:40)
Yeah, so I could actually come at that from a couple of different angles. There was a professor I had a couple of times; I took her classes repeatedly because she was very good professor in my criminology courses and she really kind of solidified my interest in that area. And then I had a professor for…I took a creative writing class, actually, when I was in in college and it was through that creative writing class that I ended up writing my first piece that I published back in 2018. That piece was published on the Mighty and I…that was the first time I’d ever publicly published something about my own experiences with mental health, so that piece was actually produced originally in that creative writing class at the University of Miami, so it was the first time I had the courage and the opportunity to write about that, and that really snowballed the rest of my writing and I owe a lot of credit to that class.
Bradley
(00:14:38)
Well, I’m glad that you brought up The Mighty so a lot of your, your followers probably know what the mighty is, but our audience might not be aware of what The Mighty is and you know what I did is I, I did some research obviously, and I saw that you have multiple blog posts and articles on The Mighty as well. Going all the way back to 2018 and then some of them are more recent. Kind of, in your own words, kind of describe what is the goal of The Mighty and what is it used for and how are you using it?
Gabrielle
(00:15:03)
Yeah, The Mighty…So, The Mighty is a storytelling platform online, it’s, it has a couple different elements to it. You can post what they what they call thoughts and those are kind of just thoughts to the community and people can reply and offer support and then you can also publish stories. So, if you publish stories, there’s a team of editors that review and select stories that they want published on the site and that’s kind of the more official, formal form of writing that’s on that site, so I’ve, I’ve had a little bit of experience with both, but primarily I focus on publishing those stories and working with the team of editors.
Bradley
(00:15:43)
Well, you’re being very successful, and you have been very successful on The Mighty. I’ll read one thing from the site itself, “The Mighty is a site where people share their personal experiences with disability, disease and mental illness. We’d love to hear your story.” Tell us more about this and then, I did notice that you have become a “Super Contributor” on The Mighty…Now what does that mean?
Gabrielle
(00:16:05)
So that just means I have it’s a team of contributors that were selected based on how often we were writing and the topics we were writing about. And then also our credentials outside of The Mighty so it’s just a way for anyone reading my articles and the articles of any other “Super Contributors” to know that we have a little bit of credibility. We have a little bit of experience professionally and academically and, not the other stories published or not credible, but we just kind of have a little bit more experience with writing and, umm, what we’re writing about.
Bradley
(00:16:39)
Yeah, and I’ll go ahead and share my screen and you have two articles that I actually like to highlight here, and one of them is your favorite 5-word phrase to use as a therapist, and this is earlier in the year this year and, without giving it away, what are those 5 words?
Gabrielle
(00:16:55)
So, this was actually very, so the phrase, yeah, you can see it right there “Tell me more about that”.
Bradley
(00:17:02)
Yeah, and so you know a lot of a lot of counselors and therapists would love to read this, and they probably agree with you or, you know, any derivative of that is basically to you know, you know, help the client talk a little bit more and open themselves up. But what made you come up with this idea of submitting this story to the mighty?
Gabrielle
(00:17:22)
So, I, I’m not the expert when I’m in the therapy. When I’m in the office, right? So, I’m not the expert I, I have the credentials, I have the degree and the, the work experience, but I’m not the expert. My client’s the expert, and that’s something that I really embody as a therapist. So, when someone tells me I’m feeling anxious or I’m feeling upset, it’s, it would be very wrong and unhelpful for me to assume that what they’re feeling upset about or what, what even upset means to them, the definition of upset to them, could be very different than my definition of upset. So, by saying that phrase “tell me more about that”, it opens the floor for them to be the expert for them to explain to me what that means to them. What kind of context it is, and it takes, it takes the, the expertise and the, I guess the yeah it takes it away from me. You know, I was made to be the listener allows me to be the learner and that gives a little bit of power and strength to the client.
Bradley
(00:18:24)
Yes, and I like, for those audience members, go ahead and look at that article, it is well-written, and it actually gives a nice point of view that a lot of people are not really looking at in terms of hey, this is what is happening, and I need to know more about that in order to help you as well, because if they’re just clamed up you can’t really help, help them in any way. You know you mentioned something about kind of, you know, the one of the biggest areas right now that I think more and more counselors, psychologists and therapists are dealing with is obviously the impact of COVID on friends, family, work…I wanted to ask you, have you noticed any changes in the topics or presenting problems pre-COVID and then during COVID right now?
Gabrielle
(00:19:18)
Yeah, of course. So, I’ve had an interesting opportunity, so when I was pre-COVID that I was an intern, and I was still in school and I was working with a much different population. I was working with children and adolescents mostly, and then when COVID happened my field placement was stopped and I kind of had a little bit of an interim between school and my job that I’m currently at. And now I’m at, I’m in a job where the population is a little bit different. It’s adults, it’s mental health and substance use, so I’ve had a little bit of, I’ve seen a lot of different sides of how COVID has impacted clients, but currently yes, I, I would agree there’s a lot of anxiety around COVID. There’s a lot of anxiety around just the uncertainty. It’s not necessarily the virus itself, and the ins and outs of the virus, but the uncertainty about when will things be OK, when will things go back to normal, where am I going to be six months from now so that uncertainty is very anxiety-inducing and I think you and I could, could relate to that as well for sure.
Bradley
(00:20:21)
Yes, definitely. I know that I’m in Minnesota. You’re in New Jersey. I didn’t get a chance to look up your rates of COVID, have they been rising in your state as well?
Gabrielle
(00:20:33)
Yeah, unfortunately I think, I think they’re rising in here as well.
Bradley
(00:20:37)
I know that our governor has put in, two days ago actually, put some more restrictions on what’s going to be open, what we can do? Are you guys currently under any restrictions?
Gabrielle
(00:20:48)
Yeah, I think we’re going to have some new restrictions as well. I know Philadelphia, which is not far from us here in New Jersey, is having some new restrictions put in place and, and I believe that Governor Murphy, who is our governor here, is going to follow in similar ways where we have a curfew on bars and restaurants here. And there’s definitely a lot of limitations in place.
Bradley
(00:21:11)
Yes, you know I also noticed on The Mighty in the middle of you know, spring, here you actually wrote a letter to the COVID-19 frontline workers, and I’ll go ahead and share that, and tell me a little bit about this and what prompted you to write this.
Gabrielle
(00:21:27)
So, I read an article. I believe it was in the New York Times. I’m not sure, but it was talking about the ER doctor that you can see there, Doctor Breen. She died by suicide in Manhattan, or she was working in a Manhattan hospital, and reading her story really, really struck me because here was this health care professional who was right on the front lines and was dedicated to her, her patients and was just a phenomenal doctor, and by all accounts of her family, a phenomenal person and she just couldn’t bear the pain that she was seeing and the terrible things that she was experiencing. And suicide is something that’s very difficult for people to talk about and kind of understand, but reading her story just really motivated me to want to be the person that these healthcare frontline professionals could come to and be that person that they could talk to and work, work through what they were feeling so that it didn’t become something common I’d, I like we would, I would hate to see it becomes something that where a lot of these health care professionals, um, are struggling with these feelings, but, unfortunately I think that the reality is that it’s a very hard field to be in right now, and it’s causing a lot of anxiety and depression and these health care professionals. So ultimately, Long story short, I wanted to represent my willingness and my motivation to be that person that these people could talk to.
Bradley
(00:22:59)
Yeah, and it also adds some credence to hey, you do care, you know, a lot of people might think that, hey, we have to be somewhat distant in the therapy or counseling session. And actuality, it’s fine to empathize and sympathize with your clients and let them know because, as you said earlier, that lends credibility and you can relate with the client more and you gain respect and credibility so I like seeing all those and you’ve been very busy with the, a lot of those articles and I’m going to come back to that in a second, but I wanted to kind of resume talking about your schooling and how you decided to go to Rutgers and in Miami and stuff, you know, what were some of the most interesting courses? You already mentioned the criminology, the writing course…any other courses in your undergraduate or your graduate curriculum that kind of stand out to you now?
Gabrielle
(00:23:53)
So, the one of the classes that I really enjoyed when I was in Rutgers at my graduate program was a clinical assessment and diagnosis class, and so that class was really a deep dive into the DSM-5, which is the diagnostic manual for mental disorders, I butchered the full name of, the DSM-5 is the manual we used for diagnosing mental and behavioral health disorders and so that course was just a really deep dive into that entire book, and we really explored all the different symptoms and the different criteria for the mental health disorders and also treatment, so we looked at different ways to treat each of the disorders and different forms of therapy…medication, all that stuff, and that really gave me such a comprehensive view of the field of mental health and how to properly assess for different symptoms and different diagnoses and it really was the foundation, I think, for my, my career going forward.
Bradley
(00:24:54)
I think a lot of people look forward to those practical courses. You know that are applicable to your job, your everyday job, and so it’s nice to hear that you really enjoy that. Some people go on the academic route and then others go the applied route on the counseling and the therapy, and one of the questions that I’m looking at right now, which kind of lends itself to what you were just talking about, you went to, obviously, for your master’s degree in social work. Do you have any advice to somebody who would be interested in getting their master’s degree in social work and, if so, what would that be?
Gabrielle
(00:25:31)
I think one of my hesitations going into social work for my master’s was I didn’t have an undergraduate degree in social work. My undergraduate degree was in psychology and criminology, which is related, but I was I had a fear that I was going to be behind in terms of social work because the social works a little bit different in the sense that it’s more of a holistic view of mental health and public health and social justice so kind of involves all of those different components and my fear was that I was going to be behind or not adequately prepared and kind of compared to someone who had done undergraduate work in social work. And so, I learned quickly that that is not the case. And the fact that I had had the experience I had was more than enough for me to fit in in the field of social work. And I felt right away that, that was the place I was meant to be, and I was the career path and academic path that I was meant to be on.
Bradley
(00:26:24)
So how did you know that that was the career path because I could have asked, something like, well, why don’t you just continue your you know same undergraduate and in psychology and criminology and continue that. How did you know that you wanted to go that way instead of just continuing your undergraduate?
Gabrielle
(00:26:40)
So, the, the tagline for social work is person and environment person or PIE or person in environment and that really stood out to me as a powerful tenant of social work. Because not only looking at the person and maybe their brain or mental health disorder, but you’re looking at how did their environment contribute to this? How does their environment continue to impact how they’re feeling and impact their relationships and their communication skills? And it’s really a holistic view of the person rather than just looking at them as someone with a mental health disorder, it’s looking at them as someone who’s had these experiences and had these life-changes and this is the context of their mental health condition and that’s really something that social work focuses heavily on is the, the big picture.
Bradley
(00:27:29)
And so, if we step back and actually take a big picture of what you’ve been doing, obviously you’re, you’re very active on the social media sites, acting and sharing some of your roles and articles. Tell us a little bit more about more of your experiences with you know, you did an internship with the Immediate Care Psychiatric Center in New Jersey. Tell us about your role and experiences there.
Gabrielle
(00:27:54)
So that was an internship that was set up by Rutgers, which is another great thing to mention about Rutgers School of Social Work is that they set you up with your internships and they do a very great job of connecting with local agencies and finding an internship that best suits your interest. So that’s definitely something great, great to know about Rutgers, but the internship specifically at Immediate Care Psychiatric Center, I was working at there, I was working in their partial hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), so that’s kind of a lower level of care than hospitalization, it’s not a residential level of care, but it’s still a pretty high level of care. And I was working with the children and adolescent populations, mainly mental and behavioral health issues, providing group therapy and individual therapy.
Bradley
(00:28:43)
OK, how is that different? I mean you, you in your current job that you got, I think at the end of June this year, your new job is actually at The Counseling Center. What are your roles there and how do they differ from what you were experiencing with the immediate Care Psychiatric Center?
Gabrielle
(00:28:59)
So, the core difference, I mean of course I now am licensed and I’m able to kind of provide that therapy from a licensed professional standpoint. I’m, I’m still getting great supervision, so my supervisor is great at my current job and I’m getting that supervision, but the main difference is that I do have a case load of my own. I have a caseload that of clients that I see and I’m their primary provider and I’m also working with adults at this, at this current position. So, I’m working with adults with mental health and substance use disorders and the substance use is something that I hadn’t had previous experience with, but something that I’m interested in, and something that I’m learning about every day as I go. So, it’s, it’s been a very rewarding experience and I’m learning every single day.
Bradley
(00:29:47)
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Gabrielle
(00:29:50)
I think the fact that I’m just, I’m learning every day and it’s not that it’s not that’s not a challenge necessarily, so challenging is hard because it’s challenging, but the good kind of challenging where it like it makes me want to be better and it makes me want to be a stronger social worker. It challenges me to continue to learn to continue to educate myself, to continue to listen to my clients and learn from them. Because, like we talked about before, they’re the experts, not me and so it’s a challenge, but it’s a, it’s a good kind of challenge. The motivating challenge to continue to be learning and bettering myself and, yeah, it can be experiencing something new every single day.
Bradley
(00:30:31)
And so, you know, for the audience members who are interested in becoming a therapist, counselor, or going into psychology, applied psychology in this type of arena, what are some of the most rewarding parts of your job?
Gabrielle
(00:30:44)
It’s, it’s so rewarding for me to again, we talked about this little bit earlier, but be that point of human connection for people because, unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, but sometimes a client does not have that human connection at home or in their social circle, or at least not in the, the full sense of what it is with the therapist. Like when you come to therapy, the focus is on you. You’re the, you’re the primary focus of that hour or hour and half, whatever it is session, and a lot of times people don’t get that kind of one-on-one attention or empathy or understanding from the people around them, so it’s incredibly rewarding to have that role and to be that person that clients feel they can connect with and confide in and trust because it’s not a given that they have that outside of my office.
Bradley
(00:31:38)
Now the other thing that you, you mentioned earlier is you’re passionate about many different areas and you’re very active, like we said, on social media. One of the things that I noticed is on your birthday this year you actually had a fundraiser for the International OCD Foundation. Tell me more about that foundation and why you created that fundraiser.
Gabrielle
(00:31:57)
So, the International OCD Foundation is a wonderful resource for anyone who is struggling with OCD or has a family member or loved one that is, it’s, it has all kinds of information on support groups, therapists, just educational information. So, it definitely is a great resource to check out. And I created the fundraiser specifically because of my own personal experience with OCD. I was diagnosed with OCD when I was in high school, though I had been experiencing symptoms for much longer or much earlier than that, and that foundation and that cause is something that’s very near and dear to my heart.
Bradley
(00:32:34)
So, I’m going to go ahead and share the screen one more time here, well maybe not one more time, but yeah. And so, I wanted to share on your Facebook you, you obviously have but, well before we talk about that, obviously if somebody looks at your Facebook…wonderful pictures of you and your fiancé, well, tell us a little bit more about, I know that you met him in high school actually…
Gabrielle
(00:32:58)
Yes.
Bradley
(00:32:59)
…yeah, and you guys just got engaged, I think October 17th of this year, so, again, congratulations. Here’s your little minute or two to talk about your love and, and tell us a little bit more about how that came to be.
Gabrielle
(00:33:11)
Yeah, so um interesting yeah. As you mentioned, we met in high school we, we were together briefly in high school and high school stuff, right? Those, those romances don’t always work out so great, but so we, we went our separate ways. We went to separate colleges and long story short, found our way back to each other a couple of years ago and have been together ever since. And this is the, as you’re seeing, the result of, of that.
Bradley
(00:33:37)
Well, good, good and I like your little caption here “who would’ve thought Morristown High School would give me my forever” that’s so sweet! So again, congratulations on that wonderful, wonderful picture is here.
Gabrielle
(00:33:50)
Thank you, thank you.
Bradley
(00:33:51)
What does he think about your aspiring career in counseling and therapy?
Gabrielle
(00:33:56)
He’s, he’s one of my biggest support, same you know apart, in addition to my family and my parents, of course. But one of my biggest supports and cheerleaders, the whole, the whole way and even back in high school I was just beginning to understand my diagnosis of OCD and what I was dealing with and that was actually around the same time that we originally dated for the first time and he was the biggest support for me, trying to understand that diagnosis and trying to figure out the ins and outs of what I was dealing with and how I could cope with it and I, I just remember him being there at the very beginning when I was coming to terms with the diagnosis, so it’s, it’s definitely been a very rewarding road for both of us.
Bradley
(00:34:41)
Well, good, and now we’ll kind of return to the transition…why I brought this screen up in the first place, for those of you who are not aware, OCD Awareness Week was this year during October 11th to the 17th and I’ll kind of read something right from the website there it’s “an international effort led by the International OCD Foundation to raise awareness and understanding about OCD and related disorders, with the goal of helping more people get access to evidence-based treatment and resources.” And so, I’m scrolling down, and right here is where you decided, hey, I wanted to share some of my stories. And I’m not going to share them on the screen. But I am going to share, with your permission when we talked earlier, this first one here that kind of gives a little bit more background into it and, you know, while people are reading that, you can kind of tell us…what prompted you to actually share some of your own personal stories?
Gabrielle
(00:35:34)
So, I read that statistic, as you can see there, according to the international OCD Foundation, it takes an average of 14 to 17 years from the time OCD symptoms first appear for a person to receive appropriate treatment and, at first, I was like 14 to 17 years? That seems insane, and, at first, I didn’t think that that was my experience. And then I took a moment and I started thinking back to my childhood and early education and those experiences many years ago, not, not that many years ago, but a significant amount of years ago, and I was like wow, I was exhibiting here and there over the years signs of OCD or developing OCD and I was able to trace it back to, yeah, 14 to 17 years ago was when my symptoms first appeared in some capacity or another. Obviously, they weren’t necessarily distressing or impacting my life to the degree that they were when I was diagnosed, but they were there. The signs were there, and it really was just like boggles my mind that it really took 14 to 17 years for me to get that diagnosis and to, ultimately, enter treatment in a way that was effective and now I am in treatment, I’m in Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) Therapy, which is kind of the gold standard treatment for OCD.
Bradley
(00:36:55)
Ok, and I did, I didn’t share on the screen for privacy reasons, but you you’re seeing some comments to that post and a lot of your posting. Lots of people are relating to that and realizing that yes, they have had OCD for a longer period of time than they originally, you know, thought they were, and so have you had anybody else come to you offline and kind of share their thoughts and their stories with you as a result of seeing your posts?
Gabrielle
(00:37:22)
Yeah, and that’s been one of the most rewarding parts about sharing my story is because obviously there’s a huge degree of vulnerability that comes with sharing my story on social media and it was something that I was hesitant to do for a while and the most rewarding part of ultimately doing that and sharing my story and being very vulnerable online is that people have reached out to me and said thank you for sharing your story. I can completely relate. I didn’t know anyone else felt this way. It’s, it’s so great for me to see that you’ve struggled with this as well, but you’ve made, you’ve made something out of it. You’ve made a career out of it. You’ve made an online presence out of it. You’ve, you’ve kind of changed it and morphed into this positive thing, and that’s been such a rewarding experience for me, and it really makes the vulnerability and kind of the hesitancy and anxiety about how my story will be perceived. It makes all of that worth it, because I have felt the rewards of knowing that I’m helping people.
Bradley
(00:38:24)
Yeah, and not only that, but you said that your fiancé is one of your biggest proponents of not only your career, but I didn’t really ask, you know, did he…was he aware back in high school that you were kind of going through OCD and then when did he kind of realize or when did you share with him some of these stories?
Gabrielle
(00:38:41)
Yeah, so I mean he was aware to some degree in high school, but of course we weren’t as close back then and over the years as we get closer, I mean, he’s witnessed some of my ups and downs with OCD because some of my struggles with it aren’t necessarily visible but some of them are so over time he’s, he’s started to see the progression of my symptoms and some days are better than worse, than others, and so he’s actually been on, on the front lines for lack of a better term of all of that, and so he’s been so great in the sense of doing his own research on the disorder, doing his own research on how to help me, um, listening to me and listening to, and sometimes the best thing you can do is not listen to me, which is kind of been a hard thing for both of us is sometimes OCD thrives on people reassuring you and thrives on that reassurance than that, um, that understanding, and that’s the worst thing you can do for someone struggling with OCD sometimes is to reassure them. And as someone who loves me, that’s a very hard thing for him not to do. But that’s been something that we’ve worked on together, and it is the best thing for me at the end of the day, so that’s it’s definitely impacted our relationship, but ultimately in positive ways.
Bradley
(00:39:59)
Have you had any clients that have presented that problem, OCD, with you, and if so, are you using that same type of therapy, or are you licensed to do that or what are your thoughts on if somebody, if I came to you and I said hey Gabrielle, I am doing this this and this and this and I’ve been doing it for years and then you help me discover that, yeah, that, that tends to be OCD behavior, what would you do, or have you experienced that right now in your current role?
Gabrielle
(00:40:28)
So, one of the core tenants of social work is we have a code of ethics and the code of ethics states that we’re required we, we shouldn’t be practicing outside of our competency, right? If we’re outside of our competency, if we feel like it’s outside of our abilities, it’s the ethical thing to do to refer to another clinician, um, so I’m very aware of that and I’m very aware of my limitations right now at the point, at the point on that, with my own OCD recovery, and how that impacts how I could help other clients with OCD. And, so, I think it’s important to be aware of those limitations because I know that there are certain things that I would not be prepared to handle, um, with the client given my own, my own experiences in my own place in my recovery, so it’s really been a period of self-reflection. A period of being mindful of where my limitations are, where I am and not, not kind of having that savior complex of OK, I can definitely help this person like I’m, I’m the therapist, I can do it because if I’m not at that place in my own, recovery would be very, it wouldn’t be ethical or beneficial to anyone for me to, to be their clinician.
Bradley
(00:41:41)
Yeah, you, you brought up a good point that, and I learned this from my mom years and years ago, as you practice what you’ve been taught, and you actually are licensed, and you know in certain areas you can’t be the end all and be all to all your clients. But you can refer them to other specialists that do handle that now. With that being said, I know that you’re currently employed and working at The Counseling Center at Middlesex in New Jersey, and they actually have nine different locations. Are you able to refer some of your clients to other, you know, therapists and counselors within that whole organization within those nine as well?
Gabrielle
(00:42:20)
Yes, yes, that’s one of the benefits is we are able to do that. I mean, of course it’s contingent on the patient’s location and their convenience. But we do offer telehealth, so that’s always a good option. But yeah, it’s, it’s really a good network of treatment centers in close proximity, so if we’re not the best fit for a client for one reason or another, we have that ability to refer them to someone within our agency.
Bradley
(00:42:46)
Yeah, so hopefully you can see this on the screen. It’s middlesexcounseling.com and this is actually where you work, but I wanted to point out, as I mentioned, that there are nine locations on the right here. You can see all the nine locations and they are relatively close in proximity, so it’s kind of nice to have kind of that family of counselors and therapists available to everybody under The Counseling Center to refer them to other people within the organization as well. So that’s kind of nice to have that ability. Do you have any short-term or long-term goals of expanding your treatment? What you can be licensed to treat and, and tell me a little bit about that in terms of your goals for the future.
Gabrielle
(00:43:28)
Yeah, of course, so I’m currently a licensed social worker, so the next step is to get my clinical hours. So ultimately, in a couple of years I’m going to have my LCSW, which is my Licensed Clinical Social Worker license, and that will allow me to practice in different settings and more independently. But aside from that, LCSW, I do hope to get to a point in my own recovery, in my own experience with mental illness, where I can focus on OCD treatment, I can become trained in Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) Therapy and be that more prof, I can have those credentials and those licenses to treat OCD because I know, again I know my competency, I know I’m not quite there yet, I know I’m not prepared for that yet, but I’m working on myself and I’m working on my own mental health diagnosis and my goals long-term is to get to a point where I can be trained in the ERP and treat clients with OCD.
Bradley
(00:44:28)
OK, and you mentioned, you know, the LCSW and hours, how many hours is it going to take for you to receive that or achieve that?
Gabrielle
(00:44:38)
Yeah, so it’s 3000 hours, so it’s roughly about, if you’re working full time, it’s 2 to 2 1/2 years full time, but there’s some nuances there in terms of clinical hours versus nonclinical hours. So, and each state is different too, so that’s, that’s for New Jersey specifically, but each state has different requirements and different steps to reach those hours, so it’s, it’s roughly 3000 supervised hours for New Jersey.
Bradley
(00:45:05)
OK, yeah, I was going to point that out for our audience. I know that it’s state by state and some states might require more or less and some require more supervision, supervised hours versus non that sort of stuff. So, it sounds like you have a plan at least for the next 2 to 2 1/2 years to reach that goal. Any other kind of long-term goals? Think about beyond this or any other specialties that you find interesting and, and might try to get specialized in as well or certified in as well.
Gabrielle
(00:45:34)
Yeah, I mean so. I still have a great interest in criminology and criminal psychology so and it I don’t think, I don’t think there’s much of an intersection between OCD treatment and criminal psychology, so ultimately, it’s going to kind of depend on what’s available and what might, where which direction my interests go, but I do still have a very passionate interest in criminal psychology, and I would love to explore that a little bit more down the line. I might need some more education too. I def., I shouldn’t say I’m I, I definitely need some work education to pursue that but that’s something down the line that I’m still very interested in.
Bradley
(00:46:10)
So, if somebody were to come to you and they were in undergrad right now and they wanted to get into therapy or counseling, what would be kind of the, the best two or three things that you could advise them on and recommend that they do?
Gabrielle
(00:46:27)
Go to therapy yourself, even if it’s just for a couple of sessions. Feel what its, feel what it’s like to be in that position to be in the room to be talking to someone. It doesn’t have to be something you do forever, but definitely do it a couple of times just to get a feel for it that would be my, my first piece of advice. My second piece of advice, Hmm, don’t put too much pressure on yourself and by that, I mean it’s a very difficult field. You see a lot of terrible things happening, you’re exposed to the public health issues, mental health issues, issues, social justice issues. Because social work is really, like I said before that, holistic approach to wellness so it’s very easy to get caught up in sort of these, these things that are happening and these things you’re learning about and experiencing and it’s easy to bring work home when you’re a social worker. When you’re therapist, it’s very easy to bring those things home with you and to let them infiltrate your personal life. And it’s something I’m still experiencing and still struggling with and some days, again, some days are better than others, but it’s important to be mindful from the very beginning that it’s going to, it’s very easy to bring those things home with you, so be mindful of that and be aware of it starting to happen.
Bradley
(00:47:49)
Very good advice. The one thing that I did notice throughout the years is I oftentimes look up the highest rate of burnout in which occupation and air traffic controller is, is almost always in the top three or five, and then more recently you know the COVID frontline workers are appearing up in the top three or five and counseling and therapy and counselors and therapists and psychologists and even psychiatrists are, you know, getting up in that as well. So very good advice on don’t bring it home. If you do, then hopefully you can do something to get it off your, off your mind, off your chest and maybe you have somebody to talk to, to get that out of your system but very good advice. I have some fun questions that I always ask my guests as well, and one of them is what is your favorite term, principle, or theory and why?
Gabrielle
(00:48:45)
So, I so I actually really like this question, so I was thinking about this and there’s a phrase in psychology and therapy called Dialectics, Dialectical Statements, and there’s a lot of ins and outs of defining that. But the core element to it is that two seemingly opposite things can be true at the same time and that’s something that’s been very powerful for me personally, and also for my clients and I tried to include that in a lot of my sessions and it could be something as simple as I’m happy and I’m sad it could be it’s, it’s those, those things that seem like opposites and it’s also the statements that we usually put the word “but” in between…instead of putting the word but the idea with Dialectics is you change that to “and” so it’s rather than these two opposite things being mutually exclusive, they can both be true at the same time and that’s something that I love. I love talking about it. I love trying to apply it in my own thinking in my own, my own life, and I, I love spreading that knowledge to my clients as well.
Bradley
(00:49:51)
I’m going to embarrass myself, but some, Schrodinger’s I, I am bringing that up because as soon as you said hey, two things can exist at the same time I, I think of maybe I’m revealing what show I watch here, but Schrodinger’s box is kind of what comes to mind with that as well, so it’s kind of interesting you brought that up. One of the things that I liked about your article and going back to this article “Why Showing Emotion as a Therapist Is OK Sometimes” you did talk briefly about Countertransference and kind of, for audience, kind of give kind of a summary of what that is and what do you mean by that.
Gabrielle
(00:50:30)
Yeah, so countertransference is something that we’re taught a lot about in school because it’s basically when the therapist is having an emotional reaction or emotional response to or personal response to something that decline is sharing and whether it’s because of personal therapist own personal experience, for example, if a client’s explaining a divorce and something terrible their significant other did, and the client themselves has been through divorce and starts to personalize that experience and kind of think of their own experience with divorce. That’s an example of countertransference, and there’s millions of other examples, and we’re kind of taught in school to be aware of, to be very aware of countertransference and be very aware when it starts to come up and seek supervision immediately and really talk through it because it can be harmful to the client if it goes unchecked and it can be harmful to us as well as therapists because there’s something going on that we’re not dealing with, we’re not dealing with it appropriately in our own lives, but obviously the client comes first and the most important thing is that it can be harmful to the client if it’s not checked and I think that it’s important to remember that it’s not necessarily like the second you start to feel countertransference, you should run for the Hills and leave the client high and dry and be like Oh my God, I can’t, I can’t handle this because I’m feeling countertransference, it’s not always a terrible thing. It’s not always the worst thing. It’s something that you should be mindful of and deal with and seek supervision for but at the end of the day, it means that, again, you’re having these human experiences too.
Bradley
(00:52:10)
Thank you for explaining that. I know that it’s always interesting, there are so many different terms and ideas in the field. Another fun question that I always ask, and think about this recently, what is something new that you have learned recently, whether it’s within your field or outside of your field, just anything that you’ve learned recently.
Gabrielle
(00:52:31)
So, this one was hard for me. I’m trying to think of something that I’ve, I’ve learned recently, and I feel like I’m learning so much. Like I said, every single day I’m learning something new so it’s hard for me to pinpoint and, I have to be honest, I haven’t pinpointed some, one thing that I’ve learned new recently. This was a question I really struggled with, and I think that is a moment again for self-reflection. For me, because every time I kind of struggle with a question or struggle with the concept that’s happening in my life. I self-reflect and I’m like why is this difficult for me and, I think it’s a, it’s a moment for self-reflection that I need to be more mindful of the individual things that I’m learning each day because it all is starting to blend together and that’s, that’s OK because it means I’m growing as a therapist and growing as a person and a young adult. But I’m not putting specific stock in each thing that I’m learning, in each experience that I’m having. So, like I said before, I’m learning something new every single day, so my clients are teaching me about their experiences that they’ve had that I’m not a part of, they’re teaching me about their kids and their loved ones and their work, and I’m learning about how all these systems are working and how they’re working amid the pandemic and how they’re working in New Jersey specifically. I’m just I, I have all this information coming at me, that’s wonderful, but it’s hard for me to pinpoint one thing that I’ve learned.
Bradley
(00:53:56)
Well, believe it or not, you actually identified a few things that so that was good reflection on your part. Another fun one that I always ask is if you had time and money to complete one project or go on a trip, what would you do?
Gabrielle
(00:54:11)
Time and money I would, hmm, so I want to write a book one day, so that’s something that’s on my long-term, I guess that’s a long-term goal that I have that I, I didn’t mention is I want to write a book and that requires a lot of time that I don’t have right now at this point in my career and my personal life, so I would really love to devote a lot of time and money and resources to doing that, and if I had all the money in time in the world, I would go to Greece or the Caribbean or something and do it there, and do it in somewhere warm and sunny and really just embrace that opportunity.
Bradley
(00:54:49)
OK, well that sounds like a good goal. I, I can relate to you about having so much on your plate right now and you’re starting your career and I’m glad you’re off to a good start. As I mentioned at the beginning of the podcast, within the last six months you have done 4-5-6 different things and you’re still working toward that 2 to 2 1/2-year goal with the LCSW, writing a book, getting married…Have you guys, um, you know, set a date yet?…Can I ask that?
Gabrielle
(00:55:20)
Yes, we have. We’re in June 2022, so we’re going to wait a couple, about a year and a half and see if things settle down with the pandemic and not rush, but yeah, so June 2022.
Bradley
(00:55:33)
Well, there’s another thing to look forward to as well. Ahh, and then one other question before my final question is, you know, is there anything else that you’d like to bring up or discuss during this podcast that I haven’t brought up for you?
Gabrielle
(00:55:51)
Hmm, No, I think we covered a lot. I think we covered a lot of my interests, a lot of my experience and I’m just really grateful for this opportunity because this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to talk about all these things all at once. It’s, I talked about school before I talked about my personal experience, my career, but this has been…I’m just really grateful for this opportunity to talk about all of it in the same context.
Bradley
(00:56:13)
No, we are definitely grateful for having you on the podcast as well. I know a lot of our audience members are thinking of becoming therapists or counselors and going into this field, and it’s interesting that you’ve combined your undergrad and your graduate work and have gone down this road as well and I applaud you for taking the initiative to share some of your stories on your OCD as well. It’s therapeutic to yourself to do that as well, and then it also allows you to relate to others in your life, whether it’s friends, family and then outside of the social media family as well. So, I, I really want to thank you for taking the time to be on our show. I do wish you the best of luck and I will probably keep in touch with you later on through social media as well if you don’t mind and see how you guys are doing.
Gabrielle
(00:56:59)
Of course, no, thank you for having me.
Bradley
(00:57:01)
Well, thanks again for being on the show. We will keep in touch; have a great rest of the weekend and I have a good Thanksgiving.
Gabrielle
(00:57:08)
Thanks Brad, you too.
Bradley
(00:57:10)
Alright, thank you.
Gabrielle
(00:57:11)
Thank you.
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