Specializing in Quality Psychological Evaluations, Mindfulness-Based Interventions, and Assessing and Supporting Individuals on the Autism Spectrum
Quality Psychological Evaluations
I conduct quality evaluations to assess for the presence of neurodevelopmental disorders (including ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Nonverbal Learning Disorders), Specific Learning Disabilities, Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, and a range of other presenting concerns. My evaluation process includes an initial intake phone call to determine the scope of the evaluation, followed by testing sessions. You will receive an individualized written report which summarizes the history, provides an in-depth description of the evaluation results, and concludes with a summary of the client's current presentation, a diagnostic impression, and a range of recommendations based upon current findings, client preferences, and best practice based on the scientific research. Upon completion of the report, I meet with the individual or family to discuss results and talk about implications and next steps. I am happy to collaborate with your/your child's therapist, school team, and other treatment providers. Please keep in mind I work primarily with children and teens. The exception is that I work with individuals throughout the lifespan who would like information regarding the presence of an Autism Spectrum Disorder, including what was formerly referred to as Asperger's Disorder. With over ten years of experience working with neurodiverse individuals including those on the Autism Spectrum, I am happy to assist you in this regard.
I have found mindfulness-based interventions to be one of the most powerful tools for dealing with my own stress and anxiety. I first found meditation practices when I completed my 500-hr yoga teacher training through Dana Baptiste in Salt Lake City, Utah. Since that time, I have a consistent meditation practice myself which has also included participation in multiple Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) courses, a 10-day silent meditation retreat (Vipassana), many 1- and 3- day silent meditation retreats through the Insight Meditation tradition, and completion of the Dharma in Daily Life study program with Susie Harrington.
Since my introduction to mindfulness, I have engaged with the practices professionally as well. I completed a practitioner training in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression (MBCT), the Mindful Schools Teacher Training Program, and the training for Learning to Breathe, a scientifically-based mindfulness program for adolescents by Dr. Patricia Broderick. At the University of Utah, I completed my Doctoral dissertation on the effects of the Mindful Schools program on teen stress and coping. I have led many mindfulness groups for teens and children, as well as a mindful parenting course, and implemented mindfulness-based interventions for teachers and students in the preschool program at Granite Preschool Services in Salt Lake City, Utah over a number of years.
Aside from offering a mindfulness-based approach to treatment in general, I also utilize mindfulness as a primary modality for teaching coping skills, particularly for children ages 10 and up.
Assessing and Supporting Individuals on the Autism Spectrum
I have expertise in assessing and supporting individuals on the Autism Spectrum. My first experience with autism came when I was working towards my BFA in Modern Dance. I needed a job, and my friend introduced me to an incredible family and their young children. For many years, I worked to support their children at home and school, and became lifelong friends with this family. They had an amazing impact on my life. Because of them, I decided to pursue a career in psychology.
During my time in graduate school at the University of Utah, I was employed as a research assistant at the Utah Autism Research Program. I worked on a number of research studies including the Adult Outcome Study in partnership with UCLA. I conducted direct assessment, behind-the-scenes research, and also led adolescent social skills groups using the PEERS Curriculum. I also had the pleasure of working with adults on the spectrum putting together social events for an adult social group. During my graduate school career, I was accepted into the prestigious Utah Regional Leadership in Education and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (URLEND) program. Through URLEND, I worked directly with autistic individuals, engaged in grassroots advocacy at the state and national level, and conducted research aimed at improving the lives of autistic people and their families. I also accepted an invitation to represent the program as an advocate for people with disabilities in Washington DC.
Following graduation, I have worked with autistic individuals in a variety of capacities, including in the public school setting, through family therapy at The Children's Center, in therapy through my private practice, and through the psychological evaluation process. I regularly work with people ages 3 through adulthood who identify as being on the spectrum. I am well-versed in helping people understand the nuances and strengths of individuals with strong language capacities and autism (such as those previously diagnosed with Aspergers). I also have an in-depth understanding of the ways ASD might "show up" differently in those assigned female at birth, and in queer, trans, non-binary, and gender-diverse populations, and have worked with many adults for whom a diagnosis of autism was validating, empowering, and provided much-needed clarity moving forward.
Regardless of the capacity in which we work together, rest assured that all of my services are trauma-informed, and this is extremely important to me. As part of the psychological evaluation process, I always consider the impact of traumatic experiences that may be impacting an individual's current presentation. If trauma is in fact present, I work together with the individual and family to understand the impact the trauma is having in their current experience, and take this into consideration when formulating a diagnostic impression. Trauma exposure can have a direct impact on an individual's executive functioning skills, mood, behavior, body, and relationships. It can often be misdiagnosed as ADHD, mood disorders, behavioral disorders, or other problems if it is not well-understood by the clinician. Therefore, this is always taken into consideration in my practice. Should an individual present with active trauma, I am sure to connect the individual/family with the proper resources they need. Sometimes this includes making a report if the person is experiencing active abuse or victimization.
In therapy, I am trained in a number of therapeutic modalities that address traumatic stress, particularly in children and families. Following my graduate school training, I completed an APPIC internship at The Children's Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Through my training at TCC, I worked with families utilizing Child Parent Psychotherapy, the Attachment, Regulation, and Competency (ARC) method, trauma-focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy (TF-CBT), and play therapy principles.
When you work with me at Empower Who You Are, you will receive trauma-informed evaluation and therapy services for your family, your child, and yourself.
I employ a neuro-diversity affirmative approach to working with my clients on the autism spectrum, which includes recognizing and working against an ableist narrative. This approach recognizes that neurodiversity is a part of human diversity at large. When you come to me for therapy or an evaluation, it is important to know that I am not going to seek to "cure" or "fix" symptoms of Autism. Instead, I will work with you, your family, or your child, to determine the goals you have for evaluation and/or therapy. As such, I often work with families to increase their understanding of neurodiversity and autism specifically, so that they can create a more neurodiverse-friendly atmosphere at home. I have worked with many children and teens to help increase their social emotional capacities and self-regulation. Additionally, I have worked with young adults around the higher-level social skills necessary for dating and workplace situations. Working from a neurodiverse perspective, I also understand that this process is a "two-way street," and therefore I work with families and clients to advocate for more neurodiverse-friendly environments at school, at home, and in the workplace. I regularly work with families to help them better understand their neurodiverse student. I work on skill development for the individual as well as their families and partners.
Our society is very narrowly constructed to best fit one "type" of person, and that person rarely actually exists. When you come to me as a neurodiverse individual or family, we will not be working on "fixing" symptoms of Autism to fit some outdated norm for behavior. Rather, we will work collectively to enhance understanding from all parties to best serve the client's independence, self-determination, and happiness moving forward.
Perhaps you are a family who has just received a diagnosis of Autism and you are struggling to understand what that means in regards to how you parent your child, or what types of activities will be most beneficial moving forward. I would love to be a part of your journey in this regard.
Perhaps your adolescent has started struggling socially in middle school and feels disconnected from others. Autism Spectrum Disorders (particularly what was formerly called Aspergers) can often go undiagnosed until the social landscape becomes more nuanced and complex, particularly around middle school. If you believe your student may be on the Autism Spectrum, I can help with the evaluation to determine whether that is the case, and how best to move forward.
Perhaps you are an adult who has struggled in relationships because there is a lack of understanding from both parties regarding expected norms for communication. I can work with you to increase your own understanding of higher-level social skills for developing relationships, and also work to help you be able to communicate your own needs so that your partner can also increase their understanding of what you need in a relationship, as well.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community myself, working in a helping profession, I employ an LGBTQ+ affirming approach to therapy and psychological evaluation. I will always honor an individual's pronouns, name, and gender identity, regardless of family of origin preference. I understand that a heteronormative narrative pervades society and causes harm to those who identify as LGBTQ+. There is research to suggest that LGBTQ+ individuals are at a higher risk for mental health difficulties such as depression. This is not because there is something "wrong" with an entire population of people, rather it is due to the negative influences of homophobia, transphobia, and heterosexism, which unfortunately can often result in trauma, sometimes even at home. Therefore, evaluation and therapy with me should be a safe, affirming space regardless of gender or sexual identity. Similar to my approach with neurodiverse populations, I recognize that the long-accepted, pervasive narrow "norms" of society need changing, not the other way around.