When I first read the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Principles, they spoke to how I want to live my life. I aspire to uphold the Principles in all my interactions with individuals, with groups and in the community. These principles, which are based on social work’s core values are service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, the importance of human relationships, integrity and cultural competence.
In my practice, I use a client-centered approach and relational-cultural theory as a framework, respecting the uniqueness and the dignity of every individual and their connection with self and others. I recognize the courage and confidence it takes to make the first step of seeking counseling. My hope is that, through a mutual trusting and authentic relationship within counseling, the individual will feel more confident and connected when interacting with others.
When I had a job as a Personnel Manager at a Department store, a summer employee went off to start college. When she returned at the holiday to work, she came to my office, began sobbing and told me she was raped during the semester. I consulted with a colleague who recommended that I connect my employee with the local rape crisis center. Her experience with the rape crisis center provided her the healing support that she wanted. Shortly after that, I moved to Guam, where I was able to volunteer with a grassroots Rape Crisis Center. We provided trainings, prevention workshops and 24/7 crisis services for the entire island. When I returned to California, I immediately went to the YWCA Rape Crisis Center to volunteer and was hired as an Educator and then moved to the Director position. I felt so fortunate to have the opportunity to do the work that I loved, to work with survivors as they trusted me and shared their trauma with me. When I moved to San Diego, I began working at the Rape Crisis Center and then, in 1988, was hired at UCSD as the first director of the Sexual Assault Resource Center. In addition to educational workshops, trainings, creating policies and procedures, I have provided clinical services to survivors of sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking.
In 2009 I was hired as a research therapist on a grant for the VA, to study the effectiveness of Prolonged Exposure to treat PTSD. For six years, I worked with veterans who had experienced significant trauma, both service related as well as personal trauma. This experience allowed me to become skilled in Prolonged Exposure treatment ,which I continue to use in my private practice.
What I have learned working with individuals who have experienced trauma, whether an accident, death, or violence is their strength. They have the strength to come forward and speak the truth. It is my privilege to hold space for their experience so that they can find joy and energy in their life.
“It is not fear that stops you from doing the brave and true thing in your daily life. Rather, the problem is avoidance. You want to feel comfortable so you avoid doing or saying the thing that will evoke fear and other difficult emotions.
Avoidance will make you feel less vulnerable in the short run but, it will never make you less afraid.”
~ Harriet Lerner