I was trained as a generalist, which I believe has prepared me to work with a wide variety of presenting concerns. I find that every person who I work with comes with their own rich context full of complex experiences, identities, and a unique relationship with their mental health. It is my job to meet you right where you are with curiosity, respect, and humility. The last 10 years working and training in mental health care have provided me with extensive experience across a variety of concerns, populations, and settings that have prepared me to feel confident in my ability to support you and create a space for you to show up as your full self.
Relationships are at the core of what I believe matters in therapy (and life). This serves as the foundation for my therapeutic style as well as the guiding tenet in what I have gone on to specialize and seek further training in. Co-creating a brave relational space to make sense of your experience and suffering is our first endeavor. I offer a financially risk free consultation to further explore if we could be a good fit. If you are curious in some of the areas that I have specifically focused on and am passionate about please see below.
If you are interested in the specific theory and science that underlies my work, I use an integrative approach that blends Contemporary Relational Psychodynamics, Humanistic-Existential Therapy, and Multicultural Therapy. I also continue to specialize in the treatment of trauma (see below). Research has consistently found that the therapeutic relationship, (which includes factors such as collaboration, empathy, alliance, positive regard and genuineness) is the most important consideration for psychotherapy outcome. My choice to focus treatment on therapeutic relationship factors instead of specific techniques is called the Common Factor Model and serves as the empirical underpinning for my relational approach to therapy.
Each of is immersed in a messy web of overlapping relationships and these relationships are often the source of our deepest meaning and our on-going suffering.
“Our capacity to destroy one another is matched by our capacity to heal one another. Restoring relationships and community is central to restoring well-being.” -Bessel van der Kolk
It is my belief that it is inevitable that relational concerns will emerge in the course of therapy. Whether we are exploring childhood attachment, family dynamics, interpersonal patterns, love life, finding community, trauma, grief, identity, or even looking directly at what is happening between us in the therapy room, we are going to be talking about relationships.
What does the word trauma mean to you? People bravely decide to seek therapy everyday and they do this for more reasons than I could list. I cannot tell you how many times concerns around anxiety, depression, interpersonal conflict, somatic symptoms, substance use, suicidal thoughts.. (the list goes on) end up being connected to (or better contextualized by) a history of trauma. Trauma is not pathology. Trauma is an emotional wrecking ball that demands that we adapt to protect ourselves. Unfortunately, this often requires that we constrict ourselves by trading our peace, trust, and secureness for safety and survival. Exploring trauma is vulnerable as hell! Working with our trauma courageously begins within our relationships, within our bodies, and within the narrative and meaning we are able to create. Below you can find three primary domains of trauma I work with and have specialized training in.
PTSD refers to a set of symptoms that manifest in response to a single (acute) event such as a near death experience, car accident, natural disaster, or sexual assault. PTSD symptoms make sense in the context of self-protection and avoiding re-experiencing the traumatic event. However, these symptoms often have significant impacts on a person’s ability to engage in their lives, relationships, work, and make it challenging to feel present and grounded in one’s body. While one of the goals of treating PTSD is to reduce symptoms, we are also striving to re-cultivate one’s ability to feel safety, joy, autonomy, meaning, and fulfillment.
Complex Trauma has many names including Complex PTSD (C-PTSD), Developmental Trauma, Attachment Trauma, Cumulative Trauma, and Relational Trauma. Complex Trauma can develop in both children and adults but most commonly manifests in response to repeated and severe interpersonal trauma such as physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; absence of care, emotionally unstable/unavailable parents and neglect in childhood; domestic abuse, gaslighting and other forms of emotional abuse in partnerships; religious abuse and upbringing; and systemic violence such as slavery, genocide, white supremacy, colonization, and other chronic experiences of oppression and discrimination (see Collective Trauma below).
Because Complex Trauma develops overtime, within relationships of trust, and often begins in childhood, the symptoms are often mistaken as personality issues, physical/health concerns, or other mental health diagnoses. Complex Trauma regularly results in a deep experience of shame, self-criticism, and internalized feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy. This can lead to a difficulty in trusting and sustaining relationships, challenges in regulating emotions, and the sacrificing of boundaries and needs to accommodate others (“fawning”). As humans we need others to survive and thrive. The problems connected to Complex Trauma can best be understood as a person’s best attempt at navigating a world where they have learned that relationships are extremely dangerous. Working with Complex Trauma requires time, consistency, and the opportunity to build trust towards a new relational experience.
In his book, “My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies” trauma specialist Resmaa Menakem asks his readers to consider trauma extending beyond one’s individual context. Menakem, along with many other Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) trauma experts have been treating, researching, teaching, and writing about Historical, Intergenerational, Racialized, Pervasive Institutional, and Collective Trauma for decades. These collective experiences of trauma have rarely been included in mental health training or literature. Yet, they have far reaching impacts on all of us, and most tragically and most directly, impact those at the intersections of historically marginalized identities. Collective Trauma can be passed on through generations, families, communities, and systems. Fortunately, so can collective wisdom, resilience, and healing.
It is important for me to be clear about my limitations around treating Collective Trauma. While I do have specific training in working with Historical, Intergenerational, and Racialized Trauma, Collective Trauma is often best approached in communal spaces with others who have shared identities and experiences of oppression. In many cases, specific cultural healing practices for Collective Trauma have existed for generations, and to the best of my ability, I will not offer any treatments that appropriate from cultures and traditions beyond my own. What I can offer is a relational space to explore the potential impacts, contexts, and available resources connected to Collective Trauma. I will also invite an honest dialogue about the differences in backgrounds, identities, privileges, and power dynamics that we each bring into the room.
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John Bridger (formally Herman), PhD
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