By Elizabeth Helen Spencer
During my conversation with Laura, I was struck by her description of couples counseling as an opportunity for two partners to find and feel the love they have for each other. While many people imagine couples counseling as a place where people fight or complain about each other, Laura describes it as having the potential to be a warm and loving experience. It’s clear she loves being part of this process and bearing witness to the positive changes people are able to make in their relationships and lives.
Read on to learn more about Laura Silverstein’s expertise and approach to counseling.
What drew you to the field of psychology?
People often ask me how do I do it, how I “listen to people complain about their problems all day.” The truth is, I’ve never really liked small talk. I like getting to know people at a deep level and have always felt honored rather than burdened when people share private or personal things. I knew what I wanted to do in High School, and have been blessed to have a profession that I continue to find challenging, rewarding and fascinating all these years later.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
People let me in. I have this amazing opportunity to be invited into someone’s world, into their relationship, and they allow me to help them find more love and happiness.
How would you describe your style?
I’m very collaborative and pretty informal. My style varies with kids, individuals and couples. With kids, I just want to help them feel comfortable, like they’re not in trouble and I’m not an authority figure. They call me Laura and we sit on the floor together and draw pictures. It’s really important for me to hear the kids’ own voices in addition to what their parents tell me.
With individuals, I let clients take the lead. There are no preconceived notions about what they should talk about, or what goals they should have. I think of myself as a facilitator for the changes they want to make in their lives.
I believe that couples do best with a lot of structure so that everyone is having the same opportunities to express their points of view. Once a safe environment is established, and everyone recognizes that I’m not on one person’s side, I’m on “the Relationship’s side”, the couple decides what to talk about. My job is to make sure communication happens effectively.
What should a new client expect the first session?
In the beginning it’s normal to feel anxious. Most people say the anxiety subsides midway through the first session.
I ask a lot of questions in the beginning because I don’t make recommendations without a thorough assessment. I ask things like what brought you here and what are you hoping to get out of therapy? It’s important to remember that therapy’s just a conversation. It’s not magic; it’s sitting down with someone who really wants to understand and help you.
Starting with an assessment is important, but I don’t want people to feel like they’re being psychoanalyzed. As we progress, I encourage clients to be in dialogue with me about what’s working and not working.
Therapy is hard work. It involves challenging yourself to think about things differently and make changes. In couple’s therapy people tend to want to talk about their spouse but it’s your job to figure out what you’re going to do differently.
Do you bring other approaches, such as Buddhism, to your sessions?
Absolutely, if it seems like the client would benefit. There’s a lot of data about the importance of slowing down, seeing what’s here and now. When we get flooded, meaning a heightened state of physiological arousal, we’re not using our whole brain. So if someone becomes flooded in my office it’s important to slow down and take a break to be able to solve problems.
What are your areas of specialization?
I consider myself a relationship expert, which includes helping people negotiate any relationships in their lives, as well as having many years of experience treating depression, anxiety, panic disorder and autism spectrum disorders.
Are there any issues you don’t feel comfortable treating?
I’m not trained in drug and alcohol abuse, or psychological evaluations/testing. Some populations with high risk or dangerous behaviors are better off in an environment with more intact emergency services.
What is your availability like?
It’s currently limited, so I recommend calling the office to find out if there’s an open spot.
What kind of training do you have?
I’ve trained with Drs. John and Julie Gottman at the Gottman Institute, as well as Sue Johnson, another leader in the field. My family therapy training was completed at the Philadelphia Child Guidance Center and is informed by wanting to understand how people are getting their needs met in the environment they’re in. I think systemically even when I work with individuals.
How long have you been doing therapy?
I completed my Bachelor’s in Social Work in 1992, and my Master’s in 1995. (Wow, that’s 23 years, I can’t be that old!)
What do you do to make sure people from diverse backgrounds or minority populations feel comfortable?
It’s important to have open conversations about the issues that are taboo to talk about in other environments. People might have an insecurity about stereotypes or preconceived notions they think I have. There’s no issue off the table. Educate me on your culture or experience. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to make you feel more comfortable in the room.
Does Mainline Counseling Partners accept insurance?
We don’t offer in-network insurance availability, but you may qualify for out of network reimbursement and we offer sliding scale slots on a case by case basis. Please feel free to bring this up with your clinician. We don’t want finances to prevent people from getting the help they need.
Learn more about Laura Silverstein, LCSW.
Visit Laura’s bio to learn more about her. To schedule an appointment with Laura, or for more information, please fill out this short contact form, call the office at 610-642-3359, or schedule a 15 minute phone consultation using this online scheduling program.