Meet Ana Comerio
I believe that conflict, or any state of tension, whether it is within ourselves or with others, can interfere with our functioning, create uncertainty, and impact our relationships. Yet I believe that no matter where we are or what we are doing, it is the best we can to deal with life experiences—to adapt, to persevere, to continue. I see therapy and the therapeutic process, regardless of where we are, as an opportunity, and a place, to feel safe to explore new or different ways of thinking and being. I believe that through therapy clients can find their way to strengths, resources, and pathways that they may not have thought they had; and that regardless of their story, experience or challenge, they need not to be defined by them, that hope can be created on their terms, respecting their values, needs and personal vision.
What is your process?
My process is in taking a collaborative journey with clients, where all feelings, thoughts, fears, questions and uncertainties are invited to “come in and have a say” in a way that feels safe, nonjudgmental and meaningful. I believe in “holding a space” for my clients to freely feel, speak, and explore whatever they need to, knowing they will be nurtured and supported to do so, that nothing in their history will be denied a place and a voice. And that through the therapy process we can find relief and create ways to move positively forward, whatever that means for each of my clients. I believe that the faith of the therapist in each person’s ability to find the necessary answers and tools within can be very empowering in and of itself.
I value, recognize and respect the uniqueness and the contextual reality of each individual experience, and thus I work with an integration of different Therapy Models.
Family of Origin Issues/Systems Therapy
Systems Therapy, (which includes, but is not restricted to, family of origin/cultural issues), works with clients’ self-awareness and the expansion and empowerment that come from creating new choices at the subconscious core-belief level. One of the ways these new choices are created is by helping people change “core material.” Core material is composed of memories, images, beliefs, neural patterns, and deeply held emotional beliefs. This material shapes the styles, habits, behaviors, perceptions, and attitudes which define us as individuals. Our responses to the major themes of life, such as safety, belonging, support, power, freedom, responsibility, appreciation, sexuality and spirituality, are all organized by our core material.
Some of this core material supports our being who we wish to be, while some of it, learned in response to difficult situations, continues to limit us. Within this frame, I work with clients to help them distinguish between the two, and to willingly reframe, redefine and/or modify any material that negatively impacts the present. This offers the client new options, creative options, where none or few existed before. By “updating the files,” new choices begin to emerge.
In pursuing this material, I work to build a therapist/client relationship which maximizes safety, respect, and cooperation. With a good working relationship established, I then help the client focus on and think about how his or her core material shapes present personal experience.
Grief, Loss, and Bereavement
While loss is universal, grief is always individualized and personal. I believe we are greatly impacted by the language and perception of grief in the culture we were raised, and the one in which we live.
Often grief is seen as a kind of malady, a terrifying, messy emotion that needs to be cleaned up and worked through. We are exposed to outdated beliefs around how long grief should last and what it should look like, and it is seen as something to overcome. I like to support clients in working with their grief where they are at, helping them see it as a natural response to loss- regardless of its nature. Whether grief is connected to the loss of a person, of certainty, of a way of living, or the loss of a marriage or relationship, I want to help clients in their understanding of grief as a process, not something to be rushed or maligned, and help them to recalibrate to a reality “without,” whatever that “without” may be, at their own pace and with the inner and outer resources they choose.
Effective Communication and Relationship Building – Individual/Couples
Our lives are made of a network of relationships. Whether in a partner relationship, at work, with our friends, family and children, conflict is virtually inevitable in relationships and not necessarily a sign of trouble. It’s how we go about resolving it that can be trouble. It is not just the what, it is the how.
We all have different levels of skill when it comes to communication. But better communication, because it is a skill, can also be learned. I like helping my clients (individually or as couples), to find ways to healthier, more effective communication, to learn how to “fight fair,” set respectful boundaries, navigate conflict and negotiate needs. Regardless of whether going through a breakup, trying to improve communication with others, or dealing with family tension, I believe that the quality of our relationships is a large part of what makes our lives meaningful, significant, and beautiful.
Adjusting to Change / Life Transitions
Going through a separation or through change, adjusting to any kind of transition, personal or in relation to others, can have an impact on our identity and our ability to cope. Whether the transition happens within, or it is in relation to others, welcoming new members in a family or group, helping teenage children navigate their changing needs, starting or leaving a career or a job, I like to help clients build their own brand of resilience and ways to care for themselves and others during these challenging times.
Self-Regulation/ Coping Skills Development
Regardless of the reasons why our coping skills might be depleted, some of the tools that we may explore in this process can include distress tolerance, self-regulation skills, working on reframing cognitions and behaviors, and mindfulness/grounding-based interventions, eliciting client's present emotions and experiences These experiences are either naturally occurring, or deliberately and gently evoked by having the client participate in carefully designed “experiments.” This experimentation might include having the client hear a statement about a key theme and observing the ensuing emotion or response; or having the client change his or her physical position to illustrate a state of mind. I have found that when clients are invited to allow and carefully notice whatever responses happen inside of them, it can help them reduce self-criticism and shame, and open up new avenues of thinking and behaving.
I grew up and was partly educated in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with a culturally-induced regard and appreciation for therapy and the therapeutic process. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and I completed my Master's degree in Marriage and Family Therapy at St. Thomas University. Growing up in Argentina, under a strict dictatorship throughout my childhood and young adult years, I experienced how loss, grief and trauma can have a profound effect on how we cope and develop as individuals. My calling to the field of counseling and psychology came as a result of what I lived and witnessed, as well as my own personal journey and life story.
I have studied, as well as applied, the works and teachings of Clarissa Pinkola-Estes, Jungian therapist and author, Bessel van der Kolk, Susan Pease Banitt, and Peter Levine on trauma-informed therapy, Bowen theory and practice on Family Systems, and Daniel Goleman on emotional intelligence. Over a period of ten years, I attended the PEER Counseling Training Program, developed by Dan Jones, Ph.D and John Lee, Ph.D, developed for counselors and therapists involving neurolinguistics and Experiential Therapy concepts and techniques. Particularly geared towards working with grief, loss and trauma, the training involves an integrated approach; working with the body (somatic), feelings (affective), and thought (cognitive), to facilitate neuro-emotional change and bring both mind and body more fully into the process.
When I am not working as a therapist, I enjoy yoga, dancing, reading. I like to follow the notion of “being a curious seeker of truth and beauty,” looking for things that move me or inspire me. I read, listen to, and examine those subjects that I find interesting or relevant, but it is in nature and art that I find often the best sources of inspiration. Art, in whatever way it is expressed, brings us symbolism, and some of our deepest emotions can only be communicated symbolically, through theatre or music or visual art forms. I share this passion with my children, family and friends, some of whom are artists and seekers themselves.
"Life's journey has a past, a present, and a future. Exploring your narrative takes courage; redefining it takes love".
— Ana Comerio, MFT