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There’s a Hole in my Sidewalk: An Autobiography in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson

“I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in – I am lost. I am helpless. It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

II I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again – I can’t believe I am in the same place. But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.

III I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it there.
I still fall in. It’s a habit. But, my eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

IV I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.”

Psychotherapy – My Approach

To engage in therapy is to engage in a relationship, which takes trust, safety, and collaboration. My goal as a therapist is to allow my relationship with those who sit across from me – whether as an individual, couple, family, or group – to become the conduit through which change may occur over time. My office can be a place to unload, connect, process, or simply be, and I am privileged to bear witness to the courage it takes to do so. As a therapist, I strive to be affirmative, empathic, non-judgmental, and radically genuine, with a style that is directive, empowering, and validating. I bring humor and creativity to my work, holding a space where all of our parts of “Self” can come together in the present moment to make sense of life’s circumstances. My approach integrates various models of therapy to best fit my clients’ needs, honoring their inner-strengths, therapeutic goals, and contexts of life. It would be my privilege to walk by your side as your take this courageous step in creating a life worth living, and relationships worth having.

Values and Philosophy

I hold the belief that, in life, we are all doing the best we can; the relationships, environments, and experiences we encounter yield ingrained patterns, beliefs, and vulnerabilities that are integrated into our senses of Self and overall ways of being. Each facet of our narrative comes together to place us right here, right now – exactly where we are meant to be. It is important to note, though, that this place may not be one that we would choose for ourselves. However, in therapy, with intention, mindfulness, and curiosity, we can begin to better understand these facets collaboratively, weaving them together by choice, and claiming your narrative as your own.

I, too, hold the belief that change and acceptance are self-made processes, and finding a balance between the two can be a challenging feat for most: the acceptance for what is, and the drive to promote necessary change in our lives. Therapists are most helpful when utilized as a beacon of hope, and a catalyst for transformation, empowering you to find the strength and tools within yourself to create a life worth living and relationships worth having. In order for this to happen, there must be mutual trust that makes space for the safety and collaboration necessary to discover a fusion of acceptance and change that best fits for you.

Education, Training, and Experience

My journey began at Indiana University where I received my Bachelor of Arts in Photojournalism, with minors in Human Sexuality, Criminal Justice, and Art History. During my time in undergrad, I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya for a summer in order to report on the HIV/AIDS epidemic and associated stigma in East Africa. While sitting with my sources in their homes, I found that I always wanted to stay longer, learn the full scope of their story, and allow them to be heard in a way they, perhaps, had yet to experience. I then came to realize what my journalistic work was missing was the opportunity to look into the eyes of the individual, couple, or family I was impacting on a long-term basis, being able to bear witness to their story as a whole instead of only one small – and potentially inconsequential – slice. My background in photojournalism allows me to see through a creative, communicative, and unbiased lens, bringing to my therapeutic work a sense of systemic understanding I may have not found otherwise.

I then earned my Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy from The Family Institute (TFI) at Northwestern University, trained in an integrative model, with the realization that one therapeutic size does not always fit all; pulling from various models of therapy allows for the work to be collaborative, holistic, and individualized. As aforementioned, this model is also strength-based, goal-oriented, and systemic in nature, honoring the innate strengths every human holds, being mindful of my clients’ therapeutic goals, and noting the importance of the contexts, systems, and relationships of which we are all a part.

While at Northwestern, I worked with individuals, couples, families, and groups with diverse backgrounds and presenting concerns in TFI’s in-house, sliding fee clinic. I was, too, a part of both TFI’s Community Program – consisting of home visits, school observations, and free services for clients of low socioeconomic statuses – and the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Team – consisting of skills training and individual therapy for clients who are chronically suicidal, engaging in self harm, or navigating life with borderline personality disorder.

In June 2017, I finished a yearlong postgraduate training program with Live Oak where I attended trainings in: LGBTQ+ Affirmative Practice, Trauma-Informed Practice, Multi-systemic/Multi-cultural practice, and Body-centered/Creative Practice, while also seeing a part-time caseload and attending weekly supervision. Alongside this program, I also gained valuable experience in working with folks struggling with suicidality, homicidality, chronic mental illness, and psychosis during my time as a Mental Health Counselor within a hospital's psychiatric unit for adolescents and young adults. On this unit, we focused on crisis deescalation and milieu management utilizing a DBT/CBT framework. 

Range of Focus
  • Sexual orientation and gender identity development (LGBTQ+ and TGNC affirmative practice)
  • Non-monogamous, polyamorous, and various relationship orientations
  • Mixed-orientation couples
  • Recent or childhood trauma recovery
  • Family of origin issues
  • Individuals, families and couples
  • Artists and musicians
  • Kink and sex-positive practice
  • Building attunement and intimacy with conflictual families and couples
  • Adjustment to life transitions
  • Self-esteem, confidence, and identity development
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT – mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness)
  • Adolescents and adults
  • Stress management and trauma recovery for those in helping professions

I am in the Lakeview office on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and the Evanston office on Wednesdays. Please call or email for appointment availability.

Contact Information
Contact image

1300 W. Belmont, Suite 400
Chicago, IL 60657

1740 Ridge Ave. Suite 218
Evanston, IL

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

773.880.1310 ext. 7287