How and/or why did you become a therapist?
Holocaust. I still remember the first time I heard the word uttered accompanied by an intense tone that was used to insinuate its severity. I turned towards my grandmother, “what does holocaust mean?” Her face was full of love, but also pain and sorrow. She eschewed my query with hopes me forgetting. I was eight years old and the expression on her face that day is still emblazoned on my mind; I would never forget. I yearned to hear her story of pain and eventual survival, but was silenced by my grandfather, who mandated me to never question her about the details of her imprisonment. Rummaging through the history of my family served to be a difficult task, but one I approached with the tenacity of Olympic sprinter vying for the finish line. As I slowly came to discover all of the atrocities my grandmother had endured during those years in Auschwitz I was forced into a new phase of consciousness in my burgeoning adolescence. Simply put, some beings are forced to suffer by no consequence of their own action, but merely because of some attribute of circumstance. The thought of her and thousands of others suffering solely because of their belief system shook me to my core. Even more befuddling was the juxtaposition of my grandfather to my grandmother. While my grandfather had let his experience in war harden his heart and severely affect his ability to trust another human being, my grandmother was the most kind, compassionate, generous person I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Her resilient, magnanimous nature inspired me from a very young age to be eternally grateful for the life I was given and to commit myself to helping those who endure suffering because of a lottery of birth.
As I stood by her hospital bed spending my last moments with her at the age of sixteen, as thought flashed through my mind: I was the same age she was when she was seized from her home in Budapest by the Nazis and never allowed to see her mother, father, or baby sister alive again. Her passing moved me to actively pursue aiding those in need, starting with creating a board at my high school that collected student and family donations to create a department store-like atmosphere where homeless people could “shop” with dignity and be treated with respect. Many other endeavors followed suit as I figured out what professional path would allow me to make the biggest impact while honoring my own values. My commitment to honoring her life set me on the path to becoming a therapist long before I knew I would end up there.
What are the most rewarding aspects of being a therapist?
There are so many. I am a true introvert who thrives in intimate relationships, but become exhausted in big groups and by small talk. The authenticity and presence required to work in my field is truly unique in the professional world and for that I am grateful. I am honored to hold each of my clients’ stories and pain. In being a therapist I get a special opportunity to walk with my clients as they explore unknown territory and push themselves to live more meaningful lives- even if it is uncomfortable.
What’s unique or special in your background or approach to interpersonal relationships?
This is an interesting question to answer because while I do practice a methodology based in the relational work, I wouldn’t say that it is what is special about my approach. Since I was a child I have always been completely fascinated by interpersonal relationships. While other children wanted toys or to become an astronaut, I fantasized about great friendships and tried to understand what my classmates around me were thinking. Understanding relationships has been the work of my life. While I may not have consciously known I would have become a therapist in my adolescence, my journals tell a different story. They are filled with theories about why people acted a certain way and my own struggles to understand my personal motivations for my behavior. All of this to say, interpersonal relationships have always been the catalyst for my actions – I have prioritized them over money, status, and personal gain. I see how uniquely important they are to the health and survival of an individual and how they impact the environment we live in. My passion for and commitment to understanding and exploring relationships (as a clinician and an imperfect human) is what feels unique for me.
What are your favorite or most interesting interpersonal relationship tips/advice?
- To know that when strong feelings of judgement arise about another that those feelings are an opportunity to explore what we have condemned inside of our ourselves.
- When in conflict, the feelings we experience towards the other are a mix of our own trauma, pain, and history as well as the hopes, projections, and expectations we have towards the other person.
- In order to truly love and care for another, we must truly love and care for ourselves first.
What are some things about therapy that you want to increase public awareness about?
- We (clinicians) don’t give advice and we don’t have all the answers. Our role is to guide our clients’ towards having greater access to their own power and wisdom.
- Therapy takes time.
- Understanding something intellectually does not mean it will translate into behavior overnight. In therapy we plant seeds and those seeds require nurturance to grow and sustain the test of time.
What are some of the biggest mistakes a therapist or patient can make?
- Therapist: Not doing their own reflective work to process their issues. When a therapist is not actively working on healing themselves, their issues will show up in the room with clients.
- Patient: To try to be a “good” client instead of an honest one. Therapy is for the client! Trying to please your therapist or pretend that things are going well when they are not can derail treatment.
Javanne is a licensed clinical social worker/psychotherapist and yoga instructor. As much of her family was lost in the Holocaust, she was exposed to the impact of trauma from an early age. Knowing her family’s experience, suffering, and healing impacted her greatly throughout her childhood. From a young age she felt called to a path of social justice and helping others restore after painful events.
Throughout her life she has occupied many roles as a healer such as being an elementary school teacher, a meditation instructor, a volunteer organization director, a bodyworker, and a homeless shelter coordinator. She found her way to psychotherapy and yoga through a yearning for intimacy and deep connection. She spent many years of her career in university counseling which gave her the opportunity to work with clients from extremely diverse backgrounds and circumstances. Through this work she has cultivated an expertise in being able to support people through life-changing transitions, crises, and identity shifts. Being a psychotherapist is a deeply fulfilling career that allows her to journey with others down their path to wholeness.
Throughout her own life she found it difficult to make sense of feelings she was experiencing and she struggled with her identity. Javanne found, and continues to find, strength and purpose through her relationships with mentors, therapists, and friends who support her along her pilgrimage within. She has learned to embrace the parts of herself she once deemed undesirable. She hopes to offer her clients the same opportunity. Read more about her specializations here.