Dr. Amber Sylvan
As an unashamed introvert and complete geek, I characterize myself as a therapist that emphasizes validation, compassion, and empowerment. I strive to blend the practical skills that help to improve your life day-by-day and the kind of change that only comes through bone-deep exploration of self.
It would take too much space to list all of my nerdy fandoms, but some of the big ones include Star Trek, Tudor England, and anime/manga. I'm also a huge animal lover and enjoy my home with a hilarious black cat named Artemus and a loving golden retriever named Eowyn that wants to hug everyone.
MY therapeutic STYLE
Clients describe me as geeky, calming, and reflective. My approach is integrative and collaborative, meaning that I will pull from approaches that best fit your goals and who you are as a person. I blend teaching practical, evidence-based skills along with deeper exploration to catalyze more enduring change. We will explore what's not working in your life right now and identify what needs to happen for you to live a more fulfilling life. Together, we will develop new strategies for how you engage with yourself and the world and identify tools that you can use to help you feel unstuck.
I am a geek therapist and will resonate with those wanting to integrate aspects of nerd culture into therapy. If you are tired of being misunderstood for your geeky hobbies and nerdy interests and are looking for a therapist who implicitly "gets it," you'll probably feel comfortable working with me.
Ultimately, I see myself as a guide. Therapy isn't a passive process and I won't be sitting behind an imposing desk, doling out my psychological expertise and expecting you to obediently execute this advice. Rather, you can think of therapy with me more like needing to finding your way through a forest. I can point out what equipment you'll need and what paths might be best to travel, but you will be the one leading the way and doing the walking.
I integrate several different therapeutic lenses in my work. If you are interested in learning more specifically what those are, here is a list of approaches that I pull most commonly from.
Emotion Focused Therapy Often times, people end up in therapy because they are struggling with difficult emotions. EFT is an approach that changes your relationship with your emotions by promoting understanding of how your emotions can help you and teaching alternate ways of coping with difficult emotions.
Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy (DBT) One of the key goals of DBT is to "create a life worth living." DBT is highly effective for people who struggle with chronic thoughts of suicide, self-harm, and Borderline Personality Disorder, and has been found to be beneficial for multiple other issues as well. It is a structured approach that emphasizes emotional regulation, distress tolerance, mindfulness, and interpersonal effectiveness. Many of the concepts and skills found within DBT can be very helpful and impactful for people with a wide variety of problems.
Psychodynamic Approaches Psychodynamic approaches underline the importance of how the past shapes us today. This can have an impact on patterns of behavior, relationships with others, and personality. Knowing and understanding these parts of ourselves can not only feel validating, but can empower us to move forward in our lives.
Trauma-Focused Therapy Trauma can have a significant impact on a person's well-being and relationships. Sometimes, a person is unaware that they have experienced any trauma. Often times people who have experienced trauma develop coping behaviors that may have helped them survive, but have been ultimately maladaptive in their life. Or, a person struggles with chronic problems such as depression and anxiety that doesn't seem to have a cause and continues to come back. As a trauma-focused therapist, I place importance not only on recognizing signs of potential trauma, but safety during treatment.
Geek Therapy For those of us who identify as geeks, integrating fandoms and geek culture can make the therapeutic process more engaging. There are many ways to incorporate geek culture into therapy, from identifying with characters who share your own struggles, to using cosplay to explore your identity or increase your confidence, to writing fanfic as a form of narrative therapy to help you process trauma. The possibilities are practically endless.
Approach to DIVERSITY
Everyone holds different identities that weave together to form a unique person. Beyond these normal unique differences that we all share, I believe in the importance of paying special attention to identities that have been historically marginalized or oppressed. My approach to therapy attempts to respect and empower those coming from the full range of racial identities, gender identities, class backgrounds, cultural & national backgrounds, able-bodiedness, and religious & spiritual identities.
Some individuals who hold marginalized identities may feel uncomfortable working with therapists who come from a privileged identity. This is valid, and you deserve to feel safe and empowered in therapy. Because of this, I want to be upfront about my own identities if you believe it may impact your ability to engage fully in therapy. I am a white, non-binary, and generally able-bodied person with some personal experience of chronic illness.
As someone who comes from so many privileged identities, I find it tremendously important to continually strive for self-growth in unlearning oppressive behaviors and addressing oppressive systems in our society. I try to stay engaged with these concerns, particularly concerning racism, heterosexism & homophobia, and trans & gender identity issues.
EDUCATION & EXPERIENCE
I have years of experience working in college and university counseling centers, which is where my love of working with young adults developed. I worked with a variety of issues on these campuses, including everything from relationship problems, to helping students learn to better cope with stress and anxiety, to treating those with depression and mood disorders. I also gained a wealth of experience providing career counseling and assessments who were struggling to decide on a career path or college major. As someone who focused on LGBTQ+ issues during my training program, I was also highly involved in providing LGBTQ+ support groups and ally trainings. If you'd like a more thorough delineation of my training and experiences, you can view my curriculum vita.