Dawn Balcazar, Ph.D.
What informs what I do...
When people think of trusting a professional who is basically a complete stranger, they often wonder: “who is this person”? My response is to trust your instincts in meeting with a professional. In choosing a therapist, perhaps meet with two, even three. Sometimes your gut tells you in the first session that it is not a good match, or perhaps a second session will help you to decide.
With that in mind, this website tells you a bit about my training, my approaches, and my philosophy about psychotherapy. Here are a few basics about me. I am an individualistic and outside-the-box thinker. Critical thinking is important, particularly regarding the diagnostic methods in our field. The DSM-V is a political manual, not just a “diagnostic and statistic” manual of “mental disorders”. The diagnoses change as our culture changes (being gay was once seen as a mental illness, according to the DSM!). I can see the day ahead when borderline personality disorder is reflective of a past culture. It certainly has served as a shaming and not so helpful list of what can result from what trauma therapists call complex developmental trauma.
Judging people is not a part of my thinking. I welcome you to a psychotherapy that is a collaboration; we have different roles, yet we are both human beings, both imperfect. What keeps me in this job is how inspiring it is to see people go through amazing processes of growth and change and the honor of being a part of it.
People often ask me about my philosophy about psychotherapy and about what works. There is no single approach that fits everyone. I like to integrate. Contemporary approaches dealing with the healing potential of the relational connection in psychotherapy mix well with the cutting edge techniques in the field of psychological trauma. The notion that we have different parts of our internal personality system, or that we have “multiple selves” has always made sense to me from the beginnings of learning about object relational theory to my training in Internal Family Systems (IFS, developed by Dr. Richard Schwartz).
The importance of the body in understanding and helping people to regain or achieve psychic health is central. Through advances in neuroscience, we have empirical understanding about how our emotional states are manifestations of the particular wiring in our brain. The research is so optimistic: the brain can be rewired and psychotherapy can be central to that process. Our physical states are as essential to emotional health as our thoughts: one reflects the other. Therefore, my approach to therapy will always include an emphasis on mind-body connection.
Research in early attachment has helped us to better address the very subtle and individual ways in which we connect and form relationships. In therapy with me, we will pay attention to not only what you think and feel but together we will learn about your ways of connecting, partly through understanding subtle changes in your bodily states. A goal of this increased awareness is for you to improve your relationships with others and to learn how calm your nervous system. The effectiveness of bilaterial stimulation in processing a traumatic event is something I had to see to believe; I am grateful to be an EMDR-trained clinician.
The field of psychology and psychotherapy has had some wonderful developments thus far during my career from the advances in the field of psychological trauma, the concept of multiplicity of the self, the relational emphasis, and the centrality of the body. They form the cornerstone of my treatment approach and how I think about what I do.
“Life on earth is a whole, yet it expresses itself in unique time-bound bodies, microscopic or visible, plant or animal, extinct or living… So there can be no one way to be, no one way to practice, no one way to learn, no one way to love, no one way to grow or to heal, no one way to live, no one way to feel, no one thing to know or be known.” ― Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life”