I am often asked how I came to work exclusively with women, whether I like it (I love it!), and why I use a CBT orientation specifically. So I thought that I would share some of my background for our readers. I came to work with women exclusively after joining the Women's Mental Health Consortium in 2002, and meeting some pivotal reproductive psychiatrists who specialized in working exclusively with women (Catherine Birndorf, MD; Marty Altemus, MD; Karin Miller, MD to name just a few). Meeting these esteemed colleagues let me know it was possible to build a practice working exclusively with women. I found the idea of working exclusively with women very appealing as I had a feminist affinity for the issues women face, I tended to work predominantly with women already, and I believed that my CBT orientation would be especially helpful in the area of reproductive mental health.
It's important to note that at that time in NYC, the therapy paradigm for reproductive mental health was still dominated by a psychodynamic therapy model. However, many of the disorders that arise in the reproductive life cycle and for women overall - anxiety, depression, panic disorder, OCD, PMDD - have been shown to respond significantly to cognitive-behavioral interventions in the evidence-based research literature. So while I knew no one personally who was specializing in using CBT for reproductive mood disorders at that time, it made clinical sense to specialize in this area. And so I committed and founded Cognitive Therapy for Women. I have never regretted that decision!
One of the surprising benefits of the CBT model has been that it "takes the shame out of the game" for mothers and prospective mothers. So many of my patients have come to me frightened and ashamed of their symptoms in pregnancy and postpartum, as if somehow their symptoms reflects their mothering ability or some deeper character flaw. These patients did not make up this concept - this bias is sadly embedded in our culture. The CBT model challenges us to not make a bigger, or more nefarious story of the negative mood a women can experience during the reproductive phases of life. So here at CTW it is important to us that we honor the complexity of women's mental health while striving to provide the most optimistic and effective treatment possible.