Kristen Lippolis, Intern Therapist
Kristen Lippolis (she/her) is an Intern Therapist at The Center for Growth [08/29/22-05/05/23] and is working towards a Master’s in Social Work at Westchester University of Pennsylvania. Prior to her work with the Center for Growth, Kristen completed her first-year internship in child therapy, working with children, adolescents, and families by providing school-based mental health therapy services. Kristen began her nearly decade-long study and career in mental health by receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Communications from the State University of New York at New Paltz. Kristen works with clients in a variety of areas such as trauma, depression, anxiety, grief, self-esteem and self-love, learning to cope with and accept disabilities, and much more.
Kristen has experience working with various clinical and behavioral concerns, including PTSD and trauma, ADHD, Anxiety, Depression, and anger and aggression. Kristen’s clinical focuses are trauma and PTSD, disability, and LGBTQ+ identities.
Sexual exploration can be fun, exciting, and safe. Kristen works with her clients to determine what this means for them and supports them in exploring themselves and others sexually. Kristen works with individuals in kink/BDSM communities and holds admiration for the explicit communication about desire and consent that people in these communities often have. Kristen believes in discovering the eroticism in those conversations no matter what type of sex you are having.
Kristen’s interest in sex therapy began in her late teens as she explored her own sexuality, queerness, and place in the LGBTQ+ community. Kristen is a proud queer therapist with counseling and advocacy experience in several LGBTQ+ communities and seeks to share her perspective of queerness as a part of human variation. Whether clients are questioning their identities for the first time or have been engaging in this self-exploration for years, Kristen works with clients to explore all aspects of queerness, from family and friends to sex to work and faith. Kristen provides a safe space to discuss all things queer and provides time and resources to aid in reflection, supporting and affirming the vulnerability it takes to have these conversations. So much of being queer is about community, having people behind you, supporting you. Whether a client has been out for years or is newly discovering parts of themself, Kristen proudly supports her clients in their identities and experiences. For families and friends of LGBTQ+ people, it can be challenging not to know what to do or say when your loved one is seeking your support or validation. While this can feel vulnerable, it is normal. Kristen works with families to learn how to support their queer loved ones, centering on the love and connection shared. Kristen works with individuals and families to create and foster supportive environments for LGBTQ+ youth and adults alike.
Kristen worked as an advocate in a program for survivors of sexual trauma, collaborating with clients and trauma and sex counseling staff, renewing her passion for the healing process. Kristen works with clients of all ages, genders, and sexual/romantic orientations and enjoys building relationships and collaborating with clients and their support systems to work toward and achieve treatment goals. Kristen practices trauma-informed care, acknowledging the spectrum of trauma one could be affected by. She works to create and maintain a safe and comforting environment, free of judgment, in which clients can express and reflect. Kristen has studied trauma extensively and spent several years working with survivors of sexual violence. Trauma almost always has elements of power and control; with this in mind, Kristen is aware of the power-dynamics present when a client pursues therapy and that the mental health system itself may have been a source of trauma for some. Working with trauma and in consideration of trauma is both an art and a science; it requires intentionality in everything from tone of voice, to body language, to elements of the physical environment such as lighting, wall art, scents, etc. Working with and in consideration of trauma also requires reading situations and responding accordingly; it is like a dance in that it requires tried and true methods as well as human connection and responsiveness. Kristen uses targeted sensory experiences such as strategic use of scents, temperatures, and textures to help clients reach a place of focus and relaxation. Kristen uses a wide variety of breathing exercises and techniques to encourage mindfulness and regulation of emotions and energy. This experience has been described as “centering, grounding, and clarifying.” Kristen believes that though it can take work, people can learn to love their bodies and sex again after trauma.
Kristen embraces clients on the spectrum of disability and ability. Kristen also works with clients on fat acceptance and body neutrality/positivity. We live in a world full of systems; often those systems are oppressive, damaging, or traumatizing in some way. Many mental health concerns are a reflection of the environment/society of which the individual is a part. For example, an individual with a body that does not match the societal ideal has received a lifetime of messaging telling them their physical desirability is a major determinant of their worth, which in turn can, understandably, make that person feel worthless and/or depressed. Though bodies come in varying, beautiful forms, the majority of our society and media have yet to catch up, leading to significant mental health concerns for those left in the wake. While it is important to change oppressive factors within one’s control, we know that most of these factors are out of our control and that it is paramount to protect and support mental health while working for societal change. In those instances, Kristen embraces learning to accept, live, love, and find happiness in and despite those spaces. Just as concerns can arise from external or internal sources, so can strength and resilience. Kristen believes in identifying clients’ personal and environmental strengths and utilizing those strengths toward therapeutic goals.
Having worked within various mental health systems (including residential, hospital, and community-based mental health and crisis intervention programs), Kristen enters the therapeutic relationship aware of the many barriers clients face in order to receive services. Even when systemic barriers are removed (such as access to transportation and insurance), there remain internal barriers to asking for and receiving help. Some fear that the process of therapy is like “letting someone into your head.” This fear can result in a delay in treatment. Seeking therapy is sometimes a vulnerable state to be in, but rest assured this is normal. Kristen prefers to view therapy as letting out some of what’s in your head and sharing that weight with another person. From the start, Kristen works with her clients to help alleviate the barriers they face.
Kristen uses a strength-based, person-centered, and collaborative approach to setting and achieving treatment goals. Kristen works with clients to identify what they would like to work on in therapy and how to progress towards those goals. What this means in practicality, is sitting down with Kristen and discussing satisfaction or lack-there-of with different aspects of life and formulating a plan to change or cope with those circumstances. Over her career, Kristen has written hundreds of personalized treatment plans for individuals ranging from four to over seventy years old, customized to each individual’s treatment goals, coping patterns, external support systems, means, and desired outcomes. After formulating a treatment plan, Kristen works transparently with clients to ensure that the goals set still accurately reflect the client’s needs and desires and adjusts as needed. Life is not static and neither is therapy. Treatment goals are sometimes ever-moving targets and progress toward those goals is not linear. Healing can sometimes look like regression, that is, sometimes things get harder before they get easier, but when one continues making progress and it does get easier.
Kristen practices play therapy and believes that play can be enriching and grounding at any stage in life. Using games and activities focused on emotional literacy and regulation, mindfulness practice, impulse control, and distress tolerance, Kristen strongly believes in the healing power of play. She enjoys play therapy because she believes that therapy, like life, shouldn’t always be heavy. A lot of therapeutic benefits come through simply enjoying something. It is quite astonishing how quickly a drawing pad can turn a quiet, still room into one filled with laughter and light. Play therapy can also provide a necessary emotional release to balance some of the “heavy,” such as ending an emotional therapy session with a dance session.
Whether you’ve been on your path to healing/self-discovery for years or you are getting started now, coming to therapy is a big step along that path. While it can be vulnerable, keep showing up and know that you will find support through this leap of faith. Kristen likes to say “Therapists are like shoes; you need to try them on and walk around a bit. If it doesn’t feel right, you can try more pairs until one fits!” Whether you’ve been to therapy before or are trying for the first time, Kristen hopes to be the fit for you.