Therapist Spotlight: Danielle Fixler, MSW, LCSW, PMH-C

Danielle is a psychotherapist at Wildflower. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from University of Vermont and received her Master’s degree in Clinical Social Work at the Loyola University Chicago. Prior to coming to Wildflower, Danielle has worked in a number of settings, including a community mental health clinic, a methadone treatment department, an outpatient women’s health clinic, and a nursing home. These varied experiences have given her a deep sense of appreciation for the healing power of meaningful connection between people. Read Danielle’s full bio here.

What inspired you to pursue a career as a psychotherapist?

I believe my personality has always reflected the language and thinking pattern of a psychotherapist. Since a young age, I was drawn to the concept of expression. Humans’ ability to express themselves using mind and body is fascinating. My interest in communication manifested in dancing as well as being the sounding board for those around me. In high school I began volunteering with individuals suffering from dementia, which caused me to rethink the concept of communication. Through my interactions I learned that despite everyone’s inherent need to express themselves, not all individuals had an outlet or the ability to tell their story. Like dance, communication is a dynamic art form. To be a good communicator, one must be creative, present and resourceful. I became driven to learn how to connect meaningfully, soothe and support as many people as possible through individualized communication.

As a psychotherapist, what part of your job is most satisfying?

There are so many rewarding aspects of supporting an individual as they share their narrative. I am constantly re-energized by the resilience of my clients. It’s inspiring to watch them begin to challenge their own negative self-judgement and realize they are worthy of self-compassion and praise. I enjoy helping clients learn to sit with their emotions rather than run away from them or fight them until exhaustion. Emotions are an inevitable part of the human existence. The ability to take ownership of an emotion is a valuable skill, which can stop the emotion from turning into regret or panic.

How would you describe your therapeutic approach?

I would describe my therapeutic approach as eclectic and collaborative. Part of what makes a good therapist is understanding that there is no “one size fits all” approach to the therapy process. Each one of us learns differently, grieves in unique ways and relates differently to others; a therapist should be responsive, collaborative and flexible. While I respect the seriousness of the therapeutic process, I also value true authenticity and humor in my interactions. I believe much of my success as a therapist comes from the ability to be compassionate, genuine and human.

Why do you believe that psychotherapy can help?

I enjoy teaching others, who may question the purpose of therapy, that our ability to succeed strengthens when we have someone next to us, encouraging us, listening to us and challenging us without judgement. I have seen the impact psychotherapy can have on an individual. The progress made in therapy may look different for each client, but if the bond between therapist and client is present, growth is inevitable. In addition to the catharsis often felt in therapy, there is also the use of empirically-based approaches, which can improve emotional regulation and support healthy thinking patterns. I wholeheartedly believe in the work we do as psychotherapists.

What are some of your specialties and what drew you to them?

My specialties are in caregiver support, geriatric depression, sexual and reproductive health, trauma and grief & loss. I have always been drawn to exploration of topics that tend to be overlooked or make some people uncomfortable. When working with the geriatric population I found it interesting how many of my peers felt uncomfortable with the concept of visiting a nursing home. I was passionate about listening to the stories of others, as well as challenging certain anxieties people feel when interacting with older people. In college I began to notice a similar societal avoidance in topics surrounding fertility, sexuality, trauma and death. When there is a lack of support or discussion, people feel alone and shame builds. The ability for all people to share their stories in a safe, open and supportive environment is so valuable. As a clinician, I have continued to work hard to make therapy accessible and to minimize stigma in my interactions.

What is one thing about psychotherapy you wish everyone knew?

I would like people to know that they have options when it comes to their therapist. It’s so important people feel a sense of calm and positive regard towards their therapist. If a person does not feel a connection with their therapist it’s ok to keep looking in order to find the right fit. I want people to know not to give up if they have had a less than amazing therapist experience in the past. The right therapist exists and is waiting to hear your story!

What is your motto or personal mantra?

There is not necessarily one personal motto or mantra that I utilize on a daily basis, but I do have certain messages I tell myself. We all tend to be our own worst critic or hold ourselves to a higher standard than those around us. I like to remind myself to practice self-compassion. When I am struggling with feelings of doubt, I ask myself if I’m speaking to myself as kindly as I would speak to a close friend. I continue to remind myself that I deserve to get just as much patience and understanding as I give to others.

What are your favorite self-care activities?

As much as I care about my loved ones, I also value my alone time. I believe self-care means respectfully, thoughtfully and intentionally setting a boundary that allows time to breathe and regroup. Being intentional about moments when we unwind and slow down helps make them all the more satisfying. I like to incorporate at least one type of relaxation into my daily life. For me this includes some form of physical activity, being in the presence of a dog, playing with my niece, making a food I love, re-reading the Harry Potter books or doing a word puzzle.