Therapist Spotlight: Jennifer Piwnicki, MA, LPC, RYT

Jennifer a psychotherapist at Wildflower. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Bradley University and her Master’s degree in couple and family therapy from the University of Colorado Denver. Her personal and professional development emphasizes evidence- and systems-based therapies in the treatment of trauma, grief and loss, eating disorders, depression, and anxiety issues. Jennifer is also a registered yoga teacher. Read Jennifer’s full bio here.

What inspired you to pursue a career as a psychotherapist?

The time I spent tutoring English Language Learners and refugees opened my eyes to the universal and diverse experiences of human beings from around the world. I immediately learned that connection and empathy were as crucial as grammar and spelling while assisting people in navigating a new culture. Subsequently, my experience as a bereavement volunteer at a hospice organization highlighted the transformative power of grief and trauma when a supportive and caring community welcomes those who are suffering without judgment or expectation. Through these professional relationships, I came to realize that I have a great capacity for quickly building rapport and supporting individuals who are struggling.

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

One of the most satisfying parts of being a psychotherapist is being invited into clients’ experiences of love, loss, pain, resilience, and joy. I approach every session as a gift that deserves my respect and gratitude. The work of Irvin Yalom, a renowned existential psychiatrist, author, and educator galvanized my professional interests; I agree with Yalom’s statement: “The act of revealing oneself fully to another and still being accepted may be the major vehicle of therapeutic help.”

How would you describe your therapeutic approach?

I emphasize the here-and-now in sessions in order to provide a safe and comforting environment for clients to process emotions as they arise. Our diverse backgrounds, including but not limited to family-of-origin, race, gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity, drive us to unconsciously adhere to certain behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. Through the use of psychoeducation, family history exploration, body-focused activities, and art therapy, I assist clients in highlighting these patterns for meaningful processing at both the cognitive and emotional level. My training in somatic therapy and neuropsychology informs the manner in which I support clients in accessing the wisdom of the body to release unprocessed emotions and experiences that are held within.

Why do you believe that psychotherapy can help?

Psychotherapy is particularly helpful during this time in our history as we find ourselves over-stimulated and minimally connected, which results in people feeling lost, lonely, and unsupported. As mammals, we are wired for social connection that requires eye contact, physical presence, compassion, and encouragement. Psychotherapy can be a nurturing vessel in which people are able to discover their authentic selves while in relationship with a “fellow traveler.”

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

My specialties include trauma, grief, attachment issues, mood and anxiety disorders, chronic illness, disordered eating, body image issues, and multicultural issues. Additionally, I treasure working with highly sensitive people and introverts. My extensive experience working and volunteering with wholehearted organizations that support immigrants, people of color, international citizens, the bereaved, and adoptive families and adoptees propelled me into the world of trauma and grief. The research of Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, Dr. Elaine Aron, and Dr. Stephen Porges prompted my study of the connection between mind, body, and spirit, which exhilarates and deepens my interests continually.

What is one thing about psychotherapy you wish everyone knew?

To quote Dr. Viktor Frankl, Austrian psychiatrist, neurologist, and Holocaust survivor, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Psychotherapy provides people with an opportunity to accept this challenge in a professional relationship built on empathy, trust, and hope.

What is your motto or personal mantra?

We are human beings, not human doings.

What are your favorite self-care activities?

Spending time with my husband, daydreaming, reading, being in nature, drinking fabulous coffee, and cooking with local food.