Dr. Adina McGarr-Knabke
I have a confession to make. There was a period in my life when I remember thinking to myself “I didn’t used to be this way. I wasn’t as anxious, irritable, or as pessimistic as I am now. I would have this thought repeatedly and though I wasn’t necessarily putting it together at the time, I was waiting for something to happen for me. I was waiting to “magically” return to my less anxious, less irritable, happier, more upbeat self. In my mind, I didn’t used to be this way, so one day I just wouldn’t anymore
What is somewhat ironic about this to me is, as a psychologist, I was fully aware of the brain’s ability to change in response to experience (neuroplasticity), I had just neglected to consider that it can also change for the worse. Our brains sculpt itself around what we give our attention to. If we attend to anxious thoughts, fear, negativity, personal hurts, self-doubt, insecurity, etc. these will all multiply and the networks that host them become stronger. In other words, we increase the presence of them in our lives, thus we increase our distress and unhappiness.
Using the principles and concepts from theories outlined below, we will address how to effect positive brain change, we will process and work through unresolved issues, shed unhealthy coping mechanisms, and work together to help you live your valued life.
My approach to therapy is strongly influenced by Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB), Psychodynamic Theory, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). IPNB provides the road map to mental well being and how to use our mind to affect brain change. Psychodynamic theory addresses the underlying core emotional issues and provides a framework for healing relational trauma. ACT provides immediate tools and concrete methods for individuals to begin living their valued life immediately, even though their therapeutic work may not be complete. The combination of these theories provides a comprehensive model that supports and heals, allowing for lasting change and personal growth.
Major principles from IPNB that inform my work are that the mind can be used to change the brain itself and that our relationships throughout life change the brain. IPNB stresses the importance of understanding and defining the human mind and how to cultivate mental well-being. These three entities, the mind, the brain and our relationships are differentiated processes, that intricately link together to create our lived experiences. These foundational concepts provide a clear direction of what we are striving towards in treatment.
Drawing from psychodynamic theory means that we will be addressing the underlying, often unconscious issues that are manifesting as symptoms or problematic behavior, as well as identifying your psychological defense mechanisms and how these work to keep anxiety-provoking material out of your consciousness. We will also be exploring painful life experiences, your patterns of relating and attaching to others, and the needs you to seek to have fulfilled. Through this process of gaining insight into yourself and your behaviors, you will have more flexibility and thus the freedom to change the areas that do not serve you.
Finally, the incorporation of ACT, highlights the importance of working towards psychological flexibility and living our valued life even in the presence of painful emotions and experiences. ACT stresses the significance of changing our relationship to problematic thoughts and feelings (accepting what is), rather than focusing on eliminating or resisting them. ACT assumes that the psychological processes of the mind are often destructive and create psychological suffering. Core components of this work include values identification, mindfulness, disentanglement from problematic thoughts and feelings, and committed action even in the presence of uncomfortable feelings. The goal of ACT is to create a rich and meaningful life, while accepting that pain inevitably goes with it.
Dr. Adina McGarr-Knabke completed her undergraduate work in psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2000 and received her Masters in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University in 2003. In 2007, she received her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Phillips Graduate Institute.