North Texas Therapy Referrals

I am often asked for therapist referrals in the Dallas/Denton area, so I thought I would make a post with my favorite professionals in the area. This list will be updated from time to time, so please feel free to leave any referrals or suggestions in the comments below.

All of the people and clinics posted here are recommended either from my own personal/professional contact with them, or from direct recommendations by people I know.

Feleshia Porter works in North Dallas, and is a fantastic source of support for individuals and couples, particularly for folks who are gender-nonconforming and for those in alternative relationships. Her office environment is really interesting and comfortable, and even one meeting with her can be incredibly helpful and affirming. She doesn’t take insurance, but offers necessary documentation for insurance reimbursement.

Dr. Lisa Hensley at Iris Psychological Service is an all-around amazing human and excellent psychologist working out of Arlington. She is dedicated to social justice, and specializes in working with folks from marginalized populations. She can do assessments, therapy, consultation, and education (she’s a former professor). She takes Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Humana, and Cigna, and can provide documentation if you need reimbursement from any other insurance companies.

Dr. Kyle Erwin is a highly knowledgeable and affirming clinician in Denton.  His clinical training sites have included collegiate, community centers, and VA Hospitals. He specializes in the assessment and treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), other trauma related disorders, couple distress, substance use disorders, family psychotherapy, and LGBQ and Trans communities. He accepts Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Magellan, Aetna, Galaxy, and Medicare, and can provide documentation for out-of-network reimbursement.

Ruby B. Johnson is a social worker and chemical dependency counselor in Plano. She is a lot of fun, very kind and supportive. She specializes in substance abuse treatment, anxiety, depression, grief, and personal growth. She works with individuals, couples, and court-ordered clients, and is a certified Interactions Coach Practitioner. No insurance, but can give you documentation for reimbursement.

Dr. Erin Hammond is in McKinney, and is a licensed psychologist who can do assessments, therapy, and consultation. She’s incredibly gentle and kind-hearted, and is one of the best listeners I’ve ever met. She is very client-centered and works with a variety of populations, including gender-variant folks and people in alternative relationships. She takes Blue Cross/Blue Shield and private pay. Her website also has a comprehensive list of resources that are worth checking out.

Shawn Chrisman is in Dallas, near 75 and Walnut Hill. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor who specializes in therapy for people with non-traditional sexual and relationship styles. He’s super affirming and has a very comfortable and calm demeanor. I know him professionally, and have heard good things from others who’ve worked with him.

Zandra Ellis is enthusiastic and passionate about her work, and enjoys working with all kinds of folks. She works only with substance abuse clients, and approaches individual, group, and family therapy from a gender- and orientation-affirming lens. She also does life coaching, African American and LGBTQ community-based work and is an excellent resource on trauma and DBT.

Dr Elizabeth Zedaran is a licensed psychologist in Richardson. She treats a variety of issues and is affirming of diverse identities and non-mainstream spiritual practices.

Dr. Steve Tankersley is a psychiatrist in Dallas (OakLawn area). He provides psychotherapy services and pharmacological management. He is affirming of identity/orientation, and specializes in chronic pain management.

Elizabeth Newsom is a clinical social worker offering therapy services in Dallas and in Plano. She specializes in depression, anxiety, relationship issues, spirituality, sexuality, and personal growth.

Renee Baker is a Trans-identified licensed professional counselor in Dallas; she has a long background working with young people and families, and is a dedicated social justice advocate. Renee is also a licensed massage therapist.

CeCe Dorough is a fantastic therapist in Dallas, and is affordable for clients paying out of pocket. She also takes insurance and can help with reimbursement documentation if you need that. She specializes in a variety of issues, and is affirming of alternative sexualities and lifestyles.

Don Greever is a licensed professional counselor in Dallas specializing in trauma, as well as other issues such as anxiety, depression, and interpersonal violence. Affirming of identity/orientation.

The University of North Texas Psychology Clinic (Denton) is open to the community on a sliding scale. This is a very affordable and reputable option. Clients work with trainee therapists who are under the supervision of faculty. The program is accredited by the American Psychological Association, and the clinicians there are generally very competent.

Richland Oaks Counseling Center is located in Richardson, and is affiliated with Argosy University. They are also a training clinic, and are affordable and accessible, with clinicians offering services in a number of different languages.

Dr. Marlys Lamar is a psychologist in Denton offering a variety of treatment approaches and specialties. She is dedicated to safe space and is affirming of all identities. She does not take insurance but offers sliding scale and insurance documentation.

Dr. Edita Ruzgyte is a counselor, educator, and AASECT certified sex therapist in Fort Worth. She sees individuals, couples, and families.

Elizabeth Gehrman is a marriage and family therapist in Forth Worth with over ten years of experience. Accepts most forms of insurance.

Peter Kahle is a doctor and faith based therapist, who is affirming of other identities and supportive of atheist/agnostic clients.

Julie Cross has over 20 years experience ranging from career counseling services to psychopharmacology and cognitive based treatments.

Aaron Brown specializes in treatment of the whole person, their values, relationships, and physical fitness as well as mental health.

Susie Hair serves the Dallas area with specialties in eating disorders and substance abuse.

Michael Salas primarily serves gay men and has extensive experience treating sex addiction, gender questioning individuals and their families, and also leads group therapy sessions dealing with shame and vulnerability.

Dr. Sherry Huey specializes in emotional disorders, sleep disorders, and ADHD.

Dr. Suresh Sureddi researching bipolar disorder and specializing in treatment for a range of emotional and sleep disorders.

Patrick Young has over 30 years experience treating children and adolescents with depression and ADHD and is LGBT affirming.

Lee Kinsey is a relationship counselor and sex therapist specializing in LGBT relationships, transgender services, and mood disorders.

Paulette Lee is explicitly affirming of clients from the polyamorous and kink communities, offering relationship and general counseling in an affirming, non judgmental atmosphere.

Dr. Anetta Ramsey runs Chrysalis Eating Disorder Center but also takes private patients. Does not take insurance, but strives to be affordable, as well as preserving safe space. Also runs a DBT focused weekly group therapy.

The Pensieve

In the fourth Harry Potter book, Dumbledore introduces us to the pensieve, a mystical bowl into which he can deposit the contents of his mind, and look at all his thoughts, ideas, and memories from a more objective perspective before putting it all back into his head.

It’s a beautiful idea, isn’t it? That there might exist a way in which we could silence the monkey-mind… that we could separate ourselves, just for a moment, from the things we are experiencing.

To me, the therapy room is like a pensieve. Clients come in, and bring with them all the experiences, thoughts, memories, problems, and confusions they carry with them throughout the day (it’s exhausting, right? carrying all that stuff?), and they pour it all out in front of the therapist. Then, together, the client and therapist can observe, analyze, brainstorm, decipher, explore, celebrate, mourn, and understand all those confusing and overwhelming ideas.

By having a therapist as your teammate, you’ve got another set of eyes on your pensieve – an objective person who is only on your side. They are trained to look into pensieves; they can see patterns, walk you through murky areas, identify snags and snarls, and help you find ways to smooth things out and make life a little better for yourself. They’re trained to help you know yourself better, not by telling you how to feel, but by helping you explore your pensieve more efficiently and effectively.

I love therapy. As a client, as a therapist, as an educator – I believe therapy can work wonders in anyone’s life. Finding a good therapist is key, because the pensieve only works well when everyone is comfortable. But when you find the right person, the amount of insight, self-growth, and personal productivity you can experience is truly revolutionary.

Affirming Others

It takes a lot to go onstage. Standing under bright lights while a group of people sit and stare at you is, to put it mildly, an incredibly vulnerable position, and it can be doubly so for those who have experienced marginalization and oppression throughout their lives. Last night I watched fifteen performers pour their hearts out at the Glitterbomb Queer Variety Show, and I watched a packed audience respond with so much love and support and overwhelming positivity, it blew my mind.

So today I’m reflecting on what it means to affirm someone.  More than just tolerating or accepting a person – truly lifting them up and celebrating who they are.

I think that’s my favorite thing about DFW’s queer performance art scene – the ways in which the audience’s cheers and hugs and dollar bills speak so loudly of affirmation.  All those things mean the audience is saying more than just “I see you.” When they give such enormous affirmation, they’re saying “I see you, and I celebrate you!

And isn’t that what we all need, to be seen and celebrated?  Not put on a pedestal, not idealized, not depersonalized, but actually seen, and actually celebrated.

It’s a skill I wish I could see more of in my communities. Because I move among lots of people who belong to marginalized groups, I am around a LOT of folks who are rendered invisible on a systemic level. I’m talking about Queer and Trans folks, those with chronic pain and other physical differences, Brown, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPoC), and many, many more. It’s my hope that I can make myself a better friend and ally by being deliberate about my own affirmations of others’ identities.

I’m inspired (as always) by the performers and the audience from last night’s show, and I am thinking hard on ways to be more actively affirming for those around me.  Here are some of my thoughts, feel free to add your own!

Ways to Affirm Others

  • make eye contact
  • smile often
  • offer a genuine compliment
  • ask about preferred pronouns, and use them
  • make sure I’m knowledgeable about cultures other than my own
  • mirror language (using the same words the person used to describe themselves)
  • a quick Facebook message when I see someone having a hard day
  • in-the-moment self-correcting things I say wrong
  • give offer a hug, pat on the back, or hand squeeze
  • offer a quick check-in when I sense something might be wrong
  • stand up for others in the moment
  • challenge oppressive language
  • tell people when they do a good job
  • own my personal privilege and set it down whenever possible
  • know when to be quiet
  • be willing to hear feedback
  • encourage self care
  • check/ask for gender-neutral bathrooms
  • share my belongings, time, knowledge, and energy

Surviving Suicide

The feelings that arise for survivors of suicide are complicated and uncomfortable, so if that’s the case for you, you’re not alone. You may be feeling responsibility, regret, anger, sorrow, guilt, or shame. You may be asking yourself “why?” over and over again, searching for answers. These feelings may come and go over the coming days and weeks, but the truth is, the answers are messy. You’ll find some understanding, and you’ll probably find more confusion and heartache as well. But you’re not alone, and you’ll find your way.

Let’s talk about responsibility. I once lost a student to suicide, and another teacher in the department told me that she was taking full responsibility for the student’s actions, because, she said, “it takes a village to let someone kill themselves.” My heart broke. What a terrible burden to carry based on something that is wholly untrue! And I want to be crystal clear to every single person who loses someone to suicide, it is absolutely not your fault. Absolutely not. The depth of suffering experienced by someone who suicides is so complex and so intense, you would have to be some sort of omniscient superpower to predict it. Even clues that in retrospect seem obvious are actually not obvious, and could have meant a million other things. You simply couldn’t have known.

The Gracious Mind griefLet’s talk about regret. Many of you are probably playing recent events and encounters over and over in your mind, searching for clues you might have picked up on, or wishing you had done something different. You may be thinking “well, I know it’s not my fault, but I should have _____, then maybe it wouldn’t have happened.” That’s a sneaky way to disguise regret as responsibility. Again, I want to very firmly, in my big-girl voice, say absolutely not. Regrets are heavy, but they are not the same thing as responsibility. It is okay to wish you had done something different, and if you are having those feelings, I strongly encourage you to find someone to talk to about it, either a friend or a professional. Those regrets are normal, and are not unlike the regrets you might have after any other type of unexpected loss. If you’re having those feelings, it’s okay, but be careful that they don’t start slipping into the realm of responsibility.

 

Let’s talk about anger. If you are angry, it’s okay. The anger will probably mix in unexpected ways with your other feelings. You may feel deeply compassionate and sorrowful, and also angry. These are not paradoxical feelings – they can both be true at the same time. I have worked with survivors who are terrified to admit they are angry because they feel like it’s betraying the person they lost, and devaluing the suffering they were experiencing when they took their own life. It’s sometimes hard to accept, but you have a right to be angry, and it makes sense. A decision was made that affects you, and it’s a painful and irreversible decision. If you’re feeling angry, work on accepting it. Anger doesn’t diminish love.

 

The gracious Mind self careLet’s talk about self care. Emotional exhaustion takes a heavy toll on your body. It is critical that you care for yourself physically and mentally. Be sure you are getting your rest, and if you’re having trouble sleeping, consider taking benadryl or another sleep aid. I am not a proponent of long-term self medication, but in the short-term, getting rest is absolutely critical – an exhausted body makes everything feel worse. Nourish yourself with healthy food and drink lots of water. Comfort yourself with the foods and drinks that feel good to you. If you want to sit in the closet and eat a gallon of ice cream, do it. If you want to rage and cry, do it. Whatever feels good to you, find a safe way to let it out. Keeping those feelings bottled up only makes a bigger mess later.

 

Let’s talk about support.  This is a critical part of healing after a loss. There are a lot of people impacted by this situation, and it can be nice to have your own feelings mirrored by others, or to share tears and memories with someone. These interactions of support are very much part of the healing process. Finding others who had the same experience can be helpful, and sometimes it’s helpful to talk to someone who isn’t impacted by the loss, so that you can focus solely on your own experience. If you’re still having strong feelings in a couple of weeks, or if your feelings are so overwhelming that you can’t function at home or at work, consider talking to a counselor or therapist. Mental health professionals have been trained to work with suicide survivors, and can provide support in a way that others may not be able to.

 

Let’s talk about grief.  I want to emphasize what I see as the most critical and misunderstood part of grief, and that is the idea that it will someday pass. Intense grief is not something that ever completely goes away. It is not uncommon for a client to come to my office and tell me they want therapy to get over their grief. It’s hard for them to hear that they will likely never “get over” it. They may get used to it, and the intensity of it will likely decline significantly, but the loss of someone close to you is not something that goes away. Grief is to be integrated into your life, not erased from it.

 

The Gracious Mind GriefLet’s talk about why. I want to talk a little bit about what happens when someone chooses to suicide, but first I want to address the language we use when talking about it. You may have noticed that I have not used the phrase “committed suicide.” There is a movement in the community of survivors to eliminate this language, since the word “committed” is linked to times when suicide was considered a crime. Also, advocates for mental health visibility and awareness believe that the phrase perpetuates stigma and minimizes the significance of suffering. Most survivors prefer “died by suicide” or “suicided.”

 

The Gracious Mind insomniaThere are a number of things that impact suicide, far more than I can get into here, so I’ll just touch on a few. Recent research has started looking at how insomnia and suicide are linked. Although the body of research isn’t enough to say anything definitively, it does strongly suggest that those who struggle with depression are much more likely to suicide if they are also struggling with sleep disturbance. It’s unclear why that happens, and hopefully continued research will help clarify that so we can treat depression more effectively.

 

Depression is a scary beast. Very often, people who are struggling with depression feel ashamed of it for many different reasons: sometimes because they feel like it’s a personal failure, or they feel like others are suffering more, they should be more grateful for what they have, or even that they shouldn’t be depressed because their life is good and things are going well. Depression is not always linked to situational factors, although they definitely impact it. It is entirely possible for someone to have everything going “right” in their life, and still be suffering from depression.

 

It’s not easy to talk about those things, because the messages we get from people around us are that we should “think positive!” or “focus on the good stuff!” These responses to depression are part of why negative stigma is perpetuated; it implies that experiencing depression is a choice. Hyperbole and a Half published an incredible illustrated explanation of what it feels like to suffer from depression (Part I   Part II). Even when things seem to be fine, depression can ruin everything.

 

The Gracious Mind OverwhelmedThe neurochemistry of depression and other mood disorders is complicated, and it wreaks havoc on consciousness. Mix that with medications, substances, and other emotional experiences (even good ones), and you’ve got an unpredictable mix. When a person chooses to suicide, they are very rarely thinking clearly. In fact, the entire response to a suicide threat – involuntary intake at a crisis center – is based on the idea that the person in question does not have the capacity to care for themselves adequately. Simply put, they are not able to make decisions for themselves.

 

One of the things I hate most is when people call the person who suicides “selfish” or “ungrateful.” Rather than labeling them with these terms, let’s think more closely about it. The person who suicides is suffering so much, so intensely, that they desperately need an immediate end to it. When you shut your hand in the car door, do you politely ask the person with you to unlock it so you can remove your hand? No, you shriek and cry and frantically try to find a way out. What if it was your whole body? Depression and suicidal ideation are emotionally and physically painful.

“We can have regrets; we can have sorrow and grief. We can have confusion and frustration, and all of these things can happen in the context of compassion and love.”

We cannot blame someone for seeking a way out of their suffering. None of us want to suffer. We cannot blame or judge someone for having such intense feelings in a time when we think they should have been feeling happy. We may not agree with how they ended their suffering, but we cannot judge them for seeking peace. We can, however, know absolutely that they were hurting. Now we are left holding the pieces, and that isn’t fair. We can be angry about that. We can have regrets, we can have sorrow and grief. We can have confusion and frustration, and all of these things can happen in the context of compassion and love.

 

The Gracious Mind Tear SoupThe process of grief is complicated, and it’s different for every single person. Understanding how different people process can help you give and receive support. I really like the book Tear Soup as a way to explain what’s happening during the grief process, and I have bought and given away more copies than I can count. It’s simple and short and exceptionally powerful.

 

Take care of each other, support each other, and ask for help when you need it.