Get to know Heather Sutter, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at our practice.
What is your favorite thing about being a therapist?
I enjoy helping others become more self-aware and gain the confidence to overcome the various obstacles and challenges they face. It’s such a privilege when people let you into their lives to connect on such a personal level. I’ve also learned to appreciate that everyone’s experiences are unique, so I love that treatment can be customized and no two sessions ever feel the same.
How have your own life experiences made you a better therapist?
I wouldn’t say that any one experience has made me a better therapist. My own personal experiences have taught me the power of positivity and hope in any situation or challenge. In my own life, if I lose that positivity, I lose my motivation to overcome the challenge and I feel stuck. So in my work with others, I always try to help them build a foundation of positivity and purpose in any situation.
What is most important to you?
To me and for those I work with — happiness is the most important thing. “Happiness” can mean different things and look or feel different to everyone. In its essence, happiness can be an appreciation of knowing what you have and what your strengths are. It is seeing the positives and learning from every obstacle we face.
What are your passion projects or interests?
I enjoy traveling any chance I can. I find traveling to be a great opportunity to practice self-care and to relax, but I’m also fascinated by different ways of living and cultures all over the world. Traveling allows me to remember that, as diverse as New York City can be, it is still only a small area of the world and there are so many cultures and ways of life out there.
What inspired you to pursue a career as a therapist?
Throughout my life, I have always wanted to understand human behavior and provide a positive influence in the lives of others. Growing up, I knew I wanted to work with children and always imagined myself becoming a teacher. However, during my junior year of High School, I met a social worker who started talking to me about her work and I quickly became intrigued by the field of social work. Ultimately, my desire to work with children led me to my specialty providing psychotherapy to children, adolescents and families.
What are your specialties and what drew you to them?
I’ve spent the majority of my career working with adolescents and families and I absolutely love it. Many people find it challenging to work with adolescents, but I’ve never given it a second thought. Teenagers don't hide anything and they’ll tell you exactly how it is, whether it makes you feel good or not. I appreciate their honesty. As tough as they can seem at times, adolescents are a very vulnerable population. They are trying to form their own identity and can be so impressionable. The adolescent years are an important time for a teen to connect with someone positive to provide them with a healthy outlet for their stress and feelings, and also to keep them from turning to unhealthy options.
I also love working with couples, not just premarital but in every in stage of their relationship. Couples therapy is often viewed as a sign of a failed relationship. However, I have found that couples that are aware and motivated enough to seek out therapy are also that much more committed to making their relationship work again. I work from the Prepare/Enrich model, which helps couples identify and openly work through similarities and differences together. Therapy can be daunting for a couple and often one partner isn’t too excited about being in the room. So I try my best to help both partners identify their own individual goals as well as goals they have as a couple.
What makes you unique as a therapist?
I would have to say that my use of humor in treatment with clients makes me unique. In my own life, I have found that humor helps me get through difficult situations and can lighten up really difficult times. My humor also seems to increase engagement with adolescents and couples and allows everyone to feel more comfortable.
How would you describe your therapeutic approach?
With any client, my #1 rule is to always meet the client where they are — whether that is sitting in long awkward silences or letting them vent and feel validated and understood. The second I start inserting my own agenda, I lose the client’s buy-in and engagement decreases. It’s an important part of forming a therapeutic connection with someone. With every obstacle there is always a strength, but sometimes it needs to be discovered. When someone is stuck and feeling hopeless it is nice to be able to give him or her a glimpse of the positive in that moment.
Everyone needs self-care. How do you practice self-care?
Self-care is the driving force behind any therapist’s work. Without self-care, inevitably there will be some level of burnout. As a therapist, it’s hard for me to shut my “work brain” off after sessions. So while I may always be thinking about my clients and our work together, I try my best to make sure my mind is focused on my own family and relationships as well. I feel most able to disconnect from work at the gym as I feel like I’m focusing 100% on myself during that time.
What is one thing that is important for anyone to know?
An old friend used to always tell me, “This too shall pass.” This concept has stuck with me and has continuously reminded me that no matter how big or small the struggle, there is always a way to get through it.