I'm the Director of Qualitative Research at the Institute for the Study of Advanced Development and a therapist in private practice. My specializations include giftedness and Dabrowski's theory of positive disintegration. I'm also the parent of a twice-exceptional (2e) teenager, and I've researched the phenomenon of parenting stress in parents of 2e children.
I came to the work I'm doing now thanks to a deep exploration into my own history as gifted and neurodiverse. In 2014, I undertook a research project to understand the intersection between giftedness and mental illness, and that's when I discovered Dabrowski's theory of positive disintegration. At first, I didn't embrace the theory because I had spent so many years thinking of myself as mentally ill—I was not looking for an alternative framework.
The work that I do as a researcher and clinician is intertwined with my lived experiences as an extreme outlier. My graduate degrees are in social work (MSW) and psychology (Ph.D.), but I spent years in mental health treatment as a patient before pursuing higher education. I was diagnosed with many different "disorders," and some of these labels were more accurate and helpful than others. The only one that I continue to identify with at this point, in my 40s, is ADHD.
When I was young, I was identified as highly gifted, but I did not fit the expectations that came along with that label. My passions were never fed from schoolwork and academic achievement. By the time I was in high school, I was sure that there was something wrong with me, and I began to search for answers in psychiatry and the DSM.
Aside from my experiences identifying as mentally ill, I've also been through addiction. While I'm not a certified addiction counselor, this is not an area outside of my scope. I know what it's like to feel the need to alter one's consciousness, and I also know how to effectively change one's behavior. I published my first book, No Guarantees: A Young Woman's Fight to Overcome Drug and Alcohol Addiction when I was twenty.
I spent years—decades—of my life on medication and feeling like an outsider because of my status as mentally ill. When I returned to school and began studying social work and psychology, I struggled to feel like I could contribute because I was so accustomed to perceiving myself as defective and broken. Every day I feel grateful to have found Dabrowski's theory of positive disintegration and the liberation I have found in his words.
Growing up, I was different enough from other kids to feel like an alien. When I discovered the literature on the qualitative nature of giftedness and positive disintegration, I finally felt like I had answers. It helped me make sense of my experiences better than psychiatry ever had. There are aspects of my mind that are special and extraordinary, and my work in gifted education has been exploring the nature of giftedness. I've discovered that there is a chasm between those who believe giftedness is a meaningful psychological difference and those who don't.
My passion is helping my clients learn how to help themselves and find their own pathways out of feeling disordered. You can read more about my experience Connecting with Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration for GHF Dialogue. I've studied these issues from a research perspective, and you can more about that here.