Dialectical therapy – Individual, group, coaching, in-the-moment services

October 2021 Posted in Community, Your Health

By Melissa Wagoner

Dr. Andrew Weitzman

During his 20-year career as a Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Andrew Weitzman learned a great deal.

“Of those 20 years, my first seven were in community health in Vancouver, Washington,” Weitzman said of the time he spent working in drug and alcohol treatment. “Then I got a job at the state hospital for 13 years.”

These environments provided Weitzman with the experience he needed to work with a range of mental health issues, both in a hospital setting as well as in a clinic. But there was one thing no amount of on-the-job experience could prepare him for – the life altering loss of his sight.

“I noticed things were becoming dimmer over a three-day span,” Weitzman said of the weekend in 2019 which culminated in his learning that a condition known as retinal neuropathy had permanently robbed him of the vision in both his eyes.

“They don’t exactly know why,” Weitzman said of the sudden onset. “It sort of sent my life into a spiral.”

Initially taking leave from the state hospital in order to attend an intensive, three-month training session with the Oregon Commission for the Blind, Weitzman eventually returned to work. But things just weren’t the same.

“There’s the vision loss itself but then there’s the other things in terms of not being able to drive,” he said. Noting that, while previously his commute to Salem had not posed an issue, now it fell to his wife, Sarah, a nurse commuting to Portland, to help pick up the slack. 

Weitzman decided it was time to open a private practice, in his own community, restoring his work-life balance and returning to the kind of practice about which he is most fond.

“My passion is working with under-served people in the local community,” Weitzman said from his chair in the newly opened office of Silverton Therapy on Water Street. “This is a return to community work.”

Specializing in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – a four-part system that includes individual therapy, group therapy, coaching and consultation – Weitzman is looking forward to offering treatments unique to the private practice setting. 

“It involves teams, individuals, skills coaching and in-the-moment assistance,” Weitzman said. He noted that it is this last component, the in-the-moment assistance, that can be the trickiest for a clinic to manage. 

“In the hospital it’s easier because you have 24-hour nursing staff,” Weitzman pointed out. “But it’s one of the services I’m planning to provide because sometimes it’s Thursday night and they have something happen and they need the help. Coaching is in-the-moment.”

Another aspect of DBT that is rarely seen outside of a hospital setting is the group therapy, which Weitzman also plans to offer. 

This service is divided into two camps, skills groups – a series of classes for people working on the same issue or set of issues – and process groups – a private cohort in which experience and feelings are shared.

“Sometimes people may not need intensive or lengthy therapy,” Weitzman said of the skills group option. “They may need short term or skills building.”

Divided into a series of classes or “chapters”, these groups offer assistance with issues like anxiety, providing clients the ability to join on an as-needed basis. 

“It’s not designed to process issues, it’s designed to learn new skills,” Weitzman explained. “You can pick and choose what you need.”

Not so in the process groups, which are built upon the shared experience of members.

“People can ask questions and share,” Weitzman said. “But these are different than support groups…. This is me guiding the group, orienting to the group’s needs and pulling on the strengths and experiences of each member. For people who don’t have a support system – having people who understand makes a huge difference.”

In both cases group therapy can go hand-in-hand with individual therapy as well. 

“There are a lot of things that don’t work in groups,” Weitzman said. “But looking at group therapy as less than isn’t accurate.”

In fact, group therapy is not only helpful as a means of learning coping skills and gaining community it is also cost effective.

“People might feel reluctant – ‘I don’t want to air my dirty laundry’ – but sometimes that’s exactly what’s needed,” Weitzman said.

Grief, loss – even COVID stress – are all groups Weitzman is considering.

“I’m definitely interested in meeting the needs of the community,” he said. “I offer free phone consultations and I don’t believe in charging for intake so my rates are standard. I feel like picking a therapist needs to be a fit.”

Which is why he welcomes questions – about his therapy but also about his sight. For many, he posed, seeing a therapist who is considered low-vision may provide additional comfort.

“For some people it may help them to feel a little more at ease in expressing themselves. I might not recognize them in public.”

Silverton Therapy

Dr. Andrew Weitzman provides individual, couple and group therapy.

435 N. Water St., Silverton 971-444-0865 silvertontherapy.com

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