Helping clients through life transitions is one of the major roles a therapist plays and Georgia-based LMFT Jaime Filler focuses her work on one of the most life-altering transitions of all: becoming a parent.
Her journey began with years of working in a variety of community mental health settings, including a downtown Los Angeles program working with children and families dealing with severe mental illness. She continued in community mental health when she moved to Georgia, providing home-based services. Armed with a box of therapy tools in the back of her car, she would visit clients, generally families in the low socio-economic population.
“I enjoyed that work,” recalls Jaime, “And I enjoyed serving as a supervisor within that organization. It gave me a great foundation for what I do now.”
Over time, however, inspiration from her personal experiences guided her toward an unexpected niche.
“When I had my kids, even without a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, I realized just how emotionally hard it was to become a new mom,” Jaime explains. “At that time, there wasn’t a lot of conversation about this. There was a lot of shame and stigma involved.”
While her own personal postpartum experience wasn’t easy, it was manageable. But when a close friend with mental health issues announced her pregnancy, Jaime turned to the research.
“I wanted to be able to help her,” says Jaime. “And as I was learning more, I started seeing my own experience in becoming a mother was actually pretty difficult. Maybe I could have used some help, actually. And a lot of parents need that and aren’t getting it. Once I saw how much of a need there was, I became really passionate about this work.”
So her private practice, which she formed in 2012, evolved in focus. Today, half of her clients are couples seeking relationship counseling, for which she utilizes the Gottman method. The other half of her work is helping expectant parents through pre-conception, pregnancy and postpartum, as well as pregnancy loss. She has completed both Postpartum Support International and 2020 Mom Professional Maternal Mental Health certificate training and has received her certification in Perinatal Mental Health. In addition to individual sessions, Jaime offers quarterly small group sessions for expecting couples to prepare for transition, utilizing Gottman’s Bringing Baby Home workshop.
Jaime points out that one in seven new parents deal with a diagnosable mood and anxiety disorder. She hears often how clients symptoms are minimized by their doctors or even other therapists, being told, ”You’re just tired. You’re a new parent. Of course you aren’t feeling great. It’s just your hormones … don’t worry about it.”
Jaime hopes to get the word out to other clinicians that this needs to be taken seriously though. She recommends her supervisees and fellow clinicians listen to the podcast Mom & Mind, hosted by Katayune Kaeni, Psy.D, which focuses on perinatal mental health.
Additionally, Jaime participates in Georgia’s chapter of Postpartum Support International and serves as an Advisor Member in their Programs and Education Committee. She aims to educate providers, doctors and facilities by executing trainings about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
“A lot of women are suffering. We need to do better,” insists Jaime.
About two years ago, Jaime started on a path to become a clinical supervisor. After going through AAMFT training, she’s now an Approved Supervisor Candidate. That means her supervision is also supervised by an AAMFT-Approved Supervisor.
Jaime’s hope is that the pre-licensed therapists she supervises become more than just skilled clinicians who utilize ethical and effective interventions. She also stresses the importance of self-confidence and self-awareness. Jaime encourages her supervisees to reflect on the impact of their work and to prioritize their own self-care.
“Who you are as a therapist is a major value of mine,” Jaime says. “When there are things coming up in therapy that might be hitting close to home, what does that look like? I spend a lot of time helping my supervisees explore that.”
Early in her career, when working in community mental health, Jaime observed that there was really no emphasis on caring for yourself as a therapist. Jaime didn’t like how the focus was on making hours and meeting quotas.
“I burned out, completely,” Jaime remembers. “When I had a baby, I took a break before starting my private practice. I knew I couldn’t keep doing that [work]. I didn’t know what to do next, but I knew I couldn’t handle that draining pace, so it’s important to me to help emerging clinicians recognize that the agencies they work at are going to ask a lot of them, and if they don’t set boundaries and care for themselves, they’ll probably burn out too.”
While Jaime appreciated her supervisors, her only regret was that she moved during her licensing process so she didn’t get to enjoy the benefits of a long-term mentorship.
“Sometimes I wish I’d had that one-supevisor experience,” explains Jaime. “But on the other hand, I did get the benefit of exposure to different styles – some I really liked, some I really didn’t. And so now as a supervisor I have a lot to draw from. In particular, I didn’t like the clinical supervision that just focused on the administration components – notes and treatment plans. While those things are important, I wasn’t pleased because I wasn’t getting support. My best supervisors were those that balanced both aspects. I had so much doubt in myself and the most impactful supervisors helped me build confidence.”
Jaime tries to pass on one of her favorite pieces of advice gleaned from a group supervision session. The supervisor was focusing on how to prevent “taking the client work home with you.” This was especially hard, because they were working in clients’ homes, so their cars and even houses served as their workplace.
“It’s not the same as leaving the office,” she says. “We came up with different ways. I identified a tree in my neighborhood, and decided that I could think about my clients and ruminate on that while driving until I passed that tree. Then I left it behind. That’s something I carry to discussion with my supervisees.”
Jaime has worked hard to balance her passion for her work and caring for herself (and her family), but nothing compares to seeing the results of her effort.
“I like that moment when you see things switch on for a client,” she emphasizes. “When I see a new mom realize her negative feelings aren’t bad and are actually quite normal, that she can still be a good parent. I love that moment.”
We’d love to introduce you to Jaime through a free, 30-minute video call. Click here to let us know if you’re interested in connecting with her or one of our Motivo team members.
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