Adam MacDonald, LMSW, is celebrating one year at Therapy Austin this month. And we’re celebrating Adam! A sincere, gentle soul, Adam lets his clients know they have his unconditional support, building the foundation for positive change to occur.
Adam believes that building the therapist-client relationship is the most important factor in successful therapy. He works from an attachment perspective, focusing with his clients on the feelings and thoughts they have about connecting to another person in this new way. “Taking a step back and just experiencing the process with them, and exploring what it’s like for them to be in the room in the first place, has been more wildly successful for shifting and moving sessions,” Adam shared. “Which is cool! I really like that.”
When asked what’s meaningful about his work, Adam thought for a moment. “Getting them to feel safe and cry,” he said excitedly. “That’s kind of jokey, but it really is true. Having a client feel comfortable enough to share that really vulnerable space with me is very rewarding. It is the most powerful thing that can happen. Not just because letting it out is good, but because of all the effects that happen immediately after, where things no longer hold meaning that was ascribed to them. Now they’re more objective, able to see that, ‘Yeah, I am sad about this, and it’s okay to be sad, but I can also move forward, and hold onto the sadness’—without gripping it so tightly or pushing it away, pretending that it’s not there when it is still there.”
The most important thing he can provide, said Adam, is “just giving them the space [to feel their emotions.] Always inviting them… It’s nonjudgment, I just invite it into the room every single time.” He admits that this is sometimes intimidating for clients. “There’s an attachment that they create with this space that scares them. But they keep coming! And it’s like, yes! Awesome! One day, I’m going to soften that little shell around you, and then eventually it will be okay.”
In order to be present with his clients when they are connecting to their emotions, Adam has learned to be gentle with himself. He described how his own self-care routine has shifted from a check list of “working out or eating healthy this many times a week,” to “listening to my body and listening to who I am in my relationships with other people to understand a little bit more about what I actually need.” In addition to daily meditation and doing his own therapy, “I try to give myself a lot of self-compassion,” Adam noted. In being kind to himself, Adam has noticed a shift. “Interestingly… since starting with Therapy Austin, I’ve gained some weight, and in the past when that has happened I would get really down, horribly critical of myself. And I’ve currently, in my current place where I’m at, I’ve never loved my body more.”
When it comes to helping his clients be less critical of themselves, Adam finds inspiration from social worker, researcher, and author Brené Brown. “Braving the Wilderness is my number one, especially the audio book because her voice is so soothing,” he said. “It’s not real therapy, clearly, because it’s a book, but when you hear her voice telling you that you belong in where you are, it’s like, gasp ‘Yes, that is so true!’ I love that one. It really opens people’s minds up.”
Braving the Wilderness also helped him deepen his ability to connect with people who have very different perspectives than his own. “There’s a huge portion of the book that’s political. And it’s about being able to sit down with someone with a radically different opinion than you and saying, ‘This is way too important for us to get defensive. It’s way too important for us to be this or that. I really want to know your experience.’ It takes all of that defensiveness away and lets them just speak from their heart.”
Adam’s own experience with family trauma has drawn him to work with family systems, and he’s found it “challenging and exciting” to work with couples and individuals at Therapy Austin “because it makes me utilize what’s in the room, who’s in the room, to kind of examine what’s happening in the family.” From his own therapeutic work, he knows it is possible to recover. “Definitely not at the same speed as anyone else, because every person is different, but I’ve gone through darkness and come out of the other side with hope and light,” he shared.
“I can tell clients, ‘I know there’s hope here. You don’t have to believe that there’s hope right now.’ I’ll believe it to them, I’ll take that to them.”
What else does Adam want his clients to know? “That you are enough,” he shared. “You’re enough. You’ve always been enough. And you always will be. You don’t have to prove to anyone that you’re good enough. You’re fine all on your own.”
If you’d like to learn more about working with Adam, please visit his Therapy Austin profile.
Written by Jill Hokanson