“The biggest challenge is to get the person to make the first call,” states Ashley Paul Wright LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) and certified psychoanalyst.
Adds Robin Fein, LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) and psychotherapist, “When you find the right therapist, it can be life-changing.”
Mr. Wright and Ms. Fein are partners in Vanguard Counseling of Princeton, their psychotherapy and psychoanalysis practice. Both have practiced in Princeton for more than 20 years, with a goal of helping clients resolve problems in a way that provides them with a more hopeful view of the future.
For people struggling with emotional and mental health issues, reaching out for help is so important, points out Mr. Wright, who previously served as director of clinical services for AAMH (Association for the Advancement of Mental Health) in Princeton and also as director for Early Intervention Support Services in Cherry Hill.
A certified psychoanalyst, he strongly believes people can change their lives for the better with the help of a concerned, compassionate, experienced therapist. “Earlier in my career, I became interested in psychoanalyst Karen Horney’s theories on psychoanalysis. She had a very hopeful view of human growth, and believed you are never too old to change. I was trained at the American Institute for Psychoanalysis-Karen Horney Center in New York.”
“We can help people grow,” points out Ms. Fein. “The relationship we develop with the client creates the mechanism for this. It’s how you do the therapy and the quality of the therapy that makes the difference.”
It is crucial that an individual finds a therapist with whom he or she can build a solid relationship based on trust, she adds. “It is so important to find the right therapist for you.”
Ms. Fein’s practice emphasizes older adolescents, including high school and college-aged patients, 17 and up. Before coming to Princeton, she trained in psychodynamic therapy at the Postgraduate Center in New York, and also worked at Mt. Sinai Medical Center and New York Presbyterian Hospital in the early development of services for sexually abused women.
Other focuses in her practice include mood disorder (depression, anxiety, and bi-polar disorder), life transitions, such as separation and divorce, aging, and also chronic illness, and grief.
“A special interest for me has been psychological trauma — Holocaust survivors, and those who have suffered sexual abuse, including rape and incest.”
Depression and anxiety are frequent conditions that both Ms. Fein and Mr. Wright see in their practices. Addictions of various kinds are other issues that bring patients to seek their help.
When an individual has taken the first — often momentous — step of making an appointment, he or she wants to feel respected by the therapist, explains Mr. Wright. “Patients want to be respected and valued, and feel wanted. I let them know that I respect them and want to help them. Trust is built between the client and therapist.
“People are often unhappy with themselves and with their lives,” he continues. “They feel they haven’t lived up to their potential. Also, people frequently repeat the wrong solutions. I try to help them develop an acceptance of what they have experienced. They need to develop compassion for themselves and forgive themselves. I want to help them find a new path and develop a present-mindedness. The only place to live is in the present moment. Most people live in the past or look to the future.
“They limit their lives that way. They may think it’s more comfortable and safe; I want them to be able to experience a fuller and ultimately happier life. I want to help them identify their values and set goals for themselves, and be comfortable with present-mindedness.”
Mr. Wright also focuses on men’s issues, including helping men develop their strengths as individuals and in relationships. Helping them deal with the problems associated with aging, including social, psychological, and physical loss, is another area of concern. “It is important to develop psychological flexibility to deal with the changes that come,” he points out.
And, as Ms. Fein explains, “All the losses that come with aging can be hard to face; and certain stages of life are more difficult — retirement, illnesses, losing friends. And the society is so focused on youth and being productive that people may feel they don’t matter any more.”
Both Ms. Fein and Mr. Wright work with individuals and groups. “In a group, not only do patients interact with the therapist, but with each other,” they note.
Their patients are primarily from the Princeton area, and vary in age — from teens to retired persons. Sessions for individuals are 50 minutes, and are usually scheduled once a week. The overall length of time a person is in therapy can vary from a month to several months to years, depending on the goals of the patient.
“If it’s a crisis, we may be able to solve the problem in a few sessions,” says Mr. Wright. “To accomplish long-term change to enable people to manage problems in the future can take longer.”
“When people have experienced a traumatic event, I try to help them find equilibrium and to recalibrate, notes Ms. Fein. “This can be a longer process.”
Both therapists agree that being a good listener is essential to being a good therapist. “I feel there is almost something sacred in the connection and trust that develops between patient and therapist,” says Ms. Fein. “The openness and communication can be very powerful. It helps the individual feel understood and cared about, and then they can consider how they want to change. It’s relational therapy. We are relational creatures.”
Mr. Wright also works with families, and whether he is with a family, treating individuals, or leading groups, he finds it extremely fulfilling. “What I do is full of creativity. It’s not work to me. In a sense, I feel as if I am playing — in a serious way. I feel I’m in the moment — exploring and learning, and having this encounter with patients. In the course of the therapy, we both change. I impact the patient, and the patient impacts me. It’s learning and interacting, and it’s fascinating and enriching.”
As Ms. Fein points out, “People are unique and so complicated. This work is never dull. There is always something new. I have always had curiosity about people, and I have always wanted to be of service and to do something of value with my life. I want to continue to be of service.”
Because she and Mr. Wright want to make therapy available to a wide range of individuals, they have established an affordable payment plan, based on a sliding scale. “We offer affordable solutions for life’s problems.”
They also offer flexible hours. For more information, call (609) 480-6415 or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.