A note from Dr. Aletta: I am so happy to introduce you to Dr. Alla Andelman. She joins the Explore What’s Next Team as a seasoned psychologist with in-depth knowledge and training in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Her passionate caring for her patients, appreciation for the fullness of life and good sense of humor fits right in. So that you can get to know her, I asked her a few questions…
Why did you decide to become a psychologist?
I got into psychology for two reasons. First, I attribute my love of understanding people to a children’s book that I read in 2nd grade. It was called “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, by A. Wolf.” This little book tells a story we know very well, but from the point of view of the villain, who, in this story, is not a villain at all, but rather a reasonable character who shares reasons for his actions and how they were misinterpreted. The concept of figuring out the other side of the story blew me away! From then on, I argued for the villains in various books and movies in debates with friends. More importantly, I think it began my development of empathy, which is such an important part of being a psychologist, which is to say, being able to put myself in other people’s shoes and understand their experience from their eyes.
The second reason for going into this profession was somewhat of a fluke. My love of understanding people led to my continued love of reading and writing stories. I was in a Humanities program in high school which required taking extra English and History courses. I chose AP Psychology because I thought it might be interesting and would get me out of Physics! I missed the deadline for applications, but my advisor put me into the class anyway. Needless to say, my mind was blown for the second time in that class. This led to my struggle of choosing between English and Psychology for my college major. Ultimately, real life stories won out over those on the page.
Who do you like to work with?
I love working with a wide range of diverse people. This includes adults and teens who are in a transitional stage of their life. I work with anyone “in between” trying to figure who they are in the new phase they find themselves in. Every phase of life comes with its own challenges. Depression or anxiety often accompanies the confusion and stress of going through puberty, starting college, launching into adulthood, figuring out gender identity or transitioning. Same goes for older adults, looking for a career change, recently widowed or divorced, retirees who are seeking to redefine their lives, all kinds of situations.
Growing up in New York City, I’m familiar with multiple cultures. I recognize when to ask if I don’t know enough. Unique traditions and cultures have always fascinated me. I am always excited to work with people of diverse backgrounds. Together we recognize how it may apply to their lives and struggles.
My specialty includes working with people who have experienced trauma. When someone has been traumatized their relationship with the world changes. Trust in his/her safety is broken, and if they have experienced abuse from loved ones, in the past or presently, trust in oneself and in others is broken as well. My job is to help such a person rebuild those relationships on his or her terms in a way that feels safe and comfortable once again.
How do you work with people?
Through relationships, between people, with the world itself and with ourselves. I believe that all of our struggles and fears, as well as our joy comes from these relationships. When it comes to understanding what struggles a person is experiencing, I often see it through that framework. Using the relationship between myself and my client, we can explore what struggles they face. I think an important part about what makes therapy work is the relationship between counselor and client. It is incredibly important to me that my client can feel safe in my office and with me.
For people who have never been in therapy, what can they expect when they work with you?
Typically, we start with a 30 minute consultation. We discuss what brought the person in and confirm if this is in my wheelhouse to help. If we agree we’re a good fit we then schedule a few sessions. These early sessions will include getting to know each other, the client’s past and recent history as much as possible and identify goals for therapy.
Together, we come up with specific goals for therapy and together decide when those goals are met. Homework is a staple, whether it’s audio to listen to, activities to practice, or maybe just a concept to think about until the following session.
Partnering with my client, I am actively in therapy with you. I will encourage you to make informed decisions that meet the goals you want in your life. I will not offer my opinion on those decisions because it is not my place or right to tell you how to live your life. It is my job to help you live the life you want for yourself.
What are your other interests outside of work?
When time permits I dabble in writing. I have the first three chapters of a novel I promised myself I will finish one day! And I love to read. I read every day. Not even grad school stopped me from reading daily. It’s probably what kept me sane through it all. I also love TV and movies. My favorite show of all time is—don’t laugh… “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” That show has wonderful metaphors for growing up, dealing with relationships and life as told through “battling demons.” Since this show ended many years ago, I fill my time with other shows too, as well as movies and theatre. My other great passion is exploring new places and cultures. This means I’ve traveled a fair bit, and dream about my next adventure regularly. I also love getting to try new cuisine. I admit that I am an insufferable foody. Luckily Buffalo’s restaurant scene is blowing up, and my husband and I take full advantage!
One last question: Cake, pie or ice cream?
Always ice cream for me! It may be my favorite food!
Call Dr. Andelman at716.249.1024 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org