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Counseling Individuals Through a Social Justice Lens

January 20, 2023

Amy Mauro

JP Posnak, LMHC knew that they wanted to become a therapist when they started going to therapy at 13.

Originally from Miami, Florida, JP earned their master’s degree in Couples and Family Counseling from University of Colorado Denver to become a mental health professional. They specialize in clinical work with LGBTQ+ youth and adults.

JP embarked on their social work journey wanting to support LGBTQ+ youth and adults experiencing mental health and life challenges. Their education, training, and passion for social justice has led them to working in a variety of different mental health spaces, including in-home, crisis, and community settings. 

Their systems-theory background, with a concentration in family and couples counseling, attunes them to the impact the systems within which we live have on individuals. They utilize an attachment lens to help clients understand, and become intentional with their patterns of communication, and behaviors.

JP specializes in clinical work with LGBTQ+ youth and adults. They identify as trans/non-binary and use they/them pronouns. 

We sat down with JP to learn more about their background in the field and their therapeutic approach.

What inspired you to work in the mental health field?

It seemed like such a cool job to be a therapist: to create a space for people to feel supported, and be self reflective.

A series of odd jobs after college led me to an administrative assistant position at an organization that provided counseling services to college students. Working closely with counselors reminded me of my passion for helping people in the mental health field. 

I decided to pursue my masters degree in Couples and Family Counseling at the University of Colorado Denver. Their concentration on social justice, and couples and families counseling really appealed to me.

Can you describe your experiences in the mental health field?

My practicum at University of Colorado Denver involved a supervised counseling experience in the Student and Community Counseling Center on campus. I practiced mental health counseling with students with live supervision and ongoing feedback from licensed clinicians. I really enjoyed the work, and it prepared me for providing equity focused and culturally informed counseling.

After earning my master’s degree in couples and family counseling, my partner and I decided to move to Boston, Massachusetts. She was studying to become a Nurse Practitioner at Simmons University. I started working at Wayside Youth and Family Support Network in Framingham. There, I was providing support to children, teenagers, young adults, and families struggling with mental and behavioral health issues.

Can you talk about your experiences providing support for the LGBTQ+ community?

I’ve been supporting members of the LGBTQ+ community for a long time. 

I worked closely with the PrideSide team at Wayside Youth and Family Support Network to offer robust support for LGBTQ+ youth and families struggling with mental, emotional, and behavioral health issues. I advocated for equity in the workplace, and helped the organization adopt trans inclusive practices and procedures. 

I also started and ran several support groups for LGBTQ+ youth and young adults within the organization.

What is your therapeutic philosophy and approach to working with clients?

I’m a person-centered therapist.  

I strongly believe in following the client’s lead. I’ll safely guide the client through feelings or thoughts that come up during the session. With the client’s consent, I’ll integrate coping skills that will help the client gain greater awareness of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. 

My background is in systems theory, with a concentration in couples and family counseling, so I’m attuned to the impact the systems within which we live have on individuals; whether it’s systems of our relationships, our families, or our society. 

I utilize attachment theory, both childhood and adult attachment, to help clients understand how their attachment style shapes their current relationship. I really enjoy talking to clients about their relationships, and patterns of communication.

I’m somewhat psychodynamically oriented. I’m curious about early childhood experiences, including relationships with caregivers, and how those shape current relationships. 

I also received training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy, an approach developed by Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman which strives to help couples achieve a deeper sense of understanding, awareness, empathy, and connectedness within their relationship.

I’ll often refer to and suggest the book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert by John Gottman and Nan Silver. The book is enjoyable and worthwhile whether you’re in a healthy relationship that you want to strengthen, are dealing with relationship struggles, or are single and want to be prepared.

How do you create a strong therapeutic relationship with your clients?

I’m always clear from the beginning about policies, practices, and confidentialities. I like to let the client know that all questions are optional. I encourage clients to tell me if they’re ever feeling uncomfortable or want to take a pause or break during the session. 

I also encourage clients to bring their feelings into the session. I think it’s really fruitful and productive to talk about a client’s feelings in the here and now. If I sense that the client is feeling uncomfortable, I’ll create space for them to process their feelings with me.

What mental health challenges do you specialize in treating?

I specialize in LGBTQ+ therapy for youth and adults. I offer therapy for individuals experiencing a wide range of life challenges including: 

What is your favorite part of your job?

It’s really fulfilling to see clients experience an aha moment after we’ve been working together through a situation, or talking about something for a while. When the client tries something new in their life that brings positive change, it’s really rewarding.

I also feel very touched when clients feel safe to share vulnerability with me.

What do you like about living and working in Massachusetts?

In comparison to other states, Massachusetts has really great access to mental health care and insurance. There are a ton of mental health care providers within Massachusetts. I can reference clients to support services within the state when necessary.

I really enjoy experiencing all four seasons in New England. I also have family and friends living in Massachusetts, which I feel grateful for.

The take-away

If you are seeking treatment for a mental health condition or navigating through life challenges, our providers are here for you!

We serve the entire Massachusetts community with our offices in Amherst, Franklin, West Springfield, and Wilbraham Massachusetts. We also offer online teletherapy services to accommodate your schedule and preferences. 

To begin your mental health journey, contact us today at (413) 343-4357.

About The Author

Nettie Hoagland Headshot

Nettie Hoagland is a writer with experience in local news reporting, nonprofit communications, and community development. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in Media Studies, Journalism, and Digital Arts from Saint Michael’s College in Vermont. Nettie believes in the healing power of the arts to create connection and community. She is passionate about using writing as an instrument for personal and social growth in the field of mental health. She is currently based in Brooklyn, NY.

JP Posnak, LMHC Headshot

JP is person-centered and social-justice oriented. They utilize an attachment lens and always incorporate a family-systems perspective, whether working with individuals, couples, or groups. JP identifies as trans/non-binary and specializes in clinical work with LGBTQ+ youth and adults.