Featured Therapist for April, Sonja Spangler
Every month, Council for Relationships features one of our staff therapists. This month’s Featured Therapist is Sonja Spangler, LSW. Learn more about her in the below interview!
What makes you unique as a therapist and as a person?
A quality of mine that I find unique is my sense of wonder. I have always been insatiably curious, which has led me on many adventures both internally and externally. Internally, my wonder shows itself through introspection. Always exploring the seemingly endless realms of my mind and how it works, why I do the things that I do, and what it all means. Externally, my wonder has shown itself through seeking new experiences – traveling the world, making connections with people, and taking risks. In the therapeutic space, I will always receive what my clients are saying with a sense of genuine curiosity rather than judgment. To encourage that sense of wonder in one’s own mind is one thing I strive to achieve with my clients. The more curious and compassionate we are towards our thoughts and feelings, the more positive change we can make with our self-awareness.
What do you consider to be the goal of therapy? How do you help your clients achieve their goals?
My belief is that the seed of change lies in self-acceptance. My supervisor once told me, “You can’t change without first accepting what is.” Often, we become fixated on the difficult task of trying to change some aspect of ourselves that we don’t like, which only leads to frustration and disappointment. Instead of focusing our energy on what’s wrong, how would things change if we worked with what we already have? I help my clients cultivate self-acceptance using mindfulness skills related to nonjudgment and compassion. I also use perspective-taking strategies to help my clients see themselves from a higher and more holistic point of view. Developing a better relationship to our pain can help soften its blow. Learning how to identify and use our own internal resources towards that end is not only empowering, but it helps life feel a little lighter.
Describe a specific tool or exercise that you share with your clients.
One exercise that I share with most of my clients is to identify their values. I will provide a long list of potential values (such as authenticity, freedom, and intimacy), the client will select the top five values that most deeply resonate with them, and then will write down how they define each value and why it is important to them. I do this exercise with my clients because I think it is deeply important to know what drives you. Knowing your values can be the foundation from which you make decisions or understand your behaviors. If you are experiencing doubt, you can always come back to the question: Is this in alignment with my values? Because you do not have control over the outcome of things, acting in accordance with your values can help you stay grounded in the process of getting there.
Why did you decide to become a therapist?
It is such an honor to be a therapist. It is a beautiful experience to have a space where you can let down your walls and be accepted for that raw version of yourself, and I am consistently grateful to my clients for having the courage to be vulnerable with me in session. I decided to become a therapist because I have an appreciation for the process of healing and how complicated it can be. I find genuine fulfillment in facilitating that process for others while building a trusting connection and a safe space. I love to empower my clients to be the best versions of themselves. In doing so, we can create a ripple effect outwards and make positive change in the world.
Sonja Spangler, LSW is a Staff Therapist at our Exton, Paoli, and University City Offices; she currently sees clients via online therapy. To set-up an appointment, you can reach her at email@example.com or 215-382-6680 ext. 7021.