Introducing December’s Featured Therapist, Amy Jones
Amy Jones is a certified couples and family therapist and a licensed social worker with over 10 years of experience working with individuals, families, and communities in the Philadelphia area. After completing Council for Relationships’ Post Graduate Certificate Program in 2018, she joined our clinical staff. Learn more about Amy in the interview below!
What is your background and what brought you to Council for Relationships?
My educational and professional background is in social work. I went to Eastern University for my undergrad as a generalist social worker, and then continued to the University of Pennsylvania for a master’s in macro-focused social work practice. I joined Council for Relationships as a staff therapist in September 2018 after completing CFR’s Post Graduate Certification Program in Marriage and Family Therapy.
Prior to coming to the Council I worked for ten years at SEAMAAC, a community-based non-profit organization in South Philly that serves immigrants and refugees. I was privileged to work alongside of community leaders to address areas of oppression and to support individuals, families and communities to adapt, survive, and flourish after migrating to the United States.
About 4 years ago, I began to feel the burnout that many who work in community and social services cycle through from time to time. Being young in my career, I knew that I needed to make some changes if I wanted to sustain a career in the helping field. I began to explore what the concept of “self-care” means to me, and found that it wasn’t so much about self-indulgence, but rather about self-compassion, and filling my life with activities that supported my well-being and gave me energy and joy.
After some deep self-reflection, I realized that I am most energized in my work directly supporting individuals and families through their struggles and their own development. I experienced this joy as a supervisor and when I was involved in direct work with clients. The natural career growth in these areas was to become a therapist and I would need to expand my skills if I wanted to take my career in that direction. I heard about Council for Relationships’ professional education, and after reviewing the courses, interviewing, and beginning the program in 2014, I knew that this field and organization were a great fit for me.
What kinds of clients do you work best with?
I have worked with clients from diverse backgrounds seeking therapy for a plethora of reasons. I have seen clients from a wide range of income-levels, immigration statuses, ethnic and racial backgrounds, genders, religions, sexual orientations, and abilities. Some of the issues that I am most skilled at supporting people with include helping young people transition into adulthood, people who have experienced abusive relationships, people who are caretaking for family members, people who have experienced migration such as immigrants and refugees, and professionals who are seeking better self-care and balance. I enjoy helping couples learn to empathize, accept, and connect with each other. In general, I work with people experiencing anxiety, depression, grief/loss, traumatic experiences, and life transitions.
In general my “ideal” clients are those who are motivated to grow and invested in the process of therapy. However, sometimes folks feel pressured to attend therapy and to change by others, are skeptical of therapy for a variety of valid reasons, or don’t feel safe to trust others. Therefore, sometimes folks aren’t thrilled to be stuck in an office for an hour with a stranger. I also really enjoy working with these clients, hearing out their frustrations, and giving them the space to explore who they are and what they really need.
Every client that I have been matched with has taught me something new about the human experience, and challenged me to be more curious, ask more questions, seek out supervision, listen to more podcasts, and read more books and articles. I have learned that the more I know, the more I realize that I don’t know. I am grateful to all of my clients who have allowed me to witness a part of their lives, hold their joy and pain, and force me to keep growing and evolving as a person.
What do you consider to be the goal of therapy?
I think that Virginia Satir, often called the “Mother of Family Therapy” puts it best and simplest in her book “Peoplemaking. She developed a picture of what a “human living humanly” is like. This is “a person who understands, values, and develops his [her] body, finding it beautiful and useful; a person who is real and honest to and about himself and others; a person who is willing to take risks, to be creative, to manifest competence, to change when the situation calls for it, and to find ways to accommodate to what is new and different, keeping that part of the old that is still useful and discarding what is not.”
She also outlines the four aspects that therapy deals with in order to help with people with the problems they bring in: “the feelings and ideas one has about himself/herself (self-worth); the ways people work out to make meaning with one another (communication); the rules people use for how they should feel and act (the family system); and the ways people relate to other people and institutions outside the family (link to society).” 
For me, therapy is an opportunity learn how to work towards life goals, while also accepting the way things are, and developing compassion for self and empathy for others along this journey. I have found, that if I can help someone to know that their experiences are seen, and build up their self-esteem and self-compassion, then they will also be able to generously empathize with others in their lives, and take steps towards building a life that they desire.
What is something your clients would say about you?
My hope is that clients would say that they feel seen, that I am genuine, and that I am honored to be a witness to a part of their lives. My strength as a therapist is helping people to develop self and other-compassion, learn to value parts of themselves that they have not always liked prior to coming in, and to notice areas of their life where they have power.
What is one piece of advice you would like to give people who may be struggling emotionally and would like to seek to counsel but may not be ready?
I have found that the word “therapy” or “counseling” can be loaded with a variety of meanings and images for people. In the rural Pennsylvania community that I grew up in, the work of “therapy” was often done by parents and grandparents, faith and community leaders, teachers, and close friends. Growing up, I was blessed to have people that I could trust in my life, and who listened deeply and gave me strong guidance and encouragement. Finding quiet, relaxation or self-care may have taken the form of going for a walk in nature, reading a book in some cozy corner, fishing and camping, or playing music or sports.
Similarly, in many of the immigrant and refugee communities that I have worked with, western concepts of “therapy” are often seen through a medical lens, and as something reserved for those experiencing very severe mental health challenges. Often “therapy” in these communities takes the form of focusing on integrative mind and body practices such as watching your diet, your living environment, changes in climate, meditation, exercise, and ensuring harmony in family and relationships. Problems are usually taken to elders in the family, and to faith or community leaders if that does not work. Additionally, there are usually a lot of barriers to seeking out mental health therapy in the United States such as language, culture, transportation, and cost.
In many communities that I have been involved in there can be a stigma or “otherness” that separates those who seek mental health counseling/therapy from those who use other coping skills for life’s challenges. I think that it can be valuable to explore multiple options that people use to support well-being. I have come to value the professional skills of mental health workers. I have found that there are times in life where it can be very powerful to seek therapy to get through a tough transition, or to gain insight from a professional who has experience helping others with specific issues. There is also a lot to be said for the value of confidentiality, and of therapists being unbiased, non-judgmental, and removed from but invested in your daily life and relationships.
All that being said, I would encourage people who are curious about therapy to try it out. You can always stop, or try out a different therapist if it doesn’t seem to be a good fit. If access issues are a challenge, please ask for help.
What does a first session with you usually consist of?
I see first sessions as an introduction. It is a chance for me to get to know a new client, and a chance for new clients to see if I am a good fit for them, and to get a feel for what therapy is like. I like to get a sense of the issues that bring folks to therapy, find out what they have already tried to address these issues (what has worked and what hasn’t), get a little history of their lives and understanding of their families, and make a rough sketch of what our work together can look like.
 Satir, V. (1972). Peoplemaking. Science and Behavior Books, Inc. United States of America.