Dr. Rita DeMaria, September’s Featured Therapist
Every month, Council for Relationships highlights one of our Staff Therapists on the Expert Voices blog. Rita DeMaria, PhD, LMFT, CST was named this month’s featured Staff Therapist. Learn more about Dr. DeMaria in the quick introduction below.
How did you become a therapist?
My interest in helping people with personal problems began when I was in college. I considered being a midwife and then a genetics counselor. I enrolled in a social work course and the textbook was called ‘Helping Relationships’. I was intrigued by the ideas presented in the course, especially Family Therapy, which was new at the time. I was hooked on the idea that guiding people to talk about their needs, feeling, hopes, and expectations resulted in people feeling better about themselves and those they loved. I saw my first client in 1973 and I have been a couple, family, and sex therapist ever since.
What would you tell someone who is hesitant to try therapy?
The longest journey begins with the first step! I often tell someone this when they ask me what a session would be like, especially those who have never participated in therapy before and who fear being labeled. I tell people the first step is for me to get to know them better. Research underscores that first impressions do matter and the first session is an important one. I emphasize that knowing family background and key life experiences (good and bad) is an important part of my getting to know the individual, couple, or family. And then, we begin.
What brought you to Council for Relationships?
I first encountered Council for Relationships in 1977, which was then called Marriage Council of Philadelphia. I wanted to enroll in the Post Graduate Training Program, but the timing wasn’t right then. My attraction to the dedication, commitment, qualifications, and positive energy that I experienced in my early connections with Council led me to join as a staff clinician in 2001. During the years in between, I had experiences around the country and I came to the conclusion that there are no other organizations quite like Council.
What is the first session with you like?
The beginning of a first session is a ‘getting to know you and your questions’. An important part is providing me some family background and other unique aspects of your life. Then I want to find out what concerns are the most important for me to know, as well as other therapy experiences you have had. I especially want to know what has been helpful or not helpful if you have had any past therapy experiences. Next, I focus on where you are currently stuck or what kind of guidance you are seeking. It’s important that people leave our first meeting feeling hopeful. Some people’s lives are very complicated, so I encourage them to make a commitment to 3-5 sessions and then assess our progress together.