Fern Plant

Areas of Expertise

OCD and Related Disorders

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety-based disorder characterized by recurring, unwanted thoughts that result in anxiety, and associated behaviors (e.g., repetitive or ritualistic behaviors, avoidance) that are intended to reduce anxiety or other discomfort. 

Exposure with Response Prevention (ERP) is highly effective in treating OCD and is the gold standard therapeutic approach for the disorder. ERP is a challenging treatment, and the effectiveness is enhanced by ensuring that the core fear is addressed and that the treatment is carried out within a strong therapeutic relationship that emphasizes collaboration. 

In addition to years of experience treating patients with OCD in residential, intensive outpatient, and outpatient treatment settings, I am also one of a handful of psychologists in the United States certified in the Bergen 4-Day Treatment for OCD, a condensed exposure-based treatment well-established in Norway, Iceland, and Sweden.  

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is a natural and adaptive human experience, but as many as 1 in 5 individuals will experience anxiety that interferes with work, school, relationships, or life satisfaction in a given year. How one responds or relates to their anxiety can contribute to the development and maintenance of anxiety disorders, and this is what is targeted in anxiety disorder treatment. Excessive worry, recurring panic attacks, and debilitating fear in social situations are some of the reasons individuals seek therapeutic support. Common anxiety disorders include:    

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder

  • Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia

  • Social Anxiety Disorder 

  • Specific Phobias

​The good news is that anxiety disorders are highly treatable! As someone who has dedicated my academic and professional career to understanding and treating anxiety disorders, I have had the privilege of walking along side hundreds of individuals as they seek and find freer life.  

Trauma and PTSD

Most people will experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, but with time, the support of family and friends, and emotional processing, a vast majority of individuals will recover without formal therapy. However, for a variety of reasons (e.g., avoidance and numbing that inhibits emotional processing, inadequate social support), some individuals become "stuck," as the natural process of recovery is blocked. 

Fortunately, there are effective treatments for trauma and PTSD. Extensive research on both Prolonged Exposure (PE) and Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) supports the effectiveness of these approaches. I was highly trained in these methods while working with military veterans, treating both combat and non-combat related trauma. In addition to these treatments, I have training and experience in non-trauma-focused approaches that are often used in conjunction with or as a precursor to trauma-focused therapy.   

Grief Counseling

Grief is a universal experience; it is the response to loss that each person will face in his or her lifetime. Over time, with the support of other loved ones, and as a result of emotional processing, grief changes. It becomes less acute and the person grieving is able to rebuild a life that is different, but meaningful, despite significant loss. Grief is considered "complicated" when the natural healing process is blocked. Similar to the blocked recovery process exhibited in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Complicated Grief is also a disorder of non-recovery and affects 2-3% of the population.

While there are many helpful resources for grief, Complicated Grief can be effectively addressed with Complicated Grief Therapy. This approach aids individuals in moving through the pain of loss with a focus on emotional processing and rebuilding a meaningful life.  

My Approach

Evidence-Based Therapy
One of the most rewarding aspects of treating anxiety-based disorders is the effectiveness of the treatments. My primary treatment modality is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which emphasizes changing the way we relate to our thoughts and emotions so that we can more effectively relate to others and the world around us. Well over 100 randomized controlled trials support of the effectiveness of this approach for treating numerous afflictions, including anxiety disorders, OCD, PTSD, depression, and substance use disorders. My clinical experience supports this as a robust approach that patients find highly engaging. Within the broader context of an acceptance-based approach, I incorporate Exposure Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, and Self Compassion, in which I am highly trained and have significant experience. 
Person Centered
 
The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change. People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don't find myself saying, "Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner." I don't try to control a sunset. - Carl Rogers
My therapeutic style is largely guided by the work of psychologist Carl Rogers, who emphasized the importance of the therapeutic relationship and unconditional positive regard as a mechanism for change. I believe one of my strengths as a therapist is my ability to hold another's humanness paramount in our work together.
  
Emotion Focused
The complexity of our mental and emotional experiences makes us uniquely human. As humans we have the ability to feel the highs of love, joy, and excitement as well as the painful depths of grief, sadness, and fear--and dozens of others in between. Teaching individuals "how to feel" or how to relate more effectively to their emotional experience is paramount to my work as a therapist.  
Collaborative and Compassionate
Behavior change is inherent in the treatment of anxiety-based disorders. By the time someone seeks treatment for anxiety, they are often bothered by the myriad ways they respond when feeling anxious (e.g., avoidance, rituals, safety behaviors), and the work of therapy is to help individuals make changes that lead to greater life satisfaction. One reality that must be addressed is that change is hard!! Collaboration, compassion--including helping individuals learn to be more kind and gentle toward their imperfections, even as they relate to treatment--are key to effective behavior change. 
Developing Insight, Cultivating Meaning
 
While many seek treatment for specific ailments (see Areas of Expertise), others hope to gain understanding into relationships and patterns of behavior. While I have specific expertise in treating anxiety-based disorders, as a Clinical Psychologist, I am also broadly skilled in helping individuals develop insight that can lead to behavior change and/or increased life satisfaction. Additionally, some individuals seek therapy with the hope of developing a sense of purpose, meaning, or fulfillment in life. This too is the work of a psychologist, and walking along side as someone explores, develops, and deepens their sense of purpose is a privilege of this work. 
 

© 2020 by Angela Smith, Ph.D.

4545 Post Oak Place Dr., Suite 349

Houston, TX 77027

281-720-8972