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  • Writer's pictureBright Light Counseling Center

Beyond the Clinical: A Look at Our Therapists In and Out of Session: Dawson

Sometimes it can feel like a mystery when searching for a therapist.

You read and scroll all of the websites, profiles, and clinical information, but you don’t usually get to hear from the therapist in their own words.

Bright Light Counseling Center decided to lift the veil and introduce our therapists, in their own words. Learn more about them both personally and professionally.

This month we are interviewing Dawson Stanley, MS, LPC, NCC Dawson is a counselor in our Austin, TX office. He provides therapy in person as well as online to residents of Texas.

(Nancy): What do you like to do in your free time/for fun?

(Dawson): I like to read, go to the movies, go try a new restaurant, get outside, and spend time with friends.

(Nancy): Are you currently binge watching any shows?

(Dawson): I recently finished binge watching The Bear. I’m currently looking for a new show to watch.

(Nancy): What music is on your playlist?

(Dawson): I have a habit of replaying the same music over and over until I get tired of it, but I eventually come back to it. Currently, I’m listening to Tame Impala, which never gets old to me, and Greta Van Fleet.

open book on table in the library

(Nancy): Are you currently reading any books?

(Dawson): Yes! I really like to read, so I usually always have a book in rotation. I recently finished reading Sphere by Michael Crichton. I’m currently reading The Croning by Laird Barron.

(Nancy): What is your favorite dish to eat?

(Dawson): That is a good question. My favorite is probably filet mignon with mashed potatoes and asparagus, but this is an occasional dish for me. On a typical day, I enjoy tacos or sushi, if I am going out to eat somewhere.

(Nancy): Where is one place you would like to travel to and why?

Banff National Park by Rebecca Hembree

(Dawson): I really want to go to Banff National Park in Canada. I love the mountains and based on the pictures I have seen it looks absolutely breathtaking. I visited Vancouver and Whistler a few years ago, and I just loved the scenery there. I know Banff National Park is not even in the same providence, but it’s the closest to it I’ve experienced.

(Nancy): What helps you to relax and calm your mind??

(Dawson): I would say sitting outside and unplugging for a bit. I try to sit there and just enjoy the breeze and nature sounds. If not that, then probably getting sucked into a really good book.

(Nancy): What is your ideal way to spend a day off?

Austin Howdy Mural by Florence Jones

(Dawson): Sleeping in, going to a coffee shop, exploring different parts of the city, going out to a new restaurant for dinner, and somehow incorporating friends or family into this.

(Nancy): What is your favorite place?

(Dawson): I would say the mountains. Is that too generic? I’ve been to Colorado a few times and the Pacific Northwest, as well. I am just in awe by the size of mountains and the greenery that surrounds them.

path through the mountains

(Nancy): What was your first job?

(Dawson): I was a lifeguard! I worked at Great Wolf Lodge (the indoor waterpark) for a year or two in high school.

(Nancy): What made you choose counseling as a career?

(Dawson): I knew I wanted to pursue psychology to some degree after my undergraduate degree, but I did not know what route to take to further my education. I started working at an outpatient community mental health clinic, and some of my coworkers were LPCs or going to school for that license. They were able to give me good insight into what pursuing a master’s degree in counseling looks like. I realized after working there for a bit my natural curiosities and who I am as a person aligned well with the counseling track and gravitated me toward pursuing counseling.

I want to make sure my clients feel hopeful and understand I am patient and cheering them on through the process.

(Nancy): What do you enjoy most about being a therapist?

(Dawson): I really enjoy getting to form relationships with my clients. I think therapy is such a unique slice of life where clients invite us in and let us authentically know them. I like being alongside someone through their ups and downs and encouraging them along the way.

calm waters

(Nancy): What do you think makes you stand out as a therapist?

(Dawson): I like to think I have a very calm demeanor. As therapists, we are called to create a warm, safe space. I think I am able to create this naturally since I am pretty easy-going, and I help people to feel relaxed.

(Nancy): What is your specialty or niche? And why?

(Dawson): This is a tough question since I am still narrowing that down. That is part of the beauty of being a therapist: there are so many different ways to learn and grow to find out what you like and do not like. Personally, I would say my niche is depression among young adults and the ways it manifests in their social lives. For example, how they relate to themselves, others, and the world. I really like helping people find security in who they are.

man sitting on therapy couch

(Nancy): What would you want someone who has never been to therapy to know about therapy?

(Dawson): I would want them to know it is a safe, non-judgmental space where you can talk about anything and everything with someone who does not know you. It can be such a relief talking to someone who has no preconceived notions about you, and this outside, unbiased perspective can really help to shed light on alternative perspectives.

(Nancy): What is rewarding about working with your clients?

(Dawson): I would say establishing the therapeutic bond. There is something so unique about the therapeutic relationship, and it is rewarding reaching that state of trust, authenticity, and collaboration with another person. Once a therapeutic bond has been established is when, I believe, real work can be accomplished.

(Nancy): What have you felt most challenged by as a therapist?

(Dawson): I would say having to routinely check my biases, values, and beliefs. It is easy to assume as a therapist that we know what is best for the client. We try our best as therapists to separate ourselves from our biases/values/beliefs to ultimately put ourselves in our client’s position, but it takes conscious effort at times to remind myself of this.

person of color holding a rock that says hope by Ronak Valobobhai

(Nancy): What makes being a therapist worthwhile?

(Dawson): Instilling hope in my clients, for sure. It takes a lot of strength and self surrendering to recognize “I need help and I can’t do this alone.” Therapy is a marathon, not a sprint, so I recognize from my standpoint as the therapist that change may be slow and uncertain. Ultimately, I want to make sure my clients feel hopeful and understand I am patient and cheering them on through the process. Recognizing the hope and trust that has been instilled in the therapy process definitely makes being a therapist worthwhile.

(Nancy): How have current events impacted how you approach therapy?

(Dawson): I have observed in the times we are in a collective search for meaning, direction, and intimacy. That is to say, I think people are feeling lost and uncertain, and people are yearning for connection with other people. The times we are in appear to try to pit us against each other based on differences when, ultimately, we must look to our strengths and commonalities as collective humanity to work together for the common good.

social media logos

(Nancy): How do you feel about technology and its impact on therapy?

(Dawson): Technology definitely has its pros and cons when it comes to therapy. For example, telehealth, I believe, has allowed for greater flexibility in people being able to attend therapy in their busy schedules and from the comfort of their home. Also, telehealth has allowed people in more rural areas with minimal resources to access mental health care. However, I have noticed a rise in pop-psychology on social media, like TikTok or Instagram, in which people appear to self-diagnose and gain a false understanding of their mental health concerns or mental health in general, based on misleading information. Information about mental health concerns and diagnoses from social media is no replacement for proper psychiatric evaluation and therapy with a trained, licensed professional.

I routinely check my biases, values, and beliefs. It is easy to assume as a therapist that we know what is best for the client.

(Nancy): What is one common misconception about therapy that you would change, if you could? Why?

(Dawson): I would say one misconception is that therapy is meant to provide immediate relief. I do believe when clients initially reach out and come for therapy, they are often in some sort of crisis of varying degrees, and the initial few sessions can help alleviate the immediate symptoms. However, therapy is helpful to process these concerns, once the crisis is resolved and the client is de-escalated, and that can take time. If a client were to only come to therapy when emotions are high and the problem is heightened, then the client would miss out on processing through root causes of problems or repeated patterns. Once the client is more stable and with a clearer head, therapy can be helpful to ultimately prevent or be better prepared for when another crisis presents itself.

To learn more about Dawson, click here.


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