The best class I ever took in college was called Narrative as Autobiography: Construction of Self. We read an autobiography each week, learning about different women as they grew into their lives. I read stories of women trying to fit themselves into socially constructed roles and those of women who were trying to break free. There was one woman who created sanctuary out of ruins, and another who wove her life story with folktales, blending myth and reality, which helped her to create a new place she called home. While I was not conscious of it at the time, I realize now, looking back, that this is where the seeds were planted. This is when I began to appreciate the power and sanctity of stories.
Many of the stories I read then, and those I have had the privilege of hearing over my years of being a therapist, I carry with me still. They have informed how I think about courage, how I think about resilience, how I think about the human condition, and most importantly, how I see people growing toward the sun.
I studied psychology in college because I wanted to learn more about the human experience. I wanted to understand how people grow into who they become and where resilience is born. After college, I worked for a few years in a psychiatric hospital in Boston, the city where I was born and raised. I saw how much people are shaped and impacted by the larger world around them. I started to recognize the multitude of messages that we all internalize, both consciously and unconsciously, and how these messages impact beliefs about who does and does not have value in this world.
Developing this perspective is what drew me to graduate studies in social work. Two tenants that are central in both psychology and social work are social justice and the importance of human relationships. These are the heart of my work.
When I try to articulate how I think about the essence of therapy, what comes to mind is Nina Simone and her song, I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free, because she sings with such heart and soul about the ways we imprison ourselves and our deep longing to be known. I also think of the song Crowded Table by the Highwomen because of the ways they come together to sing an important truth, that “everyone’s a little broken and everyone belongs.”
I have been informed by a variety of things in my life. My own growing up and the struggles I had - insecurities and self-doubt, the uncertainty about having thoughts and ideas that were different from the people around me; not knowing if it was okay, both literally and metaphorically, to take up space in this world. Being in my own therapy over the years has helped me to discover that within the context of genuine connection, healing is possible.
And then I had children of my own, and I felt another level of commitment to help these little beings grow and bloom into whoever they were meant to be.
Therapy is the work of understanding and repair. In the process of therapy, as we become more aware of our own thoughts, feelings, values, and beliefs, we move towards a greater sense of wholeness. The process of therapy involves creating a safe harbor in which together we can grow to better understand the sources of our disconnections, and welcome back the parts of ourselves that got lost along the way.
Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”. I am interested in the stories we speak, as well as the ones we silence. I am interested in the stories we tell ourselves, and how they have come to be. I am interested in the stories that no longer serve us, but have become so familiar that it is hard to get our bearings without them. In my work I have the privilege of being able to help others to listen, to know, to better understand the stories they carry.
As a therapist my hope is that together we will work to better understand the stories that you carry - how have they come to be and do they serve you well? I know it can be terrifying to let go of what has become familiar, though I also know how beautiful it can be, when we are able to grow into new spaces, into new ways of being in the world.
Your voice, and all that it contains, matters. The quality of listening matters too, which I hope to do with attention, compassion, and care.
It will be a privilege to be part of your journey.
Elizabeth Burstein is a licensed independent social worker with 24 years of experience serving children, teens, adults, and families. She completed her graduate degree at the University of Cincinnati, and interned at Pressley Ridge, community based in-home services and therapeutic foster care, where she worked for several years. She then joined the Department of Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, where she was an outpatient therapist for the past 19 years.
Elizabeth loves learning, and it is something she has continued to actively pursue throughout her professional career. She completed the Advanced Psychotherapy Program and the Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Program, both at the Cincinnati Center for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. She also trained at Fernside Center for Grieving Children, where she led therapy groups for children who experienced the death of a sibling or parent.
Elizabeth is certified in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and has extensive training in working with people who are struggling with eating disorders. She provides trauma-informed care, and integrates a range of treatment modalities when working with individuals and families, including relational-cultural, cognitive behavioral, insight-oriented, and practices of mindfulness.
Elizabeth is presently participating in Anti-Oppression Informed Practice through the National Association of Social Workers. She is deeply committed to racial and social justice and creating healing spaces for people who are often marginalized due to race, gender, sexual orientation, and identity.
Elizabeth had the privilege of co-writing, directing, and producing a therapeutic play called, Reflections: A Drama Depicting the Challenges that Come with Disordered Eating. This play was performed in a variety of different settings, as well as at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival.
Elizabeth believes deeply in the power of listening – of helping others to feel seen and known.
- in creating wider circles
- in the women who came before us
- that through our struggles we find our strength
- if our bodies are war grounds, we cannot be at peace
- we are all worthy of love and belonging
- there is nothing more beautiful than a person being themselves
- being vulnerable is courageous
- one of our greatest freedoms is how we respond to things
- sometimes just getting up and carrying on is brave and magnificent
- that music and poetry can be rafts
- your story matters
- everyone deserves to get a standing ovation, at least once in their life
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