Meet Michelle Petersen, BA, Graduate Counseling Intern
How I can help:
As an Emotionally Focused Therapist, I work with individuals and couples with a wide range of backgrounds and challenges, but I have particular strengths in working with:
- Highly Sensitive People: If you feel your emotions strongly, it can be overwhelming at times, especially when others experience you as “too much” or “overly sensitive.” Counseling with me has space for all of your big emotions to be felt and expressed. Being highly sensitive can be a strength and a wealth of information about your values, desires, and needs. We can work together to sit with your emotions and learn what they’re trying to express. We can turn big feelings into big insights, giving you a greater understanding of yourself and your relationships.
- People Who Live in Their Head, Rather than Their Feelings: Feeling and expressing your emotions without being overwhelmed by them is a skill that takes time and practice to build. Whether because of a difficult childhood or growing up in a family that repressed rather than expressed emotions, not all of us were able to learn how to feel and communicate our feelings early in life. If you find it difficult to know how you’re feeling and what to do about it, if your loved ones describe you as an intellectual rather than a feeler, I would be excited to work with you. We can help you practice feeling your emotions in your body and spirit, as well as authentically describing how you feel to others. We can work together to give you newfound emotional knowledge about what you want, need, and value.
- Couples with Different Communication Styles: Relationships require us to communicate about so many things: our needs, boundaries, fears, and hopes for the future, among many other things. It can be difficult to navigate life’s daily hurdles and find time to communicate honestly and tenderly with our partners. If you and your partner(s) accidentally hurt each other’s feelings or don’t feel fully understood when communicating, counseling with me can help you build healthier patterns of relating to each other. We can work together to explore how each of you tends to communicate, versus how you need information to be communicated to you. We can explore the emotions that arise when communication gets off track, and work to help you each feel heard and appreciated. Together, we will make sense of your Attachment Styles and how they influence your responses to each other.
- Couples Navigating Cultural Differences: Any relationship between two or more people is bound to feature cultural differences: different experiences of race, queerness, gender, religion, immigration, discrimination, and more. It can be hard to find the words to explain how our backgrounds inform the way we think, act, and need to be cared for. If you and your partner(s) love each other, but worry about being too different, I would love to help you explore and navigate your differences and commonalities. We can work together to find the roots of the distance or difference between you, help you each feel more understood, and explore ways to bridge gaps and create more closeness.
My Counseling Style
- Letting your emotions be felt: When an experience is difficult or overwhelming, it’s easy to jump past our feelings and shift straight into intellectualizing. I encourage my clients to take time to actively feel the emotions coming up for them during sessions, because I believe our emotions communicate valuable information to us. Only when we pause to pay attention to our feelings are we able to learn from them. I invite my clients to participate in exercises that help us slow down, connect to emotions, and reflect on what they mean.
- Your past informs your present: Sometimes what we’re experiencing today is influenced by what we experienced in the past. Building a deeper understanding of your present may require reflecting on your childhood, past romantic relationships, and other past experiences. In counseling with me, we’ll use our exploration of the past to provide new insight into present-day emotions and relationship dynamics. Only once we identify a pattern or influence from your past can we help you make a conscious decision about changing or maintaining that pattern.
- You define the pace and direction: Different people need to approach counseling differently. I’m there to lend my expertise, but it’s your mission of self-discovery and healing, so you set the pace and direction of our sessions. I will suggest exercises and frameworks we can try to work toward your goals, but I encourage my clients to vocalize their needs and preferences, because it allows us to use our time together more effectively.
A Bit More About Michelle Petersen
I am a thoughtful, curious person who both loves to laugh and have a good cry. I feel happiest while enjoying late night conversation over a home-cooked meal with loved ones, but I feel most grounded while on a solo day hike in the mountains. I strive for balance in my life, making space for both productivity and rest, aloneness and connection, and newness and comfort.
I am LGBTQIA+ Affirming, and it is extremely important to me to offer a safe, non-judgmental space to clients of all identities.
I previously worked in social work and am an active anti-racism and anti-poverty community organizer. That background informs my work with clients on systemic barriers to wellness and the roles of community and advocacy in personal healing.
I received my BA from Brown University and am pursuing my MA in Counseling from Northwestern University while based in Denver, Colorado. I am a trained Emotionally Focused Therapist (EFT) who believes our values are important to the work we do in counseling. My work is influenced by my own feminism, queerness, and anti-racism, but I encourage clients to define and pursue their own values, whether they are different from or similar to mine.