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The Short Version: Couples ready to call it quits and individuals struggling with life challenges can find strategies for positive change at Philadelphia MFT. Counselors specialize in methods to help couples overcome relationship issues and reach their goals. The practice’s four founding therapists offer new perspectives on issues that may stymie a couple who can’t see beyond their own issues. Philadelphia MFT is making waves throughout the City of Brotherly Love by offering workshops for nonclients to assist them in making healthier decisions about their relationships and their lives.
The licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs) at Philadelphia MFT have seen many couples who were headed for divorce renew their commitment to one another.
“My favorite thing is when couples start doing well after they felt like they were on the brink of divorce,” said Danielle Massi, one of Philadelphia MFT’s founding therapists. “At least five times a year, I see couples who were sure they were getting divorced, and now their relationship is working well.”
But how do these couples resolve their issues?
“Therapy is about giving people a new perspective. That’s our tagline. A new perspective on you and your relationship,” Danielle said.
Couples are not the only clients who can find solutions at Philadelphia MFT. The therapists also work with individuals, many of whom are seeking ways to change problematic behaviors and habits.
“I have one client who had a hard time getting things done,” Danielle said. “She had low motivation. Brilliant girl, but she never got to the point where she was productive. She just recently published a book. That felt like a huge success.”
Behavior modification strategies and an outsider’s perspective helped her modify her behavior. And Philadelphia MFT is focused on helping all of its clients achieve harmonious outcomes.
Graduates with a marriage and family therapist degree are highly-trained mental health professionals who bring a family-oriented perspective and treatment approach to health care related to mental, emotional, behavioral, and interpersonal disorders. Many LMFTs choose to work in community clinics for years before opening their private firms. Danielle and her partners took a different approach.
“I got the crazy idea that I wanted to go straight into private practice right after grad school,” Danielle said. “Most people go into community mental health first, but I’ve always been a go-getter.”
She recruited her fellow Thomas Jefferson University graduate students Brian Swope, Alanna Gardner, and Malyka Cardwell to round out the practice of four.
The practice has many millennial clients because the counselors can relate to young people.
“We’re all pretty young, so we cater to people in the millennial age group — 20s and 30s,” Danielle said. “We mostly get young professionals trying to find their place in the world and build their relationships with others, getting into those early stages of finding the right partner or staying with their partners.”
Each therapist has a personal style and a focus that appeals to his or her clients. Danielle describes herself as the no-nonsense one.
“I’m not the type to sugarcoat things,” she said. “The ones who like me are the ones who like to move quickly. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time.”
She calls Malyka sweet and calming with an ability to bolster her clients’ serenity. She notes that clients with anxiety often find Malyka a fit. Meanwhile Brian is a combination of Danielle’s and Malyka’s personalities. “He is a yoga teacher, so he brings an element of patience as well, but he’s also no-nonsense,” Danielle said.
Last is Alanna. “Her therapy style is like talking to your best friend. Like you’re sitting around, drinking wine, and she’s telling you, nicely, have you considered this?” Danielle said.
Philadelphia MFT specializes in helping solve problems that couples often face. The most common issue encountered in couples therapy is fighting.
“Most people think that fights are bad, but fighting means that you care, and you’re trying to figure it out,” Danielle said. “Still, most fights that couples have are not going to go away. In fact, 80 to 90% of fights repeat throughout a couple’s relationship.”
Instead of focusing on eliminating fighting, Philadelphia MFT offers couples methods for conflict resolution that they can use outside of the therapist’s office.
“We shift the fight from, ‘Fights are a problem’ to ‘They are OK, and they happen,’” Danielle said. “We alter viewpoints to help people look at their partner and understand where they’re coming from and ask, ‘Can I understand why this issue triggers them more than others?’”
Another problem area among couples is a discrepancy in intimacy levels. “It is usually discrepancies in desire,” Danielle said. “There’s a misconception that it’s men who want more sex, but desire tends to be split between males and females. That’s normal.”
Philadelphia MFT therapists are trained to address discrepancies in sexual drives because all four counselors are trained sex therapists.
But the therapists understand each couple is unique, which is why the first session always includes information gathering.
“We ask about their family life and what got them to this point,” Danielle said. “The first session includes a lot of our clients talking to us.”
Future sessions continue to be directed by things that happen in the couple’s lives.
“It might be, ‘My partner and I had a fight,’” Danielle said. “We’ll intervene in a way that wouldn’t happen if they weren’t in the office and say, ‘Let’s try it from a different angle.’ We change the direction of the way the fight will go so that our clients can make that shift at home.”
The therapists at Philadelphia MFT want to help clients make enough positive changes in their lives to feel like they won’t need therapy forever.
“I have long-term clients that I’ll see only every six months. That’s the goal. We don’t want anybody to be in therapy forever,” Danielle said. “I love my couples or individuals who just come in for check-ups.”
Despite the non-threatening atmosphere at Philadelphia MFT, the therapists know that many people find couples counseling — or individual counseling — a nerve-wracking prospect.
That’s why the counseling center holds one-time sessions in low-pressure locales to change perceptions.
“We’re running a handful of workshops to help people alter their current situations. The next one is for single women having trouble finding the right partner,” said Danielle. “It’s called Dating in the City, and it includes margaritas, tacos, and some girl talk.”
The practice also plans to offer a workshop specifically aimed at millennials.
“We help [millennials] figure out what their place is in the world as they’re growing into adulthood. That’s a typical millennial problem: I’m at the point where I’m in adulthood. Help.” — Danielle Massi, Philadelphia MFT Founding Therapist
“We’re running another one in the fall, Adulting 101,” Danielle said. “People ages 25 to 30 come in, and they don’t know how to do things that would have been no-brainers to their parents at this age.”
The need for this workshop arose from issues the therapists saw in their younger clients.
“We help them figure out what their place is in the world as they’re growing into adulthood,” Danielle said. “That’s a typical millennial problem: I’m at the point where I’m in adulthood. Help.”
The therapists also run a Premarital Bootcamp that helps engaged couples solidify their decision — before they hit the chapel. These one-time sessions are designed to demystify therapy — and indeed, make it enjoyable — so clients recognize they don’t have to have anxiety while addressing their mental health.
Philadelphia MFT offers therapy for the modern age. The practice doesn’t give clients direction in life, but rather helps them bring what they already know about themselves to the surface.
“Most people come in knowing what they want. At the same time, having someone who has no stake in your relationship giving an alternate view can be life-changing,” Danielle said. “You’re the expert in your life. Let us guide you in a better direction to where you want to go.”
Danielle and her colleagues are happy that they wasted no time going into private practice because it lets them accomplish their goals of helping others.
“We want people to feel like their lives and their relationships have meaning. It’s everything,” Danielle said.