Partnering with clients to create lives they love through individual therapy (including CPT for PTSD), couples counseling, Discernment Counseling, and divorce services.
Erica Blystone, LCSW
I graduated from UVA with a BA in Psychology and received my master's at UNC-Chapel Hill's School of Social Work. I'm married and have two young children. I've been practicing therapy for over 20 years with a variety of people with regard to age, life stage, diagnosis, cultural background, sexual orientation, gender identification, economic background, and legal and medical circumstances. The longer I'm in this field the more fascinated I am with how people work, how relationship dynamics develop and morph, and how important it is to know our own value and trust our resilience. And how, by moving through life with intentionality, we can become who we want to be and create a life we love. It's the "intentionality" part we sometimes need help with. That's where effective therapy comes in. Read more about it here.
I work with adults in individual therapy, couples counseling, Discernment Counseling, and several divorce services.
I provide CPT (Cognitive Processing Therapy) for PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder).
Read on to learn about my specialties and how I approach our work. When you're ready, come in and tell me about you.
Individual Therapy - When it's time to work on yourself
The past two decades of partnering with people in times of struggle have shown me that we often underestimate our own resilience. It results in a fear of "not enough": resources (time, money), self (intelligence, love), or others (trustworthiness, respect). This scarcity focus leads to worry, anger, depression, low self-esteem, suspicion, loneliness, guilt, frustration, resentment, shame, bitterness, malaise, contempt, panic... all the emotions we try so hard to avoid. Through compassion, support, and psychoeducation I help people develop insights, learn skills, and intentionally use both acceptance and change to become the person they want to be. My blend of insight-oriented, cognitive-behavioral therapy allows us as a team to dig deep to figure out what your beliefs are about yourself and the world, notice how these beliefs affect your life, and find the right balance of change and acceptance to believe what is true and move through life congruent with your values.
People who see me for individual therapy come for a variety of reasons: depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, grief and loss, ADHD, personality issues, self-esteem/self-concept problems, relationship concerns, sex and gender issues, support and guidance with parenting children from toddlerhood to adulthood, fertility/pregnancy/post-partum issues, trauma, stress management/work-life balance, increasing baseline happiness, and growth work. I do not see clients for addiction or eating disorder treatment as those issues require expertise I do not have.
I frequently use concepts and skills from Marsha Linehan's Dialectical Behavior Therapy and am influenced by the work of Dr. Brene Brown. I have been trained in Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) for PTSD, an evidence-based treatment protocol that is time-limited and does not include recounting the traumatic event.
Cognitive Processing Therapy - An empirically-validated therapy for PTSD
Many people avoid getting treatment for their post-traumatic stress (PTSD) because the mere thought of reviewing the terrifying and shameful details of the trauma is intolerable. I used to avoid treating PTSD because rehashing traumatic details ad nauseum was counterintuitive to me and I didn't find much benefit in it. Then I learned about Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) and everything clicked. CPT is an evidence-based therapy proven to be extremely effective for PTSD. It is strongly recommended by the APA and is used by the VA. CPT is time-limited (typically 8-15 sessions) and does not require sharing the details of the trauma, which is generally unhelpful and can be retraumatizing. The key to healing PTSD lies not in discussing details of the event but in understanding how the trauma changed/amplified your beliefs about yourself and the world, noticing how those inaccurate/unhealthy beliefs negatively affect your everyday functioning and mood. CPT relies heavily on daily homework to change the way you think (which changes the way you feel, behave, and believe) because practicing something is what develops neuronal connections so a new way of doing or thinking goes from intentional to natural (much like learning to drive a car. Once you have done it many times you automatically do it without having to think very hard). Once I found CPT I got officially trained by the protocol developer and now I love treating trauma. Because this actually works if you do the work.
Discernment Counseling - When one is Leaning In and the other Leaning Out
In Discernment Counseling I help couples who are struggling in their decision about whether or not to get a divorce. Discernment Counseling was created because 30% of couples who start couples counseling are a "mixed agenda" couple, where one person is "leaning out" and unable to fully invest in couples counseling (perhaps considering divorce), and the other person is "leaning in" and wanting to save the marriage. Couples counseling will be effective only if both people are leaning in, ready to do hard work. In Discernment Counseling the goal is to get clarity and confidence about which path to take (stay in the marriage as it is, pursue divorce, or wholeheartedly agree to 6 months of couples counseling) based on a better understanding of one's own contribution to the problems in the marriage. This course of treatment is time-limited (up to 8 sessions), and structured to help each person do their work individually to allow for quicker, deeper insights, while keeping their partner in the loop about where they are with their decision. I am a certified Discernment Counselor through the Doherty Relationship Institute (developer of this protocol). This is an interview I did explaining Discernment Counseling. Click here for more information.
Couples Counseling - When both are eager to make the relationship work
I am intrigued by the dynamic connection that exists within a couple, the problems couples often face, and a couple’s resilience. As a neutral party I create a safe space in session for people to be their vulnerable, authentic selves. I strive to get to know all three clients well (each person and the relationship) while helping the couple make change starting Day 1. My overall goal is to teach a couple how to always be on the team: have effective conflict without fighting, enjoy each other more, and experience deeper intimacy. Together, we explore the relationship's strengths and areas for work. Through meaningful sessions and purposeful home assignments couples learn how to cultivate better understanding and appreciation for each other, develop insights and skills to build individual and joint resilience so it's easier to stay on the team during conflict, and strengthen a sense of connectedness and friendship so there is a strong positive foundation for when things get hard. Each session touches not just on content (the what) but on process (the how), allowing clients to apply what they've learned to anything that comes up at home.
I work with couples of any age, stage, culture, background, orientation, sex, and gender. I am trained through Level 2 in the Gottman Method and use that approach to strengthen conflict management and communication skills; enhance various types of intimacy; increase respect, admiration, and acceptance; create shared meaning and a shared life vision; deal with mental health issues in the context of the relationship; and heal from infidelity and other crises. I work with couples navigating transitions in life such as the birth of a child, career changes, moving, family crises, remarrying and blending families, launching a child, retirement, and unilateral self-discovery that can sometimes throw a relationship off course.
Divorce Services - A variety of services to help you divorce in a healthy way
I was moved to specialize in separation and divorce by my desire to decrease the potential for a negative outcome for the children involved. Divorce doesn’t have to be a devastating event in a child’s life. Studies show that the two factors contributing most to a positive outcome for children in divorce is low parental conflict and a strong, healthy attachment to each parent. As a neutral divorce professional I help parents anywhere on the continuum from amicable to high-conflict navigate this often difficult period. For several years I worked as a Parenting Coordinator for NC Family Courts and saw first-hand the damage chronic conflict can do to family members, particularly the children. I have served on the board of directors for the Center for Cooperative Parenting, an organization that trains professionals serving families in the process of separating, divorcing, and co-parenting.
In Marriage Closure Therapy I help people get closure once the decision has been made to end the marriage. Sometimes one or both partners struggle with denial, anger, sadness, or ambivalence about ending the marriage, are confused about the decision, or refuse to accept it. I help partners communicate with each other through their asynchronous grief so they can move forward in a healthy and effective way.
As a Divorce Consultant I provide guidance on how to separate. While there is no one “right way," there are guidelines that minimize negative consequences for all involved, particularly the children. Together we create a parenting plan (custody schedule) that fits the family's lives, and we explore how to tell the children about the divorce and talk to them about it over the years. We also make a plan to change the living arrangements in a way that causes as little disruption as possible.
I am a Child Specialist in Collaborative Divorce, a type of Alternative Dispute Resolution that has been gaining traction over the past three decades. In Collaborative Divorce each party has a specially trained attorney for guidance, support, and protection throughout the process. The parties agree not to litigate and their attorneys work together to find a “win-win” settlement. The Child Neutral Specialist meets with each child one time and in a feedback session serves as the “voice of the child” and helps parents understand their child’s experience in the divorce, notes areas of concern, and makes recommendations to the parents.
As a Co-parenting Therapist I work with divorced parents who struggle to co-parent effectively. In this work we quickly identify contentious issues and, in either joint or individual sessions, I teach new processes for working through these specific conflicts so parents can generalize what they've learned in session to any issue that comes up in the future. Typically these skills are around decreasing emotion, keeping the children in focus, communicating effectively, navigating conflict without hostility, problem-solving competently, and engaging in a business-like relationship or perhaps even an as amicable parenting team.