Abby Thompson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in New York specializing in body image, disordered eating, and the transition to new parenthood. We asked Abby more about her work with clients and her guiding philosophies on therapy.
Abby’s background and personal life
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
I feel so lucky to get to know folks on a deeper level than most of the people in their lives- and I never take for granted how lucky I am to be trusted with that care. And as people grow, and flourish, I become one of the first people to see them take these steps.
What guiding principles inform your work?
One of the central principles that I base my work on is a body-positive, sex-positive framework: that some of the parts of us we have expended so much energy to "correct" are actually fundamentally worthy and great. When we can learn to trust ourselves, especially the data our bodies are giving us, we thrive.
Over time, I've found a second, related principle: that everything we do is an attempt at healing, growth and thriving. This applies to even our worst impulses and behaviors- we are often seeking something we need, like comfort, connection, or rest. Therapy can be about uncovering and celebrating those positive instincts and finding more effective ways to use them.
Abby’s specialties and therapy philosophies
Can you tell us more about your specialties in body image and disordered eating?
The tricky thing about this area is that the "normal" way people relate to food and body—prizing certain body types, celebrating restrictive diets, and categorizing food as "good" or "bad" (i.e. "Oh, you're being so good!" when someone turns down a dessert—can be really confusing and harmful).
My clients tend to be super smart—they struggle with feeling good about eating, but they suspect there's a better way to take care of themselves! We experiment with different ways of relating to food and body image, and we work through all the complicated feelings this often brings up.
It's amazing to me how this work often leads to not just better health and confidence, but shows up in so many areas of their lives- once they learn to trust their own bodies, they can apply that to relationships, work- you name it.
Can you tell us more about your specialty in the transition to new parenthood?
Being a parent is tough these days- expectations are so high, and most parents are offered so few resources. When folks become parents for the first time, it's a massive transition—now all of a sudden something incredibly important has to fit into their lives and their relationships. And as we parent, we also tend to stir up unresolved stuff from our own childhoods—it is a really huge opportunity for growth.
With parents, it's so great to have this dedicated space for just THEM- not what their kids need, not what they need to do to stay afloat at work or in their relationships- just for them to be a whole person. My job as the therapist is to help my clients work through the grief and confusion during this time of their lives, and connect to what's real and true for them.
Therapy sessions with Abby
What will our first session together be like? What happens in ongoing sessions?
I have two goals for a first session: connect and get comfortable with one another, and set some goals. It can be a little nerve-wracking starting therapy, so it's just so important that we establish a relationship that feels safe. Then, as far as goals go—it's less about getting very specific about symptoms and outcomes, and more setting a guideline so we know we're on the right track. My favorite goal setting question is "When it's time for us to end, how will you know? What are all the things that will be better?"
I hold those goals in mind in ongoing sessions- whatever is top of mind for the week almost always has some connection to those goals. We make a lot of space for feelings together and I'm right there with you, helping process feelings. Usually there's something really pleasant and peaceful on the other side of the most difficult feelings.
Do you assign “homework” between sessions?
Often in the course of a session, something arises that you may want to try to do differently- a skill to practice or just something to reflect on. It's always totally optional, and in my opinion, only really works if you're excited or curious about it.
How do you help ensure I'm making progress in therapy?
It's so important to me that you're feeling better not just in sessions, but during the rest of the week. I check in pretty frequently- "How are you feeling about therapy these days? What's working, and what isn't?" Reflecting on whether or not you are getting what you need in a relationship is a really useful skill, and it's great to course-correct in real time if something isn't working.
How do I know that it’s time to start seeking therapy?
If you're reading this, that might be a good sign on its own that it's time! But I don't know very many people who can function at their best without support. If you're not absolutely loving the life you have right now, it might be time to call in some backup to make that life more possible.
How can I prepare for our first session?
Right now all my sessions are remote, so it's important to have a comfortable, private space (and a decent internet connection). You might want to think about what brought you in for treatment or what you are looking forward to achieving, but it's not required. It's really okay to come as you are—there's no getting it right or wrong in therapy.
Why should I seek therapy, rather than turning to my partner, friends, or other loved ones?
Why not both? If you've got a supportive network of folks in your life, that's amazing- and therapy can help you get more out of those relationships and bring the best version of yourself to them. But good relationships are reciprocal- you support them sometimes and they support you. Therapy can be a place that's *just* for you and your well-being.
Visit Abby’s profile to watch her introductory video, read more about her, and book an initial call!