Therapy with Carolyn Solo, LCSW

Carolyn Solo is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Blue Bell, PA specializing in complex trauma, PTSD, perinatal mental health, schizophrena/psychosis, and dissociative disorders. Carolyn’s approach to therapy is evidence-based and holistic. She has extensive experience in EMDR and often draws upon mindfulness practices, such as breathing exercises, grounding activities, and therapeutic journaling, to help clients relieve their symptoms distress or recover from trauma. Carolyn also runs a support group for women in recovery from sexual trauma for clients looking to give and receive support in a community of other survivors.

We asked Carolyn more about her work with clients and her guiding philosophies on therapy.

Carolyn’s background and personal life

How did you decide to become a therapist?

I was a high school Latin and Greek teacher for 6 years. I loved connecting with students but not the grading part! I had a bit of a personal crisis around age 29 that led to an anxiety-related inpatient hospitalization. During my time in the hospital, I met with a social worker several times who was amazing and helped me so much. She connected me with another social worker as a therapist after I left the hospital, and I began to realize that this was the work I wanted to do—connecting with people who are struggling and helping them move forward, without the punitive grind of grading!

I also went through a divorce at 26, which partly led to the aforementioned crisis. My time in the hospital and in therapy afterwards also helped me realize that I wanted to help other women struggling with the consequences of failed relationships. At 30, I applied to social work programs, and the rest is history! I love this work. It is a calling, not just a career.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I love to move my body and especially enjoy running, hiking, mountain biking, and skiing—being outside gives me joy and peace. I also love to cuddle and laugh with my children, be creative in the kitchen, and read.

Carolyn’s specialties and therapy philosophies

What guiding principles inform your work?

Non-judgment, holistic healing (mind, body, spirit), connecting with the natural world, and finding one's purpose through love and work all inform my work.

What clientele do you work with most frequently?

Through my EMDR training, I have become passionate about trauma and dissociation. In my previous work in community mental health, I had many clients with these challenges, and I knew that talk therapy and CBT was not cutting it. Learning such a powerful modality that actually creates embodied healing in those who suffer daily with trauma has changed my practice and my philosophy on life.

My time in community mental health also introduced me to many amazing people who experience psychosis. There is a huge need for competent providers to work with this population but so few people feel comfortable working with them. I am committed to improving treatment for clients who experience psychosis. In fact, I am currently a PhD student and my dissertation research focuses on improving treatment for clients who experience psychosis!

Finally, I am a mom of three who has experienced PPD and PPA, has had 5 miscarriages, and struggles on the daily with the challenges of parenting! I love working with those who are in the weeds of parenting and fertility challenges.

Can you tell us more about your specialty in complex PTSD?

Many of my clients often have significant attachment trauma, as well as histories of sexual, physical, and/or emotional abuse. I find that relational instability, difficulties with feeling grounded and present, losing time, experiencing flashbacks, and occasionally experiencing the presence of alters are the most distressing symptoms these clients experience. I work extensively with EMDR and ego states with this population, starting with helping them regain a connection with their bodies and a sense of safety in that connection.

Can you tell us more about your work with women on issues relating to perinatal mental health?

Issues related to perinatal mental health—infertility, miscarriage, pregnancy, and postpartum—are extremely distressing and isolating. I first work with the client to normalize their experience and their pain and then work with them on developing strong support networks and improve coping strategies. Each of these experiences presents its own challenges and requires a unique approach to treatment. I find EMDR can be powerful modality in this work, and it's also extremely important to refer out to support groups and to couples counseling, if applicable.

Can you tell us about your specialty in treating schizophrenia/psychosis?

I worked in community mental health for several years, and many of my wonderful clients experienced psychosis. This area of mental illness is deeply misunderstood and highly stigmatized, and it's often only treated with debilitating levels of antipsychotic medication. Often, these clients are infantilized, when they are not seen as dangerous. I see psychotic symptoms as a desperate and creative attempt by the nervous system to cope with unbearable stress, and I am committed to improving treatment for this greatly underserved population.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

Seeing change happen through our relationship. It is so simple yet so complex and powerful! When a client tells me that something has shifted in their life because of our work together, I'm on cloud nine. There's truly nothing like it.

I also find continuing education on trauma treatment to be so rewarding. I love to learn, and I particularly love to learn more about how trauma treatment is shifting towards a more holistic and embodied treatment model. I truly believe that this is the future of trauma treatment—no more cognitive-only, left-brained, prefrontal cortex only trauma treatment!

Therapy sessions with Carolyn

What will our first session together be like? What happens in ongoing sessions?

The most important element of therapy is our relationship! It's so important to me to get to know you as a client - your story, your challenges, and your successes. I work very hard to create safety and a space of non-judgment. I also want you to take something tangible away from each session—a coping skill, a useful thought, a step towards a goal. That starts with session #1! You deserve to have something concrete and real that comes out of every session.

Ongoing sessions are guided by a collaborative set of goals and a plan for treatment. I use EMDR frequently in my sessions, so we may be doing some reprocessing work in sessions, or we may simply engage in supportive therapy, if that is what you need. My work is always client-driven and client-responsive.

How long do clients typically see you for?

It really depends! I've seen clients for eight sessions, and I've seen clients for years. Your needs are unique!

Are there any books you often recommend to clients?

I often recommend Deb Dana's Polyvagal Exercises for Safety and Connection, Bessel van der Kolk's The Body Keeps the Score, and Babette Rothschild's The Body Remembers

Do you assign “homework” between sessions?

I do at times! I don't like the term "homework," so I often use the term "growth work." I like to help clients develop coping resources. We work on this together in session, and then I encourage practice outside of session. Often, a client and I will come up with a plan of action to approach a problem. Different steps of this plan will be "assigned" during the week, and we then process and trouble-shoot together about the assignment during our session.

How can I prepare for our first session?

If you are interested in EMDR, I will happily share resources about EMDR and its process with you. Other than that, just bring yourself! I want to meet the real, human version of you.

How will I know it’s time to end my time in therapy with you or reduce session frequency?

This is always a collaborative process. We are constantly reflecting on your goals and growth. If we feel a goal has been met, and your stability is improving, we may start to discuss reducing session frequency to every other week. However, you may have a new goal that emerges during our treatment, and so we may continue meeting weekly. I always want clients to feel free to broach the topic of reducing sessions, if that feels right to them.

Why should I seek therapy, rather than turning to my partner, friends, or other loved ones?

Therapists provide a confidential, safe, and expert space for exploring challenges, concerns, and areas of growth. Anyone who knows you in the "real world" brings their own concerns and needs to the discussion of your needs. My investment is entirely in YOU and in your growth—not in how your growth and change might impact me. Therapy is also a space to work on the things that may feel too hard and too big and too shameful to talk about anywhere else. The therapy space is a sacred one.

Visit Carolyn’s profile to read more about her and book an initial call!