Daniel Smigiel is a therapist in Brooklyn, NY offering individual, couples, and family therapy sessions. He most often works with clients on challenges such as ADHD, anxiety, life transitions, loss/grief, and substance use; however, he has experience across a wide range of mental health concerns and approaches therapy sessions with flexibility and a client-centered approach that puts each person in charge of their therapy journal. When appropriate, Daniel incorporates Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and mindfulness practices into his work to offer clients a set of skills they can apply outside of therapy.
We asked Daniel more about his work with clients and his guiding philosophies on therapy.
Daniel’s background and personal life
How did you decide to become a therapist?
I decided I wanted to become a therapist by accident. I knew I enjoyed interacting with people, hearing their stories, and truly understanding why they thought the way they did and why they acted the way they did. However, I did not have a dream of becoming a therapist. It was not until the end of college, when I needed a therapist that I learned how impactful a therapist can be.
What was your previous work before going into private practice?
Before working in private practice I worked in substance abuse agencies, I worked as a case/care manager for the intellectually disabled community, and I worked in eateries, just to name a few. I have a wide array of experiences and all contribute to my work as a therapist.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I enjoy fishing, playing hockey, and reading. I have enjoyed fishing since I was a child and there is just something about the open sea that I find peaceful and relaxing. As for playing hockey and reading, I find that they free my mind and allow me to step back from my thoughts.
Daniel’s specialties and therapy philosophies
What guiding principles inform your work?
I am guided by the principle that we are all human. What I mean is, whenever someone tells me "I cannot believe I did that, who the heck does that?!" I say "Humans do that."
What I am trying to get at is, what ever thoughts we have, whatever it is we do, no matter how removed from our values it is, we are still human and we are normal!
What clientele do you work with most frequently?
I frequently work with men and women who have ADHD and anxiety and professionals. What draws me to the ADHD and anxiety filled population is the fact that I was diagnosed with ADHD at a young age and have dealt with anxiety my entire life and have just recently learned how to successfully manage it. I can personally understand what these individuals are feeling, thinking, and experiencing.
Can you tell us more about your specialty in ADHD?
Working with individuals who are struggling with ADHD is my specialty. I like to believe I have a special understanding of this population having ADHD myself. I have observed that people often struggle to put what they experience into words, for example, many individuals I work with express they feel a wave of negative emotions when someone criticizes them, politely declines their request, or take it personally if someone disagrees with their point.
Clients often express that they do not understand this as they rationally know there is nothing to be upset but they feel as though they've done something wrong or the person is specifically attacking them. This is known as rejection sensitivity dysphoria (RSD). Once I explain what RSD is and how it manifests I often see a lightbulb go off and the person reacts as if one of the missing puzzle pieces they've been searching for has been found.
I specifically help individuals with ADHD by helping them put words and definitions the their experiences and offer them validation that what they are experiencing is not exclusive to them.
Can you tell us more about your specialty in anxiety?
Working with individuals with anxiety is very enjoyable to me, as someone who also lives with frequent anxiety I can empathize with what my clients experience often, sometimes daily. I often hear "I don't know, I think I am just crazy." It is not that you're crazy, it is that your nervous system is overreacting to something; it could be unhelpful thoughts that are fixing you in a troublesome thought pattern, it could be something in your environment that you are unaware of. It can be many things but one thing is for sure: You are human!
I help individuals with anxiety much in the same way I help individuals with ADHD, I help them understand what they are experiencing and I use evidence based techniques to help them manage their symptoms. The first thing I tell my clients is this: We are not here to cure your anxiety, anxiety is part of life and everyone has it. We are here to make you stronger and build up your resilience so that you can manage your anxiety.
Can you tell us about your work with clients who are feeling a sense of loss of meaning in life?
I often find when people go through some type of hardship they can develop a defeatest mindset and think "whats the meaning of it all", "why am I here", "what am I doing with my life". In these instances, I help my clients develop an appreciation for the ups and downs of life. Life is full of suffering, it is part of the human condition; it is up to us to derive meaning. We do not find meaning, we assign it!
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
What I find most rewarding is the shock and relief that people experience when they share their story and they are met with understanding and acceptance. People are always their own worse critics and beat themselves up the most.
Therapy sessions with Daniel
What will our first session together be like? What happens in ongoing sessions?
I pride myself on making our first session as comfortable as possible. I will meet you where you are at and go from there. The first session goal is to develop a better understanding of what the goal of our therapeutic relationship is, how I can help. In on-going sessions we will hike up our boots and get into what brings you to therapy. I like to imagine therapy as a roadtrip into your life; we will explore the good, the bad, and everything in between. You will not face it alone, but we will face it together.
How long do clients typically see you for?
Unfortunately, I cannot answer this question with specificity. Everyone is different, they have different presenting concerns, different life circumstances, etc. Everyones therapy is different and some may require shorter therapy and some may require longer.
Are there any books you often recommend to clients?
I often suggest Loves Executioner, Schopenhaur Cure, or any book from Irvin Yalom. The reason I suggest these books is because Dr. Yalom shares with the reader real experiences he has had with his patients in the therapy room and provides a deep look into the organized chaos that is the shared human experience.
Do you assign “homework” between sessions?
I do not always assign "homework", I understand that not everyone likes to do "work" in between sessions. I tailor my methods to the individual. For those who enjoy reading, I may assign an article relevant to what it is you are experiencing or I may suggest a book that would peak your interest. For those who like short videos, I may send a youtube link on the topic at hand. I will utilize many different tools to help engage you.
How do you help ensure I'm making progress in therapy?
I am not the expert in your experience. I view therapy as a collaborative process, it is important for me to know that what we are working on is helpful to you. To ensure we are on the right path, every so often I may ask what your thoughts are on the process. Are we discussing what you would like to discuss? Are we addressing your concerns appropriately? Are you seeing any improvement in the symptoms you came to therapy for?
How can I prepare for our first session?
Other than bringing yourself, the only tip I can provide for you is to bring an open mind and think about what would be different in your life if our work together was a success.
How will I know it’s time to end my time in therapy with you or reduce session frequency?
That is entirely up to you. You are free to end therapy at any time. However, when you begin to notice that your are more prepared to manage your symptoms and difficulties in a healthy way that may be a sign that therapy can begin to be reduced.
Why should I seek therapy, rather than turning to my partner, friends, or other loved ones?
Speaking with a therapist is unlike speaking to anyone else. We are here to genuinely listen, understand, and not to judge. We will not listen to respond, we will not tell you what we would do, we just want to understand you and assist you in reaching your goals!
What advice would you share with therapy seekers?
Never be ashamed to advocate for yourself and it is never too late to make a change for the better!
Visit Daniel’s profile to read more about him and contact him for an initial consultation!