Frances H. Herron is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Gainesville who likes to say she’s heard it all before. She has been working as a therapist in Northern Virginia for the past eleven years, listening to everyone from overtaxed moms, quarreling spouses and grieving widows.
Herron sees clients for a variety of issues and concerns including grief, depression, anxiety and stress related to relationships, parenting and career.
The type of therapy Herron subscribes to is called cognitive behavioral therapy. Simply put, Herron explains it as, “Change your thinking, it changes your feelings, which changes your actions.”
To get people to change their thinking, she mainly employs talk therapy. This therapy differs from psychoanalysis, because it focuses more on the present than on the past.
Herron began her career in 2001 in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. She was a FEMA crisis counselor in the Arlington, and spoke with many people in the area who felt shaken by the terror.
“Suddenly we had a new normal. People were thinking, ‘What’s the world coming to,’” Herron said.
Although she could not make the world seem immediately safe again, Herron could make people feel validated.
“I listened to their stories,” said Herron, and told them that their anxieties were valid and that things would get better.
Through her experience as a therapist, Herron saw how people harbor emotions from traumatic experiences as well as stress from their everyday lives. She believes it is her mission to show people that that there is help.
“Mostly I see women, because women ask for help when they need it,” Herron said.
However, Herron realizes that everyone can use a little help to make it through life’s transitions. She wants people to know that therapy is nothing to be afraid of.
“The hardest thing is walking in the door,” said Herron, so she is as inviting and understanding as possible. “I tell them, ‘I heard this before; it is going to be fine; it’s going to get better.’”
Because contacting a therapist is a difficult first step, Herron makes sure to see a new patient right away regardless if it is a weekday or weekend.
“It’s huge to call me up,” said Herron, “When people finally call me, they want to come now.”
In her experience, Herron said that therapy does help immediately, because it provides the person with a sense of validation. She explains to people that stress and sadness are normal responses to life events and nothing to be ashamed of.
“I think people want to be reassured that they are not crazy, that they just had some challenges that were temporarily causing them some problems,” Herron says.
And while she realizes people are often afraid to open up to a professional, she is not easily shocked. Herron can usually tells her patients that their feelings and actions are not that different from those of other people’s, even if no one is openly talking about such issues at the water cooler.
Once a patient is comfortable opening up to her, Herron acts as someone she or he can talk to and confide in. She is non- judgmental, and rather than advising a patient, she listens and guides. The goal, she said, is for person to gain insight about his or her own patterns of behavior. At that point, that individual can choose to make a change.
More often them not, Herron said people’s issues stem not from anything they do wrong, but from their desire to be perfect at whatever they do from their jobs to parenting. Sometimes Herron said the key is to teach people simply not to be so hard on themselves.
But Herron helps individuals with a wide variety of needs as well. She helps couples in counseling, mothers experiencing post-partum syndrome, adult children caring for an elderly parent, people coping with the loss of a loved one and even divorced couples who are co-parenting.
She also sees individuals with mild mental illnesses who are working cooperatively with a psychiatrist.
Herron also believes her life experience has made her wise about certain things, and because she’s now in another stage in her life, she can provide outside perspective on busy career and family life, which is difficult for people to perceive when they are mired in it from day to day.
Herron occasionally provides informational seminars for the community, such as one in which she taught journaling as a means for people to work through their issues and emotions.
Herron only sees adult patients and does not do cognitive testing.
To make an appointment with Frances Herron, licensed therapist, contact her at 703-743-9899 or visit her website at www.francesherron.com.
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