Bornell Nicholson, Ph.D., LMFT " />

Therapist Spotlight: Bornell Nicholson, Ph.D., LMFT

What inspired you to become a counselor?

When I was a child, I thought “when I grow up, I want to be a pastor”. As I went through middle school and into high school, I realized that there was no way I could get up there and do public speaking. So middle of high school, I quickly threw that off my list. Which happened to be the same time that I was taking an intro to psychology course. Learning more about why people do what they do, seemed like such a fascinating question. So, while my dream of connecting with people was still alive and well, I began to transform this desire into being able to understand people on a smaller scale. I wanted to learn more about human behavior and how people related to one another.

As I entered college, that’s exactly what I did. I took a degree in general psychology and enjoyed learning how people work and operate. However, this didn’t fully encapsulate my desire to connect with people or understand how they related to one another. I knew that pursing counseling would help me to connect with and understand people on a smaller scale, I just didn’t know what kind of counseling to pursue. It wasn’t until my Junior/Senior year of college that I was introduced to marriage and family therapy. The core of marriage and family therapy is about relationships. Having grown up with strained relationships in my own family, I wanted nothing more than to help others work on theirs. Becoming a marriage and family therapist meant that I could connect with people on a smaller scale, learn more about why they behave the way they do, help them to understand themselves more, and change how they relate to one another

What is something you would like new clients to know about beginning the counseling process?

Counseling is weird. It can feel uncomfortable to open up to a complete stranger and talk about very personal and intimate topics. I believe it’s so helpful to normalize how odd it is for new clients to come into therapy. That is why I begin with self-disclosure in the first session, to model vulnerability and provide clients with a sense that they are talking to an actual human. I would invite clients to also ask questions of their therapists. For new clients it’s important to feel safe and connected to their therapists. It is a common misconception that counseling is solely an advice-giving professional relationship. There is space for collaboration, because while the therapist may be an expert on relationships, the client is the expert on themselves.

Equally or more important for new clients is that counseling is a space where they don’t have to do life alone. It is common to feel as though ‘we have our problems, and we have to find our own solutions’. This couldn’t be more detrimental to the client’s health. None of us are where we are solely by our own strength. We need others. And there can be incredible power in being able to ask for help and have someone be a witness to our struggles as well as our successes.

How would you describe your style or approach in counseling?

My approach in counseling is as a learner, a truth-say-er, and a wounded healer. It is important to begin counseling by becoming a student of my client(s). People are complex and have a whole life they’ve lived before coming to see me. When people step into my office or video screen, I am meeting them at Chapters 6 or 14 of their stories. It is a privilege then to be invited to be a part of someone’s journey. Thus, it is important for me to be curious and learn about my client to help formulate a treatment plan unique to them.

Another part of my therapy is about telling the truth. It is painful to function out of the lies that have been told about us, or the ones we tell ourselves. Much of my therapy has revolved around reminding clients of truths the have forgotten or suppressed (e.g., ‘you are deserving of love and respect’, ‘you are not broken beyond repair’, or ‘it is not your fault for the harm/abuse you experienced in childhood’). In being a truth-say-er, I also have the responsibility to name/challenge clients when are operating out of harm or continuing in dysfunctional patterns. All, of course, done with compassion and empathy.

Finally, it is my own, wounds, failures, and harms, simultaneous to my advice and guidance that can be a source of healing for my clients. I am a deeply flawed man. And if I’m going to ask my clients to own their shortcomings and failures, I sure as hell better be able to myself. Rather than hiding our weaknesses, embracing these parts helps us to become more whole and honest with ourselves.

What self-care practices do you enjoy doing most?

My most enjoyable self-care is my morning routine. As a morning-person when I’m up, I’m up. Having time to work out, eat breakfast, and read my bible helps to center and prepare me for the day. Though my solo-time in the morning is much needed, I have also found it so rejuvenating to share in self-care. I cherish the times my wife and I take walks around our neighborhood, attend church, explore good coffee shops, or will read good books. While I may not always be able to engage in each of these practices daily, it is comforting to have them built into my life.

How do I schedule an appointment with Bornell?

To schedule an appointment with Bornell contact us here or email him directly at bnicholson@springtreecounseling.com. If you would like to learn more about Bornell, you can also check out his biography here.

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