Clinician Spotlight: Susan Benjaminsen, LMFT

Innerwell Team

Let’s start with something easy. Can you tell us a little about your professional background and areas of focus?

I received my Masters in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, Los Angeles, California. I chose the Marriage and Family Therapist track, becoming licensed in 1998 and have practiced in a variety of outpatient settings for over 20 years. In 2019 I moved to Maine and became licensed here, and also certified as an out-of-state provider of telehealth services to Florida residents.

For many years I worked on a mobile psychiatric emergency team as a clinician, seeing people in crisis related to mental health challenges, substance abuse, and chronic stress. I saw hundreds of people struggling to cope with high levels of social and environmental stress. After 10 years in this line of work, my own health was impacted. I became drawn to new science on trauma informed healthcare In 2018, I became a certified facilitator of Polyvagal informed Mindfulness and Resilience building techniques, and changed my career focus to help people build resilience and cope better with stress.

For the past 5 years, my focus has been on empowering individuals, couples, and families with tools and skills to overcome various mental health challenges including co-occurring substance use disorders, supporting them to build and maintain healthy relationships, overcome obstacles, and lead happier, healthier lives.

How would you describe your approach to therapy?

My approach is client-centered, holistic, empowering, and collaborative. I believe mental health challenges often require a multidisciplinary approach and I am well-versed in collaborating with other healthcare professionals I quickly engage my clients as partners in change. I believe tools and skill building are key to this process. I draw from a variety of trauma informed Mindfulness and Resilience building techniques to educate and support my clients in building resilience and cope better the stress in their lives.

What would your patients say about you?

This might sound funny, but what they do say about me is that I "hit the nail right on the head". I take this to mean that I quickly attune to their state of being and arrive at an understanding of their needs. My clients would also say that I'm respectful, validating, and support them as individuals on a journey to self-discovery.

How did you become interested in working with psychedelics including ketamine?

I had one psychedelic experience in my twenties that influenced me in choosing a path toward understanding human potential through higher consciousness, and being of service to others. But it really wasn't until the past 5 years that I became drawn to the field of neuroscience focused on trauma recovery. I came across study after study researching the use of psychedelics, finding that healing at the cellular level was possible. The research on Ketamine and neuroplasticity was very promising in this light, especially considering the FDA had approved the off-label use of Ketamine for conditions that I treat such as post-traumatic stress syndromes and chronic depression. The use of Ketamine as a psychedelic seemed to me a natural progression in my general philosophy and definitely compliments the kind of work I do as a therapist.

What excites you most about the future of psychedelics?

I am so excited about the potential of psychedelics to change our collective attitudes towards healing the whole person and discover that past adverse experiences don't have to limit our future potential. I see a future in which these medicines are used responsibly to enhance creativity, boost productivity, and facilitate personal growth and transformation. For me, the future of psychedelic medicines offers hope for a better world in which we all have the opportunity to reach our full potential and contribute to creating a more compassionate, connected, and thriving society.

Enough about work! Let’s try some rapid fire questions;
  • First, Where do you live? - Westbrook, Maine
  • What's a perfect afternoon? - A perfect afternoon for me is a little excursion kayaking in calm water at a place like Bear Pond, taking in the beauty of the mountain and woodland views while floating wherever the current takes me.
  • Favorite food? Pizza/Pasta - Poke and sushi
  • Describe yourself in two words. - Nature-loving and curious

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