Holly Bittner has an M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Prescott College, with a specialization in Somatic Psychology. A published poet and former English professor, she also holds an M.A. in English/Creative Writing from Temple University. She has a long-held interest in depth psychology as advanced by C.G. Jung and is currently a training candidate in the Philadelphia chapter of the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts.
So . . . What brings you here?
This question, traditionally asked of new therapy clients, is perhaps too seldom answered by therapists themselves. So, if you’re curious, I invite you to read about what brought me here, to the other side of “the couch.”
My story, like many clients’, begins with intense suffering. At age 29, I found myself on the floor in a fetal position, in the worst physical pain of my life. Doctors’ examinations of my abdomen revealed unidentified “growth.” Several agonizing weeks and tests later, I was told I had large cysts attached to both of my ovaries. Finally I was diagnosed with endometriosis, a chronic reproductive disease with no confirmed cause or cure. Unexplained symptoms that I had experienced since adolescence were now assigned a name. And so was I: a “patient.”
Suddenly I was thrust into a bewildering world of symptoms and surgeries, and—as a woman—stigma and subjugation. Desperate to make sense of my experience, I began to document and creatively explore my physical symptoms through creative writing. I had written poetry since childhood, and it had often brought me comfort, solace, and pride. But this time, my writing led me on a whole new path. The process compelled and fascinated me, and an abundance of emotions, memories, images, and dreams emerged, some of them quite frightening and painful. It was a lot to carry. I felt overwhelmed, isolated, alone. I sank into a deep depression.
It was then that I turned to psychotherapy, for the first time in my life. Though skeptical at first, I stuck with it and had the profound experience of being truly seen and understood for the first time. My journey of suffering over time became one of meaning and purpose. Growth, indeed. Some years later, I gained the courage to share my writing with others and adapted it into a play, called ENDOME, in which I performed at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival of the arts. This unexpected twist of my personal journey was perhaps the most terrifying yet rewarding feat I had yet accomplished. And it is this experience that led me to my new role as a therapist . . .
Although I had enjoyed a satisfying career as a college English professor for over a decade, I now felt called to train as a counselor and learn the clinical skills I needed to help others find a way through their suffering to their own calling. My interests and study in the creative arts, depth psychology, and chronic illness have now converged in my counseling practice. I am grateful and honored to offer my unique combination of experience and skills.
My counseling style is client-centered. I do not believe I have the answers; rather, I believe that each individual has the capacity to heal themselves and my role is to be a guide who facilitates that process. My experience and interest in chronic pain and illness led me to acquire a specialization in somatic-oriented counseling, which explores mind-body connections through body awareness.
My personal and professional experience have taught me that the most important factor in the healing process is creativity. If you are open to it, your therapy might include creative writing or art experiments such as drawing or collage work, as well as imaginal work with dreams and other visual or verbal symbols. I am currently pursuing in-depth training to become a certified Jungian analyst through the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts. This approach, based on the theories of psychologist C. G. Jung, uses dream analysis and the discovery and development of a personal myth. Such methods can help unlock the meaning from your suffering and result in deep, lasting personal transformation. You can read more about Jung and Jungian analysis here.