Dr. Susan Cummings Nicholson, Psychotherapist / Board Certified Diplomate
susan cummings nicholsonI had lived over half the average female lifespan before I truly accepted the reality that life isn’t a test!  We don’t have to qualify for living, by sculpting an acceptable identity out of personal accomplishments, achievement of self-improvement goals, or completed milestones of worthiness.

Despite the importance of standards of excellence in our endeavors, those standards are not for the purpose of granting us admission to life. Instead, I have come to see that life is really about entering, as fully as we can, into the incredible richness and vibrancy that the very act of living has to offer.  The only entrance fee is our acceptance of the gift of full participation, in whatever  form life may be available to each person.  That realization has become one of the defining moments of my life, because it has freed me to live, to love and to serve others from a different place – a place of inner wholeness.  Once I started to experience a radical shift in my own aliveness, I found that love, compassion, and a heightened awareness of the needs of others are actually inherent components of this deeper, richer life experience.  Life is no longer about doing, but about learning how to be.  It is about living in a place where doing flows naturally from being.  I start by sharing this truth about myself, because, from my perspective, it is a much more important indicator of who I am, than that which follows.

The Overview

Scientific studies have indicated that the effectiveness of therapy depends more on the therapeutic connection between client and therapist, than on the psychological orientation and specific therapeutic modalities used by the therapist.  That means that what the therapist brings of herself to every session is of utmost importance.  What I bring to my therapy sessions is a constantly evolving possibility in each moment, emerging not only from what I have learned up to that time, but also from the purity of my own awareness, as I sit mindfully with each client.  A synopsis of who I am professionally includes not only my academic degrees, professional credentials, and length of experience, but also includes references to life experiences that continually shape me and deeply inform what I have to bring to each session with my clients.

In the early years, mine was a fairly typical story of high achievement and outward maturity that often marks the life of an only child, and even more, the life of a child who grows up with a parent with chronic illness. From a very young age I had a strong desire to be of service to others, and I also had an abhorrence for the injustices that I saw in the world, particularly for the way that those with greater power often treat those with less.  Our reactions to difficulties in our lives usually become major players in how life unfolds for us, like links in a chain of events.  I was no exception.  Through early family struggles and my inevitable reactions to those issues, there emerged not only the desire to develop a career in service to others, but also a deep understanding of the problems and of the inner pain experienced by multitudes of people in our society.

When life events delayed the higher education needed for the career I desired in mental health care, that plan was put on hold during my young adult years.  My primary focus then became the building and nurturing of a family of four children.  During that time, I also educated myself in several other areas of interest, and ended up working in some of them: nutrition and the value of whole, unprocessed foods; holistic healing; child development; finance and investment; dog breeding; and various volunteer opportunities.  By the time the needs of my family both dictated and allowed my return to academia, I became a student again with a teen and pre-teen still at home.   I carefully charted a course in higher education and the work world, which for the next 12 years, allowed me to be home with my children almost every evening, until my youngest was grown, while obtaining the education I needed. Before the ink had dried on my doctoral dissertation, I had developed a firm faith in the value of all of life’s experiences (even the difficult ones) for our ultimate good, without interpreting those experiences as bad or good.

During the latter part of that journey and for a few years after, I held several clinical and teaching positions in various venues in the public, private and military mental health arenas.  I taught in academia and gave talks and led workshops on trauma and abuse recovery and on personal empowerment.  I served as an educator and consultant in a juvenile court system and developed and coordinated a military clinical program for victims of domestic violence.  I also worked with senior adults in residential care facilities, while I was developing private practices in two communities.  For the last few years I have chosen to immerse myself in the area of direct clinical service, which is my first love.  I currently own a small private psychotherapeutic practice, where I provide counseling and therapy to individuals and couples, who are seeking relief from suffering and the tools to help them find peace and happiness.

Today, life outside of my practice includes relaxing times with my incredible children and grandchildren, intimate dinners with friends, reading, meditation and yoga, exercise, fine dining, gardening, travel, dancing, photography, writing and quiet moments surrounded by the joys of nature.

Formal Education, Licensure and Board Certification, Continuing Education and Post-Doctoral Work

– Doctor of Philosophy, Clinical Track in Social Work and Social Policy, with Honors. Virginia Commonwealth University, School of Social Work, Richmond, VA
– Master of Social Work, Mental Health Specialization, with Honors. Virginia Commonwealth University, School of Social Work, Richmond, VA
– Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Summa Cum Laude. Christopher Newport University, Newport News, VA
– Licensed Clinical Social Worker – Dept. of Health Professions, Commonwealth of VA
– Board Certified Diplomate – American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work
– Since the early 1990s, student of cutting-edge authors and teachers in the field of Psychotherapy Techniques, through private, workshop and symposium instruction
– Since 2009, student and mentee of Richard Moss, MD – Author and International Teacher of Transformational Living
– Annually, 20 hours of Accredited Continuing Education in the fields of Psychotherapy, Hypnotherapy and Mindfulness Meditation

Formal Recognitions, Clinical Society and Board Memberships, Research Interest

– F&FS US Navy Award for Clinical Victim Services Program Development
– CNU Alumni Society Award for Contribution and Length of Service
– President’s Award for Academic Achievement as Highest Ranking Liberal Arts Student
– Int’l Society for Study of Trauma and Dissociation
– VA Society of Clinical Social Workers

– American Society of Clinical Hypnosis
– International Society of Clinical Hypnosis

– National Alliance for the Mentally Ill
– Joint Forces Family Advocacy Multidisciplinary Board
– CNU Alumni Board
– CNU Social Work Advisory Board

– Doctoral Dissertation (published 1999) Effects of Gender and a History of Child Abuse or Neglect on the Level of Perceived Threat in a Sample of Intimate Partner Violence Offenders