Gary L. Hirshberg
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
I received a Master’s in Social Work from the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University. I spent the first five years of my professional career at Family & Children’s Services of Greater St. Louis. While at F&CS I was exposed to a wide range of clinical problems from a diverse client population. During that time I received extensive training in couples counseling to augment my graduate school specialization in that area.
I was one of the founders of the first mental health agency in the country created in response to the AIDS epidemic. Delta Mental Health Institute was a private not for profit that during its five years in operation provided psychotherapy and training for the HIV/AIDS community, the LGBTQ community, and male survivors. During that time, I became a founding member of the National Organization on Male Sexual Victimization, and offered workshops throughout the United States for male survivor therapists. I designed the first course taught in St. Louis to address the mental health needs of those living with HIV at both Washington University and St. Louis University.
I have received intensive training in working with survivors of sexual abuse. I have attended a five-day residential Dismantling Racism Institute here in St Louis and went on to co-design a seven-day residential institute in diversity awareness for high school students. For five years, I co-directed one of the summer Institutes. I am a graduate of the two-year advanced psychodynamic psychotherapy program at the St Louis Psychoanalytic Institute. I have completed a four-year training program also at the St Louis Psychoanalytic Institute, and am a practicing psychoanalyst. I have taught graduate and adult learning course in areas of Sexuality, Diversity, Metapsychology & Social Justice at Washington University, St. Louis University, University of Missouri - St. Louis, and the St. Louis Psychoanalytic Institute.
Client's come to a therapist in a variety of states of pain and dis–ease. Often people want some immediate relief for that pain. Sometimes the source of the pain is an external circumstance such as a problematic relationship, job stress, or a family conflict. Sometimes the source of the pain can be due to more long standing internal issues such as low self esteem, depression, anxiety, or loneliness. Many people try to address this pain by using unhelpful coping mechanisms such as alcohol, sex, food, or other addictive behavior or by trying to avoid the problem and hoping it will go away. Whatever the situation, I take the time in the first few sessions to assess the client's current problems and to get as accurate and detailed a picture as possible about their lives. This is accomplished by exploring their childhood and the forces that shaped them and their adult life and the stressors they are dealing with. After this assessment period I work with the client to ensure that both of us are on the same page as a plan is set forth as to what we will work on and how often we will meet to do that work. New issues often emerge in the course of treatment but it is important to begin with some sense of working together on a shared goal. For me, therapy is like education; some people stop after grade school or high school, others complete college or pursue one or more graduate degrees. What matters is completing the level of education that one needs to succeed and thrive. The same is true for therapy. More is not necessarily better, it depends on what one wants and hopes to achieve and what one brings to the table.
I believe therapy is about exploring and understanding how our minds work. Most people know what they should do and have all sorts of ideas as to how to solve their problems or make themselves happy. The issue for therapy is exploring what gets in the way of achieving those goals and what blocks one from doing what is best for oneself. The mind is like an iceberg, most of what matters is below the surface and thus easy to miss and dismiss. The therapist’s job is not to focus on the part above the surface, but to help mine and discover the part below the surface.
What sets my practice apart is I have training in both understanding the unconscious mind and the impact of social issues. This allows me to bring an appreciation of how both internal and external conflicts impact your problems.