Jennifer Carter, LCSW

Trained as a medical social worker, Jennifer understands the impact of mental and emotional health on the whole body and uses a biopsychosocial approach in her work.

Jennifer Carter received her LCSW in Indiana in 2011. Trained as a medical social worker, Jennifer understands the impact of mental and emotional health on the whole body and she uses a biopsychosocial approach in her work. Jennifer believes the therapeutic relationship between client and therapist is the heart of the healing process and a central component for lasting behavioral change. She works to provide a safe environment where people can discuss their life experiences and make steps towards change.

Most of her clinical practice has focused on maternal mental health and perinatal mood disorders, including perinatal depression, anxiety, and traumatic birth experiences. In addition, she works more generally with adults with trauma, anxiety, depression. Her preferred treatment modalities include: cognitive behavioral therapy, emotional and mindfulness based therapy, motivational interviewing, brief solution focused therapy, and trauma focused interventions. Outside of her private practice, she enjoys running and exploring local parks.

Get to know Jennifer Carter

With whom type of client do you work well?

Women, specifically those who are experiencing perinatal stress including anxiety, stress, depression and other perinatal mood disorders or traumatic birth experiences.  In addition to this focus, I also work with adults with anxiety, depression, stress and life changes including parenting challenges.

What do you do in your work? Why do you do it that way?

I believe in the relationship that I build with my clients and view this as a core to our work together.  Building mutual trust, respect and collaboration leads to better outcomes overall for treatment.  In my practice, I first work to establish a collaborative relationship and help my clients with pressing concerns, and then help them identify goals and make steps towards change.  I work with the client to explore their beliefs and thoughts and how they have evolved over time.  In and outside of the sessions, clients learn and implement skills to make changes.  I use different treatment modalities based on the goals my clients identify–these might include cognitive behavioral therapy, emotional and mindfulness techniques, brief solution focused therapy, and motivational interviewing.

How do clients change in counseling? What is the mechanism of change? The motivation for change?

It is not easy to ask for help.  It involves being vulnerable, self-aware, and brave to want to learn new ways of approaching situations or relationships and I applaud my clients for seeking out therapy as a way to better themselves.  Our brains are built to use the behaviors that have helped us survive and it can be challenging to change that process and practice new ways of coping.  I work to introduce skills to assist my clients in making the changes they identify in our work together. This may include trying new approaches (such as mindfulness) or introducing new ways of thinking.  Together, I help my clients identify those goals, break them down into small steps, and slowly incorporate them into their daily lives.

What research, teachers, or mentors influenced your work the most? What difference did it make in your work?

I have been very lucky to have great mentors in my life.  I find it important to surround myself with people with both similar and different theoretical approaches and often engage in dialogue with colleagues to learn from them.  These interactions spark my interest in new treatments to research.  I like to think that I provide an eclectic approach to treatment, meaning I have equipped myself with different training and ways to approach mental health needs in order to meet the unique needs of my clients.  After learning about the cognitive behavioral approach early in my career, I found this to be a modality that can be applied to most mental health issues.  Most recently, I have been researching the different modalities that incorporate value-based work, including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.  In addition to learning new treatment modalities, I enjoy reading material from therapists I admire.  Someone who has impacted my work greatly is Karen Kleinman, a pioneer in treatment of Perinatal Mood Disorders; I often incorporate her work into my sessions.  In addition, I enjoy reading the research on vulnerability by Brene Brown and apply this to my work.

What is the purpose of your professional work? In other words, why do you do what you do?

I believe the purpose of my work is to help others be their best selves.  My training started in the hospital setting, where I learned about the biopsychosocial approach and how the mind and body work together.  I use this approach in my work with clients, often providing education on how our body processes thoughts, fears, and behaviors.  I find this is true when treating the perinatal population.  I have seen our society shift overtime and away from the approach of helping one another to become better but instead to attacking our values and becoming a society of comparison, which can lead to unhealthy thinking patterns.  Societal pressures to strive towards an unrealistic vision of perfection or to reach a certain image has increased in our digital age and I have seen this impact the mental health of clients, often leading to unrealistic expectations and negative behaviors.

What values do you want to promote at Family Psychology of South Bend?

Kindness, honesty, compassion and respect for all.

What values do you want to promote in the community?

During the pandemic, we heard sayings like “we are all in this together” and “it takes a village”.  I believe these to be true and essential to have our community grow–we need to lean on another.  In order for that to be successful, we need to have mutual respect, nonjudgmental attitudes, be honest and practice forgiveness. We are not perfect, nor shall we expect others to be.  But if we can work each day to live by these (and other) values, we can come together to make our community a healthier place for one another.

Why did you choose to work at Family Psychology of South Bend?

From the moment I met Dr. Peterson and his team, I knew this was the group I wanted to be a part of.  I enjoy the values that Family Psychology of South Bend practices and agree with how it incorporates the Adlerian approach to treatment.