Sara Baxter, M.S.

Sara is a clinical therapist in our Marriage and Couples Center.

Sara works with couples using the Gottman Method in our couples center. Her own positive experiences with counseling in her teens inspired her to pursue it as a career. She earned her Master of Science in Counseling and Human Services from Indiana University.

Moving Past Resentment

Get to know Sara Baxter, M.S.

With whom do you work well?

I work with couples who seek help for unproductive conflict, emotional connection and recovery from past hurt or broken trust.

Why did you decide to pursue counseling as a career?

I have heard people say if you have a job you love, you never work a day in your life. Ever since the idea of becoming a counselor first popped into my head in middle school, I thought it fit those wise words perfectly. I have worked in customer service since I started helping my parents at their business in third grade, and my favorite part about working has always been talking to people. Learning and talking about mental health, psychology, coping skills, and self-growth is my passion, so becoming a counselor seemed like a natural fit for me.

I am trained through Level 2 of the Gottman Method, which has demystified the core aspects of couples work. Our weekly training, seminars, and supervision are as enriching as meeting with clients. I consider myself extremely lucky to have a job where I can work with people on a personal level and collaborate with them about how we can better navigate the human experience.

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

In my experience, it seems many of the thoughts, beliefs or behaviors that we come to counseling to change are ones that used to serve a purpose for us but now don’t fit into our lives or have become unhelpful. I believe an important first step is to identify what is no longer serving us, acknowledge how it has helped us in the past, and not judge ourselves for it. Needing to adapt or change does not mean that we are bad or doing something wrong – instead, it means we are growing. When it is time to make these changes, identifying how we want to feel, think or be at the end of the therapeutic process can allow the client and counselor to make a road map together of how to get there. While feeling miserable or stuck often motivates people to start counseling, having a plan of how to get where we want to be can motivate us to keep going and eventually reach our goals.

A married or committed couple may be motivated to use counseling for many reasons, including a loss of connection between them, escalating conflict, or struggling to communicate concerns or requests to their partner. Years of research on what makes marriages last have given couples counselors many reliable tools to pass down to our clients to address these issues. Some of these tools consist of starting a conversation gently, speaking vulnerably to be understood by your partner, listening carefully to understand your partner, and forming connecting rituals that both partners enjoy. Couples will learn and practice these skills during the couples counseling session that they can then use and strengthen outside of the session, in both good times and bad, to continue to make lasting, positive change in their relationship.

What values do you want to promote at Family Psychology of South Bend and in the community?

Although I am certain these are already strongly valued at FPSB, I hope to continue to promote non-judgment and curiosity about ourselves and others both here and in the community. I believe we treat others the way that we treat ourselves, and one of the best foundations we can lay for our mental health is to not judge ourselves for our unwanted or unhealthy thoughts or behaviors but instead become curious about how they are both helping and hurting us. The human experience is a wild, beautiful and confusing thing, and we are all trying our best with what we have. Being judgmental of ourselves or others wastes our precious and limited time and energy, and the antidote for judgment is curiosity. Asking questions to understand, being unassuming, and looking for and focusing on the strengths is a much more helpful and enjoyable way to live.

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

It was clear from my first conversation with my now supervisor, Dr. John Petersen, that there is something very special about FPSB. From the office and billing managers to the counselors, each individual exudes feelings of respect, warmth, and a true desire to learn from, hear and honor everyone who comes through our doors. The commitment to community, the focus on outcome-informed practices, and the level of care and attention that is passed on from supervisors to counselors and counselors to clients are just some of the many reasons why I believe FPSB is an incredible place to work.

Being a part of the Marriage and Couples Center includes weekly training, case consultation, and professional collaboration I find growthful and energizing. The trust and mutual support among colleagues make a difference.