Therapist Interview: Leslie Dobson by: Andrew Hauptmann

Hello everyone. Meet Leslie. She is not only a clinical and forensic psychologist but an expert in civil ligation. At first, she was interested in becoming a veterinarian. But this quickly changed once she began her college psychology courses. She decided halfway through her undergrad to travel across the world for an exchange student program. The college life in England was an eye-opening experience. Leslie became fascinated by the educational structure and pursued a masters in Freudian Psychoanalysis upon completing her undergraduate studies. Leslie returned to California to earn an additional master’s degree and her doctorate degree in clinical psychology with a forensics concentration. This is when her career into the field of psychology began.

Why are you passionate about psychology?

In college, her research heavily focused on schizophrenia. This is one of Leslie’s passions. As a doctoral student, Leslie became interested in psychopathy. During her practicum training, she worked with psychologists and other students at LA County Jail. Primarily focusing on schizophrenia as well as victimization, perpetrators, and horrific incidents… This was when she learned that the human mind is fascinating. She felt compelled to work with this population right after graduation. Leslie is truly a forensics enthusiast.

Leslie’s fellowship training was at a state hospital working with individuals with severe mental disorders, having committed sexual offenses and violent felonies. This setting directly exposed Leslie to trauma. Seeing it, dealing with it, and feeling it herself. Leslie then brought her expertise and training to the VA hospital setting where she was able to truly study the effects of trauma. This was also when Leslie met Heather with Premier First Responder Psychological Services. Taking the skillsets of understanding both perpetrator and victim into private practice. Leslie’s passion took this path.

In addition to providing services for first responders having endured trauma, Leslie is an expert in civil ligation cases, determining the validity of truthfulness of sexual abuse allegations of either the victim or abuser. Diving deep into the validity of claims. It is something that cannot be overlooked. It is traumatizing for a victim in litigation and those accused to be in litigation. Leslie learned that she can sit in a room and connect with people who are in pain and motivate them to live their lives and to feel better. This is Leslie’s passion with psychology. Her niche. This is also why she started a nonprofit. Through donations, she is able to offer mental health services with no charge. Prioritizing clients. Providing them the services they deserve.

What drove you to the field of psychology that inspired you to become a psychological services provider?

As a doctoral student, one of her mentors, a Gestalt therapist, saw Leslie for who she is. Leslie learned she can be fully with herself and fully with another person in a room. Being a client and a clinician. Having the skill to bring yourself into preparation for every therapy session. Being calm. Being in your own body. Your thoughts are clear. Utilizing these skillsets while diving into the severe traumas experienced by police and fire. Providing these first responders with unwavering support. This assists them to move past debilitating PTSD symptoms. Forming a strong connection with clients to dive into the pain they experienced. Rewriting the narrative around those traumatic memories with Leslie by their side. Not feeling pain because they feel safe. This is her niche.

People can become “stuck.” Becoming stuck makes it difficult to cognitively read one’s emotional needs. We can get stuck in these places in our lives and cannot move forward. Not understanding what the stuck point is to be precise. This allows Leslie the opportunity to focus on her client’s emotions, feelings, and emotional needs. Moving them forward. This is what Leslie does. Not allowing the traumas to own them. Clients dictate their needs and Leslie responds.

Which types of clients do you feel you connect best with?

Leslie works best with police officers and firefighter personnel who have endured severe PTSD and feel motivated to put work into making themselves better. Leslie also works with sexual assault and trauma victims, those who feel “stuck,” and mothers, as she is a mom herself, with her subspecialty in fertility and postpartum. Leslie believes there isn’t a person in a room without a personality. Leslie tells her clients about their connection and what she thinks of them. Her personality and her presence are in the room. Leslie wants a relationship with her clients. Both therapist and client demonstrate interest. The importance of having a relationship. This is when change and meaning happen.

What are your specific types of therapeutic modalities and why?

Leslie incorporates it all in her practice. EMDR, Gestalt and humanistic work, psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, skills training, social skills training, and trauma focused evidence-based treatments including cognitive processing therapy and prolonged exposure. She also provides cognitive behavioral therapy for those experiencing insomnia. It’s a lot to take in. But what’s the significance of some of these modalities?

Distortions prevent us from moving forward, feeling stuck…That’s cognitive behavioral therapy. Humanistic work is geared towards the process, what something felt like, and what happened, rather than the actual content of what was discussed. Psychodynamic therapy tackles that relational aspect. How people are feeling. Relating with others in the real-world setting. Through motivational interviewing, Leslie builds up a person’s confidence around their ability to get something done or make change. Leslie motivates her clients, and her clients motivate her.

If a new client asked you about therapy, how would you describe it?

For Leslie, therapy is a place to freely discuss what is needed to be talked about. A judgment-free zone. Learning more about the client. Learning about eachother. She’s not structured or rigid. Leslie makes suggestions about improving someone’s life. But what about an expectation? Clients should expect to be given options of where to gear their focus in life, individual goals, and the effort needed to improve. Educating that internal therapist. This is why Leslie is here.

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I have spent over 20 years in the assessment and treatment of mental health disorders in individual and group therapy, and criminal and civil law.