Health

A Therapeutic Journey An Interview with Dr. Natalie Gar, Clinical and Educational psychologist

Tell us a bit about yourself and your training as a psychologist.

I grew up in Toronto, Canada. My journey as a psychologist began in Montreal, where I completed a B.A. in psychology at McGill University. I then moved to Israel and subsequently to Sydney, Australia, where I earned a Master’s and PhD in Clinical Psychology, while training under the supervision of world leaders in the field of anxiety disorders. During this time, I published a book chapter as well as articles in leading peer-reviewed journals.  

On returning to Israel in 2009, I began working as a psychologist through the Efrat municipality and subsequently received my specialization license in School Psychology. I worked for nine years in Efrat, providing consultation services to paraprofessional staff and parents, as well as offering psychological assessment, parent counseling and treatment for children with learning difficulties, ADHD and behavioral issues.  

What are your areas of specialization?  

I have a general psychotherapy practice, but I specialize in the treatment of anxiety including: generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, separation anxiety, specific phobias, panic disorder, selective mutism, agoraphobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and test anxiety. I also have a great deal of experience treating olim with adjustment issues, as well as young adults studying in Israel for the year.  

Everyone has some anxiety at times; at what point does it require treatment? 

Feeling anxious is a normal, natural reaction to a stressful or dangerous situation. When worry is intense, persistent, and impairs functioning in home, school or social life, that’s when you may need to seek professional help. In regard to children, anxiety often presents with physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, avoidance or acting out behaviors. 

Tell us about your work in the school system

For the past nine years, I worked with parents and children (ages 3-18) in numerous kindergartens and schools. This allowed me to gain an understanding of how the Israeli school system works and what services are offered for children with learning or emotional difficulties.  When I treat a child or counsel parents, I am often in contact with the school staff in order to help them understand the child’s needs and relate to them in an effective manner. School staff often suggest that parents take their child for some sort of assessment or alternative therapy. There are numerous evaluations and therapies available and parents are often overwhelmed about how to go about getting an assessment or finding appropriate services. I frequently help guide families through this confusing process.  

What therapy modalities do you use? 

First and foremost, I strongly believe in having an evidence-based practice (EBP).  Evidence-based therapy does not mean that you are guaranteed to get better. It means that I adhere to psychological approaches which integrate the best available scientific research with clinical experience in deciding the best course of treatment for your particular case. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to be the most effective treatment for anxiety disorders, so when treating an anxious client, I would begin by using CBT and then integrate other techniques as needed. Similarly, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is the treatment of choice for borderline personality disorder (BPD), prolonged exposure (PE) is recommended for trauma related issues and so forth. Having said that, therapy always needs to be tailored to the unique needs, family background and clinical presentation of the individual. Research has shown that evidence-based therapy is cost-effective. This makes sense since clients undergoing evidence-based therapy likely spend less time receiving treatment than those undergoing treatment plans which have not been scientifically shown to be effective. 

What is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?  

CBT is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on changing unhelpful patterns of cognitions (e.g. thoughts, beliefs, attitudes) and emotions that influence behaviors. In this way, an individual can gain a greater sense of control over his/her emotions and actions. CBT is an “action-oriented” form of therapy in which the therapist’s role is to assist the client in practicing effective strategies and coping mechanisms to address their identified goals, and to decrease symptoms and associated distress. CBT is recommended in the American Psychological Association treatment guidelines as a psychosocial treatment of choice for numerous psychological disorders. CBT focuses on the present and is structured, collaborative and tools/skills-building. It is generally short-term (12-20 sessions); however, some clients with chronic or complex issues require longer term therapy.  

How would a person know if you are the right therapist for them or their child? 

I realize that it can be hard and frustrating to find the right therapist. I am highly approachable, so if you feel that you or someone you love could benefit from therapy, please contact me. 

I consult in both English and Hebrew and provide both long- and short-term therapy for children, adolescents, and adults. I am committed to providing evidence-based, high-quality, empathic psychological services, tailored to each client’s individual needs and goals. I enjoy being part of each client’s journey towards living a productive and fulfilling life. 

Dr. Natalie Gar is a Clinical and Educational Psychologist with an expertise in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for anxiety and depressive disorders in children, adolescents, and adults. She currently maintains a private practice in Jerusalem and Gush Etzion. 

Dr. Gar can be contacted at  054-440-3979 or drnataliegar@gmail.com 

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