Alexa Barnes, Ph.D.
Supervised by Emily Kerzin, Ph.D.
Approach to Therapy
I utilize an integrated and holistic approach to therapy that is tailored to the needs of the client and is grounded in relational-cultural theory (RCT). This approach helps me conceptualize clients’ concerns through their relationships with others, the systems in which they live, and their intersecting identities. It also helps me understand and address the ways in which a client’s presenting concerns manifest in their mind, body, and spirit. I utilize a variety of therapeutic tools, depending on what is most appropriate for the client, many of which involve focusing on emotions and experiences in the here and now. I seek to develop a genuine connection in which clients gain understanding of their authentic selves and the way they relate to their world. I utilize humor in therapy often and have a down-to-earth and flexible interpersonal style. I believe that clients come to me already holding the answers and guidance they are looking for and it is my role to help empower them to connect with their inner knowing. I encourage clients to increase mindfulness and emotional awareness to help them become an intentional creator of their experiences. I aim to help clients let go of shame and develop self-compassion.
Areas of Interest
Body Image and Disordered Eating
I have both clinical and research experience in understanding and treating issues related to body image and disordered eating. This topic is one of the passions that led me to enter the field of psychology and has consistently been an area of focus for me throughout my training. I greatly enjoy helping clients explore and analyze messages they have received from peers, media, and family that contribute to a disconnection in their relationship with their body. Watching clients learn to love and appreciate their physical selves and engage in behaviors that contribute to their wellness instead of self-punishment is one of the most rewarding experiences for me in this field. I utilize Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size approaches.
Autonomy and Identity Development
As we move into adulthood, we often find ourselves wrestling with our values and beliefs, which have been influenced by our family and culture of origin. Sometimes this process results in differences between ourselves and others in our lives and can cause disconnects in relationships that can be painful. I help clients explore their values and beliefs and develop a sense of autonomy and authenticity while also navigating challenges that may arise in their relationships. For those who have faced cultural or religious trauma, I aim to facilitate the healing process and help clients learn how to make sense of and validate their experiences.
My interest in the mind-body connection led me to develop a specialty in helping clients understand how their physical and mental health behaviors and functioning impact one another. Self-care has become a popular term recently, but so often people do not appreciate the importance of focusing on physical wellness to improve mental health. I work with clients on making overall wellness a priority and finding ways to incorporate healthy behaviors as part of their regular routine. This includes a focus on gut health, given the vital role that the gut plays in the production of neurotransmitters. I also love collaborating with other health care professionals to provide more holistic care to my clients.
I have a strong interest in concerns related to sexual and gender identities. Many in the LGBTQIA+ community have experienced trauma and disconnection from those in their lives. I provide a safe and affirming environment to work on identifying relational and controlling images that have contributed to shame and disconnection from self and others. I believe that the therapeutic relationship can be incredibly helpful in the healing process for those who have experienced chronic disconnection and invalidation. In addition to providing therapy for those in the LGBTQIA+ community, I also engage in advocacy for the rights of sexual and gender minorities and empower my clients to advocate for themselves as well. I also enjoy working with the families of those in the LGBTQIA+ community to improve understanding and compassion for their loved ones.
I was raised in rural Oklahoma and completed a BA in Psychology at the University of Oklahoma (yes, I know I have now moved into Longhorn territory, so I will refrain from yelling Boomer Sooner too loudly). I then completed a MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Northeastern State University. I became a Licensed Professional Counselor in Oklahoma and went on to complete a PhD in Counseling Psychology at Oklahoma State University (so I am already used to being in not-Sooner-friendly territory). I have worked in the field for seven years and have been fortunate enough to work in several settings including youth and family agencies, a university counseling center, an inpatient eating disorder treatment program, a correctional facility, and a health clinic that serves indigenous populations. My doctoral research focused on the ways in which family influences body image development. I am passionate about advocacy for social justice and strive to make this work a large part of my focus as a clinician. I am committed to doing whatever I can to work towards social change and reform to move towards equality for all and improve the lives of those who have been marginalized and oppressed. In my free time, I enjoy spending as much time as possible outdoors (preferably in/around water), reading, traveling, and engaging in nerd culture. I am a massive animal lover and I have the cutest (in my biased opinion) feline companion called Winky (named after a house elf from the Harry Potter books). (Pronouns: She/Her/Hers)