Introducing Alexis Johnson-Nelson PhD, LMFT

Dr. Nelson is a Marriage & Family Therapist

Education

Ph.D. Drexel University -Philadelphia, PA (Couple and Family Therapy) COAMFTE-accredited - 2011

Dissertation:
"Marital Attitudes of African-Americans Obtaining Graduate Education: A Study of the Black Middle Class"

M.S. University of Maryland - College Park, MD (Marriage and Family Therapy) COAMFTE-accredited - 2006

B.A. Spelman College - Atlanta, GA (Psychology) - 2004

License:
Georgia: Marriage and Family Therapist MFT001257


Couples Retreats are held in Atlanta, Georgia


Practice Values

I believe in healthy and stable partnerships. They provide the foundation from which families and communities grow. If you are doubting the process, that's not a deal-breaker. If you're motivated to actively participate in doing the hard work of therapy, if you see the value in your relationship, I want to work with you. Let's work together to make a better relationship happen.

I understand how difficult it can be to seek therapy. I’m actually a social introvert. Being a therapist pushes me to talk to people, but my general personality is more reserved.  

Are you married to someone who's reluctant to  talk about themselves?

I know how to reach people who don’t like to share or don’t want to open up in public.  I know what that feels like.

I tend to find a lot of couples where one person is the talker and the other person is more quiet. They ask: 'How do you still have effective communication despite those differences?' In my therapy room, we do it by slowing things down and keeping things balanced. 

Each of you still want to feel validated and understood. My job is equally to be there for people who are comfortable with therapy, as well as people who "don't do therapy" or aren't comfortable with the entire process. I can slow things down enough to give you the space to talk in the way that works for both of you. 

It's really important that the more outgoing partner learns to validate an introvert's personality style, and learn how to act in a way that encourages more talking from their more reserved spouse. It's a cooperative effort, really. Both have to learn how to work at it. So it’s understanding each other’s differences and being able to still validate that in the couple context.

It's not much of a problem when both of you are outgoing or talkative. That's much easier for therapists!

When we first meet, I typically talk a little bit about what we'll be doing and why. I also want to understand what you're hoping to get from the weekend, as well as some of your concerns. When I have a partner that’s not as willing to be there, I want to honor the fact that you decided to come, anyway. I want both of you to recognize what that says about how much you value your relationship, just by walking in!

Humor is also going to soften any resistance that you might feel. I love to laugh!  And I find that in general after talking, you'll feel a little bit more engaged. If you're the one who’s doesn’t like to talk a whole lot, chances are that by the end of the evening, you'll be opening up, because you'll say to yourself:  'It's okay, I’m being heard and I’m not just being ignored or talked at." 

Husbands can sometimes feel like I might side with the wife. She's often the one who will talk more and explain the situation for both of them. That doesn't work. And so I try to address that habit, if I see it, at the beginning of our time together.

One thing that is also true of me is that I'm not going to waste time. I feel that time is valuable and strive to be punctual in my life. And while I choose my words carefully, to consider how they'll impact each of you, I am very structured about how we use our time. I'll also analyze your situations, before we even meet, and I'll have a thorough handle on what each of you want me to know, so please spend time on that BIG BIG Book!  I'll read your every word!

Many of the children I have worked with have experienced difficulties stemming from unhealthy and sometimes dysfunctional relationships patterns in their homes. I have also found that many of the adults that I have worked with have struggled with issues from their childhood family structure. These issues often impact the ability to form fulfilling couple relationships in the future. I work to help couples identify and address the obstacles that hinder their ability to achieve the level of happiness and satisfaction they are striving towards.

 My work with children and individuals has reinforced the importance of stable and healthy couple relationships.

Evidence-Based Treatment Models

Gottman Method Couples Therapy
Levels I & II


 Associations:

Clinical Member

"You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult time and challenging adversity.”  -Dr. Nelson

Personally Speaking

I'm married with two young daughters. In contrast to me, they are extremely chatty and love to ask about everything. We talk A LOT! I love to introduce them to different arts and crafts activities. We also love to have impromptu dance parties in the house. 

I think having young children has made me aware of how important it is to be very careful about how we talk with each other.

Awareness of how family patterns repeat

My friends and I reflect a lot on how our childhood. Particularly what we saw growing up and how some of those patterns can continue in our marriages. How important it is to be very aware that our patterns come from somewhere!

They'll say: 'I didn’t realize that I saw my mom talk to my dad that way...' or 'I saw this happen with my grandparents...' It's surprising what that does in terms of normalizing sometimes really unhealthy patterns of behavior.

Arguing in front of the children

So I think my husband and I are very intentional about the way that we talk to each other, especially in front of kids. We’re trying to model that we can disagree. Our kids don’t have to believe that their parents never argue.

But how we argue is important. And if something feels like it’s an inappropriate subject for kids, we can do that in our room without them around, or can we set boundaries so that they’re not exposed to something that’s really negative. But we can also model disagreement in a healthy way.

What my parents taught about arguing

Growing up, my parents modeled that for me. I would say in a lot of ways my parents were my biggest inspiration about how to be in a relationship. They've shaped my idea of love and partnership. 

 My family

Every relationship has challenges, and theirs wasn't perfect. My parents still have a very good banter. But they still like each other. They still have fun together.

That really kind of set the tone for me because growing up, I wanted to have that too. I wanted to understanding not only how couples develop that kind of healthy relationship, but how they can go wrong and how I could help change it around. My parents were a template for me of a healthy relationship and what I thought an ideal relationship  should look like. I appreciate them for that.

I believe that people break negative family traditions by just being awareness that we're repeating them. And once you know you’re doing it, then you can do something different to change it.

Mentors and Inspirations

I've had many supervisors and mentors in my life but I feel like most of my motivational conversations have actually come from my Mom. She’s always been my biggest cheerleader, always in my corner. She was the one making sure that I pursued things that didn’t always feel comfortable to me and to push myself to continue to grow and to learn and just not being complacent. That’s always been her big push.

My mother is my personal definition of intestinal fortitude. She is hardworking and dedicated, while maintaining her compassionate and nurturing spirit. She has also been my personal teacher, coach, cheerleader and support system throughout my life.

My grandmother has also inspired me because of her career and the personal achievements she has made despite encountering societal barriers like racism and segregation.

Down-time activities

On a more personal note, when I can carve out some down time I love to escape into a light-hearted novel. Lately I’ve been curling up with books by Emily Griffin or Jennifer Weiner.

I also love music and to dance (mostly Zumba) when I can. Connecting to music and allowing myself to get out of my own head temporarily is freeing.

I am always looking for something new to introduce to my children.

I also love languages, particularly French.

Work Experience

Over the last 14 years, I've worked in a variety of settings. I've worked with a science-based approach in helping couples in a solution-focused way.

In several settings, I've run programs for divorcing parents and their children and courses on effective parental discipline. Some have been court ordered as a necessary step for parents getting divorced.

I've helped adults with issue such as ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, Anger Management, Depression, Anxiety and Borderline Personality Disorder.

I've run groups on helping children develop social skills and stop bullying. I worked with these same children of divorce in activities helping them to manage their parental separation and divorce. I worked at a college setting at the University of Maryland with both couples, individuals and families on presenting problems such as neurodiversity, depression and suicidality and child behavioral problems.

I've also worked with severe and persistent mental illness to help the family improve communication, problem solve and be aware of strategies for relapse prevention.

I've worked in Bowie, MD, Camden, NJ, and Cincinnati, OH and now in the Atlanta area. 

I would be delighted to work with you as well. Speak to Cindy, our Intake Coordinator, to set up a meeting to speak to me.

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