M.A., Argosy University, Tampa, FL. (Mental Health Counseling), 2014 GPA 3.92
M.S. Troy State University, Troy, AL (Public Administration).
B.S, Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville, NC. (Psychology) Suma Cum Laude.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor, State of Florida License No. MH 16059
Advanced Training in the Gottman Method of Couples Therapy
I’m a very resilient person; I believe everyone is in control of their own destiny. I enjoy helping others let go of their guilt and shame so they can feel good about themselves and move forward in life. My son likes to tease that my motto is “Always move forward” and says I should get a tattoo of it. It is my motto, but no tattoos for now!
I often work with couples who are on the brink of divorce. Many times they’ve been to other counselors and are making a last ditch effort to find some nugget of wisdom that might change the negative patterns they’ve become entrenched in. I’m truly passionate about helping couples remember what it was that drew them to their partner and how to overcome serious obstacles and breaches of trust.
There are many twists and turns in life that we are not prepared for, but marriage is worth fighting for. I’m always happy when a couple can move past a bad chapter in their relationship and keep moving forward together in a positive direction.
Couples I work with have experienced a serious breach of trust—a significant betrayal that can sink a marriage and split apart families. I know that you can see beyond the pain and anger to build a better relationship by addressing your underlying issues. While it can be challenging for hurt partners to see things from the other partner’s perspective, it is important that they make the effort to experience true empathy for them. We are ALL flawed individuals on our own journey through this life. Sometimes in our own pain, particularly after an affair, we forget this.
I help them remember what they love about their partner, they can begin to rebuild a relationship with trust and respect. It is especially gratifying to help couples let go of their defensiveness and develop new skills that promote trust, friendship, and respect within the relationship.
I can be very direct, but I truly believe I owe that to clients. I believe it’s important to be open and direct with clients so there’s no misunderstanding and to help clients let go of old paradigms that may not be serving them well or allowing them to move forward.
Many times clients come to therapy because they are desperate. They often have been to other therapists, read extensively and know a lot of therapy jargon. I feel it’s my responsibility to move beyond what they may have already experienced and get to the root of problems so they can make real positive changes in their marriage.
Being a psychotherapist is my second career. I retired from the US Air Force after a 21 year career that took me all over the world—Germany, England, Korea, Iraq and many other countries in the Middle East.
I was a Personnel Officer, a Plans & Policy/Political Affairs Officer, and Chief of Protocol at US Central Command, Air Force Special Operations Command, and United States Air Forces Europe.
I loved almost every minute of it and learned so much about leadership, people, and different cultures.
After being told so often that I was easy to talk to, I decided to become a counselor after I retired. I thought I would pursue certifications in addiction counseling, so I did an internship with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and worked for a non-profit long-term residential treatment facility for drug and alcohol abusers. It was an invaluable experience and I truly enjoyed helping those who wanted help.
I also worked with Special Operations at MacDill AFB managing a Peer Mentor program to help service members and their families cope with the stressors of constant deployments and military life.
When I started doing private practice I found most people who sought me out or were referred to me were struggling with relationship issues. I found that working with couples came naturally to me.
I’m always on the side of the relationship and believe even the most broken marriages can be repaired if both parties are willing to make changes. In our society, it’s too easy to throw away a relationship when we’re hurt, angry, or feeling betrayed. But this comes at a big cost, personally, to families, and to society.
With help, people can change and learn how to nurture their relationship to make it a safe haven of love and friendship. Drawing on my training and life experiences I help couples look beyond affair injury or recurring issues that may never be solved to build or repair a strong foundation of trust and respect. Yes, these things are significant but they don’t have to end a marriage. Each partner is an individuals with his or her own needs, wounds, hopes and dreams—we often develop unrealistic expectations for our partner based only on our own needs.
Additional Certifications & Trainings
Certified Clinical Trauma Professional
My office is located in the Westshore business district in Tampa, less than 10 minutes from Tampa International Airport, 10 minutes to downtown and about 20 minutes our beautiful Gulf of Mexico beaches. The office is located in an easily accessible 3 story office complex, on the second floor. It’s comfortable and welcoming. There are plenty of great places to shop and eat nearby, including Tampa’s International Plaza Mall, and a variety of hotels.
Tampa is great small city surrounded by communities with everything anyone might want to do on a Florida vacation. We have a growing foodie scene and of course our beautiful, tranquil Gulf of Mexico beaches. We have professional sports teams—the NHL’s Lightning Hockey team, MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays baseball and the NFL’s Buccaneers; great in and off shore fishing and golf, as well as nearby Orlando which offers Walt Disney World and Universal Studios.
We have a performing arts center—The Straz Center--that hosts Broadway performances, St Petersburg’s Mahaffey Performing Arts Center and the Amalie Arena that draws all kinds of top tier talent from Bruce Springsteen and Elton John to Cirque du Solei and Disney on Ice. Tampa is very relaxed and welcoming--you can wear shorts just about anywhere, or get dressed to the nines if you prefer.
I love living in Florida and try to ride my bike every day along our beautiful Bayshore Boulevard.
Since moving near this boulevard 12 years ago, I ride my bike at least 4 or 5 days a week. It’s the “longest linear park in the world” and it’s really beautiful along the water.
Not only is it a great exercise opportunity, but I’ve made friends with people who I’ve seen for years out there walking or riding. I’ve been stranded in a few driving thunderstorms, I’ve been asked on dates, I’ve watched children grow up, run into old friends after years, and seen celebrities.
I’ve seen pirate invasions, manatees, tons of dolphins, stingrays, sharks big and small, and watched people catch all types of fish. I even saw a guy in a gorilla suit, waiving at me from a jet ski and a guy on a bicycle wearing only a Speedo and a huge rubber horse head mask! You never know what you might see out there, but it’s always interesting!
Riding my bicycle is a form of meditation for me that helps clear my mind, enjoy being outside, and get a little exercise at the same time.
I love to fish and enjoy nurturing plants in my garden—especially colorful flowers. I’ve really enjoyed watching the transformation of my yard from 6 years ago when I bought my house to now. It was nothing but weeds and a couple of oak trees. Through lots of physical labor it’s now a beautiful oasis for my family and the butterflies. Friends tell me I have a green thumb, but I’ve killed a few plants too! It’s yet another example in life of the power of persistence and hard work.
I also make desserts for a local restaurant and have been told I make the best carrot cake and cheesecakes on the planet! I also enjoy painting and all types of art.
Irene is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom (2004) and earned many medals during her 21 year career.”
I’ve been described as having a “sunny” personality and an easy going nature. I’m friendly and happy--people have told me since junior high that I’m easy to talk to. I believe anything is possible if you want it, but most things require effort. I always look for the best in people and believe I can learn something from everyone if I’m open to it.
My grandmother was a big influence on me. Even though she lived in Germany and only visited us every couple of years, she used to always say “Reni kann alles.” This means “Irene can do anything.” I took this to mean she believed I had both the opportunity and personal power to do anything I wanted to in life. That small phrase was very powerful and a great source of self-confidence. To this day, I still hear her saying that.
Like me and my three older brothers, my father was in the military so I grew up all over the place. He retired in Fayetteville, North Carolina where I went to high school and college before being commissioned into the Air Force. I’ve been in Tampa since 1999 so I consider it home now.
When I was married, like many couples today, we juggled careers, children, step children, managing a home and all the many details that come with our busy lives today. It was challenging and my spouse and I both made many mistakes. When you’re in the thick of it you don’t always see problems coming or understand how you may be contributing to those problems.
When my marriage was coming apart, long before I ever even thought of becoming a therapist, we went to 4 or 5 different therapists and most of them were sadly inadequate to help us. This led me to read every relationship book I could get my hands on.
This is how I learned about the Gottmans—and I was astounded that many therapists at the time didn’t know much about their amazing work. Once I started working in the field I reflected on my own experiences with betrayal of trust, infidelity, hurt, anger, and marriage counseling and I decided I would learn all I could about evidence based couples therapy and use my own experiences to help couples make the changes needed to heal, rather than turning away from each other for good.
I came to realize that relationships can be improved if individuals learn and employ certain basic skills and habits. After reading about the Gottman’s I saw how their research and experience over 40 years of working with couples is absolutely key to maintaining a healthy long term relationship. Once I started using their techniques in my own practice, I was able to see big improvements in the way couples related to one another.
I’m very fortunate that my two children live close by so I see them often. My son is at the University of South Florida here in Tampa. He frequently stops by before work or class to let me babysit his adorable Dachshund puppy—and drop off a load of dirty laundry! My daughter is starting nursing school in January and has a beautiful 3 year old little girl. I love spending time with my granddaughter—she’s so full of joy and laughter.