Cura Personalis

Recently at Union Square Practice, our Co-Founder and Dir. of Psychology, Dr. Jonathan Fader with Michelle Freedland, one of our psychiatric nurse practitioners, sat down and spoke freely about what is used to guide her way of approaching therapy and working with clients.

Michelle Freedland—MF

Jonathan Fader—JF

MF: I went to Georgetown as an undergrad and one of the teachings that’s always sat with me was a Latin term “Cura Personalis” – it speaks to the care of the whole person. The term applies to everything, but especially my work here – it’s really looking at the whole care of person. What drives people, makes them tick, what leads people to feel certain ways and how do people feel their best? It’s like looking at a person from a holistic perspective. So that brings in social aspects, family dynamics, educational background, your moral compass, your physical health–anything you can really think of that makes up who you are, what makes you unique.

MF: Incorporating the notion of Cura Personalis makes me step back as a clinician and think about the broad scope of each individuals’ experience. It helps paint a picture to place things – like a problem or illness– in context. My first nursing job was in the hospital, working 12-hour shifts on an inpatient psychiatric unit. I saw my patients in really vulnerable moments. You saw them trying to cope, learning about their illness; you see how they interact with family and support systems and you get to see them make progress. I think just given the time you spend with patients, you get to see and think about them in a very broad way that helps you connect and appreciate their unique circumstances.

JF: Can I ask you a question? In your active clinical practice, when you think about “Cura Personalis”, how does that come into your conversation with people and how do you know if you’re really getting through to someone and your technique is working?

MF: For me, Cura Personalis feels really practical. The basic premise is in supporting a level of understanding, respect and appreciation of what someone is going through and how they understand and care for themselves. It overlaps a lot with other therapy principles many of us teach like mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but the labels and clinical terms don’t really matter. One of the first things I ask people when they come in for an evaluation is “I want to spend today getting a better sense of who you are, where you come from and what brings you in.” Cura Personalis starts there. Helping people tell their narrative, identify their strengths and weaknesses, understand how they have been influenced and judge themselves less for the things they have or haven’t done to become the person they want to be is what all of this is about. We can have all of these really great tools to give patients, but how they can take these skills out of the office and into their real life is what matters.

There is nothing I love more than to hear a patient come back and tell me how they were thinking about something we discussed the previous week, or how they were able to approach something differently and felt really good about it. This is how you know that they are internalizing and taking in what you are saying in order to apply it beyond the office. I think just being really human and honest plays a big role in a client being able to do this. It helps open up conversation and work that feels safe, constructive and meaningful.