by J.B. Hyppolite
On Oct. 20, between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., local psychotherapist Susan Karol Martel, Ed.M., held a free workshop called “Don’t REpeat, RElate” for Weavers Way members. The workshop focused on building and maintaining meaningful relationships. The goal of the workshop was to help the subjects avoid repeating previous relationship mistakes by identifying the patterns of participants’ relationships that have contributed to their being unsatisfied.
“I decided to do this workshop and others because throughout my career I’ve tried to promote mental health care. More than ever I believe that people need to consider consulting with a therapist. much the same way as they would a lawyer, doctor or accountant,” she said, adding that everyone should have an affordable way to obtain the best of what psychotherapy has to offer, especially for personal growth.
“We don’t come into the world knowing how to face all of life’s challenges.”
Susan refers to her game plan of helping people through various relationship issues as “The Relationship School.” It’s not literally a school but a rubric that reflects people learning how to improve their relationships with friends, family, partners, etc.
Susan, 65, a Clinical Fellow of The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, has been helping individuals and couples for 35 years. She became a psychotherapist after undergoing her own therapy, which she described as “life-altering.” Clients have sought help to cope with relationship issues, stress, life-threatening illness, sexual identity, career changes, family pressures, aging and post-partum depression, among others.
There are many things that come natural to human beings, but developing and nurturing a meaningful relationship is not necessarily one of them. “Sometimes our nature, nurture and fortune result in our not knowing who we are from the inside,” Susan explained. “We take in information about who we should be according to external sources. Some people live their whole lives without self-reflection. We need to set aside time to figure out ‘who am I?’ We can learn some things about who we are from all relationships, but a good, satisfying, safe relationship allows us to heal from the wounds of those that have been harmful.”
Susan co-authored a book entitled “The Fourth Trimester: On Becoming a Mother,” and for one year she wrote a column titled “The Therapist Is In” for the Northwest Independent about issues that aren’t often discussed is polite conversation such as “Viagra, Pleeeeeze!” “My Son Is Gay. How Can I Help Him?” and “Should I Take Medication for Depression?”
In her “On Becoming a Mother” book, Martel points out that “After a birth, especially the first, there is a shift in the way a woman defines herself. The addition of the title ‘mother’ is a huge one, and not necessarily similar to a new mom’s fantasies … It’s not abnormal when a woman feels that balancing is difficult. The question is how she will regain it and what kinds of supports are available to her.”
Martel is compiling the questions she’s received most frequently during her 35 years of private practice for a book that will eventually be titled “Navigating The Therapy Maze: 100 Questions and Answers” (to be dedicated to psychologist Dr. Dan Gottlieb). And she hopes to offer the following workshops in the future: “Relationship Jazz…Creating More Playful Relationships,” “Attracting People Your Own Size by Growing into Your Biggest Self,” “Two Paths to the Same Place…Mindfulness and Improvisation” and “1, 2 and 3 Minutes…To Being Less Reactive and More Present.”
Susan was born in Allentown. She earned her undergraduate degree in English and Speech at Temple University, and she earned an Ed.M in Learning Environments and Psychology at Harvard University. Susan’s partner is named Cathy, and she has a son named David.
“I work with individuals and couples,” she said, “straight and gay, African Americans, Caucasians and other racial and ethnic groups … and with those having chronic illness and cancer. Challenge and loss are inevitable, whether they be associated with love, family, health or trust or over how we hoped our life would turn out. Living well means learning a repertoire to deal with challenges so we don’t remain stuck, angry or depressed.
Martel’s home and office are located in one of the historical properties within Awbury Arboretum in Germantown. “I’ve lived in this area for about 15 years and love its diversity,” she said. “It feels like the U.N. compared to where I used to live on the Main Line.”
For more information, email SKMartel@aol.com or call 267-693-3625.