Every month, we feature a provider as an opportunity for the community to learn more about the great people on staff at Little Company of Mary Hospital. This month, we had the chance to talk with Nadjeh Awadallah, Ed.D., L.C.P.C, clinical therapist with the Little Company of Mary Medical Group. Nadjeh sees patients ages 13 and up in the Mary Potter Pavilion (2850 West 95th Street, Suite 201, Evergreen Park, IL).
Get to know Nadjeh:
Why did you choose the field of clinical psychology?
I’ve always liked puzzles and figuring out how things work. The factors that predicate someone’s behavior, the way they make decisions and how they process emotions can differ significantly from person to person. You can’t take an x-ray to detect depression or a blood test to reveal an anxiety disorder. We know that people tend to operate in cycles of behavior, and sometimes those cycles aren’t healthy. I enjoy the process of working with patients to help them figure out what they need to do to find healthier ways to cope with stress or resolve interpersonal conflict.
How did you choose your specialty?
I work with patients with a wide array of psychological symptoms including depression, dysfunctional anger, compulsive behaviors, and substance abuse. I have always found anxiety to be particularly interesting, because it is an emotional state we’ve all experienced, but is specific to each person.
When someone experiences panic they might feel muscle tension or racing heart rate, and people around them may try to help by telling them that it is all in their head or to just snap out of it. However, those physical sensations are real – A person’s heart rate can feel like it’s racing for no reason, but it is actually the body’s response to the perception of risk or a threat of some kind. One may feel anxious because of their discomfort in a social setting, but as their anxiety grows they start to feel anxious because of their physical sensations. They may think ‘am I having a heart attack?’ or ‘why can’t I catch my breath?’. Anxiety is self-feeding. Early in my career I worked with kids struggling with school refusal due to anxiety, and found that you can teach skills to address these symptoms in the moment. Training adults and adolescents in strategies to manage anxiety has always been a rewarding aspect of my work in this field.
What is your philosophy of care?
I take a solutions-focused approach to treatment, and first look at the problems that have to be addressed in the short-term. Where is the impairment in functioning? What obstacles is the patient dealing with right now? Behavioral Health interventions require collaboration between the patient and the clinician. Not unlike physical therapy, for example, the therapist helps the patient recover from emotional distress or trauma through skill building/exercise. I think it is important for patients to understand what is happening physiologically when they are experiencing unwanted emotions/behavior, so I rely on psychoeducational strategies as part of therapy.
Psychoeducation is an evidence-based therapeutic strategy. It means the therapist must teach patients and their loved ones about the symptoms they experience. This information allows the patient to better understand and cope with illness. I like using directive interventions such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy). CBT and DBT gives us something to measure, because these treatment interventions focus on goals patients have and their progress towards those goals.
What do you look forward to the most in working with the patients at LCMH?
I have worked in several healthcare systems in my career so far, and I have always commuted to work. I am from the area, so moving to LCMH has given me the opportunity to work within my own local community. That is something that is important to me. My dad always says that it is important to help others, and to start by helping those around you. I agree with him, and working at LCMH gives me a great opportunity to do that.
What is the number one advice / tip you give your patients?
Many times people in distressing situations get stuck in an unhealthy pattern of behavior. People can be critical of themselves in seeking psychological services (or for not seeking them soon enough), and this isn’t helpful. Accessing professional advice to address emotional pain is no different than seeking out advice on dealing with physical pain. Self-care is important, and one’s emotional well-being directly impacts the state of their physical well-being. It is wise to seek these services. Sometimes people get so frustrated with these symptoms that they start asking themselves “why me?”. A more important question to ask is “what do I do next?”.
As a new provider with the Little Company of Mary Medical Group, what have you noticed is the best thing Little Company of Mary has to offer patients?
I’ve been so impressed with the degree to which all of the staff I’ve encountered at LCMH truly embodies the core values of the organization (Professionalism, Compassion, Quality, Responsibility, & Safety). It is clear that this culture of commitment to service resonates throughout the organization across staff at all levels. Patents benefit from receiving care from people who know how to do their jobs well, and do so with while showing patients empathy
What are your hobbies and interests outside of the office?
I like watching sports (especially football), I am a big movie buff, I love playing golf, and spending time with my family.
The Little Company of Mary Medical Group has been serving families in Chicago’s Southland and surrounding suburban communities since 1994. Each individual physician office provides clinical excellence above and beyond traditional medicine in a peaceful, clean, and caring environment. The office utilizes the best information and state-of-the-art technology to deliver and manage care and improve the health of the community. To learn more, visit www.LCMMedicalGroup.org today.