My name is Catherine Starr and I have practiced social work in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and the broader Washtenaw County area since 2012. I opened The Safe Calm Place in 2018 with the intention of creating a playful environment dedicated to supporting families in need of connection and healing. I have trained in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Sand tray therapy. I am currently working on earning my Registered Play Therapist (RPT) and Theraplay certifications. After receiving my MSW from the University of Michigan I began working as a case manager and mental health professional at Youth and Family Services, part of Washtenaw County Community Mental Health. During these years I witnessed the disruptive force that mental illness can have on young people and their families, as well as the transformative power that effective therapies within compassionate relationship can bring.
Therapy can be an intense process that requires strength, courage, and time for being with feelings, beliefs and body sensations in mindful reflection. For this work to be most successful, it often requires the efforts of both the parent and the child. The reward, however, is a renewed and more stable sense of self, greater connection to others, as well as an enhanced capacity for love and joy.
My heart is filled with appreciation for young people who have survived unimaginable pain and maintain the resilience to do the work necessary for recovery. As a therapist I am inspired and emboldened by the beauty and creativity that children bring to therapy. Families often seek help in times of chaos and confusion. In these moments of fear, anger, or deep sadness, we may find hope to be fleeting and tenuous. I view my role as a therapist to be the holder of hope, a container for feelings which appear to be overwhelming, until the process of therapy can allow for that role to be taken over successfully by the child and family. Our work is triumphant when a child begins to recognize the value of caring for her mental health, or when a young adult notices the calm and stability that comes from developing his social connections and emotional mindfulness. Each journey to mental wellness will look different, will require individual attention, but will allow children and families to emerge with their own enhanced genuine beauty and strength.
My name is Jing Zhang, or simply call me Liz. I’m originally from China. I lived in California for a couple years before moving to Ann Arbor in 2015 to attend University of Michigan. Prior to that, I had a career in business. It was a family member’s struggle with mental illness that introduced me to the mental health world. I was first on the receiving end of services. Then inspired by the helpers I met along the way, I decided to pursue two masters’ degrees in Social Work and Health Service Administration, and ultimately a 180° career turn to become a licensed social worker.
Since 2018, I’ve devoted my career to providing trauma-informed therapy to the most vulnerable youth and families within Washtenaw County through Community Mental Health. Taught by Laura Sanders and Julie Ribaudo, I believe effective therapy is relational and strive to bring my authentic self into the therapeutic relationship.
The nerdy part of me has always been fascinated by the brain and the intricate connections between
our physical body and mental/emotional wellbeing. I’m trained in DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy)
and other therapy models. Yet, when I received the S.A.F.E EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and
Reprocessing) training and personally experienced EMDR as part of the basic training in 2019, I knew
this was the clinical approach I wanted to hone in on. It’s simply because it worked magic in freeing me
from early childhood attachment wounds. In layman’s terms, EMDR taps into the healing power within our brain and nervous system, which helps a person to heal from traumatic memories that are
physically stuck in our system, to restore balance and unleash the potential of the authentic and resilient self that each of us was meant to be. In the past two years, I completed all the requirements for EMDR certification. It has been the most amazing growth I’ve experienced personally and professionally, which in turn, allowed me to bring deeper healing to many youths, parents and family systems.
My career in social work grew in parallel to my experience as a mother. From both my personal and
professional experience, I’m a firm believer that challenges in parenting are really opportunities for us to become better person. My four-year-old daughter and all my clients taught me just as much
as all my professional trainings did.
Now, at The Safe Calm Place, I look forward to working with you and your family to uncovering the root
causes of whatever presenting issues that brought you here and healing from bottom up.