Phillip Forrence (Intern Therapist)
Phillip Forrence is a skilled intern therapist who dedicates himself to helping individuals achieve optimal mental health through a blend of Carl Rogers' client-centered therapy, holistic wellness and mindfulness / compassion practices. Phil is an intern at the Center for Growth from May 8th, 2023 until August 18th, 2024.
Phil attempts to deeply understand his clients and doesn’t try to “fix” them. In one on one sessions, Phil mindfully listens to the client, then he reflects what he’s heard back to the client as accurately as possible. Once the client agrees Phil’s understood them completely, the client speaks more deeply about the problem and Phil again works to understand what’s going on. Through this process, the client’s problems become less emotionally charged, “A problem shared is a problem halved.” In addition to the reduction in charge, the situations also come to seem more pliable and more workable to the client. When the problems hadn’t been so thoroughly explored, they loomed large as their boundaries seemed to go on forever, but afterward, their mechanics now seem more clear. The next steps (if there are any) simply come out of the exploration. As an old saying goes, “A problem well-defined is half solved.”
Phil works to be on the client’s side. As much as growth and healing occur in therapy, Phil believes them to be a by-product of deep understanding and awareness of the client’s problems. He’s not there to tell them how to live their lives, but to offer a healthy, compassionate relationship to them. The client can then use this healthy, compassionate relationship to explore his or her troubles and heal and grow from them at whatever pace and in whatever direction seems best to him or her. Phil has a background in mindfulness and compassion meditation informed by Theravada and Tibetan Buddhism. He’s happy to offer practices from these traditions to clients if they so desire them, but by no means pushes them on clients who don’t ask for them. Additionally, he has a great understanding that mental health and human flourishing are mediated by many factors including nutrition, sleep habits, exercise, community, heredity, spirituality, medication and more. Finally, Phil attempts to remain quite flexible as a practitioner. If a client comes to him and wants therapy to be done in a framework that he or she finds attractive, like CBT or DBT for instance, then Phil can incorporate that framework into the sessions. Each person has their own path toward healing based on their own internal wisdom.
Phil additionally co-leads the mindfulness/meditation psychotherapy group at the center for growth. Phil has led meditation groups for years in different contexts in addition to having a robust daily meditation practice on his own. He finds that when group members are genuinely interested in exploring their experience through the avenue of mindfulness meditation they gain unique and transformative insights into their problems. When people work to train their minds to let go of narratives, let go of reactivity, and to cultivate wisdom, insight, joy and compassion their lives change for the better. They never become perfect, they still have problems, but they’re able to steward their emotions and mental processes more skillfully. And when meditative exploration and training happens in the context of a group, people can learn from each other’s trials and tribulations. They can leverage the tribal tendencies we have as humans to launch themselves further into the growing and healing project.
Phil grew up in Philadelphia in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of the city. His parents raised him Roman Catholic and the family attended Our Mother of Consolation Parish for weekly mass. For school, he first attended Norwood Fontbonne-Academy then Roman Catholic High School for Boys. He eventually matriculated to the University of Pittsburgh to study Computer Engineering. Phil was a bright young man who loved the performing arts and athletics. He was the valedictorian of his graduating class and was a two-year varsity football captain. He played jazz guitar for eight years in high school and college. At Pitt, he joined many comedy organizations including a satirical newspaper, a late-night style talk show and an improvisational comedy troupe. Phil performed stand-up comedy every night, sometimes multiple times in a single night. After college, his professional career has been a mix of software development consulting on Salesforce.com and stand-up comedy. Nowadays, Phil lives in Fairmount and enjoys running, lifting weights, facilitating meditation groups, reading non-fiction books, coloring, doing improv comedy and deepening relationships with friends and family.
Phil’s interest in mental health began when he was twenty years old earning an undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. In many ways, twenty-year-old Phil was a normal college kid. His hair was long, he slept late, he was meeting new people and now that he was out of his parents cocoon, he was testing his mettle in the real world. On the inside, though, he wasn’t doing so well. He was depressed and anxious. He’d made a mess of his personal relationships. Phil and his roommate engaged in regular screaming matches. He began distancing himself from his friends. He used alcohol and marijuana in excess to cope with his difficulties. One Wednesday night, while walking home at 4AM, the thought occurred to him that he may be better off if he were dead. This thought scared him. Luckily, for him, it scared him into action. “There had to be better ways of living life,” he thought. He began to research how to be happy, how to heal. He found what he was looking for. He began to put into practice the tools of the modern wellness movement. He began to attend talk therapy, eat healthy foods, meditate regularly, say affirmations, exercise, integrate spirituality into his life, engage with plant medicines, learn healthy ways of emotional relating, and read widely in philosophy, psychology, spirituality, self-help and neuroscience. This experience eventually inspired him to pursue a career in therapy, with the goal of helping others overcome their suffering and flourish.
However, there were a few detours along the way.
After completing his undergraduate degree in computer engineering, Phil moved to New York City to become a stand-up comedian. This had been his true passion at Pitt. By the time he graduated school he was doing eight paid “spots” per month and making between $500-$1,000 per month. So, he thought he’d try to make comedy his career. Phil worked as a software development consultant by day and as a comedian by night. All the while, Phil grew and healed more and more as a person through the aforementioned avenues. He explored self-help voraciously, he quit drinking alcohol, he attended a 10-day silent meditation retreat, he learned and practiced in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and he worked to improve the damage he’d done in his interpersonal relationships over the years. More and more, Phil worked to incorporate love, wisdom and creativity into all aspects of his life.
After leaving the world of stand-up comedy and software consulting (he concluded these fields were not ultimately for him), Phil enrolled in Gwynedd Mercy University’s Counseling Program in order to earn an M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling to become a licensed therapist. He had seen how much he had changed over the past seven years and wanted to be a part of other peoples’ healing journeys. While in school, the teachings of Carl Rogers inspired Phil’s trajectory. Rogers “Person-Centered Therapy” emphasizes the importance of the therapeutic relationship and the client's subjective experience. Phil had derived a lot of benefit from psychotherapy, but noticed he didn’t always enjoy when the therapist would try to “fix” him. He appreciated Rogers’ focus on accurate empathic understanding, unconditional positive regard, and authenticity, which he believed were key elements in helping clients achieve personal growth and healing. Rogers taught that if a therapist strove to have a great relationship with the client, using the above values to inform that striving, then one could offer this healthy relationship to the client as the means of healing.
Rogers’ method of seeing people resonated deeply with the Tibetan Buddhist perspective on people on which Phil had come to base his worldview. Phil’s primary touchstone in the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, Mingyur Rinpoche, teaches that each person has a basic goodness that is their fundamental nature. This basic goodness is inherent in the human condition. Its qualities are awareness, compassion and capacity/ability. Additionally, it contains the teaching that each person just wants to be happy and doesn’t want to suffer. Mingyur calls this their “homesickness” for happiness. Every single action each person takes is made of that person’s desire to be happy and to avoid suffering. Each time you blink your eyes or are short with a co-worker or take a bubble bath you are doing that action because on some level you believe it will bring you towards lasting happiness and away from lasting suffering. When one looks at people in this way, one sees that each person is actually deeply loveable and worthy of compassion.
Phillip Forrence (Intern Therapist)'s Resume
NPI: In Graduate School For:Masters of Science in Counseling - Clinical Mental Health Counseling
- Pennsylvania: Working under the supervision of Samantha Eisenberg, LCSW