Following My Path

jjheadshotSome people forge a path through the forest of their lives. I have found that, for me, the path of possibilities has always unfolded before me, and if I am open to following it, I am led to exactly where I ought to be next.

I’m Dr. Jaelline Jaffe, California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and former teacher and school counselor. I followed the path from baby and child lover to Recreation Leader to elementary school teacher, going down from one grade to the next, seeking the best place for me to be of assistance with children who were struggling in school. Along the way, I accumulated several credentials and certificates, as I continued my own lifelong learning. The path led me to the conclusion that my skills were needed before kids entered school – that their families were already having difficulties.

So I became a licensed therapist and also earned a doctoral degree, with a personal mission to help adults, children, couples, and families improve the quality of their lives, relationships, and communication skills. I went back to the public schools to develop and facilitate one of the first counseling programs conducted by master’s level marriage and family therapy students and graduates from universities all over Southern California. Over a period of about 18 years, I trained and supervised more than 100 counseling interns, serving several thousand students in grades K-12. I also co-authored The Heroic Journey: A Rite of Passage Program for Adolescents, published in 1996 and still in active use in Montessori and other middle schools across the country (www.TheHeroicJourney.com). Concurrently, I was developing my private practice, seeing a few clients a week.

And then my path came upon a huge “boulder,” a medical condition that threatened my ability to continue moving forward. For a while, I sat in the road, crying and fretting, depressed and worried about how I could continue. Then came my “Ah-Ha” moment, when I realized that I could use my own struggles and learnings to help others dealing with chronic conditions or other problems that had thrown a boulder into their paths.

Thus my path led me to create Lemon-Aid Counseling (www.LemonAidCounseling.com) with the opening line, “When life gives you lemons …” For the next several years, my practice grew as more individuals, couples, and people with medical problems found their way to my office. Meanwhile, my path forked into writing about 60 mental health articles for the award-winning, non-commercial website, helpguide.org as well as co-authoring The Language of Emotional Intelligence with my friend and colleague, Jeanne Segal.

And then my path took another turn: an audiologist found me online and asked if I could help his patients who had tinnitus. That was an interesting twist, as he did not know that I also have tinnitus – that was never mentioned anywhere online. I developed a 4-session CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) protocol for tinnitus patients who were particularly stressed, and have been successful in helping many dozens of patients sent to me by audiologists in Southern California.

My path took an entirely unpredictable curve when I came across a recently identified condition called Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome (4S), more commonly known as Misophonia. By reading, researching, listening, applying my knowledge and skills, and learning additional approaches, I have found myself in the unexpected position of being one of the very few therapists anywhere who treat this condition. I have presented at the only three US conferences ever held so far for professionals and for patients with Misophonia, and I see clients in both my office and online from all around the country, because they cannot find the help they need locally. People find me online in various groups and on the website I developed specifically for both tinnitus and Misophonia, www.SensitiveToSound.com.

With all these branches on my path taking me in different directions, the tag line for Lemon-Aid Counseling has evolved to “Living the life you have, even if it isn’t the life you wanted.” Because I have followed the path as it unfolded in front of me, I am in a place in my professional life that I could never have predicted or set out to create. Like the character, Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective (authored by Douglas Adams), I may not always know where I am going, but I always end up where I am supposed to be.