STEPHEN MESSER, PH.D.

Dr. Stephen Messer is a licensed psychologist with an extensive and privileged history of training, mentorship, and experience in the science and art of clinical psychology. Dr. Messer’s primary aim is to help others struggling with life’s challenges and problems in living that manifest in a myriad of ways. He is genuinely invested in collaborating with clients to confront the confusion, frustration, pain, anxiety – ultimately, the human suffering that invariably accompanies such problems. Whether the challenges and suffering are of a recent onset, crisis variety, or of a more insidious and chronic nature, the goals of our work are fundamentally similar – to discuss and explore these personal concerns in a highly respectful and confidential manner, identify precipitating and perpetuating factors contributing to the distressing mental/behavioral health issues/conditions, and in partnership, aiming to develop and implement a clinically supported/research informed strategy and action plan to effectively ameliorate the presenting concerns, while more broadly promoting human potential, psychological resilience, and enduring behavior change.

Dr. Messer received his master’s degree in experimental psychology from East Carolina University and completed his APA-accredited doctoral training in clinical psychology at the University of Mississippi, Oxford. He completed his Internship at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Medical Center. Dr. Messer received three Postdoctoral Fellowship Awards from the National Institute of Mental Health: (1) clinical research training at the University of Pittsburgh; (2) child psychiatric epidemiology and services at Duke University and the University of North Carolina, and (3) developmental psychopathology and genetics at the George Washington University and Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C.

Dr. Messer’s clinical work has included providing services with patients in settings as disparate as possible to establish broad and comprehensive clinical competence, such as child and family consultation at Head Start centers; group and solo private practice with adults, children and families; specialty clinics in medical centers treating child and adult anxiety and mood disorders; crisis assessment and intervention in psychiatric emergency services, and providing care for the chronically mentally ill in state psychiatric hospitals. In addition, Dr. Messer has worked in military and Veteran settings including Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC, and the Department of Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury in Silver Spring, MD.

Intervention Style: Dr. Messer’s philosophical foundations to psychotherapy incorporate developmentalism and existentialism meaning he views the ultimate goal of effective therapy is the facilitation of clients search for meaning in their lives within the context of interpersonal relationships and the stage along their life course. Thus, Dr. Messer supports his clients search for goals and aims to transcend the inherent difficulties and suffering in life. This collaborative work and journey require the acknowledgement of personal responsibility for the concerns that bring clients to seek care. These developmental and existential concerns are typically manifested as acute symptoms, maladaptive behaviors, and family, social, and work difficulties. Within this overarching conceptual framework, however, Dr. Messer realizes that clients expect, require, and demand direct attention to their immediate problems. To address such issues, he utilizes personalized and tailored psychological techniques, derived from research-informed psychotherapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), more recent CBT derivatives, like Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and mindfulness-based interventions, and relationship-focused therapies like Interpersonal Psychotherapy. More specifically, during clinical sessions, this translates into talk therapy, skills training, behavioral rehearsal, role-play, and psychoeducation including recommended readings and other methods.

Expertise with Adults: Dr. Messer has extensive training and experience in adapting the approaches and techniques articulated above to a broad array of problems experienced by adults and for which they seek therapy. He develops personalized treatment plans utilizing powerful therapeutic strategies and techniques targeting the specific symptoms and issues disrupting adult life. He has worked with adult clients confronting the broad array of psychological concerns and disorder common in clinical practice and at a wide range of severity. Such problems and disorders include the various presentations of anxiety disorders, mood disorders (e.g., major depression, bipolar disorder), trauma and stressor-related disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and the broad family of adjustment disorders and more normative life challenges, such as identity development, self-esteem issues, anger and stress management, parenting challenges, marital/partner discord, complicated grief, and an array of other issues.

Expertise with Children & Families: Dr. Messer has extensive training and experience working with children and their families and the many concerns and disorders that arise across development within the family and peer relationships. Some of the difficulties with which he enjoys working, appear early in development, such as problems along the autism spectrum (particularly Asperger’s syndrome), ADHD, and disorders of impulse control (e.g., oppositional-defiant, conduct disorders). As we have learned over the last decades, children experience many of the mental health problems and disorders affecting adults. Most of these disorders, such as the anxiety and mood disorders, begin to manifest during early to middle adolescence, making assessment, diagnosis, and treatment during this developmental period crucial. Dr. Messer enjoys interacting with children and adolescents, making his clinical work even more meaningful, in part to potentially prevent the development of more severe, long-term conditions which can stunt children’s life course trajectories and make the attainment of successful and meaningful lives much more difficult.

Personal: Dr. Messer is a member of the American Psychological Association and several specialty divisions, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the International Society of Traumatic Stress, and is a Fellow of the American Psychopathological Association. He spends as much time as possible enjoying nature, whether gardening and landscaping, biking or hiking, or snorkeling the reefs with sea turtles in Hawaii. He tries hard to play the guitar and easily loves most all music. And most of all, he loves and cherishes his children, Rachel, Hannah, and Jordan.