Expansive Therapy

Expansive Therapy: A Space that Encourages Personal Freedom and Empowerment

Article by Rachel Preibisch

With a background in performance art and dance, Megan Murphy brings artistry to her nine-year practice of the therapeutic relationship. When she began her private practice in early 2018, she was cognizant of the need for a safe and affirming space where healing could unfold. Through Megan’s intentional practice, Expansive Therapy has become an inclusive, affirming space that encourages personal freedom and empowerment.

Relationship is a key part of Megan’s work. When it was time to start her own practice she identified the potential for isolation when working alone in a private practice setting. Megan notes that she is grateful for finding the right professional partner at the right time. With her co-founder, Nick Fager, she shares a familial-like connection and a common calling to serve the queer community in a way that hasn’t been done before.

Along with the collaboration in her business partnership, Megan believes that therapeutic work best takes place “in relationship.” She believes that connecting with others intimately is a way to live authentically, and the therapeutic relationship is also an opportunity for this. Being “in relationship” in the therapeutic setting allows for nurturance, healing, and growth.

While running a successful therapy practice presents vigorous challenges, Megan has embraced the growth of Expansive Therapy, which has expanded to three major US cities. This was spurred by her partner Nick’s desire to move to San Francisco. The success of their endeavor reflects their clear understanding on what fosters good therapeutic practice. Speaking to the kind of relationship she values, Megan explains her feelings when Nick left, and their ability to maintain a high level of connection. “I had a little bit of pain in my heart, but…you know; when you really care about somebody, you want the best for them. I was saying, we’re going to make this work. And actually, our working relationship has not suffered…he could be down the street.” When elaborating on the value she places on good relationships, Megan stated, “I have a family, I have grown kids, and I’m always trying to gather people together.”

Beyond her partnership with Nick, one of the things that sets Megan apart as a practice owner is her investment in her clinicians. Recently Megan looked toward collaboration with Bessel van der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps the Score. Although she originally sought a single visit with Dr. van der Kolk to advise her practice, working with him on an ongoing basis was a decision she made as an investment in her clinicians. In an ongoing process, her therapists work under the direct supervision of Dr. van der Kolk to more effectively help clients with their trauma.

In addition to the supervision Megan has sought under Dr. van der Kolk, she also utilizes small, mindful practices with her clinicians to promote a sense of groundedness and connection with her team. A student of Tibetan Buddhism and meditation, Megan incorporates several minutes of meditation at the start of her supervision meetings. “It helps people filter down into their bodies a little bit before we start.” Another important practice is the check-in, where each clinician has the chance to share how they’re feeling and where they’re currently at. Because of the pandemic, which has required everyone to be on zoom, this has been increasingly important. Megan and Nick utilize smaller groups during her weekly supervisions. This encourages a safe space for connection and sharing between the members of their team.

“I think the grounding component, meditation, is the settling that we all need to come into the present moment.. I’m trying to always practice what I’m talking about to the therapists in the practice, as well as my clients. All day long we are trying to get clients into their body, but I want to make sure that the therapists are getting into their bodies first. So I’m trying to teach that. So we start with grounding and then we’re just trying to connect and kind of feel each other, even if it’s over zoom, which is a very strange thing – really good for some things, but not good for others. Then we get into the work that we want to do for our clients.”

An ongoing focus for Megan is creating a safe space in which to work. While she admits she is not always able to guarantee a safe space, she always strives to create a mindful space. “We’re all trying to do our work around social issues and prejudices…I have a lot of work to do as a cis white woman. I’m always trying to look at those things.” She and Nick take great care in the hiring of therapists. She admits this can be hard. She notes that when looking for people, she seeks those who have a settled feeling, and a general kindness. She expounds upon her desire to have a good practice “I think a good therapist is somebody who is really doing the work internally. When you get into a good therapeutic relationship, you’re sitting with somebody who has done work already, but is also doing work in the moment; who is owning what’s coming up for them. There’s a lot of awareness, I think, in being a good therapist.”

Nick Fager & Megan Murphy