Bachelor of Fine Arts, School of Visual Arts; Masters in Social Work, Yeshiva University
Joan Erskine is the co-founder and co-director of PCS – Personal Change System – since its inception in 1993. In addition, she has been in private practice for more than thirty years, offering psychotherapy to children, families, couples, groups and individuals in Brooklyn, New York, and collaborating with professionals in schools and other medical fields.
Joan feels fortunate to have had the opportunity early in her career to learn a very effective approach for helping parents, couples and individuals achieve the personal changes they desire in their lives. Helping people with this work has also given her own life a deep sense of meaning and mission. Joan describes her method of working as more a form of emotional education and coaching rather than therapy because the work is based a non-pathological concept rather than the idea that a client has an 'illness'. Information about how she works and the theories it's based on is explained in depth in easy to understand examples throughout this PCS100 website. Translated into one sentence: it's normal for all of us to need help and to need to learn newer, more effective ways of coping at various times in our lives especially in situations such as parenting, self esteem, and relationships.
While continuing to work with individual clients and couples, Joan is currently devoting much of her time to broadening her work with parents in Brooklyn as well as Manhattan. As a part of this effort, she is reaching out to schools, physicians, clergy and other community leaders to offer "question and answer discussion groups" for parents. Topics will revolve around how parents can help children with depression, behavior, school related problems, sibling rivalry, cooperation, and more.
When parents seek help regarding their child or other family difficulties, Joan starts with an initial five - ten sessions. Follow-up sessions can be scheduled as needed. Usually, parents attend the first few sessions alone, and later sessions often include the child or the entire family.
Here are four significant concepts that Joan's work with families and children revolves around:
- The Theory of Positive Intent: we all start out in life wanting to be our best. In other words, we desire to master each task we face in life even though sometimes things turn out badly. Difficulties arise because none of us have had perfect environments that taught us perfect coping skills or tools for handling life's problems. Understanding the Positive Intent behind behavior is a powerful tool in understanding ourselves as well as our children. It can also help us deal with problems in a more positive way with better outcomes.
- For a long time therapists and clients alike were baffled by the fact that often people put great effort into changing their behavior, yet they failed or the changes they made didn't last, despite effort and the desire to change. The newest neurological research has finally provided the therapeutic community with a significant missing link – we now have learned more about what it takes to make changes and even more significant, what it takes to make those changes last. Joan talks about this easy to understand information and uses it to help people transform outdated, childhood ways of coping into effective coping skills that offer a sense of competence and greater emotional power.
- How to connect with our children. As loving parents, we would do anything to help our children yet often a child's behavior is oppositional, leaving us baffled. There is a specific way of accepting and understanding a child exactly where they 'are' (this doesn't mean accepting bad behavior) that helps a child grow in the ways we want such as developing better self esteem, feeling liked and loved, and understanding other people's points of view, etc.
- An essential part of parenting is setting limits and helping children respect those limits along with helping them understand that other people have needs besides themselves. Learning limitations within the safety of a loving home, helps children learn how to cope and how to handle the ups and downs of life.
Joan uses the concepts described above to work with parents regarding problems such as:
- when a child seems unreachable or is continually pushing the parent away
- a child is constantly acting out, lying or cheating; appears angry all the time
- a child is failing in school.
- This work can also be helpful when a child has been diagnosed with Asperger's Disorder or Autistic Disorder.