Pamela W. Webster received her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Washington in 1982 and started at the Fairbanks (Alaska) Community Mental Health Center later that year. She is licensed to practice in Washington, Oregon, Alaska and California as a clinical social worker. She is a member of the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals.
I see myself as a practical helper. I have always been drawn to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and a problem-solving orientation. When do you do the problematic behavior? What are you thinking? What just happened to make you have that thought? What feeling did that thought cause you to have? I am also attracted to Constructive Living, a Buddhist psychology approach with an American twist (feel the feeling and do what needs to be done, feelings come and go like clouds in the Japanese sky). Likewise, I’m attracted to Buddhist psychology generally, with its emphasis on paying attention in the moment, and acknowledging that suffering is a part of life—by being mindful you can suffer less.
Over the course of my career, progress in brain research has shown that our thoughts and feelings can actually be observed while they happen in the various structures in the brain by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Interestingly, CBT and Buddhist psychology can now be seen to change the brain in some similar ways, calming down some brain structures and activating others.
I also like the idea that therapy can provide a “corrective emotional experience,” as well as help develop skills for living a balanced life. It’s good to remember that therapy is not something that’s done to you. You need to work at it both in and outside of the therapy hour.
At my first professional job I was drawn to working with people with eating disorders, and this continues to be a major practice area for me. Women (and, increasingly, men) are very likely to define themselves in terms of appearance and weight. They can cause themselves a great deal of unhappiness and ill-health if they over-focus on this part of their life and don’t deal with what’s really “eating” at them. Learning how to self-soothe appropriately improves the quality of people’s lives.
I am always reading something new and am a particularly good therapist for clients who like learning things from books and relating them to their own situations—though this is not required! I enjoy working cross-culturally and have had substantial experience with Alaska Native and Latino clients (I speak Spanish and Portuguese and have lived in Brazil). Marital relationship researchers John and Julie Gottman say every couple relationship is cross-cultural because we each bring our own family-of-origin culture to our marriage.
Helping clients understand why they do the things they do, and working together to figure out how to break up the pattern—and live a more satisfying life—is what I like about doing therapy.
Master of Social Work, University of Washington, 1982
Washington Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (#LW 60416095), 2013
Oregon Licensed Clinical Social Worker (#6089), 2013
Alaska Licensed Clinical Social Worker (#103), 1993
California Licensed Clinical Social Worker (#15328), 1990
Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW), National Association of Social Workers (NASW), 1985
Board-Certified Diplomate (BCD), National Association of Social Workers, 1993
Member, International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals
Regional Representative, NASW Alaska Northern Region, 2005-2007; 2010-2011
NASW Alaska “Social Worker of the Year for the Northern Region,” 2011
Judge James Wanamaker Outstanding Service Award, Fairbanks Wellness Court, 2009