The Washington Anxiety Center of Capitol Hill is a psychology outpatient center that focuses on the treatment of anxiety in children, adolescents, young adults, adults, older adults, and families. They employ cognitive-behavioral treatments to treat these disorders, with a special emphasis on exposure-based therapies. Today's interview is featuring Dr. Johanna Kaplan, the director of the Washington Anxiety Center of Capitol Hill. She is a licensed clinical psychologist in Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia. She earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from The Catholic University of America and her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Communications from American University in Washington, D.C.  She may be reached at drkaplan@washingtonanxietycenter.com

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1. What led you to this career?

I was a television reporter in Washington DC in the early 2000s and felt I was on the “sidelines” of really making a difference in the lives of others. I started to work at the National Institute of Mental Health (worked there for 10 years) and fell in love with anxiety research and began my clinical work with patients. I pursued my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from there and specialized in evidence-based treatments for anxiety and depression (in children and adults).

What do you enjoy most about work?

When I have a patient who tells me that their life has changed as a result of the skills they have learned in treatment. Also, seeing my patients believe that whatever comes their way, they can handle.

If you are a parent, how was your birth and postpartum?

I have two children, one who is 3 and the other who is 6. Both children were born vaginally and naturally. My first was a 27-hour labor in which the baby turned upside down. There was severe damage to my pelvic floor (which has now resolved, thanks to wonderful physical therapy out there). The birth of my second was (thank heavens) much easier and around 8 hours. Postpartum was definitely an adjustment socially, sleep-scheduling, and the stressors of breastfeeding. I find my personal experience allows me to truly empathize with my patients struggling with peri and postpartum issues.

What resources would you want parents to have?

Having a good support system (friends and family), 1-2 activities that you enjoyed pre-partum and continue to prioritize postpartum, breastfeeding support, and 6 hours of continuous sleep 2-3 months postpartum (and creative ways/skills that help to achieve this goal).

                                         Washington Anxiety Center Office

                                       Washington Anxiety Center Office

What is one unique thing about your business that your customers/clients love?

Our practice is located in a very comfortable and “homey” space on Capitol Hill. We are very kid and baby-friendly and encourage our patients to bring their babies with them to their therapy sessions. We are a cognitive-behavioral therapy and skills-based practice that encourages and models flexibility with our patients.

What's one thing you think the world needs to do to improve the lives of new parents (or people living in our service area)?

Access to resources is a very large concern for us. Second is educating ourselves as to the most appropriate and best treatment options available. The most scientifically-supported treatment for anxiety and depression, especially in the peri and postpartum period, is cognitive-behavioral therapy with gradual exposure therapy components. However, only 12% of mental health professionals practice this type of therapy and most are unaware of how helpful it can actually be.

What do you think is the hardest part of expecting a baby or becoming a parent?

Getting comfortable with the unexpected and allowing yourself as a parent to be human and make mistakes. As a professional, I know that there is no one way to parent and there is no such thing as a "perfect parent.” Recognize that as long you try your hardest and even prioritize yourself once in a while, you are doing your best.

What products or services do you personally love?

I believe it is very important to invest in the people and experiences that make you feel good about yourself. Spending time with my family doing several activities, whether it’s playing a game from Labyrinth, or going to a yoga class on the Hill, brings a lot of joy to my life.

How do you start each day?

I begin each day with a protein shake and running around chasing after my 3 and 6-year-olds getting them dressed for school.

What's your favorite thing to do in DC?

I love to go shopping with my daughter in Georgetown. We plan our “girls days” for at least one day every month.

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