My Approach

Alexis Tomarken, MSW, PH.D.

Alexis Tomarken, MSW, PH.D.

We tend to struggle with symptoms because we think of them discretely rather than expanding our lens to see our struggles in a historical, biological, and environmental background. My style of therapy is to try to understand the context of the symptom or struggle you are having in order for us to have as much information in our collaborative effort to work through the problem.

In working together to broaden the scope, we are better able to understand how the problem formed initially, its potential purpose in your life now, and how to move forward without its having the same negative impact. This is ultimately achieved through listening—this is a therapist’s most important tool.

I listen to the content of what is said, how it is spoken, what is not said, and my own thoughts and associations.  These forms of listening are often not used much in our daily life—as life can be busy, demanding, and pressured.  Psychotherapy is a place where this listening takes place and its purpose is to hear what is sometimes not said and not in our awareness, but hinted at or suggested. These clues help give more information and data to a given problem and to help bring to light how symptoms relate uniquely to a given person.

I hold both a masters in social work and a doctorate in psychology and I use these related but different educational backgrounds to think deeply about someone’s experience in the context of each person’s unique life story. My personal style is related and engaged, and I believe that therapy works best when two people are working together in collaboration. Therefore, I try to balance listening with talking to create a trusting relationship, as trust is essential in this important effort to understand yourself and let someone else authentically understand you as well.  

Background & Training

I received a Master in Social Work from New York University and completed my Post-Master's Fellowship at Yale Psychiatric Institute in inpatient psychiatry, now part of Yale-New Haven Hospital. I also hold a PhD in Clinical Psychology from Long Island University in Brooklyn.  As a clinical social worker and while training as a psychologist, I worked in the Department of Psychiatry at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center conducting clinical psycho-oncology research, focusing on end of life issues for cancer patients as well as unresolved grief in young bereaved spouses. 

Along with my private practice, I am a candidate at the Postdoctoral Program for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy at New York University, as well as a professional advisor to the American Mental Health Foundation.  I also serve as a clinical supervisor for early career psychologists and at Long Island University for doctoral-level psychology students.

Selected Awards, Fellowships & Writings

2018: Rozsika Parker Student Path Essay Prize, British Journal of Psychotherapy.

2016 & 2017: Wolstein Foundation Fellowship, NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis.

Tomarken, A. (2019). Life and work: Unconscious entanglements. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 35(3), 350-361 .

Tomarken, A. (2018).  Suicide Survivorship:  The Risks of Silence and Shame.  Lilith.  June 15, 2018.

Tomarken, A. (2017). The Dangers of a Helpless Boss Baby. Psychoanalytic Dialogues Blog, July 4, 2017. https://

Tomarken, A. (2016). Yes, It Happened To Me...  I Was Sexually Assaulted On The Subway. Luna Luna Magazine. 27 April 2016.

Tomarken, A., Roth, A., Holland, J., Ganz, O., Schachter, S., Kose, G., Ramirez, P. M., Allen, R. and Nelson, C. J. (2012), Examining the role of trauma, personality, and meaning in young prolonged grievers. Psycho-Oncology, 21(7), 771-777.

Rosenfeld, B., Breitbart, W., Gibson, C., Kramer, M, Yuelin, L., Tomarken, A., Nelson, C., Pessin, H., Esch, J., Galietta, M., Garcia, N., Brechtl, J., & Schuster, M. (2010). Impact for treatment of depression on desire for hastened death in patients with advanced AIDS. Psychosomatics, 51, 98-105.     

Breitbart, W., Rosenfeld, B., Gibson, C., Pessin, H., Poppito, S., Nelson, C., Tomarken, A., Kosinski Timm, A., Beg, A., Jaconson, C., Sorder, B., Abbey, J., & Olden, M. (2009). Meaning-centered group psychotherapy for patients with advanced cancer:  A pilot randomized controlled trial.  Psycho-oncology, 19(1), 21-28.  

Tomarken, A., Holland, J., Schachter, S., Vanderwerker, L., Zuckerman, E., Nelson, C., Coups, E., Ramirez, P.M. & Prigerson, H. (2007). Factors of complicated grief pre-death in caregivers of cancer patients. Psycho-oncology, 16(5), 1-6.

Rosenfeld, B., Breitbart, W., Gibson, C., Kramer, M., Tomarken, A., Nelson, C., Pessin, H., Esch, J., Galietta, M., Garcia, N., Brechtl, J., & Schuster, M.  (2006). Desire for hastened death among patients with advanced AIDS. Psychosomatics, 47, 504-512.



Alexis Tomarken, MSW, PhD
Office located in SoHo
(Broadway & Houston)

611 Broadway
New York, NY 10012
Phone: 646-515-4483
Email: Use contact form below