Ask Billie

“Billie” Klayman,

Our Compassionate Community

As we start the New Year with reflection and introspection, I would like to start our January 2018 Voices by shining a light on a group of our community we do not talk about much.

I have had the privilege as a supervisor to work with amazing people. What I have learned so much is how a budding new therapist, whether a trainee, intern, or newly licensed, manages a physical disability in this profession. How do we in our community include this conversation? I have been graced with friends who are also therapists and disabled. Their honesty and candor continue to inspire and support me in my journey.

The courage as therapists to sit in front of another and be present and mindful while listening to their pain can be challenging in itself. A therapist with an obvious physical disability presents an added challenge for both in the room. How does the therapist manage that first session? What I’ve learned from my supervisees is that grace, transparency, and the therapeutic alliance becomes the primary directive.

It is so important when starting the first session that we create the therapeutic alliance. I have found when I present my true authentic self I see my patient relax. It is in that moment that I experience the patient exploring their true authentic self.

I have learned how to work with my physical limitations brought on by moderate to severe arthritis. When a patient meets me, normally they have no idea of my physical disability. When I have a flare up of symptoms, my patients will see me using a cane or a walker. Those sessions allow my patients to see me as vulnerable, and human like them. Those sessions have increased genuine attunement of my patients with me, the therapist. This is where the patient sees they are not the only one struggling and they can be compassionate. Their compassion towards me increases and then creates the space where they can be compassionate towards themselves. I encourage you to continue this conversation with your community and me.


Valerie “Billie” Klayman, M.A., LMFT, an integrative Meaning Centered Therapist, became a supervisor at Antioch University Counseling Center in 2014. Billie initiated a partnership between AUCC and the Culver City Senior Center offering pro-bono therapy and group therapy to members of CCSC. December 2016, Culver City hired Billie to help residents of the community at the Culver City Senior Center. She’s presented on Substance Abuse and Addiction. Billie can be reached at