Did you know that anxiety affects nearly one in five adults and anxiety is the number one mental illness in the United States? Anxiety affects millions of Americans every day, but the good news is treatment is readily available and has proven to be highly successful.
Luckily, a great option for those who suffer from anxiety can be found right here in Annapolis from Dr. Sarah Rovnak of the Anxiety Center of Annapolis. This month we sat down with Dr. Rovnak to learn more about anxiety, her practice, how to choose the right therapists and what she does outside of work.
Tell us about your company and what you do?
I am a licensed clinical psychologist and I specialize in the treatment of anxiety disorders and other fear-based conditions. I am one of the few psychologists in the area who has received specialized training in exposure and response prevention, which is the gold standard treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as most phobias.
How did you get started in your industry?
Unlike a lot of people, I didn’t actually know what I wanted to be when I started college. For the first few years, I took night courses at a local community college just to get the general education stuff out of the way. I ended up taking a Psychology 101 with an absolutely amazing retired psychologist. I looked forward to his class every week to hear the seemingly countless stories from his work with people over the years before he retired and began teaching.
Even then, I did not really consider a career as a psychologist for myself. I just knew that I verily enjoyed learning the subject. I completed a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Virginia Tech and a Doctor of Philosophy in clinical psychology from the University of Louisville. I tell people that, essentially, I just kept taking all of the psychology courses that I could until there were no more left to take and that is how I ended up with a doctorate.
What is something about your business that most people do not know?
No two therapists are alike and knowing the differences can help you narrow down your search when seeking help. Most importantly, a psychologist and a psychiatrist are not the same thing.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (with the letters MD or DO after their name), who is licensed to prescribe medications. Some psychiatrists also do psychotherapy (or talk therapy), but for the most part, you would see a psychiatrist for medication management of your symptoms.
A psychologist has a doctoral degree in psychology (with the letters Ph.D., PsyD, or EdD after their name). Psychologists specialize in counseling and psychotherapy, psychological testing, and provide treatment for mental disorders. In Maryland, psychologists are not permitted to prescribe medications.
A licensed mental health counselor has a master’s degree in psychology, counseling, or another related field. They specialize in evaluating and treating mental difficulties.
A clinical social worker has a master’s degree in social work and also specializes in evaluating and treating mental difficulties. Clinical social workers, however, can also provide case management, hospital discharge planning, and may serve as an advocate for clients and their families, as needed.
Where do you see your business in 5 years?
I am hoping to develop and integrate several other modalities for delivering interventions into my work with people. For instance, I am starting to work on a workbook that clients can use to practice the skills that we talk about in session in their day-to-day lives. I would like to also offer more video/telehealth services to individuals who aren’t able to attend weekly therapy appointments in person.
Tell me about yourself?
I am originally from Cincinnati, Ohio and I have one younger sister, who is a practicing veterinarian in North Carolina. My parents moved to Virginia when I was in middle school, which is where I graduated high school. I attended undergrad at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia followed by graduate school at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. Once I received my doctorate, I came to Maryland in 2013 to complete a 3-year post-doctoral research fellowship at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. In this position, I worked on a clinical trial testing the efficacy and effectiveness of modular-based cognitive behavior therapy for children with anxiety disorders that was designed to be delivered at school, rather than a private psychologist’s office. I moved to the Annapolis area in 2014 and fell in love, both with the area and my now-husband, Matt. We live on the Severn River, in Epping Forest, with our blended family. I have one son from my previous marriage, who is 10 years old, as well as a step-son, who is 11 years old and a step-daughter, who is 16 years old. I am also a cat mom to Lena and Evelyn, who are both rescue kitties.
Other than work, what are you passionate about?
This is a tough one for me to answer because I tend to be a passionate person in general. I will have to say that I love to learn and believe that everyone should strive to learn something new every day. After all, in order to find the solution to any problem, you must begin with understanding it.
I reflect a lot on how social media influences what we know, how we learn new information, and our skills in critical thinking. So many read only the headline from an article or even just an opinion posted by a friend on Facebook before forming a dogged judgment on a matter. I, myself, am guilty of this at times.
I think we can combat this by seeking knowledge and understanding. Practice challenging your thinking about something. There is always another side to the story – another way of looking at it that might just change your entire perspective.
What types of activities or hobbies do you enjoy outside of work?
Both my son and step-son play soccer, so I spend more time than I care to admit on soccer fields. In the summers, my husband and I love to take advantage of our beautiful Chesapeake Bay. When the temperature is warm and the sun is out, you can find us on our neighborhood beach spending time with our neighbors.
We also like to travel and discover new restaurants. By the way, if you would like to experience a culinary hidden gem – absolutely make sure to visit Louisville, Kentucky. Random, I know, but you will not be disappointed. Just make sure to stay for several nights. Their restaurants rival some of the best food I’ve had in San Fran, New York City, and even New Orleans.
At home, I also like to garden and cook, as well as jump around on several creative hobbies, such as painting, photography, etc. Our neighborhood publishes a monthly community newsletter and I have served as the editor for the last couple of years. I have also been known to volunteer at the local cat rescue shelter in Riva, Maryland.
Why did you choose My Annapolis Office and how has working here helped your business?
My Annapolis Office is the perfect set up for counselors and therapists. It is in a great location and the off-street parking is super convenient for my clients. In this field, client confidentiality is absolutely critical. I have always worried that a standalone office, with visible signage and parking area, would deter people from seeking mental health treatment for fear of being seen going into a therapist’s office. My Annapolis Office offers the perfect solution through private offices that maintains client confidentiality while they are attending treatment. I also love that my appointments do not have to provide any personal information when they arrive at the front desk. The lobby and common areas are beautifully decorated and maintained. Overall, the office meets all my business needs and I like that my clients are able to enjoy the water, coffee, or tea when they arrive.