Amra Stafford is an ISEAI Full-Partner Member and Clinical Psychologist. She is the founder and owner of Stafford Psychology, where she facilitates healing and growth in individuals with EAI so that they can function in harmony with their own values and purposes.
What is your primary field of work and where are you located?
I am a clinical psychologist in private practice in Tucson, Arizona. I am also a member of The Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact (PSYPACT), which allows psychologist members to practice telehealth in all member states (to date, 27). My practice is called Stafford Psychology and I provide longer-term psychotherapy, teach workshops and in-service training, and provide consultations to other mental health professionals on working with EAI-affected patients. About a quarter of my practice is with EAI patients (and co-occurring disorders, including MCAS, EDS, dysautonomia, etc.); a quarter is medical and mental health professionals; and a significant number are “neurodivergent” in some capacity (e.g., autistic, ADHD, “highly sensitive,” etc.)
What are your specialties and unique perspectives on environmental health? What are one or two of your biggest EAI “aha” moments?
My academic and professional background has uniquely prepared me to work with patients suffering from EAI. I have a Master’s degree in Social Ecology, the study of the relationship between people and their environments. This gave me a knowledge base about environmental sciences, while my own research focused on the cultural importance of sacred places in an international conflict zone. I also worked with people on both sides of this conflict, including refugees who fled their homes. My doctoral dissertation in Clinical Psychology looked at the psychological significance of “home” among psychotherapy patients at an outpatient clinic. What could be better preparation for working with EAI patients? Many of them struggle psychologically with the idea that their home (or another important environment) is making them sick. Many have to work through losing their homes or jobs in unhealthy buildings, which is, in essence, being an environmental refugee.
“Many have to work through losing their homes or jobs in unhealthy buildings, which is, in essence, being an environmental refugee.
Obviously, I cannot treat EAIs with psychotherapy. I often get referrals for a patient’s non-compliance with EAI treatment or emotional issues stemming from the experience and consequences of being sick. Interpersonal dynamics are actually key in treating the psychological sequelae of EAI.
“Interpersonal dynamics are actually key in treating the psychological sequelae of EAI.
Early experiences in a person’s family of origin tend to shape how they respond to major stressors and loss (e.g., denial, helpless, “perfect patient,” etc.) Important current relationships are also incredibly impactful on a patient’s healing because of how rigorous, life-altering, and often slow EAI treatment can be. For example, I can’t tell you how frequently I see a patient’s “non-compliance” actually stem from a relationship with (or reliance on) someone who doubts the treatment/illness. Also common are feelings from childhood experiences of being unworthy of wellness or that being sick (and therefore getting treated) is unacceptable. In fact, one of my biggest “aha moments” was the realization that on a macro (interpersonal) and micro (cellular) level, EAI is problems with boundaries and the ability to “detox” what doesn’t serve a person/body. Emotional and physical healing go together powerfully and beautifully.
“Emotional and physical healing go together powerfully and beautifully.
What would you like the public and other ISEAI members to know?
My biggest wish is to have more mental health providers who understand the nuances of working with EAI-affected people. I have to turn away more than I can treat, myself, and yet know that the need out there is staggering. With long-covid looking an awful lot like what we see in EAI, the need is rapidly growing. Treating EAI patients is also challenging to providers in unique and particular ways. The second tier of all this is, therefore, support – whether peer to peer, self-care guidance, or mental health services – for the providers on the front lines of EAI treatment. Both are just as important, in my opinion, as advancing the medical treatment of EAIs.
Get in touch:
Phone: (520) 955-4416
Website: Stafford Psychology
*Remote consultations available.