Jocelyn Charnas, Ph.D. '09, shares lessons learned from launching a thriving psychotherapy practice.

by Bonnie Eissner

Just a year after graduating from Adelphi’s Gordon F. Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Study, Jocelyn Charnas, Ph.D. ’09, opened her own psychotherapy office. Four years later, she is running a thriving practice on Manhattan’s Park Avenue, steps from the headquarters of the nation’s wealthiest banks and businesses.

Taking the initial plunge took guts. Dr. Charnas said her confidence stemmed in large part from the thorough education she received while at Derner and her subsequent clinical experience at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center.

Dr. Charnas’ networking skills also came in handy. “I let every single person that I’d ever known know that I was starting this practice,” she said. She gumshoed in her neighborhood, researching and then reaching out to every medical professional within a 10-block radius of her office. And she found mentors, including the psychiatrist from whom she rents space and her former supervisor at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt.

Finally, she carved out and promoted an unusual niche—prenuptial couples’ therapy. Recently married and with friends who were in various stages of coupling, Dr. Charnas began to consider the media’s portrayal of the Bridezilla figure and wondered, “Is anyone stopping to ask what’s making her act like this?” She realized that, other than clergy, few specialists were addressing the stress that can come with wedding planning.

When she broached the subject with engaged couples in her office, she said, “You could see the relief that would wash over their faces.” Dr. Charnas added that instead of pathologizing the stress, she was doing the opposite. “I was normalizing it; there’s my niche.”

A few months later, she landed an interview with New York Magazine Weddings, which turned into a feature story dubbed “The Wedding Doctor.” Her phone began to ring even more.

“I have a thriving practice now,” Dr. Charnas said, “but it took four years. It didn’t happen overnight. There were times when I had to be patient and just wait for the phone to ring. You just have to be confident that it will, and it does.”

When asked what she enjoys about her practice, Dr. Charnas replied, “Everything.”

photo by Roger Sherman

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