Hillary Syman


Hillary Syman

PsyD, LP


I began my work in mental health at the age of 15, when I volunteered at Teen Line, a teen-to-teen education and support line based in Los Angeles, California. Teen Line allowed me to explore and understand the stories we tell ourselves, as well as messy feelings that don’t make for neat narratives. My interest and ease with both things allowed me to be curious and relaxed, compelled by questions rather than racing for a clean answer.

That comfort and curiosity is the through line through all my subsequent therapeutic training and work. I see discomfort as information to be noted and curious about, not something to immediately rid ourselves of. I believe that our bodies and minds often know the best path forward, but that many of us have learned not to trust our instincts and/or we override what we know to be true. I find metaphors and analogies enlivening and often find that they allow clients to loosen their grip and play with long-held ideas about themselves and others. I know that humor is a great friend to suffering and that if a therapist is a good fit, a client can test out new thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. I’m a big fan of what we commonly refer to as mistakes, which simply means “an unintentional departure from truth or accuracy.” When a client or I wander away from truth or accuracy, it is a gift that can be used as fuel for deepening understanding and connection.

One of my current metaphors for therapy is that it’s a bit like going on a walk with a dog. Together, the dog (client) and the walker (therapist) set the route and pace for the walk (therapy). There’s a lot to sniff (be curious about) without labeling it good or bad, because sniffing gives dogs information about the world. The dog and their person go where their interest takes them, without judgment. The dog is linked to the person by a leash and their person gives them enough leash (emotional, psychological, and mental space) so that they can explore while keeping them out of harm’s way during the walk (monitoring the pace of moving toward and away from difficult thoughts and feelings). If all goes well, they develop a rhythm (trust) that allows them to shift their route and pace as needed, with the dog feeling increasingly safe and free and thus able to take the lead.

Prior to working at Gather Behavioral Health, I was an intake provider at The Emily Program for almost five years. Before moving to Minnesota in 2014, I had a private practice in California where I worked with adults of all ages who were grappling with life transitions and personal identity questions. My love of narratives and curiosity about the crossroads in people’s lives also propelled me to work in a wide variety of settings outside of my practice including working on the admissions team at The Wright Institute, where I received my PsyD. in 2001.