About Jennifer

Just a quick clarification:  My full name is actually Jennifer Swantkowski.  However, after fifty years of people struggling to pronounce or spell my name, I decided for the purpose of this website and my social media accounts, to make it a bit easier on all of us and go with the significantly shorter “Swan.”

I believe the quote by Harry Stack Sullivan – “We are all more human than otherwise”- is most reflective of how I operate in my life both professionally and personally.  I became aware at a young age that we had been granted this particular time slot here on Earth, it was not earned.  My family, neighbors, colleagues, clients, students, and strangers alike were people who simply happened to have been granted the same slot, and we all had equal rights to take up our space in this world.

It was in college, after feeling a bit lost at sea for a few years following the death of my beloved Grandmother, that I decided that I wanted to study psychology.  Upon graduation, I attended the University of Houston where I earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work.  I spent the next eight years in the field of grief, loss, and trauma.  I worked in hospice, both with adults and children that were dying, as well as putting together a program on traumatic loss for families at a local bereavement center.

I went on to earn a post-graduate certificate in End of Life Studies at Smith College and it was during that year-long program that I decided to pursue my PhD.  In 2003, I began my doctoral work at Smith College School for Social Work.  Upon completing the coursework and writing my dissertation, I began to work as a family therapist at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, MA, began teaching at Boston College and also started a private practice.

A few years later, I returned to Houston to be closer to help my family as we rallied around a loved one navigating the perils of having been diagnosed with Early Onset Familial Alzheimer’s.  Once in Houston, I served as an instructor at the University of Houston, began working at The Menninger Clinic providing family and individual therapy, served as an instructor for graduate fellows, and opened a private practice on the side.

In 2014, I committed to my private practice full-time and eventually began to finally write the book I had been wanting to write for years.  My approach has always been to focus on de-pathologizing people and help them move away from identifying with the alphabet soup of their diagnoses and move more fully into their lives.  In doing so I worked with folks of all ages who grappled with anxiety, depression, grief, and those who had been diagnosed with various personality disorders, mood disorders as well as various forms of addiction.  Unfortunately, in 2016, I incurred a medication reaction/injury from the generic version of Levaquin that affected my Central Nervous System and had to suspend my writing.  As a result of this injury, I was placed on the benzodiazepine alprazolam (most know it as Xanax), and currently find myself struggling to come off this medication safely.

I had to make the difficult decision to step away from my private practice for an undetermined amount of time to slow down and give my body the best chance to heal.  I am currently using my good hours and days to focus on writing and creating YouTube videos focused on awareness around the use and safe withdrawal of benzodiazepines.  I have also written a book called The Waiting Room about medication injury and benzo withdrawal, and the blog on this site will further document my ongoing journey through my taper and healing process.

My life and interests were certainly not always centered around medication injuries and benzodiazepine withdrawal, so I have also started a series of videos on my YouTube channel called Therapy from the Sidelines.  These videos and the corresponding blog, also on this site and by the same name, are my own contemporary version of “Dear Abby.”  I take questions posed to me regarding various issues related to therapy and mental health and do my best to answer them in either my blog or by video.  You are welcome to submit questions on my contact page above or by private messaging me on my Instagram page.  Here are a few topics and areas that I have extensive experience:

Here are a few topics

Couple’s work/relationships


Failure to Launch (late teens/young adults)

Mentalization (if unsure what this is, please refer to the video: “The #1 Ingredient in a Healthy Relationship” on my YouTube site)



Borderline Personality Disorder


Grief & Loss

Outside of my professional passions, I have been blessed with a very large loving, supportive family.  I enjoy spending as much time as I can with my amazing ten nieces and nephews.  When the words “Aunt Jen” were bestowed upon me twenty-one years ago, I truly stepped into my best self.  They were then and are now, the most important and revered words in my life.

Thanks for stopping by my site and I look forward to hearing from you.  Keep swimming!

Jennifer Swantkowski, Ph D