Maria Mercado LPC, NCC
My development as a counselor started my senior year in high school when I participated in a psychology class. I quickly became fascinated by how learning about human behavior, and how it could open the path for me to help others. As I worked on my psychology degree, and later in graduate school on my marriage and family therapy degree, I did not consider how my own experiences would shape who I am today as a counselor. I can deeply relate to many of the challenges that the couples I serve are experiencing themselves.
I have experienced a divorce and am now navigating my second marriage and the complexities of raising children, and a child with special needs in a blended family. I also have had many years of living the military life with my husband, until he retired. With the support of family and friends we have been blessed to access therapy when needed and most important our faith have been instrumental in our journey.
My faith and family are my driving force. Despite the challenges we have faced we have grown and become Strong Together. As a supervisor to those who are seeking to be licensed in the state, I strongly believe that, as counselors, going through our own counseling process is a necessary step. I credit God and the mental health providers we have worked with for the growth my family and I have experienced. All these experiences, the good and the bad of what we have been through, have made me even more committed to offer support to others.
Why specialize on couples counseling? When I went through the separation process with my ex-husband we attended a marriage therapy session. Like many, I was hopeful this experience would shed light into how we could “fix” our relationship. Though the counselor was helpful to me and encouraged me to complete the degree I was working on, counseling did not help “fix” that relationship. Instead, therapy helped to confirm what I knew, that “we were heading to divorce”. From then on, I worked on becoming the best counselor I could be.
My dream was always to have a practice where my focus was to help couples grow together, become stronger and create the life and relationship they always wanted to have. To do this I embarked on the journey of gaining additional training in couples counseling. I researched for a few years many different approaches and training options. I chose the Gottman Couples Therapy Method due to its research-based approach. The method is a good fit to my counseling style that offers a structure that helps clients and I be clear on the goals we are working towards. It has been a fun and rewarding journey to witness the growth in the clients I have served. As a Certified Gottman Couples therapist it has been a fun rewarding journey to witness growth in the clients I have served. I have also been able to support individual clients improve as partners and in their communication with their partners utilizing many concepts from the Gottman Method.
For many years I have also worked with individuals that have been affected by traumatic events in their lives, and suffer from mood and anxiety disorders. The experience of having lived with PTSD in my family after my spouse deployment has given me the belief that with the right support those affected by trauma can recover and live a life that is not defined by what happened to them.
My treatment approach is strength based and collaborative in nature. You will receive support and guidance while you are encouraged to create the change you desire in your life. The therapy models and techniques I utilize will allow you to see how your beliefs, past life experiences and emotions relate to the ways in which you respond with your behaviors and choices in life.
Education & Credentials
- Bachelors in Psychology, University of Puerto Rico
- Masters in Marriage, Family & Child Counseling, University of Phoenix
- Licensed Professional Counselor, State of Virginia
- National Certified Counselor
- Certified Gottman Couples Therapist
- American Counseling Association
- American Mental Health Counselors Association
- Northern Virginia Licensed Professional Counselors
- Virginia Counselors Association