Jordan Bell, Ph.D.

Jordan Bell View Specialties

My approach to psychotherapy flows from my life story and from my key life experiences. To explain how I work in psychotherapy, it is helpful that I sketch out how I came to be. In the main, my life experiences have confronted me with the utility to turning inward, with being with myself, facing myself, suffering by myself, and transformation through adversity. I have found that experiences like these foster insight, understanding, and self-compassion.

I grew up in rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania. I was into art as a kid, mostly drawing and painting, and being in nature. I spent every summer from about age four on at an outdoor education center and summer camp in the Catskills, called Frost Valley. My stepfather was the camp pediatrician, and there are kids with juvenile diabetes who undergo dialysis while at camp there, so I was first exposed to medical practice and healthcare in this way. As I grew older, Frost Valley apprenticed me in outdoor adventure. Hiking, rockclimbing, mountaineering, and canoeing was a way of life for me then. I went on extended outdoor adventure trips throughout New England, New York, and Canada. All this got me into people, and into life. I had so many positive growth experiences in this phase of my life. Much of my growth stemmed from interpersonal learning experiences with other people—getting along, not getting along, learning how others viewed me and my behavior. Yet, these and other experiences forced me, as well, to look at my interior world and to seek out inner sources of strength, through such process-oriented things as cycling up a thirty-mile hill, weathering a storm from blowing one off a mountain, surviving without water despite dehydration and disorientation, trudging through days-long whiteouts, and forging on through hypothermia from snowstorms and endless days of cold rain.

Frost Valley is high in the Catskills. It is remote from civilization but rich in good people. I was fortunate to be able to begin working as a counselor there from sixteen on. Having been helped as a camper there over so many years by good people, having been helped to grow and to work through many personal challenges, I felt driven to help others and to give back, in a sense, to devote myself to the traditions and mores of kindness, wisdom, and caring for others I had learned. Frost Valley has a program for campers with developmental disabilities and I felt drawn to work with them. I wanted to make the biggest difference with those who most needed it. Helping others became a central source of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment for me, an organizing principle. I did that work for several years. That time has some of my happiest memories.

The mother of one of my campers died while he was at camp. This camper had moderate intellectual disability and was just six. I sat with him while he waited to be picked up by his father, who was hours away. Two boys of six and sixteen: I cried with him, tried to allay his suffering, but in truth I did not know how to help.

The problem arose that, while it felt completely natural to help, I did not know how. This drove me—how best to help, how to help skillfully, powerfully. I later came to understand that the longing I felt to help others was linked to the problem of understanding life and my place in it.

A couple of years later, at nineteen, I did Outward Bound. This intense mountaineering in the Rockies made for further education about key existential themes such as meaning, purpose, freedom, and will. It prepared the ground for my later psychotherapy focus on the problems inherent to existence.

I went to college, focusing on comparative religion, Buddhism, literature, and Japan.  

I lived and studied in Japan for 4 years. I had intended to stay in Japan and make a life. But, towards the end of my time there, my interest in Buddhism led me to become fascinated with Freud, Jung, and psychoanalysis. I returned to the States and, unclear about what to do with my life but still engrossed in  psychoanalysis, moved to Albuquerque to visit my old best friend, and rockclimb. New Mexico is Shangri-La for climbers.

I ended up staying in New Mexico for 13 years, during which time I pursued graduate training in psychology. Sometime in the middle, this best friend died in a tragic climbing accident. The realities of life led to an existential crisis. I am forever grateful to Dr. Robert Goodkind, the Albuquerque master psychotherapist who guided me to heal and grow, who helped me learn how to cope with tragedy and suffering, and who bore me through the process of self-reflection and self-understanding to the other side, to health. Things became clearer.

I earned my Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the University of New Mexico. My immersion in youth in Buddhist philosophy evolved into deep study of psychoanalysis, existentialism, and Buddhist psychology. I trained in forensics and neuropsychology. I trained and worked in inpatient psychiatry, trauma, PTSD, substance use, research. In compassion, suffering, and meditation. I became a psychodynamic, existential, and Buddhist psychologist. I worked in college counseling centers, veterans and military medical centers, university hospitals, jails, prisons, and courts.

In my practice in Chestertown, my approach issues from the foundation of the above. It is guided by compassion, a focus on existential realities, and an understanding of the significance of suffering in life. With psychodynamic psychotherapy as my base, I incorporate mindfulness and mindfulness meditation into therapy with patients who are interested.

Outside of my practice, I spend time with family, dogs, books, and meditation.


Dr. Jordan Bell Reaches

Chestertown MD