I specialize in the following therapies for individuals, couples, and families.
I believe that conventional therapy does not work for couples. Too often, the therapist assumes the role of a referee, and may actually encourage divorce due to their own discomfort or limited ability. You do not need a referee; you need skills and a plan for improving your relationship. My couples counseling sessions, based on Imago Relationship Therapy, provide you with the skills to clearly communicate with your partner, validate each other’s feelings and experiences, to empathize, heal, and thrive.
For relationships in serious crisis, please read more about my intensive Relationship Rescue counseling services.
Falling in love and planning a wedding or commitment ceremony is one of the happiest times in most of our lives. While most couples enter into a marriage commitment with the best of intentions, the truth is that nearly 50% of marriages end in divorce. Wouldn't it be wise to work on potential pitfalls before your wedding day? Communication issues are among the most common cause for divorce. Many couples marry without ever discussing important issues or learning to work out conflict in a healthy way. Our intentions are good, but our skill sets may be limited. Imago Relationship Therapy, based on the book Getting the Love You Want can help. As a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist (CIT), I can help couples to feel confident that they will be among the 50% whose marriages last.
I believe that we are all experiencing pain at some level. Mainstream mental health systems are designed to diagnose and label your pain into different categories, such as depression, bipolar disorder, or alcoholism. My approach, rather than identifying a label to explain your experiences, is to understand the circumstances of your life story and discover how your pain is presenting itself. Emotional pain does not come from nowhere; everyone has a story to tell. As my client, you will have a safe environment in which you are able to not just tell your story, but also to own it, process it, and heal from it.
Trauma Healing and PTSD
Trauma survivors are those who have suffered an emotional or physical wound or shock caused by violence, accident, or circumstance. These events are overwhelming to the central nervous system and often have long-lasting effects. When our central nervous system is overwhelmed, the body holds onto the traumatic memory, while the brain has adapted a series of responses that shut down advanced thinking, sending post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) sufferers into a painful "fight, flight, or freeze" mode. Retelling of traumatic events in therapy can actually cause clients to be re-traumatized. Embracing the tenets of Somatic Experiencing® as a practitioner in training, I assist clients in embracing their innate ability to overcome trauma. Somatic Experiencing is based on the work of Dr. Peter Levine, author of Waking the Tiger. Learn more about Somatic Experiencing.
Grief and loss
Surviving loss and trauma is a painful process that leaves you forever changed. Grief is a normal and very personal process in response to loss, and is often a healthy sign that we have loved well. Although grief is usually most effectively processed in the company of caring friends or family members, the assistance of a qualified, caring professional can be helpful for those whose grief seems overwhelming or burdensome to others. I can assist you with processing your loss, accepting a new reality without the presence of your loved one, and discovering the transformation that occurs as a result of loss.
The human brain is a brilliant organ that keeps us safe by connecting perceived threats in our present environment to pain experienced in the past. For some individuals, especially those who have been emotionally wounded earlier in life, the brain’s tendency towards a reactive “fight” response can be highly disruptive and even destructive. I help clients revisit and process their earlier wounds in a safe environment and teach them to respond to emotional triggers in a more constructive way. Actual body monitoring and “brain work” assists clients in moving from a primitive, reactive response to a safer, more intentional response.
Depression is a truly mind-altering experience that leaves many people feeling “beside themselves,” hopeless, and helpless. I take a holistic approach to depression, helping clients address its physical, social, psychological, and spiritual components. Almost always, this involves reviewing your own life story and reprocessing your past experiences with the compassion and intelligence of an adult perspective. Depression can be fueled by misplaced emotions from our past or from traumatic events that cause us to shut down rather than to grow and thrive. I believe that depression is an invitation for us to stop, look at our lives, heal, and live.
Anxiety and stress
Managing anxiety and stress not only involves discovering the triggers that cause these emotions, but also understanding and managing the brain. The human brain, in a constant effort to keep us safe, spends much of its time evaluating our current environment and comparing perceived threats to a vast memory bank of information stored under the category “danger and pain.” Triggers in our present environment are connected to more severe events from the past, causing a “fight, flight, or freeze” response that overwhelms the central nervous system. I assist clients in recognizing these triggers and in managing their effects through therapy and relaxation work.
My primary tool for assisting families is Imago Relationship Therapy, based on the book Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix. Imago Relationship Therapy assures that every member of the family is heard, understood, and validated. Usually the health of the parents’ or caretakers’ relationship sets the tone for the entire family. I assist in clarifying family roles, family values, appropriate responses to other family members, and strategies for healthier communication. Almost always, these family sessions reveal that we have misplaced or taken for granted our love for each other in our struggles to connect.
Sexuality is uncomfortable for many to discuss, but issues surrounding it prompt many to seek therapeutic assistance. Clients find that I am open and willing to help them explore personal issues surrounding sexuality, without judgement or fear. I believe that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender identities are within the spectrum of normal human experience and are not in themselves pathological, unnatural, or sinful. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) clients and their families will find welcome, safety, and acceptance in my practice.
I strongly recommend that clients in the early stages of recovery from eating disorders seek the services of a therapist who specializes in this area. I am able to provide counseling for those who have gone through their initial recovery and are now seeking long-term management for their eating disorders. I help clients process their life story and understand the emotional triggers that could lead to relapse. I also provide support for dealing with anxiety, stress, fear, and sadness.
Substance abuse and addiction
Mainstream mental health systems are often quick to diagnose individuals with addictions. It is my belief that we are all wounded and most of us have learned, at some level, to minimize our pain, mask it, or deny it. Misplaced or untreated emotional pain fuels depression, anxiety, and a feeling of not being safe in the world. If we can find something, anything, that helps us bypass these emotions and makes us feel better, it makes sense that many of us are drawn to that escape. However, this approach does not work in the long term. This is what is commonly referred to as “addiction.” I help clients discern what is true for them.
I have assisted many professionals in discovering and discerning their own life story, desires, talents, and values in imagining and pursuing a career that feeds their soul. My own background before becoming a therapist included work for several Fortune 500 companies in the marketing and advertising industry, as well as working as a self-employed marketing consultant. I understand the desire and the difficulties inherent in pursing a fulfilling career and in making career transitions later in life.