Hello and thank you for visiting my website!
I practice psychotherapy online via video.
Benefits of therapy
I help people grow in:
- Greater inner-peace
- Self-acceptance and confidence
- Improving relationships and connection to others
- Discipline, temperance, and focus
- Gratitude and appreciation for life
- Spiritual growth
Problems that can emerge when such areas are in need of alignment include depression, anxiety, relationship problems, addictions, eating disorders, and existential concerns.
Unhealed trauma (long ago or recent) can have a profound impact on how we experience our lives. This doesn’t necessarily have to be one sudden and severe event. It can also be an accumulation of smaller or moderate events that we have not yet made sense of in a healthy way and/or have not discharged from our bodies. I believe it is important to look at your current situation as well as any associated past experiences that affect how you see yourself, others, and the world.
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (#77883) and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (#928) in California
- Master’s degree in psychology from California State University, Chico
- I help adults of all ages, and I have extensive experience with younger adults in their 20s and 30s. I provided therapy in a university setting for approximately 7 years. I’ve worked in mental health agencies and have approximately 2 years experience in private practice, helping individuals and families.
My values as a therapist
Beginner’s mind and continual assessment
I try to maintain a “beginner’s mind” about my clients, even as the relationship becomes longer term. I believe that most people are quite complex and as you grow and learn about your hidden self (your blind spots and “shadow”), you will have more new information to share. Memories could surface or fit together in new ways like puzzle pieces, creating new insights and ideas. This can happen months or years after our first session.
It takes effort to maintain a beginner’s mind as treatment progresses. It can be tempting for both the therapist and the client to get attached to certain models or stories, such as personality types, diagnoses, and incomplete narratives about a person. These models can be useful to use and explore for some time, but no model is completely accurate, and most fall quite short of explaining something as complex as a human being. Just like it can help us really see an object if we move around and look at it from various positions and vantage points, we will generally see each other more completely if we don’t get stuck in one way of looking at the problems, solutions, or person. Overly conceptualizing people can also make us relate to each other more with our thoughts and heads, rather than our feelings and hearts, which is far more healing.
When I notice myself thinking I have the problem “figured out”, that is my queue to take a step back and bring in an extra dose of curiosity.
“Resistance” happens when we tense (mentally, emotionally, and/or physically) in response to a suggestion or a concept or way of thinking or behaving that we aren’t ready for or that simply doesn’t fit us well. When this happens with a client, I aim to ease up on the idea and ask about what feelings and thoughts came up when it was proposed. This could be a rich area to explore, since resistance is often a sign that we are protecting some vulnerable part of us. In most social situations, other people either withdraw or continue to push their agenda. It’s relatively rare for someone to ask, “can you tell me what just happened? It seems like that didn’t sit well with you. Can you talk about what it brought up for you?” Since people don’t usually explore resistance with each other, it simply remains inside of us, often for years or even decades. By shining a light on it, we may be able to see how it served in the past, and in what ways it is still serving in the present and if there are any possible aspects that can be let go of.
I think it is very important for people to be able to tell their stories to a non-judgemental, yet engaged, witness. This may very well be the centerpiece of good therapy.
Telling stories is a way that we access deeper emotion, and make sense and meaning out of the events in our lives and of our relationships. We understand and empathize with ourselves and each other through telling our story.
Therapy is sometimes the one hour in a whole week when someone ceases all other activity and turns powerfully inward to inspect what is in their heart. I know that if I talk too soon and too much, especially toward the beginning of sessions, it can interrupt that important introspection.
A healing aspect of therapy is helping the client feel seen by another (something many of us did not get enough of in childhood), and having the experience that someone else is willing to “come into our world” for a while. This can only happen if the therapist is paying close attention to what the client is saying and doing.
Part of therapy is giving clients suggestions, information, and feedback, and also sometimes therapists can give too much of this because they often enjoy teaching and being in the expert role. But this can elevate the therapist’s needs over the client’s needs in some situations (this is virtually always unintentional as the therapist is simply trying to be helpful). Also, I know that personally I am very open to feedback from a trusted person, but only after I feel accurately and thoroughly understood on the issue.
There is a balance to be struck between therapist listening vs talking. I try to be attuned to what my clients need in this regard, which can depend on their personality, where in the session we are (first 10 minutes vs last 10 minutes), where in the treatment we are (session 1 vs session 12), whether anything significant has happened recently in their life, any recent breakthroughs they’ve had, and other factors.
Inherent in a therapy relationship is the fact that the client is asking for help, and this can create the feeling of the therapist having more power. I like to remind my client that they are the expert on themselves and their own life (having lived it), and that their buy-in is needed before we pursue any goals that we create together. It is important to be that we are on the same page about what the problem(s) are, what goals the client wants to meet, what important factors need considering, and generally what our process will be for working together. This is an ongoing communication and collaboration throughout the therapy relationship. I encourage my clients to bring up any frustrations or disappointments about our process early, so we can make necessary adjustments. I also try to make it clear that I will do the same if I feel that we could make the therapy better in some way.
For example, a therapist making brilliant reflections and using perfect active listening is of little use when the client would rather be talking about something else that they consider more important. I realize that everyone (including therapists) have their biases and that the direction I want to go in might not always be the best. Also, if I feel that we are spinning our wheels in rehashed and circular thinking in a particular area, I will bring this up so we can do something different.
Most of the time in therapy, there should be a sense of ease, connection, and safety. As the trust builds (usually over several months), it creates a container for normal conflicts to be sometimes had and worked out productively. These conflicts arise from the simple fact that neither one of us is perfect. I realize that if there are bumps in the road on our path, that some of those could be my own unskillfulness. Therapists have their insecurities and unfinished healing too, and I think it is a disservice to always attribute friction to the client. I try to take a step back and look at our dynamic as objectively as possible and take ownership for any mistakes I make. I don’t think that clients usually expect or even want perfection (if you do I’m not the therapist for you!), but they do expect and deserve a therapist who will admit when they are wrong. In turn, I also aim to constructively give you feedback if I perceive that some way of relating to me is getting in the way of us connecting or doing productive work. Who is “right” is far less important than our ability and willingness to humbly and curiously examine our process together.
“The therapist must strive to create a new therapy for each patient.”Irvin Yalom (The Gift of Therapy)
There is no “best” way to do therapy for a given individual. What works is what works for you. Some people really respond to working with their thoughts (cognitive therapy), while others respond more to sitting with feeling and body sensations. Some people benefit from talking about the dynamics between us, whereas others want to focus on working towards a specific goal. Everyone’s personality and needs are different. One of the most rewarding parts of being a therapist is that it’s never dull, since everyone is so different.
Attending to strengths and successes
“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”Abraham Maslow
Most therapists probably receive more training in diagnosing and working with problems than they do in seeking and exploring strengths in their clients. Some newer approaches to therapy attempt to correct for this bias. These orientations have names like “solution-focused therapy” and “strength-based therapy.”
Much of the distress that brings clients to therapy is based in fears of being inadequate or unlovable, which could also be seen as a perceived lack of good qualities and abilities to succeed in work, relationships, and general life. It is possible to overly focus on, rehash, and dwell in these stories for too long. They are important to take stock of, but not to get stuck in. By focusing on your strengths, successes, and potential, it becomes far more difficult for problems like depression or anxiety to be sustained.
Sometimes therapists miss, or do not fully appreciate, the small and large successes and signs of growth that their clients spontaneously discover in their lives. Having spent some time in the client seat, I know how this has felt to me. It can be deflating to come to session proud of some time that you changed a difficult behavior or experienced a new emotion or insight, only to have this be glossed over or missed entirely. I think honing in on these moments of success can often be far more fruitful than going back to focusing on the problem. Successes are clues that you are on the right track, and can likely expand on them, which addresses the problems indirectly. Neuroscience tells us that our main route to change is by developing new neural pathways in our nervous systems and brains, not trying to eliminate old ones. Talking in detail about how the success was achieved can prime you for repeating them.
I like to follow the client’s lead when it comes to talking about the pain and problems vs talking about successes, strengths, and solutions. Both are important, but often times the problems persist because they are getting more than their share of attention. I like to gently nudge and invite clients to linger on their accomplishments and successes to practice the feeling of confidence, which can lead to a virtuous cycle of more progress.
Openness to sharing and receiving feedback
I believe it’s important for us to talk about what is working in therapy and what isn’t. If I’m giving advice that shows you that I don’t understand the problem, I want to know that. If we seem to be on different pages about problems or solutions, that’s important to address before we continue doing more of the same.
Perhaps the biggest hesitance people have for exchanging feedback is a fear of feeling shame, that they aren’t “doing it right”. I try to create a relationship in which both of us trust that we can say, “let’s do more of this” or “let’s do less of that” from a spirit of connecting us rather than disconnecting us.
Besides keeping therapy on track and effective, exchanging feedback respectfully and effectively in therapy is an opportunity to safely practice a vital interpersonal skill that can dramatically impact our lives.
Congruence and genuineness
Congruence means that what is on the inside (feelings, thoughts) matches what is on the outside (non-verbal behavior and words). Virtually everyone has a pretty good congruence detector built into us. When someone isn’t congruent, we feel a little on edge, even though we might not know why. We sense that there the other person isn’t quite forthcoming about where they are with us, so we naturally keep a safer distance emotionally. Congruence doesn’t mean we that we share every thought in our head. It simply means that we aren’t trying to hide what we are feeling or what we feel is important in order to avoid genuine contact because it is difficult in the short term.
Genuineness is about not only the here-and-now moment but also personality and character. Genuineness means that I do not try to hide my flaws and shortcomings or pretend to have a different personality or character than I have. I strive to be my best self with clients, but staying within the range of my self and not some other self.
Willingness to work through conflicts and be vulnerable
Sometimes, especially in longer-term therapy, clients can become disappointed, frustrated, or even angry with their therapist. These are important feelings and can be opportunities to heal old wounds. I think that transference (projections the client has onto the therapist) and counter-transference (projections the therapist has on the client) are real and ever-present, since none of us can look at a person completely free from our own lens, which is based in our lifetime of experience. I have dedicated my life largely to my own healing so that I can have as clear of a lens as possible, but I know that I am not perfect, and can make mistakes. Even small therapist mistakes, like forgetting an important piece of information, or failing to grasp the intended meaning of a story, or talking just a little too much one day, can trigger old pains from childhood and earlier life. This in itself is not a bad thing, as long as what gets triggered is discussed and worked through. Worked through involves discerning what happened now from what happened in the past, and acknowledging both. This way, the old pain can be witnessed with your own attention and love, which I believe is the primary way it is healed.
One supervisor I know even went as far as to say that, “when the client gets angry with you, you know the therapy has started.” I don’t believe that every successful treatment involves this sort of work, but I do see it as a rich source of opportunity when it happens. Many everyday relationships with friends, family, and partners, do not do this work and instead shy away from conflict, which creates distance and even mistrust. Mastering the art of vulnerably working through conflict is another skill that can radically improve your quality of life in the long term.
My theoretical orientation(s)
I consider myself to be an “integrative” therapist, which means I draw from and integrate various theories of psychotherapeutic change, including:
Most therapists will say that “it’s the (therapeutic) relationship that heals.” While I think there is more to the story about want contributes to health and happiness, the “therapeutic alliance” (a good relationship with your therapist) is, I think, the heart of most therapeutic work. Empathy, genuineness, and positive regard are still the bread and butter of personal and relational healing, because wounds that were caused within relationships can also be healed within relationships. Having a good relationship with a therapist not only creates a receptive space in which you can receive new perspectives and tools, it gives an experience of being in healthy communication and open-hearted resonance with another person, which reaches us at a deeper, non-intellectual level. I wrote a more detailed summary of humanistic therapy here.
CBT aims to change core beliefs and inaccurate thoughts, as well as trying new behaviors. Rather than examining the origins of limiting beliefs (often from childhood), CBT uses examination of evidence to see situations clearly. Seeing reality accurately is a key part of good mental health, because most of our suffering comes from believing thoughts that aren’t true and are usually skewed toward the negative. I wrote a more detailed summary of CBT here.
Psychodynamic therapy involves looking at our pasts and childhoods to better understand our subconscious and unconscious “soul” (“psyche”) and their conflicting powers (“dynamis”) upon us. We’ve all noticed that powerful patterns of emotion, thought, and behavior act upon us in an automatic and instinctual way, often when under stress. These reactions tend to have roots in some combination of our genes and our early childhood experiences, that form our protective “defenses” (also called “survival skills”) that served some purpose or function in the past, but also came with costs (e.g. suppressing valuable parts of ourselves). People often find themselves in therapy when they start to realize that these protections are outdated and their cons are now outweighing the pros. Psychodynamic therapy can help identify the nature of the patterns, as well as their origins, which can provide insight and courage to start making some difficult attempts at dropping the defenses and moving forward in life in new, exciting (and often unsettling) ways that we believe will take us to more satisfying relationships and experiences. I wrote a more detailed summary of psychodynamic therapy here.
ACT is one of several mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapies that, unlike CBT, emphasizes getting distance from our thoughts rather than trying to change them. In this way it incorporates eastern mindfulness approaches to mental health, and assumes that often the best thing to do with thoughts is simply to observe them with “acceptance”, or even redirect focus to a “commitment” our higher goals and values, from which troubling thoughts can be a distraction. This involves willingness to “ACT” while leaning into uncomfortable emotions, in order to keep our options and lives expansive, rather than avoiding our experience and thus diminishing ourselves. I wrote a more detailed summary of ACT here.
Narrative therapy is based in post-modern and constructivist philosophy that assumes that our psychosocial reality is subjective, which means that we can choose our personal “story” (about ourselves, others, the world, and life). “Problem-saturated” stories are those that magnify negative events and meanings of those events, which leads to suffering. Narrative therapy aims to disidentify the with the problems in our lives, resurrect forgotten victories, and create helpful meaning from (past, present, and predicted future) events in our lives. In essence, it is the craft of deconstructing and then rewriting our personal story in a way that makes us happy rather than unhappy. While I don’t believe that all of reality is subjective, and we should not deceive ourselves with baseless narratives, it is true that much of our interpretation of reality is a flexible narrative, and how we choose to look at our experiences determines a great deal of our mental health, peace, and happiness. I wrote a more detailed summary of narrative therapy here.
Imago therapy is a popular approach to improving intimate/romantic love relationships. It examines how childhood experiences influence who we choose as a partner, and how we can help heal each other by providing what was missing (e.g. connection, autonomy, etc) from each other’s childhoods. It assumes that we go into romantic relationships with an unconscious agenda and “unfinished business” and are seeking a corrective experience from someone who sufficiently resembles the “imago”(image) of our family of origin. Because our deeper emotional needs often conflict with those of our partner, it involves learning about and understanding our partner’s childhood history in order to be attuned to each other, rather than aggravating each other’s old wounds. It also emphasizes turn taking of careful and methodical reflective listening. Imago therapy can be helpful in individual therapy, by examining your and your partner’s needs and histories privately in order to go into your relationship interactions better informed and prepared to communicate and look more deeply at needs and unconscious factors that underly problems. I wrote a more detailed summary of imago therapy here.
Emotion-focused therapy for couples
Emotion-focused couples therapy is an attachment-theory-based form of couples therapy that emphasizes the primary, more vulnerable emotions (hurt, sadness, fear) that individuals in a distressed relationship feel, and are not fully aware of or focused on. Normally couples focus on behaviors, thoughts (about themselves and each other), and the surface level emotion of anger. Both partners usually feel angry, and one tends to respond by criticizing/pursuing and the other by withdrawing/neglecting, which is based in their attachment style and their attachment fit with each other. This leads to an increasingly negative and reinforcing cycle of blame and reactivity. Underneath the judgment, vies for behavior change, and anger, is hurt, fear of loss, and sadness about their mutual disconnection. These “under the surface” feelings need to be felt, seen, acknowledged, and expressed, to themselves and to each other, in order to increase empathy for one another. The two partners typically are in pain for different reasons (one fears abandonment and the other fears engulfment/smothering). Fundamentally, they each want to feel cared for, so they can feel emotionally regulated in the presence of the other and connect without feeling threatened at a primal level. Interventions largely include being asked repeatedly to focus on, and communicate, what underlies the anger, complaints, and judgments of self and partner. I think that EFT-informed individual therapy can be an effective vehicle for improving a person’s relationship, by introducing tools and understanding that can then be carried outside of sessions into their relationship interactions.
Existential psychotherapy looks at emotional pain through the lens of the unavoidable “ultimate concerns” of existence that we all go through. These include the fact of death, the burden of freedom and responsibility(including consequences and tradeoffs involved in our important life choices), existential isolation (no one can ever know what it is like to be us or be totally merged with us), and the burden of needing meaning in a world that appears to have only subjectively created meaning. While our past experiences may contribute to our abilities to weather these existential dilemmas, the emphasis in this therapy is on how these universal, human concerns impact us. For example, fear of death might be looked at more as an underlying reason for anxiety, rather than a overlying symptom of anxiety. This therapy assumes that repressing the truth of existential concerns to the unconscious leads to suffering, while looking consciously and directly at them leads to greater health and peace.
Solution-focused therapy (SFT) is a practical and relatively simple theory that is based in doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t work. It assumes that people have the solutions to their own problems, and the therapist’s job is to facilitate the process of uncovering and building on those solutions and client strengths. One method is to talk about “exceptions” (times when problems were not present or were smaller), and what solutions may have been present during those times. SFT emphasizes clarifying goals, sometimes by visualizing a future scenario in which the problem were not present (the “miracle question”). It also attempts to break down large goals into small, easily achievable steps, which compound into significant progress over time. Interventions include imagining potential solutions, visualizing the achievement of goals, incrementally taking effective action, monitoring progress, and adjusting strategies based on what is working.
My fee and session format
I typically schedule 50-minute therapy sessions with clients, which are $100 USD per session.
For mutual convenience and to keep costs more affordable, I currently meet with clients online via video calls.
Frequency of sessions
How frequently clients meet with me is individual and case by case, varying from as often as twice per week to every few months for a check in. The typical, average frequency is having a session every 1 to 2 weeks.
Duration of treatment
I don’t ask for a commitment to have a certain number of sessions, as I prefer that my clients feel free to continue working with me for exactly as long as they find it beneficial, even if that is just a single session. Depending on their needs, clients work with me from just a few weeks to as long as multiple years.
Please use this form to get in touch with me if you would like to set up a free 10-30 minute consultation to talk about your therapy goals and if I am likely the right therapist to help you: