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The Process

Lotus Pond_Skirball-August 4-taken by TG.jpeg

Image taken by Tara at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, CA. The lotus rising through the mud is an image of transformational growth processes we ourselves may experience as we work towards wholeness.

Making Contact

I work to create a soulful connection with sensitive and creative patients, and between everyone participating in therapy, through unconditional positive regard. Heart-centered relating allows interpretation and reflections to support insights about feelings, responses, and relationship patterns. Empathetic mirroring responds to validate that you matter and deserve to feel understood. 


It might seem like an awful lot of feeling words just happened right there!

Following Affect

I use an emotional approach (called “following the affect”) that’s based on studies of human interactions and emerging neuroscience which supports an understanding that feelings frame reality and responses, that neuroplasticity means ‘neurons that fire together wire together,’ and that when someone is triggered, activated, or somehow ‘out of it,’ their brain is not able to effectively access executive cognitive functioning, in other words: “older” regions of the brain can ‘hijack’ a person’s functional processes (an example of this is Fight, Flight, Freeze, and Collapse).  Being accompanied through activation can facilitate learning or re-learning self re-regulation (and resilience building).

Lotus Pond_Skirball-August 3-taken by TG.jpeg

Feeling Safety

While all that “feeling work” is happening, I, as a therapist am supporting your brain to calm, integrate, and organize information, memories, and expectations in a different way.  (Sometimes I use very obvious methods, like EMDR, NVC, and the Gottman Method).  But no matter which approach is used to follow and process the affect, the work is being done.



When you learn to safely, deeply connect, you’ll take risks while remaining your authentic self and your unique gifts will transform your path.  This is the work, whether you’re looking for individual, couples’ or relationship therapy, or therapy and coaching as a parent to support or manage your gifted, different, difficult, step-, special-needs, different aged, or (a) new child/ren.


Who Can Benefit



Each person deserves to know through deep listening, attunement, and holding space that they are valued and deserving of love, attention, and respect within and from others.  Growth can cause anxiety and anger to arise before self-doubt gives way to self-knowledge, containment, acceptance, and purpose that heals wounds and honors your unique being.



People often find themselves in the middle of relationships and discover (for one reason or another) that they’ve stopped sharing their hearts, trusting themselves or their partners, or can’t stop feeling hurt, judged, misunderstood, or unwanted.  Too many people discover they can’t find the words to turn towards each other, and have become isolated and alone, even in one another’s presence. 


I work with people in relationships through skillbuilding.  A gestalt of attachment and relational theory form the foundation of collaborative compassionate communication and trust-building practices that strengthen partners’ ability to hear, empathize, respond and repair with partners while accepting that each person’s truth and experience may sound very different, but that difference is not a barrier to respect, caring, and love. 



Similarly to intimate relationships, parents often feel out of control and disconnected from children in their lives.  Many parents mistake friendship for parenting, and permissiveness for discipline.  Studies of attachment illustrate the need for safe, stable, secure adults to create resilient children and adolescents.  Secure attachment requires both structure and flexibility to allow children to be their own authentically different selves while knowing they are accepted and protected by loving and fallible attachment figures who role model generosity, self-acceptance, empathy, trustworthiness, tolerance of mistakes and painful feelings (without retribution or retaliation), holding appropriate boundaries, and resilience through chaos and failure while sharing hope and grieving losses and disappointments.  Secure attachment is not dependent upon biological bonds, and the work can be done in families of origin and in families of choice.  


Why Therapy?


Don't turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place. That's where the light enters you.

Why People Come to Therapy

Suffering brings people to therapy.  You can’t take it anymore.  You need peace, relief, something different.  The “it” that can’t go on varies widely…feeling stuck, afraid, exhausted, angry, hurt, sometimes disturbed without words for the unrest within, physical pain, health or immune issues related to avoiding or experiencing strong emotions; you may feel determined to stop cycles of anxiety, depression, not feeling understood or valued, giving in all the wrong places, using control to stop feeling scared, being different or “Othered”, dysfunctional relating or even avoiding relationships habits or patterns that cost you energy, joy, and connection.  If you’re ready to roll up your sleeves; stop repeating Einstein’s insanity (in lieu of a citation to prove it’s an Einstein quote, here’s a fun article on quantum insanity, 2015); and you identify as thoughtful, different, Othered, LGBTQIA, poly, kinky, BIPOC, or an ally and you think love and gratitude matter; you may be ready to get into the muck with therapy.


Childhood and Complex Trauma

Trying to make sense of early childhood, cultural, historical, multigenerational, and complex trauma can feel like trying to untangle sticky, frightening, fragmented, slippery, or evasive knots.  Donald Kalsched informally describes trauma as an injury to a person’s ability to feel, due to a protective internal response which attempts to prevent the person’s self from falling to pieces in the face of thoughts, feelings, experiences, or memories that are too terrible to experience (the unspeakable).  My trauma-informed and post-traumatic-growth training and experience allows me to accompany patients into the unknowable, the unspeakable. To support patients’ growth into being able to know and feel what they’ve experienced. Patients discover they can survive voicing the unspeakable, and develop trust and safety within the self that then allows the Unconscious mind to integrate traumatic experiences into organized Conscious awareness.  When this occurs, you’re able to know and remember what happened without feeling overwhelmed and/or triggered, and you no longer react as if you’re back in that traumatic past.


Distress in Relationships

Everyone deserves to love, to feel and know they are loveable, and to be loved, and to have their basic needs met.  Early experiences within the family of origin and with significant emotional figures often deprive people of feelings of safety and love.  Too often children are faced with the awful dilemma of being their authentic self or being accepted and provided for in order to survive.  These early adaptations shape how you relate to yourself and others, often creating emotional defenses of repeating patterns in relationships that you may struggle to break.

I work with individuals, couples, and poly relationships to develop authentically compassionate conversations, to work toward understanding and acceptance, developing earned strategies to attain secure affectionate patterns of attachment in adult relationships while encouraging acknowledgement and allowing for each person’s needs and boundaries.


Spirituality and Seeking

Some people are born seekers.  Many others experience hardship, fear, anger, abandonment, and feelings of being alone, rejected, or not understood.  Often those people desire a sense of connection or peace, which can lead to seeking or spirituality.  I have extensive training and experience with seeking, suffering, and connection beyond the personal.  I invite my patients to heal and experience relief.  This isn’t an easy task.  It asks accompaniment of one’s own suffering. To address instinctive responses to defend, harden, and often isolate (our internal strategies stemming from a desire to feel safe) different strategies are called for.   Often new internal processes are needed to allow the heart to break, with compassion for the self and others.  As we grow into acceptance, there is often an expansive feeling that the heart breaks open, and there’s an experience of increased safe engagement within the self, the whole, and among relationships.


Life Transitions

In therapy we look at what you can do to adapt, change, grow into, and we also look at the situations that arise in life, and especially situations that ask change of you.  Transitions often require safe space to feel, grieve, accept, transform and grow with intentionality to create a rich and joyful ‘next chapter.’  Individual senses of identity and purpose change with each of life’s transitions.  Individuating, separating, pair bonding, life-commitments, changes in relationship structures, breakups, parenting, losses, empty-nesting, longing for life purpose, passion, and drive are common life transitions, which can create feelings of anxiety, depression, overwhelm, anger, grief, shame, and aloneness.  Stages of life and even individual goals carry their own purpose, demands, and processes, and moving through transitions can bring clarity, peace, relief, and focus.


My Approaches

A Therapeutic Lens

You may have noticed phrases that refer to my therapeutic approach and influences.  I’m an integrative depth therapist; my work emerges from a diverse range of experience and study of disciplines which are both old and new.  I identify as a neurodivergent heart-centered nature-based systems thinker whose early experiences shaped me into imaginal mythopoetic communication, into an animistic experience of the world and all creatures as alive, and into deep empathy for pain and love.


I began exploring philosophy and mythology by stumbling into story, beginning with Aesop’s and wandering into science fiction/ fantasy.  I discovered Carl Gustav Jung as a teen; Jung talked about the questions that wandered through my consciousness.  I’ve been driven by curiosity and a desire to understand and break destructive personal and collective cycles—into history, art, archetypes, symbols, myth (and Joseph Cambell), studying nature, theatre, cultural anthropology, indigenous perspectives and healing traditions, social and cultural justice, ecological justice, human sexuality, mothering-the-mother, and hypnosis.  After years working in entertainment, I found nearly everything I’d been gathering all belonged in my calling and work as an integrative psychotherapist.  I followed an intuitive process (and the Minoan Snake Goddess) to Greece, then to Pacifica Graduate Institute, where I discovered an imaginal home and integrative depth oriented teachers who were curious too.  I am deeply grateful to all my teachers, but would like to express special gratitude to Allen Koehn, Allen Bishop, Juliet Rohde-Brown, Fanny Brewster, and to my mentors who offered close feedback and case consultation for years, Kristi Walsh, Steve Frank, and Lionel Corbett.


Dream Work & Depth Psychology


Jungian Analytic Psychology is a holistic, proto-relational, complex-theory which aims at differentiation, individuation, and healing through relationship, archetypal image, numinous (sometimes also called extraordinary or non-ordinary) experiences, and collective Psyche/ Transpersonal/ Non-Dual reality.  Although Jungian and Freudian psychologies have much in common, they diverged at the idea of Freud’s drives and Jung’s idea of complexes. (see CG Jung, Lionel Corbett, Andrew Samuels, Murray Stein, Eduardo Duran, and many many more…)

Attachment Theory and Relational psychology has its roots in Gaia theory, anthropological and zoological studies of mother-infant and parent-child practices, rituals, as well as Jungian, Kleinian, Winnicottian, Lacanian, Intersubjective psychologies and in the sciences of neurobiology and neuropsychology.  Attachment and Relational work explores how we developed in relation to early and important caregivers, how that influences our perception of self and others in relationships, and how the combination of the whole impacts our communication, emotional responses, and boundaries.  (See John Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth, Mary Main, Donald Winnicott, and more recently, Philip M. Bromberg, Thomas Ogden, Christopher Bollas, and Daniel Siegel.)


Ecopsychology hearkens back to Shamanic, Animistic, and Earth-based practices and also in-corporates Jungian, Archetypal, Gestalt, and Systems-based therapeutic modalities.  Ecopsychology addresses the nature in and of people, and people in relation to our environment, not separate from it, and that nature and all creatures in it have their own autonomous purpose within the Sacred Hoop of Life (see Pat McCabe discuss some of these ideas connected with trauma and healing Medicine). Ecopsychology encourages everyone to re-connect, to tend their small patch of earth, and to holistically, emergently re-wild the self and our natural world.  (See Robin Wall Kimmerer, Gary Snyder, Betsy Perluss)

The unconscious psyche is not only immensely old, it is also capable of growing into an equally remote future. It moulds the human species and is just as much a part of it as the human body, which, though ephemeral in the individual, is collectively of immense age.
-C.G. Jung, CW 9i, para. 518 (1959 /2014, p. 131 )


Nonviolent Communication

Compassionate Communication and Relating based on the work developed by Marshall Rosenberg (NonViolent Communication [feelings inventory, needs inventory], David Richo, and Sarah Peyton) creates spaciousness.  Our culture, and often our families and relationships hurry us.  Compassionate Communication creates space and slows things down, to unravel shorthand.  It allows each person to examine how they’re being affected, and to be witnessed and felt by another.  The basic format of NVC gives back often lost clarity: everyone communicating feels their yes, their no, uses their voice to request empathy and understanding, to ask for what they need.  The Relational component allows each person to hear what is asked, and to be present with and for the other, whether or not they’re meeting the other person’s needs.


You may have discovered that you learned to manage by telling rather than asking.  You may have learned from adults and cultural conditioning that focuses attention in ways which actually make it unlikely you’ll get what you want without resentment, hurt, or anger. 

I developed NVC as a way to train my attention—to shine the light of consciousness—on places that have the potential to yield what I am seeking…..(It’s) founded on language and communication skills that strengthen our ability to remain human, even under trying conditions. It contains nothing new; all that has been integrated into NVC has been known for centuries.
The intent is to remind us about what we already know—about how we humans were meant to relate to one another….As NVC replaces our old patterns of defending, withdrawing, or attacking in the face of judgment and criticism, we come to perceive ourselves and others, as well as our intentions and relationships, in a new light….Through its emphasis on deep listening—to ourselves as well as to others— NVC fosters respect, attentiveness, and empathy and engenders a mutual desire to give from the  heart.

-Marshall Rosenberg



Belief is not required. Agreement isn’t required. Differing faiths (including atheism and modern scientific thought) are welcome, as long as they are life affirming.  Writing about Buddhism, I considered whether to acknowledge that I don’t identify as a buddhist.  Whatever my identity or agreements, I’ve found Buddhist principles and perspectives appear in work with patients.  I bring together Jungian and Buddhist (and earth/ nature based) ideas/ faiths into sessions; this may or may not be kosher for many.  Like Marshall Rosenberg’s statement about NVC (it being nothing new, that its elements exist in many times and cultures), Buddhist principles appear in many other philosophical and religious thought.  And as the current (2022) Dalai Lama has repeated many times over the years, they can be arrived at by logical reasoning and evaluation. 

Buddhist principles were born from a desire to understand and cope with suffering as part of the nature of reality in a way that did not cause more suffering.  Buddhist ideas can offer comfort, illumination, and guidance, especially in the midst of suffering.


The Gottman Method 

Using Gottman Method combined with NVC and Jungian understanding of attachment, projection, and journeys of individuation within partnership, I explore unspeakable thoughts and feelings partners keep from their lifemates and families (of origin or choice) in ways that can help develop trust and safety between them.  When each person’s truth can be heard and accepted knowing they are valued and cared for, Gottman and NVC evidence based approaches contain and guide partners to process feelings together, and to discover their path forward.


In Couples’ and Relationship therapy I combine the work of Gottman & Gottman, David Richo, James Hollis, Marshall Rosenberg, and Charlotte Kasl, along with many others.


Nurturing Parenting

Nurturing Parenting is an evidence based, family centered, trauma informed approach to educate and support parents to improve their effectiveness, comfort, and joy in parenting using NonViolent Parenting practices.  Nurturing parenting focuses on a combination of neurobiology, attachment theory, and empathy.  As a Nurturing Parenting Facilitator, I help parents develop an understanding of appropriate expectations based on children’s age, growth, stress, ‘ages and stages’ of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual development, to foster empathy, non-violent and secure parent-child bonding, boundaries, and attachment, to support both parents and children to develop feelings of self-worth, trust, security, self-empowerment and dignity.

From Nurturing The Nurturing Programs are evidenced–based programs recognized by National Registry of Evidenced-based Programs and Practices (NREPP), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency (OJJDP), Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) and Child Welfare League of America (CWLA).


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.  At the most basic level, EMDR uses natural processes in neurobiology to stimulate the triune brain (a bit reductive, but basically the triune brain concept describes the brain as being composed of the the “lizard,” “mammalian,” and “executive functioning/ thinking” brain regions) through bilateral stimulation while giving attention to “charged” feelings and memories. Studies have shown it is effective at reducing feelings of distress, and stimulated growth in the hippocampus (Discussed by Francine Shapiro in an interview on EMDR posted below).  It is considered one of the most quickly effective evidence-based psychotherapeutic treatments for PTSD, other traumas, and intrusive negative thoughts.

I'm trained in a modified version of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), known as “SAFE EMDR,” which is a Somatic and Attachment Focused EMDR protocol.  SAFE EMDR was developed by EMDRIA approved EMDR therapist and consultant, Deborah Kennard (based in Ann Arbor, Michigan). The SAFE modification of the EMDR protocol was developed for use with people with chronic, complex, complicated PTSD and dissociative histories.

[SAFE EMDR] investigates the client’s strengths and resources first, and determines from that assessment, which specific areas will be addressed in…(the) preparation phase….We do this with a questionnaire, The Answer, inquiring about various responses and patterns of behavior…. “The Answer” is the thing we did to adapt as a human, to keep safe and attached to caregivers.  It becomes our strength as well as (our) block to healing and intimacy.  As the therapist, if we can welcome this adaptation, also referred to as the defense or resistance, and appreciate it, the client’s system can relax the defense and ultimately willingly allow the defense to soften.
- Deborah Kennard

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