Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #MFC 33393 California
Certified Rehabilitation Counselor #CRC 28247 through The Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC)
M.S. San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA (Counseling) - Dual specialization in MFT and Rehabilitation, 1992.
B.A. San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA (Psychology) 1983.
Master Certified Gottman Method Therapist, Trainer and Consultant #119
Prior to working in private practice, I was a consultant with the Marriott Foundation. I educated employers about the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) in private meetings and public presentations. I matched youth with disabilities to employer paid positions and provided follow up counseling to both employee and employer. My position involved direct consultation, education, presentations and trainings to youth, parents and employers on the topic of accommodating persons with disabilities in the work environment. Most of the teens I worked with had ADHD or other learning disorders. I later developed a specialty of working with adults who had a diagnosis of ADHD.
My interest in rehabilitation counseling was a result of surviving a life threatening illness as a young woman. I had just graduated college when I was diagnosed with Acute Leukemia. I was unable to do anything other than focus on treatment and healing for 2 years. The experience helped me appreciate the impact a life changing event has on a person, a couple and a family. I was influenced in my personal recovery by Stanford Physician and Spiritual Author, Jerry Jampolsky, whose teachings focused on inner peace and living in the present. I try to bring present moment mindfulness into my sessions with couples.
There are so many transitions in life that can be traumatic whether it’s a life threatening illness, recovery from addiction, a natural disaster or some other life changing event. The effects of trauma can hurt relationships, but it’s also true that people in strong relationships do better with trauma simply because they are not facing the “dragon” alone. It’s a gift to be able to help a couple move through a tough transition in a loving and connected way.
My favorite activity is hiking on the many beautiful trails in Marin County. I know most of them like the back of my hand and hiking with my partner Jeff, my friends, or by myself is my favorite hobby. Marin County has beautiful hiking and biking trails that include vistas of Mount Tamalpais, Point Reyes and the Golden Gate Bridge. A hike through the Redwoods may lead you to a lake, a beach or a waterfall. For couples who enjoy hiking and visiting Marin, I recommend Don and Kay Martin’s Guide to “Hiking Marin”.
My favorite date night is a night out with Jeff to a SF Giants Baseball Game. To be honest, we don’t go as often as we’d like. And it seems every time we go in person, the Giants’ lose. The day before we go they win, and the day after we go they win, but the day we go they lose. I’m not sure how to remove the jinx, but we still go and we have fun. AT&T baseball park is located downtown next to the SF Bay where many “splash hits” happen. It’s a fun ballpark win or lose. (better if you are a Giants’ fan, to go when we are not there).
Jeff and I are empty nesters - almost. Four years ago, we visited an animal shelter to adopt a kitten. While there, we fell in love with a 5 year old dachshund who had just weaned her puppies. We took “Ma Ma” home and renamed her, Chloe. Did I mention that we also took home the kitten, named Jerry? Chloe and Jerry turned out to be a handful and engage in a very active love hate relationship. Volatile as they are, these two really do love each other and provide us with countless moments of entertainment.
My passion is helping couples repair their relationships. I’ve been a psychotherapist for 25 years and have worked with many populations but I find couple’s work to be most rewarding. I like the energy and the challenge of holding two differing points of view without judgment (and teaching couples to do the same).
These days, I only work with couples. All couples are welcome to my practice including engaged, married, straight, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender couples. I believe all relationships are cross-cultural in that we all bring unique backgrounds to our union. What I don’t know I’m open to learning from you.
I use evidence based methods because I believe too much of couples therapy has been based on someone’s opinion of what a good relationship looks like, rather than on what research with real couples tells us works. I often tell my clients they don’t need to go to “couple nirvana” to heal. Evidence based studies tell us there aren’t any perfect couples.
I enjoy debunking the common myth that conflict is a predictor of divorce. Conflict is normal in close relationships and not an index that something is wrong. In fact, disagreements are full of existential meaning and the opportunity to know one another better, but couples need to know how to make these conversations safe. My role as a couples’ therapist is to help couples approach conflict more gently, because that’s what happy couples in the research were doing.
The happy couples in the research, though not perfect, were more mindful about maintaining their friendship, managing their conflict, and continuing to build a sense of shared meaning in their lives.
“Friendship, a gentle approach to conflict and shared meaning, when strong, are both the effects and the causes of happy relationships”. John Gottman, A Science-Based Approach
Gottman Method Couples Therapy is based on Dr. John Gottman’s research that began in the 1970’s and continues to this day. The research has focused on what makes marriages or committed relationships succeed or fail. From this research, Drs. John and Julie Gottman have created a method of therapy and counseling that emphasizes a grounded and realistic approach to improving couple relationships.
This method is designed to help teach you specific tools and skills to deepen friendship and intimacy in your relationship. To help you productively manage conflicts, you will be given methods to manage resolvable problems and dialogue about gridlocked (or perpetual) issues. We will also work together to help you appreciate your relationship's strengths and to gently navigate through it’s vulnerabilities.
Common challenges for couples are; parenting a newborn or a teen, a lost job, a move, elder parents, mid-life or empty nest. Unfortunately, sometimes couples fall into bad habits during these times that starts them on a negative slide. You will know when that is happening because you will experience an increase in what Gottman has termed “The Four Horsemen;” Defensiveness, Criticism, Contempt, and Stonewalling.
There are several structured exercises that I use with couples to help them assert themselves with one another in effective ways that don’t include the Four Horsemen. I’ll also work on your friendship and building your connection with one another when you aren’t fighting. The fact is, couples are better at repairing their negative arguments when they basically feel close and connected, and are good friends.
My office is located in Kentfield, Marin County. It’s about a 20 minute drive from the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge. There are many choices for lodging in San Francisco or in the Marin towns of Sausalito, Mill Valley, Larkspur, Tiburon, San Rafael or West Marin. Some of the beautiful hiking trails mentioned earlier are a short distance from my office. Phoenix Lake in Ross is about a mile away. The Marin Art and Garden Center close by is a nice place to stroll or take a lunch to eat outdoors. For couples who want to eat lunch indoors, I recommend the Half Day Cafe a half block away, or a short drive to the small, quaint town of San Anselmo.
My current office space is up a flight of stairs. Please let me know ahead of time if stairs are a problem and I will secure an office on the first floor for our meeting.
When your marriage or relationship is in crisis you may not feel connected with one another even when you aren’t arguing. The friendship may feel flat or nonexistent, and discussions about differences may be polarized and extreme; that is if you are engaging with one another at all. If this sounds familiar and you are seeking therapy, one or both of you is seriously concerned about the state of your union (a good sign) or one or both of you want to break up. Some common examples of crisis situations are:
An extramarital affair is considered by most partners to be a profound betrayal. In her book “Not Just Friends” Dr. Shirley Glass uses the metaphor of walls and windows to describe what happens when there is an affair. “In a love affair, the unfaithful partner has built a wall to shut out the marriage partner and opened a window to let in the affair partner. To re-establish a marriage that is intimate and trusting after an affair, the wall and window must be reconstructed to conform to the safety code and keep the structure of the marriage sound so that it can withstand the test of time.”
Sometimes affairs are physical and sometimes they are emotional. Both types are destructive. I help couples using Shirley Glass’s model by assisting them to repair the wall that protects their marriage, creating a strong boundary between them and the affair partner. This means ending the affair and agreeing to no more secrets. Using the structure of the Gottman Method, I will guide you to talk about the affair safely without doing further damage. Once we understand what happened with both partners in the know, we can begin to look at rebuilding the trust and foundation of the relationship. Affairs are serious, but they are not the main reason couples get divorced.
A tragedy such as a death, loss of employment or home, serious illness or other catastrophic event is challenging even for the best of relationships. If your relationship has not been as strong as it could be, a life crisis will hit you even harder. Sometimes couples shut down in their grief or hold blame for one another for what happened. Sometimes they grieve in different ways and misread one another. For example, a husband who returns to work the day after a stillborn and a wife who is left in disbelief, mistakenly assuming that her husband does not care.
We handle trauma in our own individual ways and sometimes our ways clash, leaving us feeling alone and unsupported. I will help you talk to each other about what the traumatic event meant to you. We will establish some agreed upon ways that you can be there for one another and show support whether it be talking, or building some reliable rituals of connection. Facing a tragedy is never easy but facing it alone can feel devastating. Don’t let a traumatic event come between you. Couples counseling can help.
The disengaged couple is actually at the highest risk for divorce. In a study by The Divorce Mediation Project, 80% of men and women listed gradually growing apart, losing a sense of closeness, and not feeling loved and appreciated as reasons for initiating divorce. So, while there are many paths to this place of feeling isolated and lonely, you are in serious danger; not because of what you are feeling, but rather because of what you are not feeling.
In Gottman Therapy, the lost connection is seen as resulting from the small but significant ways that couples have turned away or against one another over time. The task for both of you is to create a safer, more secure marital/partnered environment where you are willing again to take emotional risks. The structure of Gottman Couples Therapy makes this possible with the aim to help you create the emotional connection you both want and need.
Premarital or Pre-commitment Education and Counseling
My premarital and pre-commitment course is grounded in Gottman's science-based theory for making relationships work as well as Olson’s prepare/enrich program for premarital couples . Gottman's 35 years of research included studies on marriage, gay and lesbian couples, transition to parenthood, parenting and child development. Some examples of areas that are ripe for pre-marital counseling include:
Whether you coming in for a tune-up, enhancement or repair there are many ways that we can work together to strengthen your relationship. You might be surprised at how fast things turn around by making some small but significant changes.
The Gottman Method can be integrative and some other approaches that I blend into my work are; Sue Johnson’s Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, Dan Wile’s Collaborative Couples Therapy and David Olsen’s Premarital (prepare/enrich).