I earned a Master of Arts degree in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University-Los Angeles in 1993 and was first licensed as a Marriage & Family Therapist in California in 1996. I am currently licensed to practice marriage and family therapy in Missouri and Louisiana. I have been a Clinical Member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) since 2014. I served on the Board of the Missouri Association for Marriage and Family Therapy from 2015 - 2016 as Secretary. I have worked in many different settings, from in-patient to private practice, with individuals, couples, families, and groups, working on issues ranging from anxiety and depression to schizophrenia.
My theoretical approach is eclectic but mainly relies on ACT. Acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT (pronounced like the word "act"), is a mindful approach to accepting the hardships in life to improve one's overall quality of living. It's a form of psychotherapy kindred to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that helps people focus on the present and move forward from overwhelming, difficult emotions. The goal of this therapy is to increase psychological flexibility. ACT uses a variety of approaches drawn from the behavioral analysis, mindfulness, cognitive diffusion, acceptance, and commitment methods, just to name a few.
ACT works in three areas: accept the emotion and be mindful, choose a direction, and then act accordingly. The first part involves the acceptance of things that are out of your control. Focusing on things outside of your control may cause more distress the more you focus on it including negative self-talk. Instead of getting caught up in a thought like, “I’m a terrible person,” you can learn to recognize, “I am having a thought that I’m a terrible person.” Effectively, you learn to uncouple your thoughts, which are simply internalized words, from their conditioned meanings and emotional associations. In the second and third area, by being in contact with the present moment and what the situation affords, you make a choice based on your chosen values. Over time your choices create larger and larger patterns of committed action linked to your values instead of remaining stagnant in a muck of emotions.
I offer couples therapy based on the research and materials developed by John Gottman, Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. John Gottman’s theoretical perspective is based on his research which revealed basic interactions of satisfied couples. These interactions make a difference in how you relate to one another both in and out of conflict. Strengthening your relationship and rebuilding trust begins with understanding each other’s internal world, feeling and showing fondness and admiration, being able to accept influence from each other, feeling positive about the other person and the relationship, and sharing common dreams and goals.
Mindfulness is also important in couples therapy, because it helps us pay attention on purpose to what’s going on inside us mentally, emotionally and physically from moment to moment so that we are better able to regulate our emotions and respond to one another rather than react. Thich Nhat Hanh said “If you love someone, the greatest gift you can give them is your presence.”