Associate Marriage and Family Therapist
Associate Professional Clinical Counselor
Certified Internal Family Systems (IFS) Practitioner
Certified Sex Therapist
Level 2 IFS trained Couples Therapist
MA in Humanities
MA in Counseling Psychology
Married for 35 years with 5 adult kids and 8 grandchildren
I am an immigrant from Southern Europe to the US. I came as a child of a single Spanish mother, adopted by my Greek father at age 9. I felt culture shock in American public school, where while successful as a national merit scholar and playing lead roles in the school play and musical, I often felt like an outsider.
In my adult years, besides teaching high school literature and AP English, I taught silent street theater for 7 years. I wrote a book on this experience. It is on Amazon, Mime: Language of the Heart. The body experience of learning and teaching mime has led me to embark on a PhD in Somatic Psychology. Psychotherapy has the most impact when it includes bodily awareness and interactive mindfulness between our minds and our bodies.
As we work together, you will have the space to explore your own and your partner’s values, defensive postures and past wounds. The more you see and understand each other, the more you will be able to feel seen and understood with mutual compassion. In each session I will facilitate meditative experiences where partners take turns “going inside” and becoming aware of the thoughts and feelings that are underneath the behaviors and sensations expressed bodily, as well as the intentions and meanings of words expressed in relationship. Awareness of what the different parts of us are doing and compassion towards those parts is what eventually brings about behavior changes that are both authentic to ourselves and loving toward others.
Intimacy From the Inside Out (IFIO, the IFS couples therapy model) helps couples discover what parts of them are showing up to meet the parts of the other partner. As we work together each partner will bring healing to the parts of themselves that need it first and then reach out with support for their partner from an already cared for place. This differentiation between partners allows all the giving to be voluntary and not on an “I need you” or “Let me fix you” basis. Of course there is sharing on what is wanted between the partners, but not a demanding speaking from my wounds kind of relationship.
An IFS supervisor of mine said that people get together when their wounded parts connect. These little child parts inside us fall in love instantly with someone who evidences a personality style that feels familiar from our childhood. This could be because the other person reminds us of ourselves, or a caregiver or a sibling or an environmental influence. But, my supervisor went on to say that the partners then separate when their defensive, protector parts, that have grown up into strong armor or aggressive warriors, clash with each other.
The goal of IFIO (IFS for couples) therapy is to help these strong well-intentioned protector parts of each partner to identify their fears and desires so that they can develop an updated, more collaborative and adaptive stance toward the other partner.
Many couples could use a sex tune up since the pandemic. The lockdown that limited the amount of support couples have from their environment, caused a lot of us to rely too heavily on our intimate relationships. The lockdown also took some of the mystery away that working and sometimes living separately gave to adult partners.
The shifts that occurred in the workplace, housing, and schooling put strains on partnerships that then affected our sex lives. Interestingly, sleeping in different rooms may not only have been about containing the virus. Perhaps our bodies were looking for a way to differentiate so that we could come back together with the fondness that separation brings. When my husband and I sold our house and moved to Northern California, our 2 month forced separation fostered a steamy romance through text that living in the same house day after day doesn’t always stimulate!
Within the relationship, an oscillating connection and disconnection is needed to help the couple maintain a healthy differentiation that includes both individuation and attachment. When we were forced to curtail social engagements outside of our homes, it shut down some of the ability for each partner to develop their own authentic self that they then bring to the couple relationship. One focus in sex therapy today is reintroducing that differentiation to the couple.
A second goal of sex therapy is to recognize and work with the brakes and acceleration system in each partner’s body. Our bodies respond to signals that say, “stop” or “start” and need some variety to be able to recognize those variable states. Just as eating mindlessly causes health problems for our bodies, so can sex that is overly habitual cause problems for a couple’s sex life.
This problem of routine also comes up in long term relationships. Boredom or acceptance of ways that are not actually enjoyed, assumptions of availability or passive agreement to a sex moratorium can all lead to difficulties with consent, joint sexual fantasy and thoughtful consideration of mutual sexual experience.
Raising children in the modern world is probably more difficult than it used to be. There is no longer a village to raise the child, though this is sometimes obtained through churches, schools or sports clubs. But often too much weight is put on the parents to provide what is needed for children and this can lead to burnt out parents, helicopter parenting and/or neglected children. In family therapy, parents come to recognize the parts of them that are working in these maladaptive ways. Parents can then help those parts to relax and adopt more collaborative and supportive behaviors that take into account both the parent’s limitations and the children’s needs. I also work with the boundaries encountered when grandparenting. Understanding and acceptance of our adult children and their wants and needs goes a long way to more joyful grandparent / grandchild relationships.
Besides couples, individual and family work, I also help clients who are immigrants or children of immigrants to understand what in the environment around them is causing trouble for the client, due to racism, cultural differences or economic opportunity imbalance. While the outside pressures might not be able to change, an awareness of ways to self-advocate that is responsive instead of reactive can bring better outcomes to interactions with the outside world.
Sexual Understanding and Intimacy
Healing Childhood Wounds
Immigration / Cultural Transitions
Chosen Family Dynamics
Fluent in Spanish and English
Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist # 126908
Registered Associate Professional Clinical Counselor #9914
Supervised by Dr. Harry Motro, LMFT #53452
Employed by New Path Couples Therapy Inc.
Certified Sex Therapist from the California Institute of Integral Studies
Certified IFS Practitioner from the IFS Institute
More articles at http://www.ifsintegraltherapy.com