I am an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist who received her graduate degree in Counseling Psychology from California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, CA.
My therapeutic style is optimistic and positive, rooted in my life as a partner, daughter, friend, and mother. My presence stems from having experienced, survived, and healed from a tragic loss of a parent, immigration, two marriages, domestic violence, and divorce. I am a mother of a spirited 6-year-old who has taught him every day since birth about loving deeply, forgiving quickly, and letting go fully.
My personal experiences in motherhood and co-parenting under challenging life circumstances have given me the wisdom and ease with which I approach couples and family work. And my decision to become a couples therapist came from empathizing with my intergenerationally-wounded parents and grandparents who deeply loved one another yet struggled to speak each other’s love languages.
THE PROCESS OF COUPLES HEALING:
I see my role as helping couples become more relational through untangling from relational patterns which may have helped them survive in their families of origin and previous relationships but are no longer serving them in the context of their current couple. My hope for couples is to get to a place where they no longer need me and are thriving in relationship with each other.
This journey from surviving to thriving is at the heart of my vision for a fulfilling couple hood. I have worked with couples who experience relational conflict due to major life transitions, neurodiversity, blending a family, lack of intimacy, parenting and co-parenting differences, aging and illness, infidelity, loss of desire, substance use, cultural differences, and life/work imbalances. Together, we discover and unearth the resiliency within and learn to draw on that inner wisdom as we weather the storms with minimal damages to the relationship.
It is my belief that conflict (in itself) is not the problem. In fact, it is unavoidable as two people are continually learning and evolving in themselves and their intimate relationships. Have you ever said to yourself or a trusting person in your life something like:
“I never have this much conflict with anyone, but my husband/boyfriend/son/mom just get under my skin! I just lose it with them! “
When relating to those dear ones in our lives, the stakes are high, conflict tends to escalate, and relationships suffer. The thing is that conflict is a good occasional guest but a lousy housemate. If conflict has moved into your home and set up camp, you and your partner are likely suffering. Many couples come into therapy as their near last resort, having tried many things before and exhausted of the struggle.
Yet, when we sit together in the safety of the therapy, couples begin to see that the conflict is not the enemy but the way they attempt to resolve conflict often is ineffective or outdated. Conflict came to stay overnight and ended up staying for three years. Neither of the partners knows how to ask this unwelcome guest to leave. This is where I come in. In our work together:
We learn to recognize conflictual patterns, name each partner’s habitual way of dealing with them and correct the course of what is in the service of relating most positively to one another.
We create new ways of relating around conflict-ridden issues with mindfulness, acceptance, compassion, hope and relational skills.
We change the process of engaging in conflict with each other by stepping back, recognizing our habitual patterns, owning our part, sincerely apologizing and self-correcting the course.
Throughout the course of therapy, I continue to remind couples of their “dream within the conflict”. When strong feelings come up and everything is moving fast it is time to slow down and listen inward. When couples learn this fundamental relational skill, they continue dreaming their life dream together.
My first introduction to working with neurodiversity was in the role of a child therapist using Mindfulness and nature’s healing potential to help children on the Spectrum learn how to regulate their emotions. Teaching young children to self-regulate taught me, first and foremost, that I needed to self-regulate first. In my work from a strength-based perspective, I learned about the richness of neurodiverse individuals and the incredible power my empathy had in unlocking their inner abilities and capacities for relating to themselves and others. How did I do this? I listened. I attuned. I felt with them. I refrained from teaching, coaching, or fixing.
When I work with neurodiverse couples, I model and invite couples to practice how to attune to each other. Attunement is not just listening. It is listening with heart. When we are emotionally available, responsive, and engaged with one another, deeper conversations can and do happen. When we make sense of our own and our partner’s actions and words in the framework of compassion and from a perspective of goodness, we begin to tap into the richness of difference and into the deep well of our human ability to relate.
At times I may act as a neuro-bio-psychosocial interpreter, helping a neuro-normative partner make sense and understand their neuro-diverse spouse. Other times, I coach a neurodiverse partner to express the depth and richness of their inner world in a way that their neuro-normative partner can receive. You may wonder why this has been challenging to do in your couple relationship. The answer is pace. The pace of our lives is much too fast and linear, driven by goals and time schedules. In therapy we slow down, we breathe together, and we create a pocket in time where everything – your thoughts, feelings and sensations can come to the surface. We take our time. I trust in the process of us showing up each week to celebrate how far you have come in your relationship, the foundation of your initial attraction to each other and your inner capacities to grow and change in relationship.
I will share with you what I know about the neuro-biology, physiology and science of neurodiversity and neurotypicality and I will learn from you as a couple, your unique challenges and your desired areas of improvement. I am a co-creator of your experience, a skilled companion on your couple journey. I am an expert in some areas of counseling and psychology, but I trust that you are the experts in your relationship. Let’s see what we can co-create together!
So, you fell in love and you, and your partner embark on a marvelous journey of creating a blended family. You feel enthusiastic and hopeful, eager to create a household you have always dreamed of – full of love, support, and good vibes. When you realize that your step or bio kids aren’t as excited you may feel let down, disappointed, and frustrated. Kids may react to the blending with what is perceived as defiance, acting out, disrespect and disengagement from the family unit. You may find yourself on edge, wandering if you are doing something “wrong”, and even disliking your new family members or yourself. You might experience difficulties in your intimate relationship with your partner. You may even start believing that your partner does not get you and that they are taking sides.
When I work with blended families, I take my time to understand and assess the family dynamic. Then I help manage and mitigate present-day conflict while continuing to learn about each partner’s historical wounding. In this way, the work in the therapy room is two-fold – to enhance interpersonal relating through improving communication and activating deep empathy for one another by sharing our wounding with each other. As one of my mentors said during my training in Internal Family Systems Therapy, “the art of healing is just that – an art. It is as unique as each brush stroke of a painting. We want to honor each family member with the dignity, respect and awe that they deserve”.
What if one or both partners in a couple suffered trauma? Wouldn’t the spouse who is suffering the impact of their traumatic experiences need to engage in therapy separately? Can deep trauma work really happen in the presence of my partner? If you have ever asked yourself these or similar questions, read on. According to Dr. Peter Levine and many other trauma-informed therapists and researchers, trauma is not the event that happened to you but the way your nervous system responded to the event. When couples come to me with relational difficulties and disclose past traumatic experiences, I take an client-centered approach.
As a Psychodynamic-Relational and Trauma-Informed therapist I see a potential for healing for the survivor and a deepened insight and empathy for their partner. And, through individual trauma healing work is important and can be life-changing, healing together is my preferred modality. In my deep dive into trauma work with foster children, their adoptive, foster and bio families, I observed again and again that most trauma is relational by nature. In fusing my knowledge of Polyvagal Theory (Dr. Steven Porges and Deb Dana’s work), I see an opportunity for co-regulation in the presence of a skilled clinician and I see a real-life relational healing potential in co-joined sessions.
In my experience with Relational Life Therapy, inner child work and deep healing happens in the presence of our loved ones. The bottom line is this -- we get hurt in relationship and that is where, in my humble opinion, we have a chance to heal. If your partner learns how to best support you when you are in a triggered, or having a trauma response, that is gold! If you think about it pragmatically, you see your therapist for an hour or two each week but you and your partner go home together where you get to practice and perfect your relational skills daily. When we learn to let our partners borrow our Nervous Systems to emotionally regulate with, we create a safe anchor within out most intimate relationships. I am here to teach this to you and your partner. So, the message of hope is that true and deep healing is possible in couples’ work. I have seen it, witnessed it and I hope this can happen for you and your partner.
If we look at the seasons changing, we will notice how seamlessly, organically, and effortlessly nature lets go of what ‘used to be’ and embraces ‘what will be’. Life transitions are much like seasons changing. Having a child, getting married, getting a new job, retiring, or changing a career, moving to a new home are just a few examples of life transitions that many of us have weathered in our lives.
If you are struggling adjusting to a change in your life, if you have realized that you are experiencing challenges coping with a life transition, not only are you not alone, but you are also 100% human. Since the beginning of humanity, we have marked transitions with communal ritual and offered wisdom to those who embark on their journey of transformation. Celebration aside, a fundamental human need in transition is support. When we intend to power through a transition, when social supports are sparse, when our relationships are unstable, we tend to reach and grab a coping strategy to feel better in the moment. We may drink more than before, escape into a work project, or withdraw into the world of gaming or porn. These are all examples of coping mechanisms that may relieve an unpleasant symptom, feeling or thought temporary but are likely to create a relational difficulty in the long run.
When we pause and honestly and compassionately, assess our difficulty and communicate it to our partner, change becomes possible. In therapy, we explore how partners can help guide each other through the terrain of life’s transitions and offer support during such a vital time. We draw on your life experiences and mine to come up with a way to best support giving up a coping strategy that is not working and trying on one that may be more useful. As a skilled companion on your journey, I believe your inner wisdom will guide us in this process and with my clinical skills, together, we can make lasting change happen.
Couples going through life transitions
Parenting and Co-parenting Coaching
Sex, sexuality, and desire
Pre-engagement and pre-marital
Family of Origin Work
Couples struggling with Trauma