It makes sense to me that if you are going to come see me and tell me really personal things, you have a right to know some things about me. I’ll share what I can here, but feel free to ask me questions.
I was born in New York City and raised in Manhattan and New Jersey. I moved to California after high school and now live in San Francisco with my spouse, daughter, at least two of our own dogs and various visiting foster dogs. My relationships, with important people, dogs, and myself are my priority. I love to snorkel and will travel to snorkeling spots whenever I have the chance. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the Galapagos Islands, and I look forward to someday getting close to the majestic animals in Africa. I enjoy reading and sometimes writing. I’m not a fan of small talk. I am a fan of genuinely getting to know someone.
One early memory takes place in middle school. I watched a girl pass out numbered “popularity rankings” to my classmates. I remember how devastated one student was by her ranking. She let the other girl’s opinion define her. Even then, I was fascinated by the ways people affect each other, trying to define themselves and one another often without even understanding themselves… Both of these girls could only see the world from their own perspective. This same stuff happens in board rooms, bands, families, and in politics. Too often, we are all like bumper cars, bouncing off of each other without understanding our potential for genuine connection. This disconnect causes profound sadness, and we develop defenses that ultimately make life more difficult. This is why I became a therapist – to help people break down walls and really understand one another and be understood.
As I continued my education, I never lost my desire to help and protect people. In high school, I remember trying to understand what was really going on with the bullies and with those bullied. I wanted to build bridges. I studied philosophy in college and asked myself significant ethical questions about what my obligations were as a human being. As I tried to discover my life’s meaning and purpose, I realized that I was horrified by the lack of empathy I witnessed on a regular basis. I began an independent study with a sociology professor working with incarcerated teenage girls. These girls were labeled “emotionally disturbed,” and working with them alongside a licensed clinical social worker (who was also their probation officer) made some complicated young women accessible to me. I realized that most people, these girls included, have good intentions, but they make decisions based on unconscious forces. Working with the unconscious is an enormous part of my practice. So many of us make choices without being fully aware of all of the internal impulses and beliefs from our childhoods or past experiences that affect us every day. It’s a little like living with ghosts, but I call this letting the monkey drive. I can help you kick your monkey out of the driver’s seat so you can make your choices with a clear mind.
In graduate school, I focused on family structural issues as well as whole families full of driving monkeys. I found myself often working with couples and single parents who seemingly could not have succesful relationships. I continued working with this population at clinics and agencies. I saw multiple generations of people pass on, without acknowledging, trauma. I remember a therapy role play with a young teen girl and her uncle. The girl had been abused by her father, her uncle’s brother. In that session, they both learned that the reason Uncle kept her at a distance was because he too had been a victim of her father and of his mother. Love and trauma were intimatly connected in that family for generations. It was only because of the courage of that young girl that people were able to be honest and connect for the first time in generations
I also began to learn about attachment theory, which suggests that the ways we attach in our early relationships impact our adult lives. I continued post-graduate work later in my career while practicing privately and working with people who have repeated issues having successful relationships. At analytic institutes and in various seminars, I began to really understand how the families I first studied lived on in people’s unconscious and drove them. My most important learning has come from my clients and my own personal therapeutic work.. By understanding how we attached as a child and how early attachments are playing out in current relationships, we can become present and visible in relationships and build the connections we crave. There is a myth in America that we must be independent – financially, emotionally, etc – to succeed. However, it is important to be interdependent, which is different from being co-dependent or excessively reliant on others. Humans are innately social creatures, and real connection is vital to our mental, physical and emotional well-being.
My belief in the importance of connection and deep awareness of the unconscious informs my specialties in couples counseling, relationship and dating counseling, parenting counseling and more socially-focused work. I have even utilized my skills working with bands and couples who are also in business together (as well as those who are not romantically involved). As a child, I saw that my parents could not effectively communicate or understand each other. A few years after my parents divorced, my father remarried, and he and my stepmother entered into a much healthier relationship. Even so, they still struggled to understand each other or recognize the bids for connection that they would each toss out to one another. I distinctly remember feeling confused by my stepmother’s anger when my father forgot her dry-cleaning until I realized that had he remembered, she would have felt more loved and appreciated. Through couples counseling, I help people realize all of the ways in which they are communicating with each other andasking for connection. Lasting relationships take work, but I have seen just how valuable that work can be.
I am a parent and love helping other parents and stepparents connect with their kids and navigate complicated roles. Many of us worry about how our own issues may affect our children or how we can best nurture them. Stepparents actively create roles that are unique to the particular situation and family dynamics they have entered. My own stepmother is my inspiration. She struggled with my brother and I when we were kids but created a role for herself, for which I am eternally grateful. In the past decade, we talked a lot about her process and what worked and what didn’t work. Meanwhile, more and more stepparents have shown up in my office. All significant relationships form who we are….we don’t have a choice about that.
My specialization in grief counseling started about ten years ago and developed gradually. . I was motivated by my own experiences with significant loss, as well as my patients’. The sudden death of an ex-partner and close friend left me shaken, but working through that grief helped prepare me for the significant losses to come, including my father, my dog and shockingly, my stepmother. I started to understand that your relationship with lost loved ones really never ends. They are always there, in a way. And, I realized that the cliche is true; tick-tock, life is short! It is so important to be open to love in the life that you have. It’s important to be aware of mortality, not because you should fear death, but because it should remind you how important it is to get the monkey out of the driver’s seat so you don’t miss the connections and experiences that you can have. Being able to have satisfying relationships with others makes life worth living.
Working with adolescents was my first love – the very reason I got my masters degree. Early in my career, I worked with teens dealing with extreme situations like abuse, gang involvement, and pregnancy. Adolescence can be a very difficult and turbulent time for people, and teen anxiety and depression are very real. Relationships, both platonic and romantic are the most significant thing that teens are concerned with in almost every case. Certainly issues with parents come up quite a bit too. Everything feels high stakes and in some ways, it is. Teens are a combination of personas. They are emerging adults and some of parts of them are still children, even if they try to hide those parts. Sometimes adults forget how complicated this stage can be, or they assume their teen’s experience is just like theirs was. Often, there are big differences.
In addition to my practice, I am passionate about dogs. I volunteer at dog rescues and have my own mutts and foster dogs. Specifically, I support Rocket Dog Rescue, Family Dog Rescue, and Wonder Dog Rescue; I’ve included links for all if you wish to visit. I love all animals, but dogs especially have the ability to really teach empathy and mindfulness because of the open way they embrace the moment and live with unfiltered joy. Relationships with pets can help teach us to be vulnerable and to love openly. I encourage my clients to bring their dogs into sessions at times, and I sometimes, with client ok, have my dogs in the office with me. Some people find it comforting to have a dog in their lap as we talk together.
In sessions, I am direct and dynamic. I am not a “nod and mmm-hmm” type of therapist. I will meet you where you are and really work with you. I also use humor and lightness in my approach. Although my personal experience informs all my work, I work to not project it onto my clients just like I don’t throw them into labeled boxes of diagnoses. I design every treatment with you so that it can be most helpful for your needs. Although I have studied many techniques, I don’t follow the rules of any technique in particular. I find that blocks spontaneity and creativity in the process. I believe that the therapeutic relationship is a significant place for healing and growth, more so than any one technique or skill. Modern brain science has proven this. That doesn’t mean, of course, that I ignore things like mood disorders. I take everything into consideration, and we will co-create what works.
I am driven by the desire to increase understanding and empathy between people and within individuals. If you are ready to stop letting the monkey drive your bumper car (a picture that entertains me as well as describes what I see), I invite you to call me at (415) 294-5007 or text me at (650) 269-1688 to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation to ask any questions you have about my practice.
Though many people do not choose to review psychotherapists publicly, some folks chose to do that. See here for my reviews:
Degrees and Training
1995 LCSW #LCS 17278
1991 MSW, University of Southern California School of Social Work, Los Angeles, CA
1986 Bachelor of Arts, Philosophy, Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA
(Psychology and Sociology Coursework)
Continuing Education (Partial List, 1998-2015)
- ¨ Divorce Mediation Training”
- ¨ Couples Therapy training with Susan Johnson (Emotionally Focused Therapy)
- ¨Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies (Chosen focus: Attachment theory and relational psychotherapy)”
- ¨ Northern California Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology (NCSPP) year long intensive study: On the Body: Forms and Expressions of Being (extensive study of psychosomatic and sexual issues)
- ¨ Workshop and Case Conference with Elizabeth Bott – Spillius
- ¨ Workshop on Psychotropic Medication by the Society for Clinical Social Work
- ¨ HIV: The Storm
- ¨ Attachment Theory-Based Couples Therapy, Family Service
- ¨ Agency of Central Coast
- ¨ Marital Therapy: A Research-Based Approach, The Gottman Institute
- ¨ Sexual Experience and Sexual Counseling: Asian and Western
- ¨ Perspectives, The California Institute of Integral Studies
- ¨ The Search for Meaning, The Center for Story and Symbol
- ¨ The Power of Writing: Reaching Underserved Populations, The Institute for Transpersonal Psychology
- ¨ Psycho-Spiritual Integration, The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology
- ¨ Couples Therapy: Turning Fights into Intimate Conversations, Daniel Wile, Ph.D.
- ¨ Passionate Journey: A Couple’s Retreat, Mount Madonna Center
- ¨ Transpersonal Research Methods, The Institute Transpersonal Psychology
- ¨ Healing Love’s Wounds: Five Approaches to Couples’ Therapy
- ¨ Perspectives, UCLA Extension
- ¨ Structural Family Therapy with Non-Traditional Families, Salvador Minuchin