Personal Experience and How I Got To Where I Am Now As A Psychotherapist

Personal growth began in 1977 after experiencing a personal tragedy early in my life. Personal work in gestalt therapy and groups for several years led to interest in becoming a therapist. This led to training and experiential workshops/groups in Gestalt Therapy from facilitators trained by Fritz Perls, M.D.

This experience was followed by pursuing and completing a Master’s Degree in Family and Systems Therapy. For three years I worked with families, couples and children, which increased my understanding and respect for formulating and treating problems/symptoms from a systems, contextual and experiential perspective. During this time I became increasingly interested in psychodynamic psychotherapy and the breath of training offered in doctoral programs; and in 1984 I left Houston for the San Francisco Bay Area to begin a doctoral program in Clinical Psychology. This clinical program provided excellent training and experiences which included numerous predoctoral training experiences and postdoctoral training in general clinical psychology and psychotherapy, treating a broad range of psychological/psychiatric problems.

I was with UCSF/SFGH for practically 18 years. It was here where I developed the expertise in evaluating and treating substance use disorders within Harm Reduction and Abstinence Models. In addition, an expertise in treating co-occurring disorders developed since a majority of individual entering treatment also had other significant diagnoses, such as depression, bipolar, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, childhood/relational trauma and HIV. I conducted assessments, individual therapy, and group therapy (over 30,000 hours of group experience) that included substance abuse, dual diagnosis, and HIV support groups). I also supervised doctoral and master level clinicians.

The breath and diversity of these experiences (beginning in 1977) afforded me the opportunity to see a diverse and large number of people seeking changes in their lives. It also provided and excellent understanding and integration in treating substance use disorders with co-occurring disorders using a broad range of methods.

I have been in private practice since 1996, part-time while at UCSF/SFGH and full-time since 2008, when I decided to branch out on my own. Since 2008 I have taken seminars and educational series and training in Contemporary Psychoanalytic Psychodynamic theories and approaches, studied trauma, the neuroscience of trauma and trauma-informed approaches, and I continue to be part of on-going consultation groups. I have recently completed a 10- month Certificate Program in Trauma Stress Studies offered by The Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute founded by pioneer trauma expert and researcher, Bessel van der Kolk, MD.   Being a student of these approaches has increased my understanding of the importance of the therapist’s presence in the interaction with the person seeking changes in his/her life. This diversity of approaches has led to working effectively and solely as an individual psychotherapist.  Additionally, I have accumulated 18 years of my own psychotherapy that has led to feeling comfortable with a large range of emotions and issues. Experiencing the healing of my own shame, whereby more of myself can exist in an interaction with a heightened comfort level, I can exist/be in the emotional trenches with people who are trying to resolve shame and their own emotional issues. Essentially you could say I have been on both sides the fence. I honor and respect what a person goes through to achieve change.

Although my focus is individual psychotherapy, I occasionally form groups in my practice that focus on the recovery from substance abuse/dependence. I have accumulated 30,000 hours of experience leading these types of groups since 1991.