In more than 25 years as a psychologist, I’ve developed a significant respect for the ways people conduct their lives in spite of daunting problems. I like to be active, optimistic, and to ally with the people I see. Sometimes this requires careful attention to the impact of problems which may not have been fully described. This is especially the case when people come to me quite beaten down by events in their lives. One of my intentions in therapy is to help restore a sense of dignity to lives that have been harmed in this way.
At other times, I focus on helping clients notice skills, knowledge and moments in their lives that are at odds with the problem. Rather than seeing these anti-problem moments as the product of chance or luck, I focus on ways clients are active in shaping the direction of their lives, and how this begins to provide a different sense of identity.
Couples therapy is often considered one of the most difficult practices, yet I find it can be a profound experience to join with couples as they move toward each other and create a new sense of purpose in their relationship. I meet with couples at various points in their relationship, from those locked into adversarial habits, to long-standing couples who find they’ve drifted into parallel lives. I also work with couples on the on the verge of significant commitment to each other, as well as those trying to decide whether to remain together or to part.
I don’t believe therapy should be a place where destructive interactions are simply re-enacted. Therefore I am active in trying to generate a conversation that is constructive. Ideally, I believe couples therapy provides an opportunity to experience our partner that elicits empathy. In addition to witnessing accounts of pain, I see it as vital to listen for “counter-stories” within relationships that suggest intentions toward each other that are at odds with the problematic description. While these acts and intentions may be fragile and easily dismissed, I view them as vital for contributing to a sense of hope in the relationship. In meeting with couples, I am influenced by John Gottman’s contributions toward noticing and dis-arming destructive relational patterns, as well as his work on eliciting “dreams within conflict.” I also admire Sue Johnson’s pioneering work on the healing power of relationships when secure connections are created between partners. (For an engaging description of the pitfalls and promise of couples therapy, see this recent article on couples therapy by family therapist William Doherty).
When I work with clients individually, it is often about significant life transitions such as divorce, illness, the death of loved ones, and relocation. These moments often produce experiences of significant pain and disorientation. In addition, I find these experiences can provide an opportunity for clients to articulate what is most meaningful as they proceed with their life. Other areas of my work include the psychological impact of medical conditions, recovery from divorce and separation, as well as depression and anxiety. I view my work as focusing not only a reduction of symptoms, but a place where clients are assisted to articulate what is most meaningful in their life and how their evolving “story” of themselves is shaping their identity.
Long before I became psychologist, I found myself riveted by the bold experimentation that marked the early years of family therapy. Family therapists asserted that we are not individuals in isolation, or individuals whose development ceased in childhood, but shaped in an ongoing way by our relationships, our communities and our cultures. From this vantage point I work with families around a wide range of concerns, including parenting difficulties with adolescents, communication stalemates, generational conflict and challenges around blending families. I also work with parents trying to create improved relationships with their adult children. I trained extensively in family therapy, including an internship at the California Pacific Medical Center Family Therapy Clinic in San Francisco, CA, and a postdoctoral fellowship at the Mental Research Institute (MRI) in Palo Alto, CA, one of the founding sites of family therapy. I also taught family therapy for six years at the California School of Professional Psychology in San Francisco.
I consult with therapists around “stuck” situations in their work, as well as assisting them to describe more fully their skills and values as a therapist. I taught supervision to graduate students in the San Francisco Bay area for a number of years. I also provided “live” supervision in several settings, and more traditional one-on-one supervision to students from a number of San Francisco Bay Area clinics. Since moving to Maine in 2009, I continue to provide consultation to other therapists. Many of my views about supervision appear in an article I published in 2014, “Negotiating power relations on the threshold of supervision.”
I see clients who pay “out of pocket” and work a number of insurance companies. In recent years I’ve grown increasingly concerned with the intrusiveness of insurance companies in the therapeutic relationship. I understand the need to contain costs, however when insurance companies initiate audits of client records including examining the “progress notes” of sessions, I view it as a significant breach of the confidentiality of therapeutic work. For that reason, I am beginning to shift away from conducting work through insurance companies. While this change will not happen overnight, I am gradually changing the “mix” of my work to a much greater proportion conducted through private pay or as an “out of network” provider, rather than through contracts with insurance companies. At this time, I currently accept:
Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield
When I work with clients covered by other insurance companies I may be designated an “out of network” provider. I prepare a receipt that clients can send to their insurance company for reimbursement. Many insurance companies cover a portion of this cost, however they typically cover less than if clients see an “in network” provider.
Days I am in my Office