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Get unstuck with lively, interactive counseling

In this video, I describe the client who sees me most often. If you’re a caring, competent person who is struggling with seemingly inexplicable relationship issues, this might be you:

(The articles I mentioned in this video are linked at the very bottom of this page.)

If you’re like many of the people I work with, you’ve been feeling stuck. Your relationships aren’t working the way you want them to. Maybe you can’t find the right kind of relationship, or you get scared and angry once you get close to someone. Maybe social anxiety keeps you from venturing out to meet people. These issues can resolve, and you can do more than just learn to manage them.

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6 things transgender clients taught me

My transgender clients have often been very articulate as they navigate the ups and downs, the joy and the confusion and the sudden “click” — of putting words to realities that have sometimes been buried somewhere within them for years.

Sometimes, clients come to me well after they’ve begun their transition. They’ve already done mammoth amounts of research. They know who they are, or they’re comfortable with knowing that they don’t entirely know, but they can point out where they feel they identify on a spectrum, or even explain why they find the spectrum itself too confining. They know the language around this stuff, have explored their feelings and thoughts in depth, and will talk readily about it if given an opening.

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Connection Survival Style: When longing is mixed with dread

A client walks into my office. She sits down, hunched over. Her face is pale. Her hands shake.

I say hi, and she says hello robotically almost, a fake smile covering her face. Then she looks down, away. Then stares at me, trying to keep eye contact. She’s heard, after all, that it’s only polite.

Her issues? They vary. People with this survival style often talk about a feeling of emptiness, and say, “I want to find out who I am.” Sometimes, they pride themselves on not needing anyone, but they are starting to feel twinges of longing, or they’re starting to develop a close relationship. Their sense of longing is becoming a fear, too, of being too much. Of losing their independence. Often, it’s a fear too old, too primal, to put into words.

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“My counselor just echoes me!”

You ever had a counselor who echoed whatever you said? You said, “I’ve had a hard week.” And he said, “You had a hard week, huh?”

Or if he was a creative echoer, maybe he changed it up a little from time to time. You’d say, “I had a hard week.” And he’d say, “So your week was difficult.”

Empathic, kind, caring listening can heal. But when a counselor just echoes you, you often can’t really tell if they’re really hearing you. Anyone can echo words back. It’s a game we learn to play as kids to infuriate our siblings, in fact! Remember this?

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Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety can be agonizing. It’s awkward! It’s hard to talk about. It makes you feel like you’re forever on the outside. It’s adrenalizing, but with no clear actions to take. And it’s exhausting as well.

  • Are you a professional that loves your job, but dreads lunch time or meetings with your coworkers?
  • Are you terrified when someone approaches you to talk?
  • Do you freeze up in conversations, and only later come up with what you wish you would have said?
  • Are you overly agreeable with people, forgetting what you think and feel because your social anxiety takes over and makes you forget your thoughts?
  • Do you go to social events, and then spend hours later wondering how you came across, cringing at something awkward you may have said or done?
  • Or do you try to nerve yourself up to go to a party or out with friends, but your anxiety won’t let you?
  • You know that, in order to have the relationships you want, you need to leave your house sometimes—but you’re scared, or suddenly so tired, or so wired, that it’s just too hard to get out.
  • You know that people like you pretty well, most of the time—but your worry gets in the way of you really feeling that.
  • You know you’d be happier if you could be around people without being so overwhelmed—but you haven’t found a way to do that.
  • You’re stuck in a habit of fear, pain, short-term relief when you avoid social situations—but longing for something more.
  • You see statuses of friends of yours on Facebook, and you notice groups of friends together, people out doing adventures you wouldn’t dare dream of—and you feel that old ache. You’re isolated.

Social anxiety does that. It’s isolating. It’s often connected to a feeling of shame — that somehow, there’s something indefinably wrong with you. This shame goes hand in hand with a fear of rejection. It eats away at your real connections. It makes you feel alone. It makes you STAY alone, perpetuating the feeling of aloneness.

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How to Ease Anxiety and Center Yourself 5-4-3-2-1 Technique Video

Here’s a quick way to ease dissociation, derealization, and anxiety. It’s the 5-4-3-2-1 technique, and I’ll walk you through it step by step:

The hidden emotion that may be keeping you stuck

(This blog post is based on the work of Sheila Rubin and Bret Lyon, who offer therapy trainings in Berkeley California.)

There is an emotion that can instantly make us feel stuck and stupid.

Not only that, it can actually make us momenterily stupid!

This emotion can make other feelings hard to feel or resolve. It can hijack your thinking, your grieving, and your anger. It can take you into loops of hopelessness, helplessness, and an inability to move.

It can isolate you. It can prevent clarity. It can keep you in a cycle of blaming yourself and sometimes blaming others.

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300 Steps to Take Today to Stop Overwhelm

Just kidding!

Counseling Based on Your Needs Today

When you walk in my door, maybe you like the idea of the once a week structure, and that’s just right for you. Or it may be that you’re looking for something a bit different than a once a week meeting. Or it may be that you really thrive in sessions that have movement — maybe we walk the waterfront together, or sit cross-legged on my floor and toss a ball back and forth as we talk. One time, a teen and I sat together while both on our computers, doing IM. It was the easiest way for her to share with me something deeply important. The fact that we were in the room sitting together, but that she could have the distance of typing and seeing my responses in typing — made it possible for her to speak what had, up until then, been unspeakable.

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Marsha Marsha Marsha! BPD Video Series

I’ve recently taken a big interest in reading and listening to Marsha Linehan, the creator of Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Her book, “Cognitive Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder, gives many insights and gems into this little-understood diagnosis. I like her practicality and her interest in what actually leads to this “disorder,” and more importantly, how to help folks in deep distress to find a way out of their agony. And she’s clear that it is emotional agony that folks with bpd often are going through. And that these problems can be solved. Life can become worth living, and relationships can become not only workable, but deep and rewarding.

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Toxic Shame, the Trance of Unworthiness

Toxic Shame: Tara Brach calls this shame a “Trance of unworthiness.” It’s increasingly being recognized as a legacy of relational trauma, and one that often isn’t identified as such. Toxic shame is an emotional flashback that feels like a truth. Not only is it a memory, it can get to feel like a necessary feeling, something that helps us avoid feeling devastated by rejection. It’s complicated, but it can be worked through. To make how it develops clear, let’s start by picturing a child, perhaps a little girl.

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