Mental Health for individuals, couples, and teens.

I work with women, men, children and teens from a variety of cultures who find that they use avoidance, anger and emotional distancing to protect themselves from uncertainty, outdated scripts, or fear of being who they truly are. With a little bit of inquiry, we find that people take simple ideas and turn them into beliefs, and these narratives turn their worlds upside down; leading to depression, anxiety, fear or grief. Together, you and I can help you to discover what you need, and uncover ways that allow you to take responsibility for your own fulfillment. 
It begins with two basic ideas: The first, is that needs are necessities and these are nothing to feel shame about. The second, is the idea that true satisfaction and forgiveness are each a gradual process.

No matter what culture, gender, or sexuality- partners struggle with three areas, most often: sex, intimacy, and money. These challenges tend to be present when we as lovers and partners, aren’t emotionally available. Our discontent shows up when we fail to learn the ‘signals’ in ourselves and in the ones we love, and then we neglect to show we care. Frustration is a frequent complaint with partners in primary relationships, and it can be misconstrued as anger, hostility, or rage. Ask yourself what the function of your feelings might be? Perhaps those same feelings convey one meaning to your partner but mean something, altogether, different for you. When you’re with your significant other do you become angry when you’re actually disappointed or sad? On the other hand, do you become embarrassed if you’re actually feeling vulnerable? If you answered yes, (self) cohesion is one of the areas that we can explore together and develop through the therapeutic process. I am a culturally sensitive couple’s therapist and work extensively with multicultural partners, blended families, and racially diverse coupling and their children.

Adolescents and Teens
Adolescents and teens operate in an adult’s world. More often than not they must run on adult time; fit into adult’s schedules and, paradoxically, find themselves challenged when they want adult things. An adolescent’s life is similar to a root system, where thinking and feeling are entwined feeding one another. All the while maturity is in the making. For a variety of reasons, kids can genuinely articulate what they want (for instance, a phone) and at other times they are unable articulate what they need like, a hug. As a parent, are you feeling misunderstood by your teen? Are you a single mother or father who is so exhausted that your tone might sound less than nurturing? Or, are you a divorcee who shows your young children love through money? I work with kids, building a rapport to get behind them in ways they can genuinely be who they are, and also show up in the ways that relate to both of you. We work on areas of empathy, self esteem, and the importance of support.Who are you in your life, right now?  Let’s talk.


We don’t live in one world, we live in many


With 12 million people living in Southern California we make our way through lines, maneuver around loud and narrow parking structures, race to claim our seat on a crowded bus, or inch along on-ramps to get on the freeway. We are constantly negotiating and being informed and affected by each of these various environments; all the while our lives are happening.

And everyday we experience a multitude of places, people, energies, attitudes and behaviors with hundreds of strangers who go through the same thing in their own lives, as well. By day’s end, something as simple as picking up dinner can cause our already frayed senses to go into overdrive.


  • How well did you sleep last night?
  • Was yesterday so busy that you were too overwhelmed to get anything done at work, much less eat correctly?
  • Do you ever become so frustrated in overcrowded spaces or on the road, that words pass between you and a stranger?
  • Do your feelings of sadness or anxiousness cause misunderstanding with you and your significant other?
  • Are you beginning to isolate more because of all the hustle and bustle, or finding that the cost of gas and other commodities these days has you withdrawing from your social life more than you used to?
  • Are you staying at home because you’re sad or unable to regulate your feelings? 


I’m here to listen and to support you with ideas that can help reduce stress. As you learn to relate better with yourself, you begin to relate to others more effectively, as well. Boundary setting, grounding techniques, empathy, and self-care are tools that you develop and the good news is that you already possess these.

With therapy, your clarity improves about your ongoing emotional needs, wishes, and desires  Through weekly exploration and discussion, you are invited to create and choose alternatives that help you to better manage environmental stressors with greater success and, in turn, you not only feel better; but you develop new coping skills that enable you to feel good about yourself.

Problems, misunderstandings, interruptions, and unforeseen changes are always going to be present. It’s how you deal with them that makes them what they are. You deserve to be well.

Back-to-School, Back-to-Bullying


Back-to-School, Back-to-Bullying

Cyberbullying is electronic communication via the Internet and other digital technologies to frighten, intimidate, and/or threaten another individual causing emotional distress.

Cyberbullying includes:

  • Obtaining information on the Internet about the victim in order to harass or intimidate online or offline
  • Sending or posting false information or messages about the victim
  • Impersonating someone online
  • Posting personal information about the victim online
  • Sending computer viruses to the victim

Cyberbullying occurs via:

  • Chat Rooms
  • E-Mail
  • Instant Messaging / Texting
  • Blogs
  • Social Networking sites

There are many different forms of cyberbullying, but seven are commonly encountered:

  1. Flaming: Sending messages that are rude or vulgar in nature about a person via an online group, e-mail, or instant/text message
  2. Outing: Posting or sending content about a person that is sensitive and/or private
  3. Exclusion: Deliberately and cruelly excluding someone from an online group
  4. Cyberstalking: Harassment via the Internet involving threats and intimidation
  5. Online harassment: Repeatedly sending offensive messages online
  6. Denigrating: Sending or posting untrue and cruel statements about a particular person. This can include e-mail or text insults about another peer’s physical characteristics, such as looks or weight. Girls are the more frequent target of insults than boys, and the insults often focused on weight (e.g., calling someone a “whale” or “ugly pig”) and promiscuity or sexuality (e.g., calling someone a “whore” or “slut”).
  7. Masquerade: Posing as someone else for the purpose of sending information via the Internet that makes that individual look bad. Some perpetrators manage to steal victims’ passwords in order to access computers or cell phones and pretend to be that person. Adolescents report that it is not difficult to obtain a password, and exchanging password information is often a sign of friendship.

Online sexual solicitation is another form of cyberbullying, whereby perpetrators identify victims online and entice them to perform sexual acts on or offline.

Boys have been found more likely to be perpetrators  and the peak frequency occurs between 13 and 15 years of age while girls and women tend to be the victims.

A full 50% of our youth are bullied online!

Cyberbully victims also tend to be victims in other areas of their lives, such as traditional bullying. Not surprisingly, victims of cyberbullying tend to use the Internet more than non-victims.

Although this can have devastating effects on victims, many are reluctant to seek help. Adolescents have stated they would not necessarily seek help from school staff due to:

  • Fear of being stigmatized as an informant
  • Fear of retaliation from the perpetrator
  • Concern of getting friends into trouble
  • Belief that it is not a school problem
  • Concern that parents would restrict their Internet activities

Youth feel that their parents, and adults in general, are unable to understand the cyberworld and cyberbullying.


Signs that youths may be victims or perpetrators of bullying on the Internet have been identified. Parents should be aware of:Signs of depression or anxiety, particularly when the Internet is not available or is inaccessible for periods of time

  • Signs of depression or anxiety when e-mails or instant/text messages arrive
  • Academic difficulties or behavioral problems offline (e.g., not being on time at school, dropping grades, relationships suffering)
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Viewing pornographic material on the computer
  • Sacrificing normally enjoyed offline activities to participate in Internet activities
  • Attempting to maintain level of secrecy about online activities (e.g., quickly turning computer off when parent is walking by, deleting browsing history, turning monitor screen off when someone walks by)

Effects of Cyberbullying

Youths who experience bullying of any kind often face academic problems, perhaps in part because they are distressed and preoccupied. Teachers will often report that victims’ grades drop, and some will have other academic problems, such as cutting classes, increased detentions, and carrying weapons to school.

The most significant psychological effects appear to be depression and anxiety with victims also reporting increased anger.

Due to the rapidly changing nature of the Internet and technology, parents, educators, practitioners, and youths will require continual education regarding cyberbullying including how it occurs, and its impact.

In cases of identified cyberbullying, victims may benefit from crisis intervention and counseling.

The psychology of dog parks


Dogs, and their humans, see and experience the world very differently.

For example, when a female has a litter of puppies and one of the pups is not thriving, what will the mother and thriving pups do? They will push it aside. Weak bird in the nest? Pushed out. Animals do not support weakness. Humans however, will find those weak, struggling animals and try to nurture them with an eye dropper every two hours, heating pad, or heat lamp to save them. We are humans, it is what we do. And we seem to be the only species that nurtures runts and weaklings.

For whatever reason, people project their humanness onto their animals, a term called anthropomorphism.

For example, there is a woman at my local off-leash park and she has an adorable pair of adolescent dogs who were formerly used as bait puppies. That IS really sad and her dogs really are adorable, but she has difficulty reading their current body language because of their past and she is fearful and over-protective of the two dogs. When they start to rough-house and roll around on the ground with other dogs, she becomes anxious and afraid then says to other dog owners that that it is her dogs who are “scared to death” when, really, it is she who is scared to death.

Another example of anthropomorphism is dog owners projecting their own thoughts or feelings onto their dogs. Yes, dogs do have thoughts and yes, dogs do have emotions, but sometimes owners who were bullied in their own childhood will think that their dog is unhappy or being bullied when their dog is engaged in normal play or social ranking behaviors.

Humans and dogs communicate very differently.

A human’s main form of communication is through speech while dogs are all about body language and energy. Dogs are very physical and they pounce on one another and they chest-bump one another. This makes many humans nervous or uncomfortable because we do not always know hot to interpret dog body language. Maybe we are afraid that our dog will get injured, maybe we are afraid the other dog will be injured leading to a lawsuit.

As humans, we find what we are looking for. If we are fearful, we will see all of the dangers. Pet owners project their fears into their dog’s body language.

Cognitive ethologist Marc Bekoff is professor emeritus at the University of Colorado at Boulder and he has been studying the body language of dogs since the 1970′s. One interesting discovery of his is that, while humping can be dominance, humping a playmate during a romp was often an invitation to nearby dogs to come join the fun.

Humping is one behavior that is so misunderstood by humans and leads to conflict at dog parks. There are different types of humping and dominance humping leaves you in no doubt. It is quick, determined, and ferocious. Most humping is non-sexual, non-dominant, and is simply used by some dogs as a means of bonding, an invitation to play or, an attempt to find their place in the group.

Off-leash dog parks, which should be a place of fun and relaxation, sometimes become major stressors.

A lack of knowledge about the behavior of dogs often led to inter- and intraspecies conflict. Cesar Millan himself wouldn’t stand a chance at the local dog park because no one seems to agree and they are all experts.

What behaviors are *really* aggressive, which dog is or isn’t bullying, which dog owner is being unrealistic. And certainly our own personalities and behaviors shape how we interpret the behaviors of other humans and dogs.

Dog parks: where human psychology and dog psychology collide.

The first thing that we must learn is to become aware of how we are feeling so that we can address any weak areas. Are you anxious when your dog is misbehaving? Do you feel sorry for your dog? Remember, weakness is interpreted by dogs and other animals much differently than people. Do you feel intimidated by other pet owners?

Just like humans, dogs have wildly different personalities. Some dogs just immediately do not like one another’s energy. Some dogs are naturally introverted, some are anxious, some are happy-go-lucky and are confused by the timid-aggressive dogs. Timid dogs and aggressive dogs can benefit greatly from behavioral therapy and I highly recommend it.

I also recommend therapy, cognitive or behavioral, for timid or aggressive pet owners. While dogs are not able to see the world from our perspective, with a little help we can learn to understand the world from a dog’s perspective.


The emotional and mental effects of human trafficking


The emotional and mental effects of human trafficking are staggering.

Some approximate that 14,500 to 17,000 individuals are illegally transported to the United States every year for the purpose of exploitation (Roby JL, Turley J, Cloward JG. U.S. response to human trafficking: is it enough? J Immigr Refug Stud. 2008;6(4):508-525).

Due to poverty and lack of education, even more men, women, and children turn to or are forced into prostitution.

Sexual abuse results in changes to the somatosensory cortex, the area of the brain that processes input from the body to create sensations and perceptions. Women who were sexually abused had thinning in the area where the genitalia were located,” according to Jens Pruessner, associate professor of psychiatry at McGill University in Montreal.

Many sexual-abuse survivors report sexual problems in adulthood, including reductions in desire and sensation; sometimes they suffer from chronic genital pain.

PTSD Associated Symptoms and the Percent of Trafficked Women Ranking These Symptoms as Severe
Recurrent thoughts/memories of terrifying events 75%
Feeling as though the event is happening again 52%
Recurrent nightmares 54%
Feeling detached/withdrawn 60%
Unable to feel emotion 44%
Jumpy, easily startled 67%
Difficulty concentrating 52%
Trouble sleeping 67%
Feeling on guard 64%
Feeling irritable, having outbursts of anger 53%
Avoiding activities that remind them of the traumatic or hurtful event 61%
Inability to remember part or most of traumatic or hurtful event 36%
Less interest in daily activities 46%
Feeling as if you didn’t have a future 65%
Avoiding thoughts or feelings associated with the traumatic events 58%
Sudden emotional or physical reaction when reminded of the most hurtful or traumatic events (Zimmerman et al., 2006) 65%

As a mental health or medical professional, it is always wise to assess for sexual abuse when presented with the following complaints as they are common co-occurring disorders:

  • PTSD
  • Eating disorders 
  • Depression
  • Suicide
  • Self-Injurious behaviors
  • Self-blame
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Hyper and hypo sexuality
  • Difficulties with trust

Evidence-Based Therapeutic Treatment Options for Trafficking and Sexual Abuse Victims:

Cognitive Therapy
  • Aims to challenge dysfunctional thoughts based on irrational or illogical assumptions.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
  • Combines cognitive therapy with behavioral interventions such as exposure therapy, thought stopping, or breathing techniques.
Exposure Therapy
  • Aims to reduce anxiety and fear through confrontation of thoughts (imaginal exposure) or actual situations (in vivo exposure) related to the trauma.
 Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
  • Combines general clinical practice with brief imaginal exposure and cognitive restructuring (rapid eye movement is induced during the imaginal exposure and cognitive restructuring phases).
Stress Inoculation Training
  • Combines psycho-education with anxiety management techniques such as relaxation training, breathing retraining, and thought stopping. (Rauch & Cahill, 2003)
Research shows increasingly that the brain can change dramatically when provided with the right type of support and emotional nourishment.
There is help and there is hope.