Clinical Training, Approach, & Ethos

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The ground of my practice is recognition of our innate healing capacity as living beings, paired with a spirit of collaboration, and curiosity about present moment experience.

There is a helpful expression that "Life never happens elsewhere". Life is happening right here and now. Often we are consumed by fears about the future, or haunted by regrets or traumas of the past. It is radical, powerful, transformative to learn to actually inhabit the present moment with courage and attend to the here and now. The here and now is the only place where we can do the creative and honest work of healing, growth, and change.

I am interest in supporting soulful liberation from fear, despair, immobility, disconnection, and torment - liberation from the shrunken self to a restored, enlivened reconnection to life.

Suffering is a call to become present, to offer curiosity, attention, care, and support for discovery and new growth. Untended, we often respond to suffering with fear, anger, a sense of shame, or with constriction, tension, immobility, rigid habits, and narrowing of possibility.

Growth, healing, and positive change are possible for all of us, throughout our lives, regardless of the suffering we have experienced or the conditions of stress and challenge we currently face.

To actually sort out what is tangled, confused, or constricted, resolve what is burdening you, and cultivate new possibilities for living a more relaxed, connected and fulfilling life - this kind of inquiry requires methodology that actually supports change. 

While each person learns and grows in their own unique way, I have found the most powerful methods involve experiential learning. I am interested in helping you explore something you are curious about and that feels deeply important to you. I am interested in helping you develop new approaches to living your life.

Here are some examples of what experiential learning might look like in psychotherapy:

If you are curious about how to relax, because you feel very anxious, then we will study anxiety and relaxation in the present moment. We will study your somatic activation in relation to particular triggers and then discover and cultivate reliable methods for calming your central nervous system. We will not talk at length about things that have happened in the week since I saw you last or about things that happened years ago that you feel sad about or that caused confusion or worry. We will help you learn how to shift states from anxiety to relaxation, and help you unravel the physiological causes of anxiety, help you develop and strengthen new practices to reorganize your daily baseline from anxiety to greater calm.

If there are trauma memories that are impinging upon your present day life, or are driving anxiety, we would process those memories through a present-moment, somatic, polyvagal-informed lens to help your central nervous system digest activation connected to those memories. This is a very different approach than just talking about events that happened. It is titrated, precise, and focused on releasing and altering the activation in the body, rather than focusing on a narrative or cognitive insight. This approach is focused on unravelling activation and restoring calm.

If you are wanting to work with grief, associated with a loss or a death, we would spend time with the grief that you feel in the here and now. We might make art, or music, or create rituals to be with the feelings that you are feeling and allow them passage.

If you are wanting to reduce conflict in a relationship, we would practice methods of calming, soothing, and regulating, individually and as a couple, in the present moment; we would explore specific triggers for activation and then focus our work on digesting what is driving that activation; we would also practice different experiential methods for deepening connection, trust, affection, and loving.

Experiential learning involves inquiry and exploration of present moment experience. The focus is not placed on talking at length about things that have happened or things that are already known; the focus is not placed solely on cognitive understanding and insight. Instead, the focus is placed on discovery through exploring present moment experience and learning and practicing new ways of being and relating. In this work, we make use of mindfulness, as well as somatic and creative methodologies. 

I tailor my approach to match the personality and learning style of my clients. Working together, we can co-create a unique therapy process that facilitates meaningful transformation in your life. 

information about my practice & training

I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the State of California (#98481). I am also a Certified Sensorimotor Psychotherapist, a Certified Art Therapist, a Registered Yoga Teacher, and Certified Conscious Dance Teacher (Soul Motion).

Over the past 19 years I have been developing a practice that is rooted in somatic psychotherapycreative methods (movement, art, voice, music, improvisation, play), and deepening our human relationship with Nature/Earth. Why? These pathways provide deeply effective, experiential, soulful support for growth, healing, learning, and reconnection to life.

I help clients develop their capacity to become present in this moment, to calm and regulate their central nervous systems, to learn how to relax, how to source and feel pleasure and happiness, and engage in life in a way that feels meaningful to them. I help people learn to co-create relationships and habits that are deeply nourishing and which support their ongoing growth and development.

I was drawn to become a therapist out of my own explorations of grief and despair, and out of generating personal growth and healing through art making and dance-movement.

I am originally from Canada, where I completed a two-year full time Graduate Diploma in Art Therapy and a Masters Degree in Ecosystemic, Developmental Clinical Practice with Children, Youth, and Families. I worked for 6 years in Canada as a child and family therapist, for Indigenous/First Nations Communities, for Feminist anti-violence centers, in Drug & Alcohol programs, and for the Provincial Government of British Columbia. After immigrating to America, I completed an extensive relicensing process: 3000 hours of supervised clinical practice, licensing exams, as well as 24 additional credits of Masters coursework in Marriage & Family Therapy. I began a doctoral program in clinical psychology, completing my first year of the program while attaining a Post-Masters Graduate Certificate in the NeuroReleational Framework of Early Human Development. I worked as a therapist at a psychiatric facility, for county mental health, and for a creative arts therapy nonprofit.

Since 2003, I have studied Sensorimotor Psychotherapy with Pat Ogden, in depth, becoming certified in this approach in 2018. I make use of my training in yoga, dance-movement, and improvisation as body-based, playful resources in my somatic practice: breathing, stretching, movement, alignment, grounding, centering, and engaging. I weave art making, sand tray, drumming, sound work, and ritual, in support of client healing.

My practice today is rooted in Polyvagal Theory - a neuroscience framework for restoring calm and sparking social engagement. This framework offers clear pathways for healing anxiety, panic, depression, dissociation, low motivation, aggression, impulsiveness, freezing, paralyzing fear, trauma symptoms, & overwhelm. My training in neuroscience informs my practice with clients of all ages. 

Over the past 19 years I have trained extensively in many creative and somatic modalities for healing and growth; I draw upon these experiential approaches in my practice, in response to the particular interests, needs, and learning styles of clients. Here are some links to explore some of the approaches I have spent the most time training in:  

a note about healing trauma

I provide specialized support for healing the legacy of traumatic experience. I have trained extensively in treating PTSD, Complex Developmental Trauma and Dissociation, and trauma-related mental health issues and relational difficulties. I am trained in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and EMDR, two evidence-based methods for trauma therapy.

Why all this training? I love what I do. Healing is exciting and rewarding work to participate in. The more I learn, the more innovative and effective I can be in supporting client growth. 

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear of falling, or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
To allow my living to open me,
To make me less afraid, more accessible —
To loosen my heart until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance, to live
so that which came to me as seed,
goes on to the next as blossom,
And that which came to me as blossom,
Goes on as fruit.
-Dawna Markova

Movement, music, creativity, and connection into the wild and natural world are the deepest sources of restoration I have found. I love being outside with the wind, the trees, and the changing light. I love photography, working with pastels, walking in the woods, climbing mountain trails, wandering beaches, kayaking, gardening, and cycling. I am a mamma: I parent boy/girl twins who are 9, and stepsons who are 24 and 31. I have been practicing committed partnership with my husband for 12 years - James Curry LPCC, a Professional Clinical Counselor and Drama Therapist. Together we run Full Circle Counseling. I am passionate about social justice, diversity awareness, and anti-oppressive practice. I have been a member of PFLAG for 28 years. I am interested in honesty, improvisation, kindness, community, soulful friendship, and creative expression.

I'm looking forward to helping you discover what calls you alive.