I grew up in a family of medical professionals, where helping people was something we talked about around the dinner table. My parents are open-minded and raised my brother and I to value different cultures and religions by emphasizing world travel and practicing both Catholicism and Buddhist Insight Meditation. I’m grateful for my supportive family background and exposure to different ways of viewing the world, which influenced my choices as an adult.
At the age of 21, I became a serious student of Buddhist meditation, and was fascinated by the mental health benefits of mindfulness meditation. At that time, this 2500-year-old practice was being studied by modern neuroscience, and research about meditation’s mental and physical health benefits was booming.
I decided to pursue a career in psychotherapy where I could integrate the practice of mindfulness into my work with clients. This led me to seek out an unusual graduate school for my studies: Naropa University, the country’s only accredited Buddhist university, to receive my Master’s degree in Contemplative Psychotherapy. At Naropa, students are required not only to study Western psychological theory and the practice of psychotherapy, but also to participate in intense silent meditation.
I discovered that my greatest passion as a psychotherapist is focusing on the individual within relationship. My primary focus was Attachment Theory, which is an interpersonal theory that places the individual in the context of his or her closest relationships with others. According to attachment science, our survival as individuals and as a species depends on our ability to bond, or intensely connect, with a few key others, and to protect those primary relationship bonds.
This led me on a quest to explore what Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh calls interbeing; what scholars at the Wellesley Stone Center call self-in-relation; and what attachment scientists call secure attachment. I wanted to understand how I could help people strengthen their sense of wellbeing and emotional security by improving the quality of their primary relationships. Since graduating from Naropa in 2006, I have dedicated myself to receiving ongoing specialized training in evidence-based therapies that meet this goal, including Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS), Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT), and Gottman Method Couples Therapy.
For many years, I focused my private practice work in a traditional, weekly format with couples and individuals. While my high volume of work with a diverse group of clients was fulfilling, I became increasingly frustrated with the 50-minute therapy model. My experience was that too much of the hour was spent catching up or focusing on the issue of the week, leaving little time for new growth before our time was up. I wanted a way to help couples go more in-depth and make bigger picture progress in a condensed period of time, so that they could go home and feel they gained new awareness, new connection to each other, and tools that they could use themselves.
For the past 7 years, I have developed my intensive therapy model of using EFT and the Gottman Method with couples. Once finely tuned, my 3-day model was so much more satisfying and effective for couples that, as of 2018, I exclusively offer retreat-style sessions on Lopez Island.
Outside of the office, I walk my talk. I know what it’s like to experiences challenges in my marriage and need outside help. About 8 years into our marriage, my husband and I sought couples therapy with a skilled therapist trained in EFT and the Gottman Method, which helped us through a very difficult time. As a client participating in this therapy, I can attest to its effectiveness: we worked through our struggles and are happily married in a loving, mutually supportive, secure relationship, and have now been together for 18 years.
My husband and I have two kids, and have chosen an intentional life of raising our children on Lopez Island, where we are engaged in our island community and life is slower and more connected. My hobbies are traveling, marathon running, cooking and eating good food, and introducing my kids to 90’s dance music.