Humans are wired for meaning, connection, and belonging. But being human, including being in relationships with other humans, can be difficult. Most of our struggles in life are intimately tied to how we experience our relationships, including with ourselves, and how we find purpose.
From the moment we come out of the womb, we begin learning how to be human. And for a number of reasons, it can be difficult learning how to do human well. While our most formative experiences in life are with the humans who raise us ― who model human for us ― what we observe and experience with all of our relationships, including peer and other social relationships, significantly shapes our beliefs about ourselves, others, and our place in our communities and the world around us. Those experiences can be beautiful, nurturing, and empowering, but too often they can also be deeply wounding.
Sometimes, even in some of the best of family and life circumstances, we observe and inherit problematic patterns in the way we relate to ourselves and each other and how we understand and respond to our emotions, thoughts, attractions, beliefs, and behaviors. Furthermore, in a social ecology that incentivizes speed, constant distraction, busyness, competition, and objectification of others, the impact both individually and relationally can be taxing if not deeply harmful. Interestingly, the roots for the Chinese character for “busy” mean “the death or loss of the heart.”
With all of this in mind, even as many wouldn’t hesitate to consult a physician to address illness in the body, it can similarly be wise to consult those with training and experience to seek healing for difficulties and distress relative to the mind, emotions, and relationships. Even when we sense something in our inner world is not quite right, we often don’t have the awareness or internal resources to know exactly what we need for healing, growth, or change. And even if we did, personal growth and transformation can be hard. We need support.
It takes courage, receptivity to feedback, and introspection to confront our areas of unconsciousness, feel the pain of old patterns, and commit to new ways of being. This is the path of self-awareness, the path of living with power, the path of waking up to our full potential to wholly show up, connect with others, and contribute to the world in meaningful ways. This is the heart of enlightenment. Just as the roots for the Chinese character for “busy” connotes “the death or loss of the heart,” conversely, the character for “mindfulness” is a combination of two separate characters for “now” and “heart,” which, when combined, suggest bringing the heart into the present, or the act of experiencing life with your whole heart.
This is where I come in.
I’m a marriage and family therapist, researcher, and educator, and I’ve worked now for over 15 years in various capacities with individuals, couples, and families. Through a unique integration of Western and Eastern principles of human thriving, I support individuals and couples seeking emotional, sexual, and spiritual wholeness, as well as deeper healing and intimacy in their relationships. I’ve worked with clients who have struggled with myriad issues, including anxiety and depression, various issues related to healthy sexuality and sexual relationships, marital distress and infidelity, gender dysphoria, sexual and religious identity conflicts, addiction, shame, poor coping skills, and more.
My focus as a therapist is ultimately twofold: first, it is to help individuals connect more deeply with who they are ― their deepest Self. We can only truly belong to and experience true intimacy with others to the degree that we belong first to ourselves, the degree to which we can be with ourselves with compassion, honesty, and intention. Second, it is then to assist clients in understanding the rules that govern healthy relationships with others ― others whose needs and feelings and fears are just as real and just as complicated as our own. Both of these objectives create shifts in consciousness that unlock our greatest human capacities to love, serve, connect, and belong.
Essential to accomplishing either of these aims is to explore and identify the factors that have become obstacles to these ends. That may be working through shame, debilitating core beliefs, or past trauma. It could also be identifying personal and relational patterns that are causing distress or which inhibit them from connecting more deeply with others. Ultimately, it is identifying any of the factors that contribute to keeping them from a healthier relationship with themselves, from showing up more wholly in the world, and from lives full of intimacy, meaning, and intention.
My training is in understanding relational, social, and even trans-generational systems, so rather than looking at client issues in isolation, I look at individuals and challenges they experience holistically and in the broad contexts of their lives. The goal is never to “blame,” only to understand ― and then with that understanding and awareness, have power to then address difficulties on their own terms. As we say in the field of family therapy, “The person is not the problem, the problem is the problem.”
Additionally, I’ve received advanced training in differentiation and attachment theories, sexual health and sex therapy, sexual addiction recovery, Internal Family Systems (IFS), Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT), Gottman Method, Imago, Mindfulness-based, and Narrative therapies. I also trained for two years with Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach, respected psychologists and key contributors to the blending of Western mental health with Eastern spiritual practices, to certify as a mindfulness meditation teacher.
Lastly, for the last 20 years, I have been been involved in ministry, research, cross-ideological dialogue, and therapy with individuals and families addressing questions around the intersection of sexual orientation and/or gender identity, religious/spiritual beliefs and identity, and family relationships. I’m a co-founder and past president of North Star, a faith-affirming support organization for Latter-day Saint individuals and families addressing sexual or gender identity and who desire to live within the framework of the teachings and values of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I’m also a member of the Reconciliation and Growth Project, a dialogue group, now in our 10th year, between LGBTQ affirmative and religious conservative mental health professionals who have developed an ethical mental health treatment protocol for working with individuals experiencing conflict between their faith and their sexuality and/or gender identity. Our treatment protocol prioritizes the two premiere therapeutic ethics of 1) client self-determination and 2) do no harm. And finally, I’m part of the 4 Options Survey research team, a similarly ideologically diverse collaborative effort looking at healthy and sustainable life paths for sexual minorities.
Each of these initiatives has given me unique insight into understanding the component parts of healthy and sustainable life paths for sexual and gender minorities, particularly faith-based individuals whose desires for their lives fall outside of the cultural and even professional mainstream and who find it difficult to find professional and therapeutic support that aligns with their personal and deeply-held values.