Without a doubt, it’s mine.
I love stories.
I love the stories of real life people in particular.
Before I read one sentence of a new book, I turn to the back of the book jacket to read more about the author.
When I hear of a new person on a TV show, movie, or in the news that I don’t know, I Wikipedia them.
When I’m washing the dishes or folding laundry at night after my daughter goes to bed, I have my AirPods in, listening to autobiographies on Audible.
How they started out in life, what their path was like, what their family was like, what their education was, and what variables (both challenges and opportunities) shaped them into the person they are today.
I really do love peoples’ stories.
And now I want to share some of my story with you on this page so that you know who’s writing these words, who the person behind this work is.
This is my digital book jacket. This is my little biography corner of the internet.
But it wasn’t until my mid twenties that I knew to call it that.
And it wasn’t until my early thirties that I understood how to overcome it.
Now, peeking just around the corner at forty, I’m a relational trauma recovery specialist.
What that means is that I’m a licensed psychotherapist known for helping the adult children of mood- and personality-disordered parents overcome their painful pasts to create beautiful futures for themselves.
Those are the broad brush strokes. Now here’s some detail…
I grew up on an island off the coast of Maine, with one – in my opinion – destructive and dysfunctional parent, and another who did their best to try to mitigate the impacts of this kind of person on a child’s life and psyche.
But in so many ways, it wasn’t enough.
There were good times in the early days, yes.
But there was also much fear, loneliness, emotional abuse, concerns for physical safety, and many overwhelming and traumatic experiences which my little child mind, body, and soul couldn’t process at the time.
And the chaos and tumult of my early life didn’t stop when that parent left.
Or even when they disowned me.
The effect and impacts of coming from a relational trauma history, from the enduring conditions inherent to a dysfunctional, abusive, chaotic or neglectful family system, leaves one with a constellation of complex symptoms and impacts that can linger long after childhood ends.
I coped with my complex symptoms – with the somatic, mental, and emotional chaos resulting from childhood – as best I could as a child and adolescent.
One of my more adaptive coping mechanisms included throwing myself into academics and work, which led to becoming the first person in my family to go to college (the Ivy League no less) and later serving in the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan.
(My less adaptive coping mechanisms are stories for another time…)
But around that time in the Peace Corps, through a confluence of re-triggering events including the 2005 Andijan massacre and an abrupt termination of service, my own relational trauma history which I’d been relentlessly running from and pretending didn’t exist, finally, somewhat paralyzingly caught up with me.
The jig was up. The payment due. I had to face the past in order to have a future.
So at age 25, I took a major detour from my post-Peace Corps life in Washington, DC to move out to the fabled Esalen Institute on the cliffs of Big Sur, California to try and heal.
To figure things out.
To create a life more worthwhile.
A leap of faith, a one-way ticket to California with only the expectation of staying there a month turned into nearly four years spent living, working, studying, apprenticing, and healing at Esalen.
That precious, formative time not only catalyzed the relational trauma recovery work that I personally needed, but also led to marrying a very good and kind man I met there (we have a daughter now, too), and, in time, becoming a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in the very content area I worked so hard to overcome.
Those years at Esalen combined with my rigorous graduate school training, the decade I’ve been in practice as a licensed, clinical psychotherapist, and the advanced post-graduate complex trauma trainings and studying I’ve steeped myself in have taught me how to heal and overcome my own relational trauma history and how to help others do the same.
For a small handful of clients residing in California, I offer one-on-one weekly relational trauma recovery therapy.
I also offer EMDR therapy for those with relational trauma histories, yes, but also with other acute symptoms that they want relief from.
I also founded and run a boutique therapy center here in Berkeley, so when I’m unable to work with you personally as your therapist, my team of excellent, trauma-informed clinicians at my center can support you.
For everyone, no matter where in the world you live, you can enroll in my transformative online course, Hard Families, Good Boundaries.
Moreover, anyone anywhere can take my signature quiz – Do you come from a relational trauma background? – to receive customized advice and guidance on how to best support yourself.
Finally, I’ve written over 140+ high quality mental health essays which you can find on my blog here. I’m also a published author, and my clinical opinions and thoughts have been featured in the press and media 120+ times including in outlets such as Forbes, NBC, The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, and more. You can sample my work through those articles, too.
That’s the big irony of being a relational trauma recovery specialist: I hope that someday I’m unemployable because no one will need what I offer.
But while there remains a need – while people search Google late at night wondering if their childhood was traumatic, or how to cope with a narcissistic father or a borderline mother, or asking the internet search bar – What does it mean to have good boundaries? – my work is here to help.
I’m here to help you.
So that’s my digital book jacket.
If what I shared here resonated, I hope you’ll peek a little deeper into this corner of the internet, this crafted and curated collection of resources, thoughts, stories, tools, and information so that you can feel better in your own life.
Spend some time on the blog, take the quiz, explore enrollment in Hard Families, Good Boundaries, scroll through the blog comments to find your kindred spirits and feel less alone, and if you feel so inclined, please reach out to my offices so we can explore working together. A member of my team will get back to you right away.
And, as we wrap up this digital book jacket I want to share what I truly, bone-deeply believe:
And so, whoever you are and however you found this page, if you’re looking for positive change in your own life, welcome.
I’m so very glad that you’re here.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #95719.
California Institute of Integral Studies, Masters in Counseling Psychology, 2012.
Psychotherapist since October 2013.
Brown University, dual BA’s, 2004.
EMDRIA Certified Therapist 2021.
Member, EMDRIA, #60710950.
Complex Trauma Certification Training Levels 1 & 2 (CCTP/CCTP-II) with Janina Fisher, Ph.D. and Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD.
Attachment-Focused EMDR – Healing Developmental Deficits and Adults Abused as Children with Laurel Parnell, PhD
Member, International Society For The Study Of Trauma & Dissociation.
Member, The Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California.
Church Street Integral Counseling Center, Practicum Training, San Francisco, 2011-2012.
Coaches Training Institute, Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, 2010.
Relational Gestalt Process Group Member, Esalen, 2007-2011.