Therapy Modalities

Trauma-Informed Counseling in San Rafael, CA

Below are some of the therapy tools that we use in our practice.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a mind-body based therapy proven effective in treating chronic PTS (post-traumatic stress) symptoms that are the result of recent or past traumatic experiences.  Further, EMDR is an effective treatment for activating the natural healing processes and relieving symptoms of anxiety, panic attacks, depression, relationship conflicts, body dysmorphic disorders, eating disorders, pain disorders, addictions, phobias, etc.  One of the advantages of EMDR is  that it can provide relief from symptoms faster than traditional talk psychotherapy approaches.  EMDR works by understanding that under upsetting or traumatic times, the brain cannot process information as it does ordinarily.  One moment can become “frozen in time” and remembering the event may feel as bad as going through it the first time because the images, sounds, smells, and feelings have not changed.  Such memories have a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person sees the world and relates to other people. EMDR can change a person’s relationship to the trauma.  When the troubling side effects are processed in both the left and right hemispheres of the brain with non-intrusive bilateral stimulation, the traumatic experiences will recede into the past where they belong.  Though the memory remains, it no longer interferes in current relationships and daily functioning.


Internal Family Systems (IFS)

IFS is an experiential, evidenced-based model of therapy that can be used to treat a wide variety of concerns, including trauma, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, impulse control issues, and addiction.  IFS takes a non-judgmental stance by viewing the thoughts and behaviors that bring clients to therapy as coming from “parts,” or sub-personalities, and assumes that each of these parts is trying to protect the client from suffering in some way. Using a mindfulness-based approach, an IFS therapist guides clients in interacting with their parts so that they can better understand how their parts are trying to help and ultimately heal any unresolved pain that the parts are trying to prevent from overwhelming the client, so that the part does not have to work so diligently. Through this process, clients gain more access to their “Self,” which naturally allows for more clarity, calmness, connectedness, compassion, courage, confidence, curiosity, and creativity.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a practical form of psychotherapy that has been shown in numerous research studies to be effective in treating anxiety and mood disorders.  The therapist helps clients overcome symptoms and improve overall functioning by developing skills to cope with the thoughts and behaviors that maintain the problem.  Some of the tools of CBT include mindfulness, emotional regulation, and distress tolerance.

Family Systems Therapy

Family systems therapy draws on systems thinking to view the family as an emotional unit.  Systems thinking evaluates the parts of a system in relation to the whole.  When applied to families, systems thinking suggests that an individual’s behavior is informed by and inseparable from the functioning of her/his family of origin.  Individual growth occurs by addressing the structure and behavior patterns of the family.  Moreover, by changing the behavior of one family member, you influence the way that the family functions over time.

Play Therapy

Play is an integral part of a child's growth, development, and emotional health. Through play, children learn about themselves and their world.  They also discover healthier ways to cope and process difficulties.  Children are encouraged to act our or create their fantasies, frustrations, or fears and thereby express their feelings through play or art.  Play therapy uses children's natural language to give them the opportunity to communicate what's troubling them in an environment of fun exploration.  It also helps build coping skills, resiliency, empathy, and better social skills.


Solution Focused Therapy

Solution Focused Therapy is a brief therapy that is future oriented, directed by goals that are clear and realistic, and focuses on solutions rather than the problems that brought clients to seek therapy.  This approach assumes that all clients have some knowledge of what would make their lives better, even though they may need help describing the details of their better life, and that everyone who seeks help already possesses at least minimal skills necessary to create solutions.  Tools used in Solution Focused Therapy include looking for previous solutions, searching for exceptions to the problem, and present and future oriented questions looking towards possible alternatives.