So your partner's a sex addict. 5 Things you need to know:

Maybe you discovered that your husband is spending more time with porn than with you.  Maybe you found a credit card bill for strip clubs that could buy a car.  Maybe you suspect that your partner is having an affair.  Whatever it is, there are five very important things you need to know:

1.  You are not crazy.  

If you think there is something amiss, there probably is.  He may turn it around on you and make you feel like you're the one who's crazy -- it's called gaslighting and it's what many people do when they want to redirect attention away from the shame they feel for something they have done.  It's very effective and it's confusing.  It tends to leave people feel like they are crazy because gaslighting is crazy-making behavior.  

But you are not crazy.  

2.  This discovery may leave you questioning everything about yourself, your partner and your relationship.  

Discovering that your partner is a sex addict is overwhelming.  You may question your relationship, your judgement, your attractiveness, your sexuality, your history with your partner, your future with your partner and your very sense of who you are.  You may feel shameful about his behaviors as though they are your own, and shame around your decision to stay or to leave.  You are not alone.  These feelings make sense given what you have been through.  What you thought you knew about your life just got pulled out from underneath you.  It's hard to find steady ground.  But you can and you will, in time.  

3.  Your partner's sex addiction is not your fault.   

It's not because you aren't attractive enough, sexual enough, smart enough, available enough or nice enough.  You are enough, even if you are not perfect and have not been a perfect partner.  That's not what sex addiction is about.  You are not responsible for what your partner has done and you can not control what your partner will do.  You may feel like a victim and in some ways, you are -- you have been betrayed, lied to, cheated.   And this leads me to the next thing you need to know:

4.  You can't manage your partner's recovery. 

It may be tempting to focus your attention on your partner and your partner's recovery but you can't control your partner or their behaviors.  You are not responsible for what they have done and you can not be responsible for what they will do.  If your partner doesn't make the effort to recover, you can not make the effort for them.  It doesn't work that way.  And that sucks because it means you can't control this and you can not control what will happen.  It might feel like if your partner gets better, you will be better too.  But recovering from this trauma is not that simple--  

5.  Discovering your partner is a sex addict is traumatic -- you need to heal too.

Do not underestimate the trauma of what you have been through.  Having your world turned upside down and being forced to question everything you thought you knew about yourself, your partner and your relationship is so very hard.  Your world has been rocked.  Be gentle with yourself.  This is a difficult time and you need all the support you can get.

When individuals embark on a journey that includes healthy self-care, creating strong boundaries, and healing, it can be empowering and actually fuel growth.  That may not seem possible right now, but it is.  I know it.  I have seen it.  I have experienced it.  Finding somewhere safe to explore these issues free of judgement is so important.  When I have the opportunity to work with partners of sex addicts, I am grateful.  

I want to help you re-build yourself and the life you want.  I know it's possible.  Reach out if I can help you on that journey.  There is one last thing you need to know and it's the sum of all 5 things:  

You are stronger than you think you are.  



Slow Down, Cuddle Up in a Warm Blanket, Try Some Hygge


A few weeks ago, my daughter was bit by a dog.  She had to stay a night in the hospital for IV antibiotics due to infection, and a very strange thing happened on our second day there.  After spending hours playing board games together and reading books, the doctor said that she could go home that day or stay another night at the hospital for more IV antibiotics.  My daughter begged to stay another night.  I knew why.

Most days, I rush my kids from one thing to the next, hurrying them to get dressed and ready,  trying to make sure we all get there on time.  In all of the hustle and bustle, something is lost.  Something important.  Something that I just discovered a beautiful Danish word for: hygge.

Hygge is when we cozy up and enjoy the small moments.  Hygge was cuddling on the sofa under a soft throw this weekend and watching Moana with my kids while eating fresh popped popcorn by the fistful.  Hygge is looking at family photos together or lighting a candle as we share a meal.  For my daughter, hygge was hanging out in jammies, playing board games and reading books together in a hospital.  

In this fast-paced world of activities and school and appointments and stuff to get done, we are starved for hygge.  We need more moments to enjoy and connect.  That's why my daughter wanted to stay another night at the hospital.  She didn't, by the way.  We took her home.  And she's fine now -- fully recovered.  But I am making a concerted effort to find time for hygge -- for myself, for my family, and for my clients.

So when you come to my office, I invite you to wrap up in one of my blankets, help yourself to a cup of coffee or a piece of candy, or make it a Walk & Talk session and let's walk by the beach.  I encourage you to bring hygge into your self-care routine, and that absolutely includes therapy.    

If you want to read more about this Danish concept, google the word Hygge and you will find lots (it's trendy right now).  Here's a link to an article about it below:



Am I Messing Up My Kids?

I have a confession to make.  I am not proud and it is hard for me to share this.  This week, I told my ten-year-old daughter who was arguing with her 4-year-old siblings about something absurd to 'shut it.'  It was not one of my finest moments.  I can not undo it although I wish that I could.

For myself and many of the parents I work with, the question that haunts us all is the same, "Am I messing up my kids?" (Although, if I am being honest, there is often an f-bomb in the way I think about that question.)  If you've thought it, you're not alone.  I have taken coursework in childhood and adolescent development and read countless books on healthy parenting, and still I struggle with this question.  And I totally blow it with my kids sometimes.  You might not like the answer to this question of whether we are messing up our kids... because... the answer is yes.  And no.  Or no and yes depending on what feels better to you.  

The truth is that the choices we make as parents do impact our kids.  Those moments of imperfection are huge opportunities to teach our kids that it's okay to be imperfect.  I have apologized to my daughter numerous times for my outburst and let her know that even moms make mistakes.  Through my actions, I have taught her that it's okay to not be perfect all of the time.  I am trying to teach her to embrace her imperfection, grow and make reparation as I do.  And at the end of it, she will not be perfect.  She will be imperfect just as I am, just as everybody else is and the sooner she can accept that, the happier she will be.  Sometimes, it's in the moments of imperfection that we are able to teach our children the most.  

So yes, through our imperfection, we raise imperfect children who grow up to be imperfect adults with struggles and fears of their own.  

You are a good mom (or dad, depending on who is reading this).  You're a good parent to care enough to ask the question, to consider your impact on your child.   

Sometimes as parents, we need more support.  We need to look at where the bubbling irritability is coming from or how our needs aren't getting met and how that impacts our kids.  Often times parent think of therapy or self-care as indulgent or selfish.  Nope.  It's the opposite.  Take care of yourself so you can show up for your kids and teach them how to feel happy and fulfilled.  And of course, if you're worried that you are becoming or may become abusive with your children, you need to get support immediately.    

If you're struggling, I can help you find your way through it.  Parenting is not an easy endeavor.  Take it from a mom who just told her kid to 'shut it.'  Be compassionate with your imperfections.  Reach out if you need support -- or 310-989-6465.    

Is My Marriage Worth Saving?

Many therapists share that they have been married for many decades and therefore know what it takes to have a happy marriage.  Most therapists don’t talk about their failed marriages for fear that couples will take that as a sign that they are ineffective therapists.   

I am taking a risk by telling you this.

I was married for 15 years, in that relationship for 20 years, and I am finishing up my divorce.  Yes, I have children.  Yes, it is difficult and painful.  Yes, I am absolutely certain that it is the right thing for me and our kids.  And still, it sucks.

As a therapist, I don’t like to disclose much about myself to my clients in order to uphold healthy boundaries.  However, I have decided to lean into my discomfort in an effort to support hurting individuals and couples who are walking through a difficult season.

Recently, I had a couple on my couch and the partner who is desperately wanting to reconcile the marriage said, “I don’t know if I can do this anymore.”  What she meant was that she couldn’t stand her partner’s uncertainty about the marriage and was considering pulling the plug to end her suffering.  This is what I said to her: ‘do you think getting a divorce would be any easier?”

It’s not.  Believe me.  I know this from experience.  Pulling the plug would have just changed the direction of her pain, not end it.  Sometimes, like in my own marriage, it is unavoidable in order be healthy and happy.  There are times when a marriage can not be saved, most notably when a partner must change a behavior in order for the other partner to feel safe or happy in the marriage but is unwilling or unable.  But sometimes, the idea that ending it will stop the pain is a tempting delusion.     

It took a lot of years for me of trying to salvage a marriage that was irreparably damaged for me to walk away.  My experience gave me a very clear picture of how much I was letting go of when I filed for divorce — the shared history, the partnership, the connection, the united home.  For many struggling in their relationship, these very same things look different— baggage, imprisonment, resentment, even boredom.  It’s only when they are gone that they sparkle and we see how valuable they were.  

I see it.  I know it.  

I admire and respect the couples I work with who are willing to sift through the darkness together to recover the shine — couples so committed to each other that they will do whatever it takes.  That shared history is priceless.  

It is worth it.  I believe that whole heartedly.  

I have seen couples reconnect by embarking on the therapeutic journey toward a healthier relationship together and I have been so grateful to help them get there.  

And I also know the flip side.  There are times, such as my own marriage, when nothing can be done — even after years of therapeutic work.  Holding on is like trying to hold on to air.  The diamond is just a heap of dust and the only thing left is to walk away.  I know that path intimately — I know what it looks like when you get there, what it feels like to be there, and what it takes to walk through it.  I have helped clients, both in couples work and individual work, navigate that path too.  

So can your marriage be saved?  Despite my experience on both sides of the couch, it is not a question I can answer cleanly for you or any of my clients.  My task as a therapist is to help you find the answers.  From my standpoint, any marriage where both partners are willing and wanting to honor and respect each other is a marriage worth trying to save.  If you and your partner are willing to work through it in therapy, that is a very good sign.  However, if you’re in a different place like I was where your world feels shattered because you know that your partner is unwilling or unable to make the kinds of changes you need to feel safe and secure, I can help you navigate that path too.    

Why Walk & Talk?

This week, I was interviewed by The Beach Reporter about Walk & Talk therapy.  It was a brief interview so there wasn't enough time to go into much depth.  However, I feel passionately about Walk & Talk Therapy and how it benefits so many of my clients.  I wanted to share more and so I am.  

The big question with Walk & Talk therapy is why?  Why walk?  And that's a question that really excites me.  There are a lot of obvious answers, some of which you can read on the page dedicated to 'Walk & Talk' Therapy on my website.  Moving forward physically helps us feel pushed to move forward psychologically.  Fresh air.  The ocean is a therapeutic environment unlike any other.  Movement has positive psychological benefits and forces us to connect with our felt experience as we process emotionally.  But there's another reason, a less obvious one.

Bilateral stimulation.  I am trained in something called EMDR which you can also read about on this website.  I don't use it with all of my clients, but at its core is something called bilateral stimulation which just means that we stimulate both sides of the brain using eye movements, tappers that alternate tapping in each hand, or auditory cues that alternate ears.  EMDR is very effective and it is thought that the bilateral stimulation is part of the reason why.  When I do EMDR, I follow a rigid protocol that goes along with it.  When I do Walk & Talk therapy, it is not EMDR.  And yet, it does benefit by this principle of bilateral stimulation that is at the core of EMDR.

Walking provides bilateral stimulation.  Bilateral stimulation helps the brain process psychologically.  And that is one of the biggest reasons that I believe Walk & Talk Therapy benefits many of my clients.      

Surviving Infidelity - Should I Stay or Should I Leave?

Infidelity can feel soul crushing in many ways.  It is so layered, so complex.  Often times, men and women come into my office after discovering a partner's infidelity feeling confused.  Before it actually happened, you likely imagined that if you were ever betrayed, you would be out the door.  Then it happens, and it's so much more complicated than you ever thought possible.  

Everyone reacts to infidelity differently.  However, for many it rocks both the foundation of their relationship and the foundation of their sense of self.  It impacts confidence, self-esteem, safety, security.  It is wide-reaching and painful and can spur or exacerbate issues of anxiety, depression and even previous trauma.  Additionally, it can be difficult to talk about with friends or family because they may have judgements about your partner's behavior, and your partner's behavior may open the door to uncomfortable or unwanted gossip.  

Whether to stay or leave is often a complicated question to answer, especially when there are children involved.  Sometimes a relational betrayal can spur healing that deepens the intimacy within a relationship.  It can be an opportunity for couples to come together and create an intimacy far deeper than they imagined possible.  I enjoy working with couples in this capacity.  However, I also appreciate being able to support a partner in individual work as they reevaluate their relationship and rebuild their sense of self.  

The question of whether to stay or leave may feel most pressing, but it's secondary.  The real question is how do you heal?  How do you recover the confidence, self-esteem, safety and security that feels so out of reach?  As a therapist, I support my clients as they heal and answer those questions.  

Whether it's an incident of infidelity or you're the partner of a sex addict, the journey toward healing can be a challenging one.  I want to help you get through it and find a stronger, deeper sense of self than you ever imagined possible.  The rest of the answers will come along the way.  


EMDR -- Letting Go of Negative Beliefs

Often I have clients who come in who are successful and intelligent who reveal to me that deep down they feel that they are not good enough and never have been or are unsafe in the world or deeply damaged or unworthy of good things in life.  It shocks me every time but I get it every time.  It's not about being good enough or being safe or being unscathed or worthy.  It's about the human brain trying to make meaning out of trauma.  

When something traumatic happens, whether it's a big scale trauma or a smaller developmental trauma, our brain creates meaning.  After all, we are always looking for meaning.  Unfortunately, the meaning we create is usually not an empowering one but something involving feeling defective, unsafe, unloved, or unworthy.  When something else traumatic happens, our brains look to further that meaning and find more proof that this meaning we have created is true.  

EMDR can be a helpful tool to process some of that trauma and work through the negative cognitions or destructive negative beliefs that our brains have orchestrated.  It fascinates me when EMDR is going well and I see clients let go of their beliefs that they can't stand up for themselves or they are not good enough.  I have seen clients stuck in abusive relationships finally stand up for themselves and free themselves up for healthy ones.  I had a client once terrified to drive as a result of a trauma who enthusiastically set out to get her license after completing EMDR.  

As I finish up my work towards EMDR Certification, I have come to really believe in the power of EMDR.  I don't use it with all of my clients.  However, when I do work with a client using EMDR and we process trauma together, I enjoy watching them let go of the destructive cognitions that have held them back for so long. 

Welcome to my imperfect blog.

I have been staring at my blank blog for weeks afraid to post anything because anything I post couldn’t possibly be enough.  A first blog entry should be moving and powerful.  Eloquent, articulate.  Relatable, insightful.    

That's not going to happen because I am done staring at my blank blog waiting to be struck with inspiration to write the perfect blog.  

I am breaking in my blog with this entirely imperfect entry inviting you to be imperfect with me.