I am fortunate to be in a profession that allows me to integrate many of my passions – art, music, movement, writing, nature and meditation into my work. I am a licensed psychotherapist (LMHC) working toward national board certification in art therapy. I have a Master’s degree in transpersonal counseling psychology and art therapy from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, a Buddhist university for contemplative education. I am also a graduate of the M.E.T.A (Mindful, Experiential Therapeutic Approaches) Institute of Portland, Oregon, where I completed their two year counselor training program in the methods of Hakomi, Trauma, Attachment and The Re-Creation of the Self Model of Human Systems.
In my 15 years of experience working in the healing and helping professions, I have served people of every decade of life, from a wide range of backgrounds, in a variety of settings, to include: domestic violence agencies, inner-city youth organizations, preschools, elementary schools, community art studios, a milieu setting (group home) for adjudicated teens, a juvenile correctional facility, retirement communities, assisted living facilities, adult family homes, nursing homes, private homes of hospice clients, and a community mental health agency.
“The most powerful thing the therapist does for us is provide a setting, a nourishing womb, in which our lives can unfold. Through the physical setting and, most important, the setting of his own being, he creates a place of safety; a trustworthy place where all life is befriended through an affirmation of faith in our wisdom and creativity.” —Gregory Johanson, Ph.D., Hakomi Institute Co-Founder and Senior Trainer.
I derive pleasure and personal growth from art making, creative writing, dance and music. I am a Buddhist practitioner of over 14 years, inspired by many other spiritual traditions, with a great interest in neuroscience. I am a fitness buff, athlete and health nut, who also knows the frustration and despair of undiagnosed debilitating health problems and how mindfulness, creative expression, listening to the body, good professional care and an accurate diagnosis can offer support, insight and healing.
I am a painter and dancer who loves the physicality of putting color, shape and texture on large canvas. A nurturer by nature, I am a patio gardener with lots of house plants. I have worked hard to cultivate meaningful, close relationships in my life, and so am a grateful daughter, adoring big sister, doting auntie, loving partner, and engaged step-mom, who is surrounded by supportive, playful friends.
Rejuvenated by nature, I am a stargazer and aspiring surfer (but mostly I just splash around in the ocean like a baby seal). I am a foodie who enjoys a good mystery novel. I am impacted as much by my nightly dreams as I am my travels through foreign countries. I value rest and love to sleep.
How I became a Transpersonal Art Therapist and Body-Centered and why I see benefit in sharing this with you
I have a relational approach to counseling, which to me means that while you the client are the unwavering focus of the therapeutic relationship, our work together is significantly influenced by the experiences, views and attitudes I have as a therapist. Who I am, what I’ve been through, and how I see the world impacts the work you and I will do together. I want to give you the opportunity to know a bit about me through my professional journey, and something about my style, so that you can begin to explore if our working together is right for you.
As a child, my days were consumed with dancing (in ballet class and performances, while listening to favorite songs on records, to travel from point A to point B, in my backyard under the stars…), and making and listening to music. Movement and creativity gave beauty and purpose to life. I moved my body when I was happy, when I was sad, when I was angry, when I was hurt… Whenever things got painful and confusing, these expressive outlets helped me to relax, and find connection to myself and the world around me. As a teenager experiencing difficult life circumstances, grief, and depression, my high school studio art classes became my respite, where I began to express, soothe and heal dark emotions through art making. Art was my therapy and my best friend. At 17 years old, as I was emerging from depression, I first learned of the profession of art therapy when my mom showed me the cover of her college alumni magazine promoting its graduate art therapy program. I knew I had a calling, and after high school graduation, entered into my undergraduate studies at the University of Washington as a double major in art and psychology.
In my 3rd year of college, I became dissatisfied with the mainstream Western psychology approach to studying self, which seemed to me detached, limiting and pathologizing. I wanted to understand people more fully. So, I dropped my art major to pursue a Women’s Studies degree, thus adding critical social theory, awareness of social inequalities, and a relational model of psychology to my education. In my final years of school, I interned at a confidentially-located domestic violence shelter, where I worked with children, teens and women who had escaped battered homes and who were putting their lives back together. I watched as art making provided them comfort, trauma release, and a safe place to express and explore new identity. One day the children’s advocate at the shelter presented me with two pictures, one drawn by a 4 year old from a rural town in Washington state, and one drawn by a 6 year old from the Ukraine who had recently moved to the U.S. and who spoke little English. The images were practically identical: self portraits with a jagged line around it–a cross-cultural, nonverbal, universal representation of trauma for children. Touched by the powerful ability of the images to convey inner truth beyond words, those two pictures solidified my intention to become an art therapist.
Shortly after graduating with my Bachelor’s degrees in Women Studies and Psychology, I was turned on to Buddhist theory as a science of mind and path to inner-peace. This introduction sent me into a spiritual renaissance, harkening back to my nights as a young child dancing under the stars, surrounded by sky and earth, and feeling a deep interconnectedness to everything around me. Curiosity and investigation led to my discovering the field of transpersonal psychology, Naropa University, and its graduate art therapy program with a contemplative (mindfulness-based) approach to healing and awakening. As part of what I endearingly refer to as “psychospiritual boot camp”, the program’s experiential education rooted in mindfulness became a part of my everyday life: On the meditation cushion and on my yoga mat. While making art. While running through the foothills of Colorado in training for my first marathon. While engaging with friends and family. While counseling therapy clients, whether elders in retirement communities or teenage boys transitioning out of the juvenile justice system. When cleaning the house and writing my Master’s thesis. I witnessed my life becoming richer and more joyful, my relationships to others more loving and meaningful.
My capacity for compassion, connection and open-heartedness developed in tandem with my clinical therapeutic skills of precision, clear seeing and focus. While working toward my counseling degree, in addition to my studies in art therapy, I was exposed to many cutting-edge mindfulness-based, experiential, body-centered approaches to psychotherapy and trauma recovery. With my background and lifelong passion for dance and movement, these approaches made a lot of intuitive as well as theoretical sense.
Upon completing my Master’s degree, my journey brought me back to Seattle, WA, where I began working toward state mental health counselor licensure in a community mental health agency. Four years in, I was gaining clinical knowledge working with adults and older adults with profound and chronic mental illnesses using a predominantly cognitive-behavioral approach and medical model of treatment. Yet, I was limited in my ability to practice art therapy and mindfulness-based experiential psychotherapy with clients–the work I longed to do. I felt stagnated and burned out, and my job dissatisfaction was permeating into all areas of my life.
Recognizing my need to take steps in a new professional direction, I accepted an invitation to attend a weekend training lead by Ron Kurtz, the founder of Hakomi. Just as my experience in high school art class provided a resounding “yes” to exploring a profession in art therapy, so did that weekend give me a clear inspiration to specialize in body-centered psychotherapy. I was deeply impacted by the method’s simultaneous gentleness and ability to facilitate quick, efficient and lasting change.
A year later, I was enrolled in the two-year Comprehensive Training program at the M.E.T.A Institute in Portland to study under Jon Eisman, the program’s creator. My professional skill elevated to a new level, as I learned Hakomi’s respectful and collaborative process of “assisted self discovery”. Completion of this program gave me not only a specialization in experiential, body-centered psychotherapy, but the confidence and preparedness to transition from the nest of community mental health into private practice as well.
Ever-committed to supplying myself with the best tools to help my clients, I seek on-going professional education and training both through the M.E.T.A Institute and local Seattle psychotherapy trainings.