Los Angeles Chapter — California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
Voices — August 2019
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
You want to know summertime means to me? Going to the LA County fair with my family, going to the beach with my wife, and attending the LA-CAMFT picnic with my friends and colleagues. Believe it or not, it was at the picnic three years ago (in 2016) that I first dipped my toes in the water, so to speak, and gave this organization a shot. The gentle rhythm of the drums could be heard in the distance as I walked towards the benches at Cheviot Hills park. That year, Ossie Mair hosted the drum circle, and his variety of instruments was quite impressive. There were tables filled with delicious potluck food, and a group of smiling faces greeted me at the registration table.
The image is still vivid in my mind, because it was that day that I realized that I had found my community. Having left the comfort and support of my peers in the community mental health agency that I worked at prior to going into private practice, that peer support is what I missed most. In addition to the drum circle, you can expect good music, delicious catered food, art projects, and complimentary massages in a casual and carefree environment. If you’d like to attend the picnic on August 11th, 2019 at Cheviot Hills Park, then please visit our website for more details and free registration. I hope to see you there!
Best Regards,Christina Castorena, LMFT
Christina Castorena, MS, LMFT, worked in community mental health before starting her private practice, Castorena Therapeutic Services, in 2016. She passionately serves adults, couples, and members of the LGBTQ+ community who are dealing with life transitions, parenting, relational conflicts, and anxiety. She employs family systems and mindfulness-based CBT. As president of LA-CAMFT, Christina strongly advocates for her professional community and celebrates the hard-working clinicians that facilitate healing. Her website is castorenatherapeutic.com. Christina may be contacted at email@example.com.
LA-CAMFT's11th Annual Summer Bash– Picnic in the Park –
Sunday, August 11, 2019
1:00 pm-5:00 pm
Sponsored by Clearview Treatment
Let’s Picnic in the Park!
You're invited SUNDAY, AUGUST 11th at 1:00 to 5:00 pm to LA-CAMFT’s 11th Annual Picnic in Cheviot Hills Park, sponsored by Clearview Treatment Programs.
Time to GATHER with your therapist colleagues, families, and friends under the shade of gorgeous oaks. Time to PAMPER yourself with massage, REFRESH your soul with music, drums, dance, and art, NOURISH your body with delicious dishes from the Taco Truck and the assorted ethnic side-dishes and desserts!
It’s a great opportunity to meet and greet other members of our compassionate community. There’ll be “getting to know you ice-breakers,” music, games, expressive arts activity, sing along jam, drum circle, a taco truck and even massage therapists. Bring your favorite instruments, songs, and games to share.
Invite your family, friends and colleagues for a delicious lunch – taco truck and drinks provided by LA-CAMFT. It’s a potluck so bring salads, sides or desserts that reflect your cultural heritage.
This event is free but registration is required so that we can plan accordingly.
Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT
Getting Paid: Talking with Clients About
the Price & Value of Therapy
There’s a lot of interest lately in addressing the issue of the amount of money clients pay, or don’t pay, per session for therapy. The truth is that, as a profession, we as therapists often undercharge, and are underpaid, for the therapy services we deliver. Fortunately, this seems to be changing as people are becoming more aware of the value of the therapy that therapists provide—and what therapy actually costs to provide.
So, what is the therapy that mental health professionals provide worth to clients and in marketplace?
Overall during money conversations when the price of therapy comes up, we, as therapists, need to focus on increasing people's perception of the value of the therapy services clients receive instead of routinely just dropping our fees. When clients, or prospective clients, bring up the cost of therapy services during the intake or pre-therapy conversation we have, it’s up to each of us, in our therapeutic role, to engage the client in conversation about what they actually need and can benefit from in therapy. This helps the client think through and justify paying the session rate, or continue to pay the session rate, we charge for therapy. It’s what we do in every other conversation with clients. Money matters are no different.
Yes, in these money conversations the therapist’s role, or clinical task, is to help the client clarify the value of the therapy and services they need and the results or benefits that therapy can or has delivered to their lives and relationships. Helping clients look at what they benefit or gain from, don’t have to suffer, or will heal from because they are coming to therapy is an important part of these conversations when clients become over-focused on the price or cost of therapy services. It’s not just about the money or the price of therapy services, it’s part of the therapy itself.
It’s definitely part of our clinical role to help client think through what they need or are coming to or are seeking therapy for and the results and benefits therapy is providing to them or can provide. When the therapist has this type of clinical client interaction, clients will often hire the therapist or continue coming to therapy even when the therapy costs more than what they originally wanted to pay or thought they could afford.
Remember that clients are paying for the value and benefits that therapy provides for them, not the time—and clients want a price, a number, they can justify paying. One that’s commensurate with the service and benefits they receive and need.
Do you get paid for your time or your expertise? Remember, professionals get paid for their expertise instead of for their time. Charge for your expertise and the value you provide, not just for your time.
Convey to your clients that they pay for your expertise, not just for your time. Clients often forget this when they focus on money and numbers. People will pay in full and out-of-pocket for your therapy services if they see you as a trained professional and an expert who can give them or help them get what they want.
The most common question I receive in my Money Matters workshops and practice coaching is how to respond when a client says, “I can’t afford that,” “I can’t pay that,” “I don’t want to pay that” or “I don’t know how I could pay that.”
Good responses to “I can’t afford it” are clinically based. Work with clients, or converse with prospective clients, to find out how they could pay that amount—what it would take or what they would need to/could do to make that happen. Treat the issues that come up in these client money conversations the same way you’d treat any other client issue. Maintain your therapeutic stance and approach as you work with the client and their issues during the money conversation.
Yes, I am recommending that you address client fee and payment issues as clinical issues. Maintaining your therapeutic role or position and confidently taking charge of money conversations works—and is therapeutic for the client. Focus on the value, cost, and worth of the therapy service to the client and their life. A client will pay for that. Clients do pay for that.
Be sure to keep the focus of your interaction on the client paying for services they need and receive not on what the therapist gets or how much the therapist charges. Remember: a client doesn’t “give you money,” a client pays for services rendered. The client is not in charge of determining much therapy costs, the therapist is.
I wish you the best in your client money conversations. They are always adventures!
Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT, AAMFT Approved Supervisor, is in private practice in Santa Monica where she works with Couples and Gifted, Talented, and Creative people across the lifespan. Lynne’s been doing business and clinical coaching with mental health professionals for more than 15 years, helping them develop their careers and practices. To learn more about services, training or the monthly LA Practice Development Lunch visit www.Gifted-Adults.com or www.LAPracticeDevelopment.com.
Chief Financial Officer
Leila Aboohamad recently attended the LA-CAMFT Leadership Retreat in June. Leila was enthusiastic at our retreat as she explored becoming a Board Member and what opportunities are available to her. I am happy to highlight Leila Aboohamad, M.A., LMFT in this month’s issue of Voices.
Leila had been a member in the past and renewed her interest LA-CAMFT and was reminded of its benefits by Lynne Azpeitia, our Communications Chair and current Voices Editor. Leila expressed, “I want to meet and interact with my colleagues and contribute my years of experience as a therapist in private practice."
Leila Aboohamad, M.A., LMFT, is a psychotherapist practicing in Brentwood, West Los Angeles and Santa Monica. She specializes in helping individuals and couples create successful, committed, loving relationships. She graduated from USC with a major in Communications and a minor in Journalism. She received her M.A. from Philips Graduate Institute and a certificate in Sex Therapy from AASECT.
Leila also works with gifted, talented, and creative adults, helping them to identify and share their special gifts and passions with the world.
Leila also follows a metaphysical spiritual path, which teaches that our thoughts and what we truly believe create our lives. Leila says that there is a cause behind every effect and to quote Ernest Holmes: “Life is a mirror and will reflect back to the thinker what he thinks into it.” She experiences every client as a seeker on the path to self-awareness who requires guidance, support and a positive attitude from the therapist.
Enjoy reading more about Leila Aboohamad in her own words:
It is always a fascinating challenge to put into words who I am, the professional paths I have chosen and how and why these paths have enriched my life. Identifying my special interests, gifts and talents has been a life-long process, very fulfilling and enlightening, even during the hard times.
When I was 12-years-old, my favorite feature in Ladies Home Journal was “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” It was fascinating to me that the monthly, guest therapists knew exactly what to do to help these unhappy partners heal their relationships through communication, acceptance of their differences and a desire to honor their marriage vows. People’s behavior has always fascinated me. I am genuinely interested in knowing who, what and why they are who they are. My Dad had a love for people which I learned from him on our daily walks from early childhood when he would greet passersby with a wave of his arm and a “Hello, my friend.”
I learned a lot from observing my family members in all their complexity. I would watch one sister’s behavior and knew there was something really out of sync. So, it was quite natural for me to enter psychotherapy at 23, needing lots of answers as to why I was so lost after the death of my mother and so depressed when my first boyfriend broke up with me. How could he do that? I had performed perfectly, as I had been taught in my Family System, to earn and win his love. Well, that didn’t work, because I didn’t really know or love myself.
What I have shared so far segues into my decision to enter Philips Graduate Institute to earn a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy. I was ready to apply to law school but I kept remembering how my first therapist had encouraged me to become a therapist. Seems he knew me better than I knew myself. Philips turned out be one of the best choices I have ever made. A whole new world opened up for me. I finally had answers to so many bewildering questions about life, marriage, children and family systems.
One of my specialties is working with individuals and couples who are either in unfulfilling relationships or alone. I have discovered what they need to know and the steps they need to take to find that perfect mate for them.
I trained to be a sex therapist for several years with various teachers at several different venues. I spent 6 months at UCLA in a comprehensive sex-therapy course, did 50 supervision hours with an AASECT-credentialed, sex therapist, attended a two-day SAR with Dr. Patti Britton, a world renown, sex educator and took several other sex-therapy courses. Having successfully met the required courses I earned a certificate as a sex therapist from AASECT.
I also follow a spiritual path which colors every aspect of my personal and professional life. I studied metaphysics for 5 years at the former Church of Religious Science which is now the Center for Creative Living. This philosophy opened up a whole new world for me: meditation, mindfulness, the concept of cause and effect, thoughts creating our lives, taking responsibility for what we create, positive or negative. It is a very empowering concept which discourages victimhood as we have the power within us to change our lives by changing our thinking.
Valerie "Billie" Klayman, M.A., LMFT, an integrative Meaning Centered Therapist, became a supervisor at Antioch University Counseling Center in 2014. Billie initiated a partnership between AUCC and the Culver City Senior Center offering pro-bono therapy and group therapy to members of CCSC. December 2016, Culver City hired Billie to help residents of the community at the Culver City Senior Center. She’s presented on Substance Abuse and Addiction. Billie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LMFT, NMP, CGP
What’s your level of risk tolerance?
When people hear the phrase “risk tolerance” they usually think of the stock market. Financial advisers use this phrase to help clients determine an investment strategy, you can use it to determine your business strategy.
How do you respond to risk in your life? Do you like taking chances? Does the idea of building a practice excite you or would you prefer a more predictable income stream? We all have different capacities for risk and our tolerance is influenced by factors like our family history and current financial situation. If you are partnered with children, your financial responsibilities might be greater than if you are single. The opposite could also be true, I was single and had significant medical expenses when I was starting my practice. You may have unresolved anxiety about money that causes you to worry even though you have enough.
I have a high tolerance for risk, I inherited it from my grandfather, Charlie, who started a successful construction company during the Depression. When I decided to switch careers from software to psychotherapy, I knew I wanted to be in private practice. I gave myself a three-year deadline and poured my heart, soul and savings into building my practice. I told myself that if my business was not profitable in three years, I would find a part-time job to supplement my income. When I hit the three-year mark, I had nearly met my goal and I decided to forego finding a part-time job.
It may take some trial and error for you to figure out how to allocate your time and resources. Some people prefer to earn a steady paycheck from a part-time job while they build their business, while others may prefer to take the plunge like I did. Both paths require financial clarity and a dedicated commitment to marketing and networking. The ebb and flow of clients and income is inevitable for therapists in private practice and each of us must find our own way to manage the risk and financial responsibility that comes with being self-employed.
I’ve found it helpful to explore my financial challenges with my therapist, family, friends and business coach. Understanding your risk tolerance will help you make wise choices for your private practice and your investments.
Maria Gray, LMFT, NMP, CGP, is a certified group psychotherapist in private practice in Century City, where she specializes in trauma and addictions. Maria is committed to supporting therapists who want to overcome underearning, and she offers individual business consultation and live, online, courses. To learn more, go to more, go to www.mariagray.net.
5 Ways We Can Help Our Clients Combat the Loneliness Epidemic
I’m from the Midwest, and back home people have distinct impressions of Los Angeles, many of which are connected to popular myths about the movie stars on every corner. But no matter where you are from, Los Angeles seems like a place where everyone is hanging out together on the beach, or together at clubs in Hollywood, or together at Pilates or yoga or Equinox. People are tanned and in groups—this is the myth.
What is the reality? Well, I don’t know about other big cities, but I suspect that it is probably the same whether you are in Los Angeles, or Chicago, or Miami. Big cities are hard places to make friends. There’s a lot going on, but people are much more isolated than it appears.
And, as a direct result of the importance of social media, people who are isolated think that they are the only ones; everyone else is out there having a great time with hundreds of close friends. The fallacy in this argument seems obvious, but so many of my clients feel isolated and alone while right in the middle of literally millions of other people.
But it wasn’t always this way.
It used to be that people took time away from work, time to relax, even time alone to do nothing. Socializing was much less structured, and people would just hang out on their front porch and talk to whomever wandered by. In fact, in the 1950’s, back yards were meant for hanging out your laundry and burning your trash, and front yards and porches were where people gathered to relax and socialize.
Things have changed.
Nowadays we need building codes that restrict just how high people can build the walls that separate their front yards from the public sidewalk and the street. In Los Angeles, the city’s four-foot height restriction is not enough for many people, so they plant hedges that go six feet high or more.
Now, behind these “safe” barriers, we can continue to insulate ourselves from all the people who might make demands on our time that take us away from our busy schedule. After all, we can socialize all night long on Facebook or Instagram when we are all done with everything else and too exhausted to go out with anyone IRL!
So how does this affect us as therapists?
Michael D. Yapko, Ph.D., posits in his 2009 book, Depression is Contagious, that depression is not only an increasing problem for our modern society, in many cases it is actually caused by our modern society.
Humans are social animals, and when society encourages us to isolate ourselves from others, we become depressed. We are alone in our apartments, we see “everyone else” having fun on social media, we get depressed, it gets harder and harder to get out of the house and do something social.
So how do we change this toxic dynamic?
Change needs to occur on several levels:
How can we help our clients find ways to socialize?
This used to be very simple, but I find that many of my clients these days would like to be more active socially, but they don’t know where to start. Here are some of the suggestions I give them:
Surviving Rejection with Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
When one of your screenplays gets rejected it’s only natural that you’ll go through a kind of mourning process. You’ve invested so much psychic energy over months and even years, coming up with an idea, outlining it, breaking it down into scenes, fleshing out character arcs and writing draft after draft—and it all comes down to—what?
“Sorry, it’s not for us.”
Every day you’ve been getting up at five in the morning to write before you go to work. You’ve been guzzling coffee and eating off the two-dollar menu at McDonalds. You haven’t really spent any time with your wife or your kids for—what?
“We already have something like this in the pipeline.”
After all the sacrifice, and all that emotional commitment, you finally get to the point where you feel your script is good enough—no—not just that. It’s great. Amazing. Your hopes are high. They have to be. Your reputation as a writer, your future, your family’s future are riding on this.
You turn it over to someone who’s expressed an interest—an agent, a producer. Then while you’re waiting the longest three weeks ever—to hear back, you’re playing things out in your head. You’ve allowed yourself to fantasize about a scenario where they love it—they even offer to buy it on the spot. And then the phone rings and you hear—what?
“The dialogue was stiff, clumsy and felt ‘written.’ The characters felt flat. The story petered out in the second act.”
When you hear those words despite your best efforts, it’s no surprise you’re going to feel a significant loss. Without sounding overly dramatic, it may take you a while to get over it. You’ve probably heard of the five stages of grief Dr. Kubler-Ross described in her book, Five Stage Model of Grief.
The stages are usually listed in this order, however, nobody grieves the same way, and people don’t always go through these steps in order. You might start out with anger, then feel depressed, start bargaining and eventually get to acceptance. Denial generally comes first.
Stage 1: Denial
When you first hear that your script has been passed over, your very first reaction might be “this isn’t happening,” or “there must be some mistake.” If you’re reading a rejection letter, you might have to reread it. If an assistant is talking to you on the phone, you might repeat the title and ask, “Are you sure?”
Stage 2: Anger
After denial, reality sets in and you realize there’s no doubting it. They didn’t like your script. At that point, you might start feeling a little anger. That anger is generally directed at the person who passed on your script. You start thinking, “What does he know about screenwriting anyway? What an idiot.”
At this stage, you have to be careful not to take your anger out on the people in your life. Try not to kick the dog or lash out at your family, no matter how conveniently they’re available. You do need to vent—just don’t piss off your wife. She’s put up with you throughout this ordeal.
Stage 3: Bargaining
At this stage, you’re trying to reassert control over your fate. You might call the producer or the agent and try to convince them they were wrong. “Didn’t you get the message I was trying to convey?” This is always a really bad idea.
Some writers have been known to offer to do a free rewrite. Or do a quick rewrite and ask the same person to give it another chance. Writers at this stage have been known to beg. Again, this isn’t a good idea.
Stage 4: Depression
A lot of regret occurs at this stage as a low-level depression sets in. You start replaying all your creative decisions, and second-guess everything. You think about stuff like, “If only I’d listened to the guy in the workshop who said the third act needed work.”
At some point, the regret gives way to self-doubt. You start thinking that maybe you’re not cut out to be a screenwriter “What was I thinking? I should have gone to law school.” After that, you might find yourself wallowing in self-pity—and binge watching detective shows on Netflix.
Some writers will actually give up on their careers at this stage—especially if it’s their twenty-third rejection in a row. Depression can be marked, at its worst, by a lack of hope. If you get stuck at this stage, you might actually go to law school, or even worse get a job at the bank.
Stage 5: Acceptance
After some time goes by (the exact length of time is different for everyone), you might start seeing some hope in moving forward. Something may rekindle your love of movies. It might come from watching a film that really blows you away. It might come from watching a film that sucks so badly you convince yourself you can do better.
You’ll start feeling like you could maybe give it another shot. Maybe another great idea occurs to you. Maybe you see another way to go with the screenplay you’re mourning. You start to feel hopeful about making it as a writer again. You go back to the drawing board.
Hopefully, after reading this blog, you’ll be able to negotiate the stages of loss a little better. Managing expectation is a big part of being able to cope.
You should expect that you’ll definitely be feeling more rejection in your career. Unfortunately, it happens to every writer –everywhere -- and at different times in their careers. Even after a string of successes.
The best thing you can do to get through these rejections is to allow yourself to feel the grief as it comes over you. Recognize the stages as you pass through them. Resisting them will only prolong the process. Remember to move forward through the stages with acceptance as your goal.
Image credit: Creative Commons, denial x, 2014 by licensed, by Alastair Gilfillian, creative commons CC BY 2.0.
David Silverman, LMFT, treats creative and highly sensitive individuals in private practice in LA. Having experienced the rejection, stress, creative blocks, and career reversals over a long career as a writer in Film and TV, he’s uniquely suited to work with gifted, creative and sensitive clients experiencing anxiety, addiction or depression. For more information, visit www.DavidSilvermanMFT.com.
Image credit: Creative Commons, Rejected, 2012 by Asim Saed, is licensed under CC By 2.0.
This article was originally published here and is used with the permission of the author.
Do you Love Too Much? The Third and Fourth Steps to Creating a Loving, “I-Thou” Relationship
In working with the clients in my practice who are either in unfulfilling relationships or alone, I have discovered what they need to know and the steps they need to take to find that perfect mate for them. While the third and fourth steps to creating a loving. “I-Thou” relationship are the focus of this article, let’s start by going over the first two steps.
The first step to creating a loving “I-Thou” relationship is to recognize that we are complete and whole unto ourselves. Until a person truly understands that he/she is on a solo quest to discover the real Self, that Self which loves, honors accepts and is totally comfortable, he/she will continue as the victim.
The second step to finding your soul mate and a happy, fulfilling, committed relationship is to understand your Family of Origin. This is done by working with a seasoned psychotherapist who specializes in guiding you to explore the Life Script which has created the adult you and your unsuccessful, painful relationships. If you’d like more about steps one and two, you can read about those in the first article of this series.
The third step to creating a loving “I-Thou” relationship is to become acutely aware of how we feel. Since our feelings define who we are, we must become aware of how we feel every moment of every day. This is often a new concept to many clients, as communicating feelings was never taught in their families. In fact, each of their family members had no idea how they felt, so each member suffered in silence.
I once worked with a lovely 25-year-old client who had attempted suicide when she was 16. Both her parents were psychotherapists. She came to see me because she was depressed, had suicidal ideation and did not want to act upon those thoughts. I asked her if any of her former therapists had explained the importance of knowing how she felt and she said no! Well, no wonder she was depressed …her feelings were hidden so deeply inside her that she had no idea what was really bothering her. We worked hard with her Life Script and digging up those buried feelings. She recovered from her depression, improved her relationship with her fiancé, completed her therapy and married her fiancé.
I worked with another client who told me that nobody in her family ever “heard” her or validated her feelings. She had been born into a wealthy family which provided every material comfort and opportunity, but not a whit of understanding or acknowledgement of any family member’s feelings. Any time my client would express her feelings, her Dad would tell her “No, that is not how you feel.” She “coped” by disassociating, disconnecting, splitting off from her real self. She was unable to create and express her own separate identity and ego strength because it was discouraged and never modeled by parents who themselves were lost. It isn’t as though her dad didn’t love her and want the very best for his daughter. His own co-dependency, fostered by his Family of Origin, prevented him from knowing how he felt!!
The fourth step to finding a happy, fulfilling, committed relationship is to understand that it is a wounded inner child which has never healed that goes out into the world looking for love, acceptance and companionship. If we are not connected to our real self which has a solid ego strength, we go out into the world involuntarily, unconsciously creating the same unhealthy relationships with which we are familiar.
Certain behaviors modeled through the years in our Family of Origin are so involuntary and negative that it is impossible to find the true love which we deserve because we do not love, know and accept our precious, wonderful selves. If we are disconnected from our true selves because we have never been encouraged to express our thoughts, feelings and talents, we will be attracted to the same types of people with whom we were raised, suffering the same consequences of never really creating a safe place with an intimate partner where we can “just be.”
Stay tuned for the next steps in this series of “How to Create a Loving, I-Thou Relationship,” as these steps to understanding ourselves in the quest for love really do work. There are so many examples of clients who did that inner work and found true love and fulfillment. I look forward to sharing those with you.
Attention LA-CAMFT Members!
2019 LA-CAMFT Board Meeting Dates
Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at a LA-CAMFT Full Board Meeting? LA-CAMFT members are invited to attend monthly Full Board Meetings hosted at Factor’s Deli in West Los Angeles.
August 9, 2019 @ 8:30am to 10:30am
September 13, 2019 @ 8:30am to 10:30am
October 11, 2019 @ 8:30am to 10:30am
November 8, 2019 @ 8:30am to 10:30am
December 18, 2019 @ 8:30am to 10:30am
9420 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Voices Publication Guidelines for 2019
Calling all community writers and contributors!
Are you searching for a unique platform to express your passions and showcase your expertise in the Marriage and Family Therapy field? Look no further, as we welcome your input!
Following are the due dates and publication guidelines for submitting articles and ads for the 2019 calendar year to Voices, LA-CAMFT's monthly newsletter:
LA-CAMFT Publishing Guidelines for Voices
Join Our Mailing List
California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists
Los Angeles Chapter