Los Angeles Chapter  California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists

Voices — March 2021

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  • 02/28/2021 11:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Jenni J.V. Wilson, LMFT
    President, LA-CAMFT

    Where Everybody Knows Your Name

    Shelter found, bellies sated, no tigers on our tail, Abraham Maslow noted our next hierarchy of need is that of belonging. We all long to have a place we feel loved and understood—a place to find community, within and beyond family, where everybody knows your name.

    When I first began attending LA-CAMFT meetings in 2012, fresh out of grad school and pushed into networking by my supervisor, I was looking for a community of likeminded folks to learn and gain support from as I embarked on my second career. Although I attended various events hosted by different groups around town, I kept coming back to LA-CAMFT.

    At the time, I was unaware of how close the chapter had been to handing back its CAMFT charter only a few years earlier. It was the re-imaginings and efforts of Jonathan Flier, Lynne Azpeitia, and Karen Wulfson, along with many others who donated their time and energies, that rebirthed and rebuilt LA-CAMFT with a stronger community focus; a mission exemplified by the in-person networking events Darlene Basch organized and executed with a team of numerous volunteers. I found the community I was looking for at these meetings, while breaking bread, exploring topics of professional interest, and exchanging information during Participant Announcements.

    For those who’ve never attended an in-person event, let me explain about Participant Announcements.

    Completely optional, Participant Announcements at networking events allow anyone attending, regardless of licensure or membership status, to stand up, take 25-seconds to state their name and make one professional announcement; e.g.: “I’m so-and-so, an associate working for an agency, looking for an internship in private practice in the valley,” “I’m Blah-Blah an LMFT in Westwood specializing in couples and need someone to refer kids to,” “I’m YouKnowWho, and I’ve got a new podcast and we’re looking for an expert in Gestalt,” etc.

    Participant Announcements were an opportunity to start conversations with one another, to get a sense of who was doing what and where, while forming and deepening real connections between old and new members. It was during Participant Announcements early in 2015, that Darlene made one that I later approached her about, a decision that changed the course of my life, and, subsequently, my career.

    You can see why it is important to me that we try to re-integrate Participant Announcements into our CEU Zoom events this year. While we’re still ironing out details, the Board has been discussing how best to do this. Currently, our hope is to restart them at the end of the April networking event, adding an optional 30-minutes post-presentation to the run-time, with a sign-up available during registration for the first 60 registrants. Anyone wanting to stay until 11:30am will be welcome! It might take us a few tries to get it right, but we’re excited to hear what everyone is up to.

    The scope of talent in the LA-CAMFT community is mind-boggling. Some examples of what LA-CAMFT has gifted me is that I know who to contact when I have a DCFS question, or need a consult on a challenging case, or want ideas about marketing my practice, or find myself with a client seeking divorce representation. I have a wide pool of candidates I feel confident in referring. When I was going through hell prepping for my licensing exams, fellow members normalized my experience, generously sharing their own and lending support. These are only some of the reasons why I became more involved, and why I want LA-CAMFT to be a place all members can find the kind of community they need.

    I’ve mentioned Jonathan Flier, Darlene Basch, and Lynne Azpeitia already, who I continuously rely on to help me stay connected to the LA-CAMFT mission of Community and who are all still on the Board of Directors as Board Member-at-Large, Sponsorship Chair, and Communications and Marketing Chair, respectively. Now I want to take this chance to introduce and welcome the rest of our 2021 Board, in no particular order, for those who might not yet know their names.

    Billie Klayman has been LA-CAMFT’s CFO since 2015. Her high energy and quick mind help her focus under the weight of our books and the endless money questions we throw at her. Even on bad days Billie is more patient and enthusiastic than I could ever be, and we are lucky she is expanding her responsibilities to become Chair of the new LGBTQ+ Special Interest Group (SIG).

    In early 2019 Di Wilson sat up front at the speaker table, where I, as Speaker Chair, learned she was looking to get involved while she expanded her private practice. Soon after, she began helping out on the financial committee, but it wasn’t long before she agreed to take on the position of Networking Chair in 2020, filling Darlene’s big shoes. Di is a strong consistent leader who doesn’t seek the spotlight as she gets things done confidently, thoughtfully, and with kindness. Furthermore, I believe it takes a special person to perfect the classic Australian dessert “the Pavlova” (look it up), which she has done.

    Our current Speaker Chair, Elizabeth Sterbenz, managed the literature table at our in-person events for many years, and was one of those volunteers who showed up early to help with whatever needed to get done. Stepping in when we most needed her, she continues to blow my mind with her organization, willingness, and sense of humor.

    Speaking of sense of humor, I treasure Secretary Jennifer Stonefield’s dry wit as much as I appreciate the monthly agendas she creates and the minutes she keeps for the group. Jumping onto the Board last summer, Jennifer’s background as a field supervisor, a clinical practicum professor, and an emergency shelter therapist, prepared her to herd us cool (and not-always-so-cool) cats that make up the Board of Directors.

    Lending her creativity to everything she does, Ava Shokoufi is LA-CAMFT’s new Special Events Chair. We first met in early 2018 to discuss the Diversity Committee’s event plans, and have continued to have lively conversations ever since. In fact, I came to like Ava so much that we share an office space in the valley, now. That’s the power of networking, y’all.

    After being an active member since its inception, Christina “Tina” Cachao Sakai became Chair of the Diversity Committee in 2020 and this year joins the Board as LA-CAMFT’s first designated Diversity Chair. She is busy working with her Diversity Committee Co-Chair, Marvin Whistler, and other team members on organizing mentorship programs, stipend/scholarship opportunities for therapists of color, and planning the follow-up to last year’s Anti-Racism Roundtable. Tina is someone who listens and leads with compassion and vision.

    Another Board and Diversity Committee crossover is new Membership Chair, Lucy Sladek. As a first generation American, Lucy is a force of nature, committed to social justice and equality, with a magnetic energy that I believe makes her the perfect person to enlist others to join LA-CAMFT.

    Lucy has been strategizing with Pre-licensed Board Rep and Chair of the 3000 Club, Harper White, on effective ways to provide information about LA-CAMFT to graduate students. Harper is also keeping the 3000 Club meetings rolling in the Age of Covid, assisting the Diversity Committee on building much needed supervision and mentorship support for trainees and associates, and hustling to bring more online trainings and resources to the pre-licensed community.

    Many years ago, while still an intern/associate, Special Interest Group (SIG) Chair DeMonta Whiting was on the Social Media Committee alongside Matthew Evans and others. After taking some time off to get through the licensure journey, he is back and hitting the ground running, exploring what community interests might be best served by the formation of new SIGS and how he might support and promote nascent and existing SIGs.

    Active on the Diversity Committee for years, it wasn’t until our first one-on-one Zoom chat last year that I really got to know Leanne Nettles and realized how easily we connected on a personal level (see my first President’s Message). Leanne’s extensive professional background in agency and advocacy work reflects a deep commitment to both teamwork and leadership, which made the prospect of collaborating with her as President-Elect exciting. Every time someone asks if she’d be willing to do something or take the reins, Leanne says, “Yes”—she is action-oriented, double-checking that she is not overstepping or missing important pieces of a task. She serves and understands people from diverse backgrounds, having one herself, and is well versed in multicultural competencies, providing a much-needed perspective to the Board and membership. As President-Elect, Leanne chose as her first undertaking to spearhead the coordination of Phase Two of LA-CAMFT’s Anti-Racism Roundtable, which will take place on Sunday, April 25th.

    During his term, I appreciated that Past President Matthew Evans made a point of being open to feedback, and invited it. When Covid hit, I watched Matthew grow as a leader under the extreme pressures of the largest structural shift I’ve seen in nearly a decade of LA-CAMFT membership. Unsure how moving everything online would impact the chapter overall, he and I spent many hours discussing ways LA-CAMFT might address the pandemic, along with the elevated civil unrest in this country, always considering what LA-CAMFT’s responsibilities were as a compassionate professional organization that has been outspokenly committed to diversity and inclusion. I’m not sure it’s my place to say, because I present as white, but last year I recognized Matthew as an ally in ways I hold near and dear to my heart, witnessing his thoughtfulness and hard work to keep LA-CAMFT moving in the direction of equity in midst of great upheaval. I must give him mad props, because it couldn’t have been easy being a straight white cis-gender dude leading LA-CAMFT during the finale of the reality shitshow “Democracy Or Nah” starring perhaps the most intolerant racist misogynistic malignant narcissist in the modern history of the U.S. presidency.

    Everyone has their own LA-CAMFT story, and mine did not start out six years ago with me aiming to get on the Board, or even into leadership, yet here I am, with the privilege and humbling honor of being the dang President of LA-CAMFT alongside the extraordinary team of people I’ve told you about above, and more I don’t have time or space to mention. If you have taken the time to read all of this, then you, too, might be a future president and not even know it yet. Come to a networking event, make a participant announcement or just listen to them, and start forging those connections. Consider joining a support group, a SIG, or a committee. Sign-on. Get involved. I tell you, it could change the course of your life and your career.

    See you in the Zoom-mosphere, my fellow Soldiers of Sanity!

    JJVW—Jenni June Villegas Wilson

    Jenni J.V. Wilson, LMFT is a collaborative conversationalist, trained in narrative therapy and EMDR. She works with creative and anxious clients on improving, avoiding, and eliminating co-dependent and toxic relationships, while finding healthy ways to be unapologetically themselves. She is the primary therapist at Conclusions Treatment Center IOP in Mission Hills, and has a private practice in Sherman Oaks.

  • 02/28/2021 10:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    LA-CAMFT March 2021
    Law & Ethics Workshop

    Friday, March 21, 2021

    9:00 am-3:30 pm (PT)

    Via Zoom

    6.0 CEUs

    Law & Ethics:
    A Week in the Life of a COVID Therapist

    Curt Widhalm, LMFT
    Online via Zoom

    Therapists practicing remotely during the COVID pandemic face legal and ethical issues around telehealth, licensing board waivers, technological updates, and legislative changes. Additionally, many therapists are considering the implications of returning to seeing clients in a face-to-face environment. This workshop will cover the legal and ethical considerations of these issues through narrative, real-world examples in a narrative workshop of the day-to-day life of a therapist navigating these challenges with a diverse caseload.

    Event Details: 
    Friday, March 21, 2021, 9:00 am-3:30 pm (PT)

    Where: Online Via Zoom
    After you register you will be emailed a Zoom link the Wednesday before the presentation.

    More information and register today by clicking the Register Here button below.

    Register Here

  • 02/28/2021 9:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT
    Voices Editor

    Getting Paid: Talking Fees, Pricing, Prices —The Words You Use to Talk to Clients About Money Matters in Therapy Do Make a Difference 

    As a mental health professional, the words you use in money conversations matter to you, your clients, your colleagues, your employers, and to your therapy practice.

    When communicating about money and therapy services it pays to pay attention to the language we use in our clinical role because the meaning our words convey can either increase or decrease the amount of money you are paid as a therapist. 

    Yes, the words and phrases you use truly contribute to the bottom line of your therapy practice.

    Money Talk: Words & Phrases to Consider
    Let’s look at some of the words that can make a difference when a clinician talks, writes, or communicates about therapy money matters—and how and why these words can affect the amount a person is willing to pay for the therapy services you provide as a clinician.

    This information applies equally to face-to-face conversations in real time or virtually, to emails, texts, phone calls, social media postings, and what’s printed in marketing materials or is on your website. 

    Yes, each one of these words and phrases can have a direct effect on the perceived value of the services a therapist provides and the amount a client is willing to pay you for the clinical services you provide.

    As you read the following information, be sure to remember:

    • Only do and say things that fit for you, your clients, and your practice—and always within legal and ethical guidelines
    • You can ignore everything written in this article and still be successful. Discover what works for you, your clients, and the practice setting you work in.
    1. My, Me, I, You, Your
    My fee . . . I charge . . . What I ask is . . . What is your fee? How much do you charge? What do you charge?

    Do clients pay you or do they pay for therapy services or the sessions you provide?
    The fact is that most clients don’t really want to pay you. Clients want to pay for therapy or services or for the help and expertise that a therapist provides.

    When therapists pair the words, “I, me, mine, you, your,” with fees and pricing it can make paying for therapy seem like a personal interaction instead of a professional one. Many clients will pay less or feel reluctant to pay for what seems like a personal transaction of caring and help.

    When a therapist uses the words, “I charge,” people unconsciously think, “Ok, you charge that; how much do others charge?” Saying what you charge sounds like it’s arbitrary and negotiable. When clinicians use the term, “my fee,” the same principle applies.

    Making one small change—using the word “the” in place of “my, me, mine, and I”—works surprisingly well to communicate a professional charge for services rendered.

    The very personal and idiosyncratic “my fee” becomes “the fee.” “I charge,” becomes “the charge.” “Pay me” becomes “Paying for therapy or the session.” Which sounds more professional to you? Does “the fee” seem like it’s automatically open to adjustment?

    Here are some alternatives:
         The cost of the session is ___
         The price of your session is ___
         The charge for your session is ___

    Using this type of focused clinical language activates the cognitive/thinking parts of the brain and helps a person operate from an integrated thinking, analyzing, and decision making mode instead of an “emotional” mode which is more feeling driven and can make these types of money matters conversations more personal, intense, and stressful for both therapist and client.

    2. Fee
    Therapists often use the word fee to address the amount of money that is charged for therapy services provided/delivered/rendered. However, the word "fee" seems to come with quite a bit of baggage for both clients and clinicians.

    To most clients encountering the word “fee” in the context of therapy is synonymous with “fees are always negotiable” or that the number is meant to be adjusted to a lower amount.

    Substituting one of the following words in place of “fee”—price, charge, cost, amount, or rate—helps clients cognitively understand and process that this number is the actual amount it costs and that they’re expected to pay for services. With these words people don’t usually react so reflexively to negotiating to make the amount lower.

    Think about this . . . when you go to the doctor or dentist or other professional, do they usually use the word fee? Most likely they use words like charge, price or cost. Consumers are used to this type of pricing language and understand this is the number they must pay. People do not automatically associate these definitive words with the possibility of negotiation and adjustment to a lower number.

    By using this type of consumer wording, therapists can bypass the client’s automatic reflexive perception and response to the therapist’s “fee” as a starting point for negotiating payment even when no fee adjustment is realistically needed.

    As a result, of making this change in wording the clinician’s money conversations are usually shorter and the amount a client pays for therapy is usually higher but is still what the client can afford.

    3. Full Fee
    My full fee is . . . My regular fee is . . . The full fee is . . .

    What actually does “full fee” mean? Is there a “partial fee?” Why do we as therapists say, “full fee?” Why don’t we as therapists just use fee or price or charge without the adjective?

    Attaching the word “full” to the word “fee” with regard to therapy causes the client to wonder, think, entertain, ask or explore what the fee that isn’t "full" is—and then clients ask you about that other fee! 

    What a pickle for the therapist. As professionals, we don’t realize when we are inadvertently inviting discussion and negotiation about the amount of therapy payment when it’s not needed.

    An alternative to using “my full fee” is to use more definite and clear language, such as “The price for a 50-minute session of therapy is . . . ” or “The charge for your therapy session is . . . ”

    Decide for Yourself What Fits You, Your Clients, and Your Therapy Services Best
    Confidently take charge of money conversations by using the aforementioned professional and clinical language suggestions and recommendations tailored to your client population and clinical practice. Focus on the value, cost, worth of the therapy service to the client and their life.     

    Remember to keep the language, wording, and focus of the clinical and professional money matters conversations on the client responsibility for payment for services needed, received and provided—not on what or how much the therapist gets or charges.

    Allow the client to pay a fair price for the therapy benefits they receive from you.

    That’s all for this article on getting paid and how the wording you use as a clinician to talk about money matters can increase or decrease the money you earn from your client work.

    ​I hope you have found it to be useful, thought stimulating, supportive, and encouraging to your efforts to get paid what the therapy you provide is worth. See for yourself how the words you use can increase the amount of money you earn from your practice

    Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT, AAMFT Approved Supervisor, is in private practice in Santa Monica where she works with Couples and Gifted, Talented, and Creative Adults across the lifespan. Lynne’s been doing business and clinical coaching with mental health professionals for more than 15 years, helping them develop even more successful careers and practices. To learn more about her in-person and online services, workshops or monthly no-cost Online Networking & Practice Development Lunch visit www.Gifted-Adults.com or www.LAPracticeDevelopment.com.

  • 02/28/2021 7:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Catherine Auman,

    Sunshine in a Box

    As the days grow darker in the fall and winter, so do many peoples’ moods. 10% or more of the population in northern climates may suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that is cyclical and affected by the time of year. Symptoms include feelings of hopelessness, low self-esteem, poor concentration, low energy or fatigue, and problems with eating and/or sleeping.

    SAD is most often treated the same way depression is: with medication. However, SAD sufferers looking for holistic options are in luck. Since research suggests that SAD is caused by the diminished light during the winter months, effective treatment has been developed using electrical light boxes that mimic the sun’s rays. “Light therapy is a way to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) by exposure to artificial light. It is safe and has few side effects,” states the Mayo Clinic (2010). A Canadian study (American Journal of Psychiatry, 2006) found light therapy and fluoxetine, better known as Prozac, to be equally effective.

    I decided to use myself as a guinea pig so I ordered a light box online. The process was easy, with prices ranging from $120-150. When the light box arrived, I started my treatment, about 15 minutes a day of exposure. The light is supposed to shine indirectly into your eyes rather than directly, so I put the box, about the size of a coffee table book, on the side of my desk. It beamed the measured dose of light while I drank my morning coffee and perused Facebook. I noticed a positive effect on my mood right away. In fact, it felt so good I gave myself three more doses, an overdose which produced a headache.

    Light box therapy should be done in the morning, as it may be too stimulating later in the day. It’s important to keep a consistent schedule during the winter months. If you stop too soon when you think you’re improving, you’ll miss the cumulative effect which helps bring positive results. Some people experience immediate relief as I did; for others, it may take a week of treatments or longer.

    Light therapy is often not enough on its own to provide a cure for SAD. The treatment of any type of depression demands a well-rounded approach. Exercise, psychotherapy, meditation, increasing pleasurable activities, being around other people and not isolating yourself, and even medication: all these are important components of a holistic treatment plan. But if you’ve noticed a correlation between bad weather and bad moods, light box therapy can be a valuable tool for recovery. It’s certainly made a difference for me.

    © 2021 Catherine Auman

    Catherine Auman, LMFT is a licensed therapist with advanced training in both traditional and spiritual psychology with over thirty years of successful professional experience helping thousands of clients. She has headed nationally based psychiatric programs as well as worked through alternative methodologies based on ancient traditions and wisdom teachings. Visit her online at catherineauman.com.

  • 02/28/2021 6:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    LA-CAMFT Diversity Committee

    Therapists of Color Support Group

    Sunday, March 14, 2021

    Second Sunday of Every Month

    11:00 am-1:00 pm

    Via Zoom

    Therapists of Color Support Group

    A safe place to receive peer support and process experiences of racism (systemic, social, and internalized), discrimination, implicit bias, racist injury, aggression, and micro-aggressions, along with additional experiences that therapists of color encounter in the field of mental health.

    Open to LA-CAMFT Members and Non-Members
    Second Sunday of Each Month
    Location: Zoom Meeting

    For more information, contact Niparpon Johansen, LMFT at niparpon@yahoo.com.

    Event Details: 

    Licensed Therapists, Associates, and Students

    Event Details: 
    Sunday, March 14, 2021, 11:00 am-1:00 pm (PT)
    Time of Check-In: 10:50 am

    Online Via Zoom
    Once you have registered for the presentation, we will email you a link to Zoom a few days before the presentation.

    No Charge

    Online Registration CLOSES Sunday, February 14th at 1 pm.

    Questions about Registration? Contact Christina Cacho Sakai, LMFT at DiversityCommittee@lacamft.org.

    Register Here

    In diversity there is beauty
    and there is strength.

    Maya Angelou

  • 02/28/2021 4:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Andrew Susskind,

    The Necessity of Pleasure

    Face it. It’s been a few hundred years since Puritanical beliefs thrived in early America when sex for pleasure was seen as morally wrong. Yet, religious dogma continues to exist in our society today, and some faith communities still contribute to confusion and shame based on rigid, outdated rules such as prohibition of same-sex practices as well as sex before marriage.

    Fortunately, religious rigidity is not as pervasive today, but for many, our sexual attitudes and behaviors remain constricted. As part of the World Health Organization (WHO), medical leaders have studied and defined Sexual Health as follows:

    “a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.” (WHO, 2006a)

    With an emphasis on “positive and respectful” as well as “pleasurable and safe sexual experiences,” this thoughtful definition demonstrates how far we have come on an international level, but we still have a long way to go. Here is the story of Jack, which illustrates a common way teenagers often stumble into their sexual awakening:

    By the time Jack arrived in my therapy office in his early 20s, he knew he wanted real-life intimacy. He expressed his desire to date and explore sex with someone other than images on the screen. Jack’s teenage porn use was a common story and often becomes an introduction to sex and sexual turn-ons.

    Raised in a liberal Methodist home, Jack was twelve-years-old when he stumbled upon his father’s porn stash. Immediately, Jack was hooked, and his young brain started to crave more elaborate forms of porn which interfered with his interest in dating. “Internet porn seemed so much easier than meeting a girl,” he confided early in his therapy. In addition to porn, he used edibles to enhance his sexual experiences and this “pot and porn” ritual became a daily habit. Although sexual pleasure was gratifying at times, he felt increasingly lonely and empty.

    In the early 20th century Carl Jung described the necessity to embrace the shadow within ourselves in order to fully experience our lighter parts. With regard to sex, shame or censorship of one’s sexual self creates a barrier to pleasure, and there is already more than enough sexual shame in most of us. Instead, how can Jack learn about his sexual identity and choices based on pleasurable, respectful, and safe sexual experiences? Although compulsive porn use was not a sustainable activity for him, it was the catalyst for Jack to learn about his body, his sexual turn-ons as well as his sense of pleasure. Jung might call Jack’s behavior part of his shadow self because it’s secretive, but it also opens the door to lighter aspects of sex—fun, play and freedom.

    Merriam Webster defines pleasure as “a state of gratification; a source of delight or joy.” As a sexual being, pleasurable sex is your birthright, yet Self-Pleasure is rarely discussed. Once again, the echoes of the Puritans may get in the way of this human desire, which I define as follows: any experience that brings you closer to contentment, relaxation, or serenity. Examples of self-pleasure—sexual or sensual—include masturbation, a hot bath, massage, facial, or petting your dog (or cat).

    Pleasure is not only a concept—it’s an action. Here we will look at specific ways to safely explore pleasure as a strategy for long-term freedom and sexual satisfaction.

    1. When you think about the word pleasure, what are your immediate associations that go along with it? Write down all thoughts, feelings, images, and memories, and be sure to remain curious and non-judgmental.
    2. Define the word pleasure for yourself. Your private ideas and beliefs about pleasure will help you develop a sexual vision.
    3. What are the messages from childhood that get in the way of your freedom and enjoyment of pleasure? These messages may come from family, friends, school, community, and religious organizations. List as many of these messages that may have become stubborn barriers to pleasure.
    4. What are the messages from childhood that encouraged pleasure? List as many of these messages that were “pleasure-positive.”
    5. What gives you pleasure? Without overthinking it, brainstorm and make a list of pleasurable experiences you already enjoy—both sexual and non-sexual.
    6. In our society, self-pleasure is often a taboo subject. As discussed in Part One of this article, you can expand self-pleasure to mean anything that brings you contentment, relaxation, or serenity. What are the ways that you self-soothe? Do you enjoy a hot bath? Do you have a favorite type of music you listen to? Take your time to list those items that you already do and the items you would like to introduce into your toolbox of self-pleasure activities.
    7. Sexual health includes safe, positive, respectful, and pleasurable experiences. What sexual experiences are safe, respectful, and pleasurable whether it be with another person or by yourself? Once you consider sexual activities that are fun, playful, and liberating, share this list with a confidant or trusted professional.
    8. Is there residual shame connected to your sexual expression? Sexual shame gets in the way of being in the moment and feeling sexual freedom. Consider individual, group therapy or 12-step meetings to build shame resiliency. Brene Brown believes that “shame is given to us by others, and shame is healed through others.” Find a confidant or a group to share these parts of you that create this unnecessary burden. Find the courage to break out of the secrecy and expand your sexual voice.

    Because sexual hang-ups and barriers are so prevalent, it takes courage to investigate your sexual health and freely explore what’s pleasurable. Unlike the Puritans, sexual liberation is yours to discover. 

    Take your time with these suggested action steps because it takes a while to un-do a lifetime of unhelpful messages and sexual barriers. It often takes a team of open-hearted, unconditional therapists, coaches, sponsors, and confidants to mend the brokenheartedness that goes along with sexual wounds, and it often requires the right healers to help you thrive as a sexual being. Remember, the more you explore the shadow, the more the light will shine bright. 

    Reprint January 11, 2021, Westside Post.

    Andrew Susskind, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Somatic Experiencing and Brainspotting Practitioner and Certified Group Psychotherapist, based in West Los Angeles since 1992, specializing in trauma and addictions. His recent book, It’s Not About the Sex: Moving from Isolation to Intimacy after Sexual Addiction joins his workbook, From Now On: Seven Keys to Purposeful Recovery. For more information visit his websites westsidetherapist.com and brainspottinglosangeles.org.

  • 02/28/2021 3:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)
    Amy McManus

    Amy McManus, LMFT

    The Case for Pre-Engagement Counseling 

    Pre-marital counseling is now a thing. Couples call me requesting some counseling to “learn to communicate better” before their upcoming nuptials. Hmm.

    The period before the wedding is full of metaphorical land mines. Anxiety is high and tempers are quick. Family is horning in on the wedding planning, and that’s a “whole ‘nother Oprah.” It’s certainly not the best time to learn emotional regulation and partnership skills.

    How can we, as therapists, help change this situation for the better?

    One important way is to strive to address your clients’ relationship issues in addition to whatever their presenting problem is. Otherwise, your clients may not address their relationship issues until they become completely unmanageable and the timing is far less opportune—when they are already engaged, or married, or are fighting about the kids.

    For example, when I have clients who come to me for anxiety (and they all come to me for anxiety, one way or another!) I always ask them about their intimate relationship, because anxiety always affects our intimate relationships.

    It’s a “chicken or the egg” sort of thing. Does the relationship dynamic give them anxiety that plays out in other ways, or does the anxiety that comes from stress at work, health issues, or dysfunctional FOO dynamic, and play out in the relationship?

    In the end, it doesn’t matter. Intimate relationships create a perfect environment to learn the skills that lead to personal growth: emotional regulation, the ability to be vulnerable, and the ability to listen and seek to understand another even when you disagree or are feeling attacked.

    When I explain this to my clients, they are always happy to learn that making their relationship better will be an integral part of their own personal growth. It will help them calm their anxiety, upscale their mood, feel more connected, and increase their self-esteem. There is nothing more self-affirming than connecting with another person on a deeply soulful level—whether the relationship is intimate or not.

    I work to enable my clients to discuss sensitive topics with their partners in a way that means each of them will feel seen and heard, even when they strongly disagree. Learning to express their thoughts and feelings in a way that is not blaming is almost as tough as learning to listen without being defensive. Once they have begun to practice these skills, they see how rapidly it changes their relationship, and they want to practice it more.

    When they are able to discuss difficult topics with their partners in a non-confrontational way, I strongly suggest that they broach the following subjects, especially if they are considering getting engaged or making some other type of long-term commitment.

    1. Money.
    How to spend it, how much to save, what savings are meant to be used for, how to determine which things are worth spending money on in the first place. What is the discretionary amount; namely, the amount each of you can spend on things of which the other might not approve.

    2. Kids. 
    Whether you want them at all, how many, and when. How to raise them—boundaries, discipline, education, what is the children’s role in the family. 

    3. Biorhythms.
    This is the kind of thing your clients might not notice that much when they are dating. The early birds tend to stay out later when they are in the flush of new romance, and the night owls might get themselves up much earlier to meet their new crush for brunch or spinning class.

    It’s only later, when the “honeymoon phase” is over and each partner reverts to type, that this becomes a problem, and many couples are surprised to realize how much they resent the other’s different biorhythms. 

    4. Work schedules.
    This is something that I am increasingly seeing in couple therapy. Because remote work is so popular, many people spend all day working alone at home. If their partner comes home exhausted from a long day at the office, they have the makings of a big problem.

    The at-home partner is craving connection and companionship, and the away-at-work partner wants some peace and quiet, and time to recharge. The best solution is to address this early on, before they all-too-quickly become resentful of each other.

    In Los Angeles, we have an additional problem. There are many people in the film industry who work an all-on or all-off schedule that can easily disrupt their life as a couple. Partners who are not also in the film industry can find it very challenging to build a life around this schedule. In addition, there are the emotional challenges of not always knowing when the next gig is coming along. A partner who is more steadily employed can easily become resentful and unable to be emotionally supportive to the other.

    What if They Are Happy in Their Relationship—Should They Still Talk About These Things?

    Absolutely. These are issues that will inevitably come up at some point. It’s so much better to make sure you are on the same page, or at least understand where each of you stands on these topics—before you are in the heat of the moment and are trying to navigate these areas when emotions are high.

    Also, unsurprisingly, many people who claim they are completely certain that their partner shares their position on these topics, are simply wrong.

    Learning how to build healthy relationships should be something we learn early on; healthy relationships are modeled in our homes growing up, and we are taught relationship skills throughout our childhood and adolescence. If only.
    The truth is that very few people have this experience growing up, and we, as therapists, have a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in how our clients create relationships. Let’s make sure we help them learn these skills whenever we have the chance!

    I often suggest that these clients take a break from online dating. Rather, they can put their energy into pursuing activities they love (which have often been taking a back seat to online dating!) and meeting interesting people. Maybe they will meet someone the old-fashioned way, but either way they will be “living” and not “waiting.” Online dating doesn’t guarantee happiness, but following your dreams and being open to meeting interesting people (romantic and non-romantic alike) is a way to build a life you love.

    This article was previously published in Voices, October 2019.

    Amy McManus, LMFT, helps anxious young adults build healthy new relationships with themselves and others after a breakup. Amy’s blog, “Life Hacks,” offers practical tips for thriving in today’s crazy plugged-in world. Learn more about Amy from her website www.thrivetherapyla.com.

  • 02/28/2021 2:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    David Silverman,

    10 Archetypal Film Stories That Sell: Part 5

    The ten genre’s that Blake Snyder identified in the 'Save the Cat' books . . .These are my single favorite tool for screenwriters, and I strongly recommend writers know these types, and seek to write squarely within one of them.” Erik Bork: Screenwriter “Band of Brothers.”

    As we noted in Parts 1 through 4, as far as the studios are concerned, they seem to have dropped the word "original" from their vocabulary. You can plainly see by the numbers of prequels, sequels, remakes, reboots, novel and comic book adaptations, that studio films are risk-averse.

    For those who still want to try selling a screenplay to the studios (and have a good shot at independent sales, too), here are the next two sub-genres, of archetypal film stories identified in Snyder’s Save the Cat.

    According to research by Bork, the trend since 2012 has been that the studios are only buying original spec scripts in these (and Snyder's other 8) genres.


    Snyder’s Whydunnit storyline is about creating a hero who will peel the layers of the onion back on a mystery, often a crime, to reveal the evil, or dark flaws that motivate the antagonist to commit the crime, or to amass power, or perpetrate their dark actions against society.

    Let’s talk about Silence of the Lambs; Clarice Starling (played by Jodie Foster) is one of the best and the brightest students at the FBI training academy. She is assigned to work with Hannibal Lechter (Anthony Hopkins) a genius-level psychiatrist, murderer and cannibal who is thought to have special insight into the psychology of Buffalo Bill, a serial killer who skins his female victims.

    Lechter sends Starling to investigate a former patient of his who may be connected to the case. She finds a human head with a sphinx moth stuck in it’s throat. Hannibal continues to offer Starling obscure clues, with the quid pro quo that she tell him about the murder of her father when she was ten years old.

    Using Lechter’s expert profiling of the killer and his notes on the case files, Starling realizes the killer she's after, Buffalo Bill, knew his first victim personally. She flies to the victim’s hometown where she discovers Buffalo Bill was a tailor and conjectures that the serial killer is making a “suit” out of the skins. Starling determines that the serial killer is disturbed man who requested but was denied a sex change.

    The “why” now falls into place and all clues point to this would be transsexual named John Gumb. Starling and the FBI track Gumb to his underground basement where Gumb/Buffalo Bill holds a naked female victim at the bottom of a well.  Starling closes in on Gumb, who has her in his cross-hairs and pulls the trigger, just as she turns and unloads her service revolver into the killer.

    Other examples in the Whydunnit genre can work a bit differently. Instead of revealing the villian's deep dark human secret at the end of the story, many Whydunnits reveal the secret to the audience first, then to the hero at the end.

    Some examples of other films that fit into this sub-genre include;

    Zero Dark Thirty, Fargo, Mystic River, Chinatown, The Long Goodbye, Body Heat, Blue Velvet, The French Connection, LA Confidential, The Sixth Sense, and Minority Report.

    10. Buddy Love

    While virtually all films have a relationship subplot or a love story,  Snyder points out that in this archetypal storyline the love or friendship issue is the crux of the story.  “Will they get along? “ is the question that story addresses.

    Let’s take a look at Lethal Weapon, a police drama that pairs up two LA detectives that would rather not be paired up. Martin Riggs (played by Mel Gibson) a detective who recently lost his wife in a car crash an appears to be suicidal, gets partnered up with a sensible police veteran Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover).

    Murtaugh is close to retirement and has a decidedly uneasy relationship with the erratic Riggs. The partners are sent to investigate the murder of a banker’s daughter which leads them to a deadly ring of former soldiers-turned heroin smugglers.

    When members of this ring find out they’re being investigated by Riggs and Murtaugh, they turn their focus on trying to kill them. The mismatched partners learn to work together and overcome their differences in order to take down the heroin smuggling ring.

    As in this example, the “Buddy Love” relationship is often a pairing of opposites.  In 48 Hours, for example it’s a redneck cop (Nick Nolte) paired with a black jailbird (Eddie Murphy). In As Good As It Gets, a crotchety, bigoted, author (Jack Nicholson) falls in love with his opposite, an empathic, good natured waitress (Helen Hunt).   

    As with all the other genres, many variations are possible including these examples;

    The Producers, Pretty Woman, True Lies, You've Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally, Gone With the Wind, Lolita, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, Harold and Maud, and The Notebook.

    You'll have to create original characters, story-lines, subplots and plot twists, but the these 10 sub-genres will guide you in a more commercial direction, and increase your odds of selling an original screenplay.

    David Silverman, LMFT, treats anxiety and depression, especially in highly sensitive individuals in his LA practice. Having experienced the rejection, stress, creative blocks, paralyzing perfectionism, and career reversals over a 25 year career as a Film/TV writer, he’s uniquely suited to work with gifted, creative, and sensitive clients experiencing anxiety, depression, and addiction. David received training at Stanford and Antioch, is fully EMDR certified, and works with programs treating Victims of Crime and Problem Gamblers. Visit www.DavidSilvermanLMFT.com.

  • 02/28/2021 2:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    LA-CAMFT Diversity Committee

    LA-CAMFT Therapist Anti-Racism Roundtable, Phase 2

    Sunday, April 25, 2021

    2:00 pm-5:00 pm (PT)

    Via Zoom

    Therapist Anti-Racism Roundtable, Phase 2

    In August 2020, LA-CAMFT held its first Therapist Anti-racism Roundtable, “Anti-racism as a Movement, Not a Moment.” Several initiatives designed to address various inequities have been developing from the many ideas and suggestions shared during that event. Phase 2 of the roundtable will describe follow-ups from those discussions, will provide an opportunity to cultivate community inclusion around activism in our field, and will further the conversation around actionable steps we can take to cultivate anti-racist therapeutic practices and build an actively anti-racist mental health community. This discussion-based roundtable is presented by the LA-CAMFT Board of Directors and Diversity Committee.

    Open to LA-CAMFT Members and Non-Members
    Location: Zoom Meeting

    For more information, contact Leanne Nettles: PresidentElect@lacamft.org or Marvin Whistler: DiversityCommittee@lacamft.org.

    Event Details: 

    Licensed Therapists, Associates, and Students

    Event Details: 
    Sunday, April 25, 2021, 2:00 pm-5:00 pm (PT)
    Time of Check-In: 1:50 pm

    Online Via Zoom
    Once you have registered for the presentation, we will email you a link to Zoom a few days before the presentation.

    No Charge

    Online Registration CLOSES Sunday, April 25th at 5 pm.

    For more information, contact Leanne Nettles: PresidentElect@lacamft.org or Marvin Whistler: DiversityCommittee@lacamft.org. 

    Register Here

    In diversity there is beauty
    and there is strength.

    Maya Angelou

  • 02/28/2021 1:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Maria Gray,

    Ergonomics for Your Home Office

    When I packed a few things on Thursday, March 12, 2020, I thought I would be working from home for a couple of weeks. When my back started to hurt from working at my dining room table, I went back to retrieve my Humanscale desk chair from my office.

    My brother has worked from home on and off for many years and he suggested I buy an adjustable stand-up desk, even if I chose to remain sitting. The main advantage was that I could adjust the desk to my exact height, and I could take breaks throughout the day and stand. I purchased a Knoll desk, click on the link for Wirecutter’s reviews of stand-up desks.

    Eventually, I realized I needed some extra lighting at three in the afternoon when one side of my home gets darker than the other, so I picked up a modern little desk lamp made by Lamps Plus. The lamp helped a lot, but the evening hours are still tricky!

    A colleague suggested an external monitor. I had resisted this idea because I didn’t want another piece of technology in my living room. Once my 27-inch monitor arrived I was so thrilled that I didn’t care how much space it took up. It’s so much easier to see my clients and I don’t have to strain my neck or eyes.

    I like the feeling of having something under my feet when I am working, so I use a cork yoga block, you might prefer a footrest.

    Here’s a list of ergonomic goodies to consider adding to your home or business office:

    1. A good, ergonomic office chair, I like the Humanscale Freedom chair for my desk. This chair could also be used as a regular therapy chair, however, I prefer my Stressless chair for that as it offers a little more support.
    2. An external keyboard and mouse to avoid straining your hands, I use Logitech’s mice and keyboards.
    3. A large monitor to attach to your laptop, I mainly use a pc, so I purchased one from Dell, Apple has some gorgeous monitors!
    4. Noise cancelling headphones so you don’t hear your neighbor’s dogs or your colleagues walking down the hall with their clients. I use Apple’s AirPod Pros. I like them but sometimes the pairing is a problem with a pc.
    5. External HD camera if your lighting/clarity needs improvement, I use Logitech’s Logi camera and it’s definitely worth the investment.

    I enjoy combining working from home with doing telemedicine from an office, leaving the house feels good! Others prefer to see their clients in person. Whatever choice you make it’s important to have the right equipment.

    Maria Gray, LMFT, NMP, CGP, is a psychotherapist in private practice in Century City, she is a Brainspotting Specialist who specializes in trauma and addictions. Maria is a Certified Group Therapist and currently offers three online groups in her practice. She enjoys working with adults who grew up around mentally ill or addictive family members. To learn more, go to www.mariagray.net.

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