President’s Message — Gratitude, Humility, and Healing

Shelley Pearce
Shelley Pearce
President, LA-CAMFT

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Research has shown that an attitude of gratitude can be positively correlated with the degree of happiness we experience. Paradoxically, in a society that all too frequently propagates vanity, social status, and self-importance, humility—the very thing that allows gratitude to arise naturally—is denigrated, or worse altogether, lost.

In today’s world some may feel that, “being humble” is akin to being pushed around, to overly sacrificing for others, to hiding feelings for the sake of being nice, or to suppressing views to avoid conflict—in other words, being a doormat.

I don’t believe being humble is any of these things. When we can drop into humility, we open our heart to our humanity and in so doing, we allow ourselves a greater connectedness with others. It is this experience of connectedness that actually creates a sense of groundedness and equal footing with others; we are neither above nor below them. We can be more relaxed. We are no longer consumed by who is better or worse, right or wrong, but rather, by our desire to behave and respond from our authentic self. Authentic humility is not worn on the sleeve. It shines through our actions and our thoughts toward others. In actuality, it seems true humility comes from a place of self-worth, allowing us sincerely to appreciate and validate others without feeling diminished by comparison.

In a culture that values self-aggrandizement and entitlement over generosity, when we begin to comprehend our vast web of interconnectedness, we can turn more to the reality both inside and outside ourselves.  We realize how truly dependent we are on one another, no matter how much we have or what we can have delivered to our doorstep within an hour. It makes sense to be more cooperative and peaceful with one another. It opens up a space of thankfulness in us, deep gratitude for all that we have.

I’ve just returned from the east coast after being with my father following his open-heart surgery. There were many complications requiring 14 days in the hospital Intensive Care Unit and acute rehabilitation which will continue for several weeks. Thanks to his indomitable will and lots of help from great medical care professionals, he is on the mend. In order for me to be there as his primary support I couldn’t be in Santa Monica to see my clients. I had to depend on many others to take care of my responsibilities in Santa Monica, and especially at LA CAMFT. Unable to use phone or computer while sitting with my father in the ICU, I had time to contemplate so much, and came to feel enormous gratitude for the nurses, doctors and orderlies, for the caregivers who spend every working hour, day in and day out, under fluorescent lights, with constantly beeping machines, and who nonetheless are still able to extend compassion to everyone dealing with a life-threatening illness. I felt the vulnerability of the utter humanness of infirmity and the possibility of death. And I felt humbled not only by my father’s will to survive, but by his gratitude for the life he has lived and for the time he has left. I was thankful that I had the resources and the complete support of others which let me take the time to be there in my dad’s time of need. This experience—as stressful, and challenging, and sad, and scary as it was—opened my heart in a way that I never would have imagined.

I don’t think humility is something one can strive for; that would be an oxymoron. That said, we can continually look for opportunities to be grateful for what we do have, for our connections and the many ways in which life itself is a gift. As the holidays descend upon us, may we all be in touch with a sense of gratitude and humility in whatever ways are real and true for each of us.

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.”

— David Steindl-Rast


Shelley Pearce, LMFT is currently serving as President of LA-CAMFT. She has a private counseling office in Santa Monica, and regularly consults by video conference with colleagues and clients. She serves on the board of the Global Bridge Foundation and helped create Humanistic Spirituality, an extensive, free online resource for counselors. She synthesizes a breadth of career diversity, education, experience, and a sincere desire to help in her service and practice with individuals and couples.

Editor’s Message

Sylvia Sandler, M.A., MFTi

Dear LA-CAMFT colleagues:

It is hard to believe that this is the last edition of Voices for 2017! I am sure many of you are wondering just as I have, “where in the world did the year go?” It seems just months ago that I began to collaborate with LA-CAMFT Board Members to produce Voices. As I reflect on my time as editor so far, it seems appropriate that this Editor’s Message be dedicated to thanking all of the people that have both made my job easy and a pleasure to do since I began back in March 2017.

First of all, I would like to thank LA-CAMFT’S Past President, Randi Gottlieb for approaching me with the opportunity to join the editorial team for our monthly newsletter. I greatly appreciate Randi’s confidence in me to serve in my capacity as newsletter editor, and for her faith in our ability to work together to produce a thoughtful and inspiring product for our community of clinicians to enjoy.

Few months later, I began to collaborate with Shelley, the new President Elect. I was genuinely struck with Shelley’s business insight and compassionate demeanor. Since assuming the role of President of LA-CAMFT, Shelley has tirelessly and seamlessly run our chapter with tremendous care and focus. I quickly learned, that if I ever needed support, I could count on Shelley just as I did with Randi. As with Randi, I am truly grateful for the personal and professional connection that I have been so blessed to cultivate with Shelley.

My role as newsletter editor would not have been possible however, without the direct guidance and dedication of LA-CAMFT’s Communication Director, Lynne Azpeitia. From the get go, Lynne and I formed a strong working alliance and with her steadfast support, the editorial team provided community writers with clear and efficient guidelines for submission of content. With Lynne’s great leadership, I was encouraged to recruit new, talented community writers to our newsletter. I hope you will agree that both regular contributors and guest writers have created a moving and relevant newsletter for our readership.

Speaking of leadership, the next person I would like to acknowledge for his tremendous support and positive impact on the editorial team is, Mike Johnsen. Mike is LA-CAMFT’s IT Administrator/Webmaster and as part of the Editorial team, I am so very grateful for Mike’s dedication and meticulous work ethic. No matter the inquiry, Mike is always available to the Board for all questions and comments. Additionally, month after month, Mike perfectly executes our communication needs in addition to the needs of other local chapters of CAMFT. As for me, I have really enjoyed working in partnership with Mike on all things pertaining to Voices. I hope you will join me in publicly expressing a heartfelt thank you to Mike for all his endeavors.

Last but not least, I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to members of the Board and guest writers that were featured throughout Voices in 2017 including: Randi Gottlieb, Shelley Pearce, Jonathan Flier, Darleen Basch, Estelle Fisher, Maria Gray, Billie Klayman, Kane Phelps, Jennie Steinberg, Steven Unruh, Tony Davis, Danielle Feinerman, Stephen Dansiger, Katherine Woodward Thomas, Cibele Sousa, Riley K. Smith, Lauren Hooten, David Silverman, Chellie Campbell, Amy McManus, Elizabeth Lira, Alex Katehakis, Douglas Green, Carole A. Chasin, Ilona Varo, Matti Baldassari, Barry Davis, Christina Castorena, Stara Shakti, and Janaki Neptune. Thank you to all for making a difference and lending your voice to ours.

With gratitude in mind, I would like to make an appeal to our dear members of the LA-CAMFT community that have been thinking about, but shy about submitting content to our newsletter. We are always looking for new writers and rest assured that you will be supported by our great communications team, just as I was. We encourage your participation and we eagerly anticipate hearing from you in 2018 whereby you can become a strong “voice” within our newsletter.

In the meantime, enjoy the remaining weeks of 2017, and on behalf of the LA-CAMFT editorial team we wish you a prosperous, peaceful and healthy new year ahead!

With much gratitude,
Sylvia Sandler

Sylvia J. Sandler, M.A., is the current editor of Voices for LA-CAMFT, and holds a subsequent registration as a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern, IMF#90381. Sylvia is bi-lingual and fully proficient in reading and writing in the Spanish language. Sylvia is gaining hours for licensing at The Ness Counseling Center and previously worked at Chabad Treatment Center Outpatient. You may reach her by email at

Kane’s Korner

Kane Phelps
Membership Chair, LA-CAMFT

Kane’s Korner:

Fall is upon us, and yet we continue to grow as an organization. Particularly joyous news is that three of our volunteer members passed the licensing exam. Kudos to Jenni Wilson, Rezal Martinez-Gillies, and Elizabeth Lira!!!

On November 13th, we experienced a lovely “volunteer appreciation dinner” at the Olympic Collection. Our past president, Randi Gottlieb, did an admirable job of filling in for Shelley (who was unable to attend due to family obligations). Every volunteer received warm appreciations and a plant. Ossie Mair, LMFT, led a beautiful ceremonial opening with his new instrument, the “swinging chimes.” Michelle Bee delivered a memorable quote; “Art washes away the dust of everyday life.” Dancing followed the appreciation ceremony. Jonathan, Darlene, Michelle, and Pamela were among that joyous group.

A warm and gracious welcome to new and renewing members: Allison Burgess Brandt, Lily Renn, Christina Tuman, Dinko Zidarich, Valynn Anderson-Kendrick, Cindy Cordes, Elyssa Helfer, Erin McGinney and James Sanders. In other exciting news, member Mathew Evans has been appointed as a Board member. He has a special interest in helping other “associates” like himself through the arduous travails leading to licensure. He is also knowledgeable about social media and will be helping us to communicate more effectively using those tools.

This month’s Spotlight features David Silverman who is a dual professional, one – therapist, and two – Hollywood writer. Sound interesting? Be sure to read his profile. He has been an active LA-CAMFT member and a regular contributor to Voices, writing on such topics as anxiety, creativity, rejection and productivity.

Member Spotlight: David Silverman, M.A., LMFT

David Silverman,

I guess you could say I grew up around the therapy process. I was just a kid when my parents dragged me, my sister, and my brother to family therapy. It went on, every two weeks, for as long as I can remember.

There were lots of issues in the family, but my brother faced the most difficult challenge. At an early age, he was dealing with some severe obsessive-compulsive issues.

For years, he was wrapped up in rituals, like washing his hands over and over.

He wasn’t even leaving the house. I felt so badly for him, but what could I do? At the time, I was very young, and didn’t think it was possible for him to change.

Until one day, he did. He got better.

It didn’t happen overnight, but his life changed profoundly. He’s been married now for more than twenty years and has a satisfying career.

I watched a dedicated therapist manage to give my brother his life back. A therapist gave my brother his life back.Brothers

It was pretty inspiring.

Skipping ahead to college, I am fortunate to have been able to study psychology at Stanford University.

After I graduated, I worked in a progressive program at the VA Hospital in Palo Alto. I was able to employ evidence-based methods to treat veterans recovering from anxiety issues, depression, and war-time trauma.

After that, I learned about working with various populations. I worked with addicts, victims of domestic violence, families, couples, and high school kids. I even worked with special needs children in grade school.

In addition, I’ve received specialized training in Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR is a cutting-edge treatment for difficult issues, including trauma. It is currently used by the Red Cross and the World Health Organization.

Something else about me, I have a background in writing. I’ve written for the LA Times, for film, and for TV shows; including Mork and Mindy, ALF, and Newhart.

As a result, I feel I have a unique rapport with writers, performers, and other creative individuals.

Many of my clients find themselves coping with the rejection, the deadlines, the procrastination, and creative blocks associated with high stress careers in entertainment.

I’ve been focused on many clinical areas over the years, but I’d have to say most often I’ve worked with people experiencing anxiety, depression, and trauma.

I enjoy being an active member of LA-CAMFT and join everybody at the breakfast meetings when I can. I also enjoy writing articles for Voices on subjects related to writing and creativity, including productivity, motivation, rejection, and Highly Sensitive Persons.


David Silverman, M.A., LMFT, treats creative and highly sensitive individuals in private practice in LA. He received training at Stanford University and Antioch University. Having experienced the rejection, stress, creative blocks, paralyzing perfectionism and career reversals over a twenty-five-year career as a writer in Film/TV, he’s uniquely suited to work with gifted, creative and sensitive clients experiencing anxiety, addiction or depression. David can be reached at or 310.850.4707.

Ask Billie

“Billie” Klayman,

The Work You Do

I often have pre-licensed, and particularly interns, talk to me about struggling with unpaid traineeships and internships. There is a great deal of frustration and multiple feelings that transpire such as powerlessness, hopelessness, anger, and the simple injustice of paying for supervision and not getting paid for being a therapist. I have no problem stating the system for pre-licensure is incredibly flawed. I encourage you to contact CAMFT and speak to those who work in political areas that affect the journey to licensure. Contact your California legislators and see who works on a committee that directly relates to our industry. Remember, they work for us, we hired them, and we not only have the right, but an obligation to ourselves and our community to demand fair wages.

I encourage you to read my article in our April 2017 issue of Voices on getting what you pay for in supervision. The work you are doing is preparing you to launch into becoming a confident licensed MFT. The work you are doing is also more than good enough, it is a G-D send to many of the patients you see.

The work you do is valuable and meaningful, if you allow yourself to create that consciousness. Resentment, bitterness, and anger will only hold you back and often contaminate the work with patients. If you are helping a patient with self-care and honoring their lives, why not lead by example with yourself?

In closing, I would also like to support all of you who are pre-licensed to reach out to our 3000 club. Just as we encourage our patients to advocate for their emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual well-being, I also encourage the same for all of you.


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

Open for Business

Janaki Neptune, LMFT

Open for Business

I remember at a very young age being curious about people . . . why did they have certain behavior? Who was their family? I was very curious about almost everyone that I was in contact with. I was even curious about what in my family made me into who I was? I listened to anyone who wanted to talk about their life, and what problems they may be having. I was like a magnet attracting people who had problems, of course as a young girl I really didn’t have any answers, but I was always willing to listen.

As I grew into an adult and started working in corporate offices, people would stop by my desk to talk to me and share their problems and secrets. Often my employer would say, “why don’t you just put a sign on your desk saying, ‘Open for Business.’” I still had not thought of the possibility of becoming a Therapist, and as a matter of fact I didn’t even know there was such a thing. I only remember hearing about psychiatrists.

As the years passed, I moved to California from Boston. I continued my education, taking classes at SMC. I met a woman who was also interested in Psychology. She told me about Ryokan College, and that I could get a Degree in Psychology. I went for an interview and was accepted into the Program. I eventually graduated with my Master’s in Counseling Psychology at the same time my son was graduating from High School and on his way to College! Well planned!

My goal as a psychotherapist was/is to help women develop and/or become aware of and use their own abilities to work out their problems and find joy in their lives. Specifically, I want to help women learn how to love themselves enough to not accept abuse, in any form, from anyone. My treatment approach is to provide support and understanding to my clients. To help clients in a warm, empathetic and non-judgmental manner to help resolve current problems or long-standing patterns that are preventing them from enjoying what life has to offer.

I realize my journey so far was not by accident. I grew up in an environment where it wasn’t shocking that men abused women, verbally and physically. I watched policemen laughing when they were called because a man was beating up a woman, they would take the man out of the house, drop him off down the street then leave. In most cases the abuser would come back and continue to abuse. Seeing these crimes against women affected me in such a way that I always wanted to help women.  At that time I didn’t know how I would help. Now, I know, I will tell anyone that will listen, “don’t let anyone get away with abusing you, there is help.”


Janaki Neptune, LMFT is the Chair of the newly formed LA-CAMFT Diversity Committee. Janaki received her MFT License (MFT#45361) in 2008, and has been in private practice since that time. Her private practice is located in Inglewood. Janaki works with Victims of Crime, individuals with gambling problems and their family, young adults, and women who are seeking help in making positive changes in their lives. Janaki can be reached via email at

How to Solve Your Love-Hate Issue with Money

Chellie Campbell

How to Solve Your Love-Hate Issue with Money
by Chellie Campbell

People have funny relationships with money – studies have shown a majority of people believe money is a bad and corrupting influence. But at the same time, they want to have millions of dollars to relieve their fear of financial insecurity! With that kind of ambivalence, it’s hard to make money and hold on to it. It’s been estimated that about 70% of lottery winners are broke within 5 years. Part of the problem is psychological, and part of it is just plain ignorance of sound money management principles.

Years ago, I read a book on lottery winners and noticed that there seemed to be three things that all the lotto winners did – they bought a new car, took a trip (usually to Hawaii), and they all said the money “wasn’t going to change them.” Now, if you thought having money was a powerful force for good, wouldn’t you say, “Hey, this is really going to change me – I’m going to be a better person now!?”

Rob Anderson of Louisville, Kentucky, purchased a lotto ticket by mistake – he wanted 3 separate Quick Picks but the clerk printed out 3 Quick Picks on the same ticket. So he kept that ticket and bought 3 more individual tickets to give as gifts. Guess what? One of the numbers on the ticket he kept due to the mistake won him the Powerball Lottery of $128.6 million! When asked what he was going to do with the money, he said he was going to buy a new car and was thinking about taking a trip to Hawaii. (What did I tell you?) But the first thing he said was, “We’re really grounded people. My wife taught me well, so to speak, to hang on to that dollar and see how far it gets you. We’ll still clip coupons and still look for the clearance rack.”

In other words, it “wasn’t going to change him.” See what I mean?

For all the instant millionaires who go on spending sprees and give away all their money, there are others who save diligently, invest prudently, and never spend a dime.

In December of 2013, the Los Angeles Times ran an article about an elderly widow who showed up at a small law firm looking for assistance. She needed help managing her money. When an attorney asked her what she thought she was worth, she said perhaps $40,000. She was quiet and unassuming and had been a first-grade teacher for 35 years.

When she passed away in 2011, she left over $5 million to 15 charities. She had so many assets and papers, it took the law firm two years to unravel it all. The article mentioned she had a Quaker Oats can in a closet that contained savings bonds from the 1940s and 1950s which turned out to be worth $183,000.

We can avoid these two extremes. We can lighten up about money and believe in the good things it can do for us. It can be a powerful force for good just as easily as a bad influence.

Here’s how to solve your love-hate issue with money:

  1. Make a list of all the things you can do with extra money that will be good for you, your family, your friends, and the world.
  2. Say positive money affirmations every day like, “People love to give me money!,” “I am rich and wonderful” and “All my clients praise me and pay me!” They help you stay focused on what you want instead of what you don’t want. I believe in this practice so much, I wrote a book The Wealthy Spirit filled with them.
  3. Write down your million-dollar budget. When you make your million, where will you spend it? Remember that it will probably cost you more money to have a bigger business with more space, employees, advertising, etc. Every dollar you spend is a gift to someone and is enriching others.
  4. Design your business plan to generate the money you want. You have to either serve a lot of people for a small price or just a few people for a large price. Which one suits you?
  5. Take positive action. You can’t wait for your ship to come if you never send one out. Or, as God said to the man in the story who kept praying to win the lottery – “Buy a ticket!”

Remember, you can’t help the poor and starving if you are the poor and starving.

I meet so many fabulous entrepreneurs who are so eager to help people and change the world with their wonderful work. But if they don’t master how to get paid – and paid well – for their time and energy, they are going to end up broke.

I learned that the hard way myself. When I set out to be a professional actress, I notice I chose “starving actor” rather than “rich famous movie star.” It took me many years to figure out that I needed to change my mind-set as well as my actions if I wanted my prosperity to improve.

Women are especially prone to this problem. I think it’s because we possess some innate gene or tendency that makes women excellent givers because we need to have that ability to be able to care for children. It’s a survival mechanism. It makes us fabulous at customer service. But maybe not so great at sales, earning six-figure paychecks, or promoting ourselves, eh? We have to learn some new tools to be able to do these things if we want to make a good living.

And no, it doesn’t mean you have to be pushy, money-grabbing, or arrogant either. That’s the real fear behind our reluctance to toot our own horns, isn’t it? So we can happily refer people to our friend’s business or say others are worth their higher prices, but our client rosters stay thin and filled with people paying discounted rates.

Charge enough so that you have plenty of money for all your needs, some of your wants, and extra to donate to others less fortunate than yourself.

Chellie Campbell is the author of bestselling books The Wealthy Spirit, Zero to Zillionaire, and From Worry to Wealthy. She is widely quoted in major media including Redbook, Good Housekeeping and more than 50 popular books. She has been treating Money Disorders — Spending Bulimia and Income Anorexia — in her Financial Stress Reduction® Workshops for over 25 years.

Why Writers Have the Worst Time in Recovery

David Silverman, M.A., LMFT

Why Writers Have the Worst Time in Recovery

For writers, recovery is harder than with other creative professionals, dancers, actors, rock musicians; and in another category… agents. Why? Because, all those performers and cut-throat business people, they’re on view every day, doing their work. Writers, on the other hand, can write in the privacy of their own homes, stoned, drunk or both. Nobody will be the wiser.

Reaching the decision to quit drinking or using drugs is the most important step in the process of recovery. If you’ve reached this decision and have time, you might need to be treated in a residential rehab for anywhere from 28 to 90 days. Success in treatment involves developing a new way of life, with sober friends and supporters. It also involves getting to the cause of the addiction, in psychological terms, and work towards removing that cause as a reason to self-medicate.

You’ll have to develop healthy ways of managing stress in this new way of life. If writing is a trigger, as it is for perfectionists, for example, getting sober will be a more difficult task. With perfectionism, the writer can’t stand to see a rough first draft, even though it’s necessary, so he self-medicates, and suddenly, the writing is not so painful.

The more positive influences in your life, the easier it’ll be to quit.
That means a supportive family, a supportive spouse, especially, and hopefully a 12-Step group with a sponsor you can call 24/7. You’re better off not being around old friends who still drink or use drugs, especially at first.

Conditions such as stress, isolation, frustration, anger, shame, anxiety and hopelessness will remain in your life even when you’re not using the drugs to cover them up. You’ll have to process these emotions without a crutch. Having a 12-Step group and a therapist to guide you through the 12-Steps will be your best approach. Yoga, yoga-breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness, and meditation will also be essential in coping with stressful emotions, now that drinking or drugs is not an option. You have to relax without a pill, or a drink.

When cravings occur, it will help to redirect thoughts.
You will want to find replacement behaviors and/or distractions, such as hobbies including: reading, movies, jogging or biking, and calling your sponsor. You’ll have to stay with the craving until it goes away, sometimes called “urge-surfing.” You’ll have to put thought stopping and redirecting to the test. You’ll need structure, hopefully a job, or exercise, and meaningful goals, which will eventually replace substance abuse in your life.

Most difficult, if you were drinking or using to get through a first draft, you’ll have to learn other, safer rituals to replace drugs and alcohol. Relaxation, thought-stopping and redirecting, and even urine testing, are some of the tools a therapist will need to help you manage stress and maintain a lengthy and prosperous career, while remaining sober.

During the “maintenance phase” you practice what to do when you relapse.
Relapses are triggered by negative emotional states, physical discomfort, even positive emotions with a sense of “celebration,” strong cravings, conflict with others, social (peer) pressure (being at a party where others are drinking), and celebrations where others are drinking, but you can’t. Obviously, between isolation, deadlines, rejection and addiction, some problems are much worse than others. However, coping with these problems will generally involve re-thinking your lifestyle, and finding ways to cope with stress in new and healthy ways.

David Silverman, M.A., LMFT, treats creative and highly sensitive individuals in private practice in LA. He received training at Stanford University and Antioch University. Having experienced the rejection, stress, creative blocks, paralyzing perfectionism and career reversals over a twenty-five year career as a writer in Film/TV, he’s uniquely suited to work with gifted, creative and sensitive clients experiencing anxiety, addiction or depression. David can be reached at or 310.850.4707.

Image credit: FrolicRoomHigRes 2013 – Jacob Harnqvist CC By 2.0 licensed under CC By 2.

Title: Frolic Room Year taken – 2013

Photographer—Jacob Harnqvist

Image credit: FrolicRoomHigRes 2013 – Jacob Harnqvist CC By 2.0

The Opiate Generation Speaks: The Documentary, Dying in Vein

Matti Baldassari, MA, LMFT

The Opiate Generation Speaks:
The Documentary, Dying in Vein

by Matti Baldassari, MA, LMFT

“Heroin makes life easy when you have it. Life isn’t supposed to be easy, and who doesn’t want to live an easy life?” — Chase Alexander Saxton

Dying from an opioid overdose, Chase Alexander Saxton was a young heroin addict who became one more statistic. Indeed, the national statistics are shockingly grim. As the credits roll of the documentary, Dying in Vein: The Opiate Generation, we are told that every day in the United States, 44 people die as a result of a prescription opioid overdose. Given this information, there couldn’t be a more important time for this documentary by Jenny Mackenzie, a filmmaker and former Ph.D. level social worker.

In an interview for this article, Jenny Mackenzie described the challenges she faced while shooting the documentary:

“It is a slow process to really understand the depth of the suffering being caused by the opioid epidemic. Making this film meant watching human suffering to an extent that I had never experienced it before. These young people caught in the repetitive cycle of addiction feel like horrible human beings because that’s how we see them in our society. That’s how we see the problem. However, I believe we are at the very beginning juncture of this paradigm shift beyond the stigma. Still, it’s moving slower than is needed. Indeed, we must try to move it faster if we are going to help save so many lives caught right now in the grip of this deadly epidemic.”

In her attempt to make this happen, Jenny Mackenzie has provided us with a disturbingly intimate look at the epidemic. This compelling account shows a number of perspectives on drug use, revealing a diverse range of comparisons between the different experiences and knowledge of each person touched by this 21st century plague. The documentary provides valuable insight through interviews and clips from family and friends, professionals, and the addicts themselves.

Dying in Vein provides a sense of orientation to the opioid crisis today by exposing the viewer to full-fledged addicts in their disease. The main storyline follows a dysfunctional relationship in which both of the women, Maddy and Page, are addicts. The question for the professionals is how to manage the complications that come from such a relationship in which the active addicts are influencing each other to make dangerous decisions.

During the documentary, we become privy to a consultation group of professionals as they make decisions about the course of treatment for their clients. At one point, Sarah Finney, a private consultant and therapist, tells Maddy that the problem with both her and Page being admitted to the same treatment center is that if one leaves, there is a good chance that the other “will walk out.” This challenge is just one of the dilemmas a treatment professional on the front lines tends to encounter on a daily basis.

For therapists who do not work primarily with addicts, the narrative content of the documentary provides a solid introduction to the world of opiate addiction. Amongst the other perspectives represented, the viewer is introduced through journal entries to Chase Alexander Saxton as the above statistic becomes a sad reality.

Although not an addict herself, Chase’s sister opens up to tell us why the opioid crisis has such a stronghold on her generation. She says, “The only way I can make sense of it is that it’s just a totally different world that we’re growing up in that nobody was prepared for, nobody anticipated, and nobody was able to prepare us for.”

The damage done to the families is severe. Even in recovery, addicts struggle to find their bearings and a place in the world. Matt, a recovered addict and Chase’s friend, states that addiction is, “like this primal distress of the soul. You use the drugs to cover up what’s going on. Whether you’re feeling bad or good, it’s all focused on getting the drug.” From a therapeutic standpoint, this “primal distress” could be viewed as the deeply rooted need to escape pain or repressed trauma.

Chase’s mother experienced first-hand the effects of her son’s downward spiral. She is interviewed in the documentary and states while crying that she told her husband before her son’s death, “Chase is probably going to die, and I am not going to feel guilty about it because we did the best that we knew how to do . . . I look back and think, oh, I should have done this, and I should have done that. I also think I don’t know if it would have mattered.”

The distress and the stark powerlessness of not only the addict but also of the family is clear. For Chase, the results of being unwilling to find, or simply not finding, the treatment he needed were deadly. Chase’s mother goes on to express her sadness because she did not know the magnitude of her son’s struggle, “They [addicts] feel so bad and shameful of being an addict . . . they’re sad, but again, I wouldn’t have known any of that if he hadn’t written it down.”

Chase’s journals chronicled his struggle that he kept mostly secret when he was alive. Sadly, the family barely knew the truth of what was happening. Such a gap may provide an opportunity for treatment professionals to act if the addict feels safe to reach out. When appropriate, the therapist or other treatment professional can provide a protected space where the addict’s struggle can be witnessed by another safe “other.”

However, the role of the addiction therapist remains fluid. Sometimes, the addict needs to be firmly confronted, but at other times, he or she may need a different approach. Many clients in and out of treatment seek therapy to be able to speak with a non-judgmental individual who can empathize and unpack with them the shame. A therapist may effectively assume this role.

Asked how such treatment questions should be addressed, Jenny Mackenzie expressed what she learned while making the film, saying, “I don’t think there is one recipe, one treatment plan protocol that works for everybody. I really saw different experiences being successful.”

Perhaps, one of the documentary’s most powerful messages to treatment professionals is to learn all that we can about each client in particular, and in general, gain knowledge in the area of addiction. Given the dismal recovery statistics, this is an ongoing process as we work diligently to find what might potentially heal the suffering client. That little bit of change could be enough to save a life. In such a manner, we can begin to chip away at the tragic course of this widespread and deadly opioid epidemic.

Citation: Mackenzie, J. (Producer), & Mackenzie, J. (Director). (2016). Dying in vein: the opiate generation [Motion Picture]. United States: Jenny Mackenzie Films.


Matianna Baldassari, MA LMFT, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, certified Kundalini yoga teacher, and certified SMART Recovery meeting facilitator at Pacific MFT Network in Santa Monica. Matti specializes in private practice at helping clients struggling with addiction, managing emotions, anxiety, mindful living, and stress relief. She can be reached at or 424.254.9611.

Resources for Teens and Their Parents to Manage Anxiety This Holiday Season

Amy McManus, LMFT

Resources for Teens and Their Parents
to Manage Anxiety This Holiday Season

by Amy McManus, LMFT

Resources for teens and their parents to manage anxiety this holiday season

By: Amy McManus

It’s the holiday season, and with it comes a fair amount of anxiety for all of our adult clients as they shop for gifts, plan celebrations, and gear up emotionally for all that wonderful family togetherness.a

For our clients who have children in high school and college, there is yet another anxiety-producing event this month – Finals Week. Kids in college are experiencing an unprecedented amount of anxiety, and it is going to be in full swing in December as they prepare for, and take, final exams. Many of these kids will call home for support.

If your client can handle these calls with aplomb they will feel empowered as parents. This, in turn, will give them the psychic energy boost to face the other challenges in front of them this holiday season. Mother-in-Law’s nasty little digs? Check. Dad’s new young wife? Check. Uncle Nick’s fifth glass of Scotch? Check.

Anxiety in teenagers has recently been going through the roof.

According to UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, in 2016, 41% of college freshman “felt overwhelmed by all I had to do”, as opposed to 29% in 2010, and just 18% in 1985. That’s a 25% increase in just the last six years.

If your client’s child made it to college, they have already developed important skills like organizing, studying, writing, and performing under pressure in tests and presentations. The skill they may not have developed is the ability to deal with their anxiety.

Here are some ways you can show your clients to help their kids manage their test anxiety.

The first thing to explain is that many students have internalized anxiety as a primary way of responding to the world. They know that in small doses, their anxiety spurs them on to do their best. The problem starts when they become defined by these successes.

These kids do not say to themselves, “I tried hard and succeeded”, they say, “I am a success.

Remember when they were getting letters from colleges in the spring? Each acceptance or rejection was a measure of themselves as a person. Many kids actually skip school on the day that they get a rejection letter, unable to face the questions of their friends and fellow students.

Often parents co-opt their kids’ successes as well, trading stories of colleges their kids got into. The parents whose kids aren’t going to college lay low, and the Ivy League parents tell everyone about their kid’s acceptance. (I can say this, because I have been the parent of both, and I know that there are many, many reasons for each kid’s options and choices!) This behavior only reinforces the child’s idea that they are defined by their successes.

Parents of successful kids may not understand why this is a problem, so it is important to explain how success is a result of behavior, not character.

Parents are often tempted to reassure their kids that they will ace that test or presentation, but that is not the way to help their kids manage their anxiety. The kids know that at some point they will fail to produce the desired results, and when that day comes, they will be a failure.

There is a better way for parents to support their kids.

Parents need to remind their kids that it is inevitable they will be disappointed with their performance on something, and that in spite of this they are still wonderful people. Failure is an inevitable part of life, and doesn’t mean that they are failures. It simply means they tried and failed.

Parents need to be ready for this discussion with specific concrete examples of the very excellent character of their kids. Instances of empathy, altruism, and sacrifice for their fellow man are some of the values they may want to illustrate. This reminds their kids that their parents believe they are wonderful already, whether or not they succeed in any particular endeavor.

Secondly, parents need to be ready to address anxiety as a meta-emotion.

In my practice I have seen many kids who are extremely worried about the anxiety they will experience in the room when they are giving a final presentation or taking a final exam.

We can prepare them with meditation downloads, breathing exercises, calming apps on their phones, and these all work to a certain extent.

However, when the student has done their meditation and their breathing, then walks into the room and begins to experience some anxiety, their brain tells them, “Oops. That didn’t work.” Now they panic.

The best prevention for this preparation.
Your client can remind their child about all the times they felt anxious, yet were still able to perform adequately. Again, it is a good idea for your client to have some specific examples in mind. Moreover, they can simply ask their kid, “Can you remember when you felt a fair amount of anxiety in a final exam, but were still able to do okay?” They can also share their own stories of times they felt anxiety but managed to finish a test without humiliating themselves.

Anxiety as a meta-emotion is insidious. Nevertheless, I have found that many students are surprised to realize that what they are actually feeling is anxiety about their anxiety. Once they understand this, the door is open for them to address it directly. Often this is all they need to substantially reduce their anxiety.

The best thing about teaching your clients how to help their kids in high school and college manage anxiety, is that it is such a low-pressure way for them to learn how to address their own anxiety. A stealth intervention, if you will.

“Happy Holidays” can actually be – more or less – happy. With a little advance planning for the anxiety that so often accompanies the season, we can prepare our clients so they are ready to meet the challenges ahead and enjoy the celebrations!


Amy McManus, LMFT, specializes in communication between parents and teens. Amy previously worked for four years as a school counselor in various high schools in Los Angeles. She has raised four teenagers of her own, and is married to a high school teacher and administrator. Amy’s weekly blog ( offers parenting tips and other mental health information for parents and teens. You can contact Amy at


Board Meeting Dates — Dec 2017 to Jan 2019

Attention LA-CAMFT Members!

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. Please refer to the schedule below for the final date in 2017 and all of 2018, as well as venue address:

Upcoming 2017-2018 Board of Directors Meeting
December 8, 2017 @ 8:30am to 10:30am
January 5, 2018 @ 8:30am to 10:30am
February 2, 2018 @ 8:30am to 10:30am
March 2, 2018 @ 8:30am to 10:30am
April 6, 2018 @ 8:30am to 10:30am
May 4, 2018 @ 8:30am to 10:30am
June 9, 2018 @ 8:30am to 10:30am (Annual Board Retreat)
July 6, 2018 @ 8:30am to 10:30am
August 3, 2018 @ 8:30am to 10:30am
September 7, 2018 @ 8:30am to 10:30am
October 5, 2018 @ 8:30am to 10:30am
November 2, 2018 @ 8:30am to 10:30am
December 7, 2018 @ 8:30am to 10:30am


Factor’s Deli
9420 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035

Voices Publication Guidelines for 2018

Calling all community writers and contributors!

Are you searching for a unique platform to express your passions and showcase your expertise in the Marriage & 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 2018 calendar year to Voices, LA-CAMFTs monthly newsletter:

Upcoming Voices Newsletters Submission Deadlines
January 2018 edition December 1
February 2018 edition January 1
March 2018 edition February 1
April 2018 edition March 1
May 2018 edition April 1
June 2018 edition May 1
July 2018 edition June 1
August 2018 edition July 1
September 2018 edition August 1
October 2018 edition September 1
November 2018 edition October 1
December 2018 edition November 1

LA-CAMFT Publishing Guidelines for Voices

  • Submissions are DUE by the 1st of each month.
  • Around the 15th of each month, contributors will receive the editor’s call for articles, advertisements, sponsorships, etc., for the next edition of Voices. This editor’s call will allow contributors to have up to two weeks to put together all the materials for submission by the 1st of the month.
  • The LAST call for submissions for the forthcoming issue will be sent by the 27th of each month. This last call for submissions will include a list of the content planned for the next edition of Voices. This editorial list will note submissions received, as well as submissions expected but not yet received, and which must be received by the 1st in order to be included.
  • Hyperlinks need to be specifically included in the body of the article at time of submission.  Noting “LIVE LINK” in the body of an article is incomplete and unacceptable. It is the responsibility of each writer to “type in” the hyperlink(s) in their own work by the due date of the 1st of each month. If multiple links are being included, this must be made clear by the writer as to where each link is to be featured.
  • Only universal file formats, like Word (.doc and docx.) will be acceptable. If an entry is submitted in a “.pages” format, it will be returned to the submitter.
  • Per our webmaster, all images should be attached to an email as either a JPEG, PNG or TIF. Images pasted into an email are not acceptable since the quality of such photos is diminished. Any images received in the body of the email may delay publication of the submission.
  • Finally, there is an issue about images. If someone wishes to submit an image other than a personal headshot, please provide proof of how they obtained that photo. Following is a link that covers the importance of copyright issues, but especially so when it comes to anything “Internet.” (Sued for Copyright Infringement).

In addition here is a list of ARTICLE DOs AND DON’Ts —

An Article may contain:

  • Helpful tips, strategies, analysis, and other specific useful clinical, educational or business/marketing information;
  • A review of literature or arts (reviewer not related to or in business with the creator of the item being reviewed);
  • A separate paragraph at the end of the article in which author is identified, with contact information (link to email and/or website) and a short business description.

An Article may not contain:

  • Reference to commercial products or services being sold or distributed by author;
  • Information that is only useful if author’s book or other materials are purchased;
  • Suggestions that the reader attend the author’s workshop for more information;
  • Any other material that could be construed as an advertisement, rather than an article.
  • Language that could be construed as defamatory, discriminatory, or offensive.
  • Reference to commercial products or services being sold or distributed by author;Information that is only useful if author’s book or other materials are purchased.

President’s Message — Mindful Meditation and Conscious Caring

Shelley Pearce
Shelley Pearce
President, LA-CAMFT

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Practicing mindfulness meditation is intense, valuable training. In mindfully sitting still—paying attention to our thoughts, our reflections, our feelings—we witness our inner world and identify behavioral patterns. We become more comfortable with stillness and silence, more capable of just being, and of accepting whatever is happening in the moment. We become more aware and more conscious as human beings. The immense benefit these experiences deliver can last forever. As transformative—even transcendent—as these personal experiences can be, though, they are only a beginning.

In Buddhist tradition, from which mindfulness meditation was largely adapted, compassion and altruism for others, a connection with and gratitude for the teacher, and practicing transcendent virtues—are all also aspects of the path. As meditation became Westernized and was popularized beginning in the early 70s, however, these central pillars largely were eliminated from the framework. Decades of declining religious worship—coupled with misconduct and egregious abuses of power—created further skepticism about a new and unfamiliar spiritual tradition. The academic community would not consider clinical research into anything that had a hint of religion. In order to satisfy these standards of scientific study, aspects that might have been construed as mysticism had to be sanitized. What was held to be “worship” of the teacher (or the Buddha), or “prayer” for bodhichitta (loving kindness for all beings), became casualties of this scientific rigor.

These exclusions, while seemingly necessary, impacted the potential overall benefits of what has become known as mindfulness meditation. Healing begins when quieting and focusing the mind increases the capacity for awareness. But awareness by itself is not enough, especially given the complexities of and tragedies we are witnessing in our contemporary world. Once a meditative practice has deepened to the point where we can be more present and less reactive, we can move to a deeper level of caring. Similar to the Buddhist objective, atruism—the conscious intention to care for others—can guide us to be more sensitive, considerate, and helpful as we respond to what is happening around us. What’s extraordinary is that clinical research (over 6000 academic articles on meditation are out there today) has discovered that just the very thought—a conscious intentional thought—of kindness toward others activates a feeling of well-being in our own minds! That’s not such a bad deal: Being compassionate toward others produces actual benefits for us personally.

If you’re someone who says there’s not enough time to meditate, I hear you. As a working mom for many years, meditation was one of the first things excised from those demanding days, or often weeks, when seemingly everything or everybody else came first. While I wish I’d taken a bit better care through those hectic times of my life, I came to realize that “sitting,” although helpful in experiencing spaciousness, it is not the whole picture. What was downplayed from the mindfulness movement as “prayer,” cultivating gratitude or the intention to be helpful toward others, is a pursuit deeply worthy of practice, whether we are on the cushion or not. It is yet to be seen for instance, but with the infinite potential of technology and social media, might we even be able to generate good will exponentially if we so choose? I invite us all to contemplate that the next time we’re about to post.

At a time in human history when we are facing potentially fatal threats to our survival, we can feel overwhelmed and at times utterly hopeless. Direct compassionate action may be the right path for people who have the energy or resources for it. But those of us who aren’t in a position to participate in social-justice work or in deescalating the threat of nuclear war can nonetheless start where we are—with ourselves and our friends, our colleagues and our families, and of course our clients. We can work toward having more impactful moments and developing more healing habits, in small ways and large. We can support each other by allowing pain and suffering to have the space to breathe, by asking about it, and by really being there to listen. We actually can become more centered and present by joining with others, and increase our capacity to feel inspired, to engage in more kindness, and perhaps to brainstorm collaboratively about some better way. These values, which cost nothing and benefit many, are values to pursue.

We at LACAMFT aspire to be that compassionate community of professionals—one that offers collegiality and connection, kindness for one another, excellent continued learning as required by the BBS state board, and camaraderie. We are continually growing and striving to meet the needs of this complex and incredibly diverse region of the world here in Los Angeles. If you haven’t been to one of our events in a while (or ever), we warmly welcome you. Come early, connect with colleagues, stay late. Don’t be afraid to ask questions beyond the professional. It’s okay. We invite it! It’s when we get to know and care for one another—the sorrows along with the joys, the failures and the successes, the personal along with the professional—that we often create the most unexpected friendships. Come join us, and please, when you do, be sure to introduce yourself. The connections you make in this community may very well become some of the most valuable in your professional life, and beyond. And of course if you have colleagues whom you feel would benefit, by all means invite them along. We’re open to all professionals who support the many modalities of healing and helping to create a better world.

Shelley Pearce, LMFT is currently serving as President of LA-CAMFT. She has a private counseling office in Santa Monica, and regularly consults by video conference with colleagues and clients. She serves on the board of the Global Bridge Foundation and helped create Humanistic Spirituality, an extensive, free online resource for counselors. She synthesizes a breadth of career diversity, education, experience, and a sincere desire to help in her service and practice with individuals and couples.

Editor’s Message

Sylvia Sandler, M.A., MFTi

Dear LA-CAMFT colleagues:

As I was starting to brainstorm topics to write about in the current Voices newsletter, headlines regarding the Las Vegas shooting were barely breaking on all the news circuits. Before realizing what was unfolding, I was thinking of writing about how the Fall season marks a time of transition. I thought about how Fall ushers a change from the Summer season. I thought of students, young and old, getting ready for a new academic school-year. I thought about the scents that remind me of Fall, including, pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and my holiday favorite, Thanksgiving turkey. I thought about how families make plans to see their loved ones during the holidays, and the various emotions these reunions may evoke. I also thought about the bittersweet reality of many who rely on the precious memories of their loved ones because, unfortunately, that is all they have left to get them through the highs and lows of present day holiday celebrations. All in all, transition as it related to the Fall season seemed like a significant topic because many people struggle with it this time of year.

One of the ways I approach helping clients through this time of transition is creating space for them to honor the struggles they may face while at the same time noticing areas of gratitude. In doing so, clients realize that life is rarely one dimensional. Teaching clients to find balance in life is an approach which allows them to account for the messy part of life, while at the same time staying mindful of what is going well.

Then the horror of the Las Vegas Massacre sunk in, and I noticed that my colleagues and I struggled to make sense of this latest national tragedy. As the days followed, I noticed that the grief and loss resulting from this latest shooting amplified the anxiety in my clients. Colleagues and I also experienced a sense of powerlessness in not being able to have clear answers as to why this happened yet again and how best to help others.

After some soul searching, I came back to what I knew to be true before this latest random act of mass violence. I realized that what could be helpful would be the importance of allowing myself, colleagues and clients to experience the full range of emotions associated with this time of transition and uncertainty. Allowing ourselves to honor the many feelings and thoughts associated with loss and grief, as well as validating one another’s perspectives is the first step in the healing process. Knowing that we are not going through it alone is equally as important. The upcoming Thanksgiving holidays are clearly a time to surround yourself with people you hold dear and to comfort each other around tragedies like this. It is hard to grapple with tragedy by yourself at any age. While we sit around the Thanksgiving table we are reminded of all that needs protection, and the healing power of gratitude. So, while we mourn and feel the weight of loss, we take the time to appreciate each and every moment we can connect with others both in times of sadness and joy.

Sylvia J. Sandler, M.A., is the current editor of Voices for LA-CAMFT, and holds a subsequent registration as a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern, IMF#90381. Sylvia is bi-lingual and fully proficient in reading and writing in the Spanish language. Sylvia is gaining hours for licensing at The Ness Counseling Center and previously worked at Chabad Treatment Center Outpatient. You may reach her by email at

Kane’s Korner

Kane Phelps
Membership Chair, LA-CAMFT

Kane’s Korner:

We had a great September Networking Meeting with the theme of Diversity. LA-CAMFT has initiated a new Special Interest Group (SIG) under that banner. It is my pleasure to announce that the Diversity Chair is Janaki Neptune, and Co-Chair is Christina Castorena. Thank you both for stepping into these leadership roles ready to spearhead this initiative that has been long needed in our community.

A warm welcome to new and renewing members: Staci Emerson, Michiyo Okano, Jaclyn Gabay, Monica Garfield, Sharon Johnson-Magar, Erin Rieger, Kailyn Danielson, Dana Harris, Kimberly Higg, Michelle King, Marilyn Manzi, and Cheryl Martner.

In other LA-CAMFT member news, Expressive Arts SIG Co-Chair, Hilary Kern is off to Thailand for a 3 to 6 month sabbatical. We wish her safe and fruitful travels. Expressive Arts Co-Chair, Michelle Bee, will carry the ball during Hilary’s absence. Thank you, Michelle. Member Mathew Evans, who is only 100 hours short of the 3,000 licensing requirement, has volunteered to help out with Membership. He is savvy with social media and eager to help interns get more from their LA-CAMFT experience. Thank you Matthew!

This month’s Member Spotlight features Christina Castorena. Christina, as mentioned above, is Co-Chair of our newly formed Diversity Special Interest Group (SIG). In addition to being a devoted therapist and LA-CAMFT volunteer, she is also an author (read her bio) plus a professional DJ. I have had the privilege of seeing her work in this latter category and I can say, unequivocally, she is terrific.