President’s Message — The Difference a Decade Makes

Shelley Pearce
Shelley Pearce
President, LA-CAMFT

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We live in a fast pace world and we can all feel it. What’s amazing is that mostly happened in just ten years. In 2007, when the internet and high speed computing met the first smartphone, we entered a new era: one of limitless information and momentous acceleration. All of a sudden, we had infinite choices for connection and information in the palms of our hands. Politics, entertainment, business, education, even counseling, have all actually reorganized the way interaction takes place, and in doing so impacted much of our lives, intentions, and focus. This “information age” that we find ourselves in has also presented us with immeasurable options for distraction and avoidance, literally, at our fingertips. If uncomfortable feelings or unease arise in any social situation, one can simply reach for a phone and disappear. It has altered the very way we experience ourselves and one another.

One thing that has not changed, however, in this “Era of Acceleration” is the human need for direct connection. And this, this primordial need for connection, is at the core of LA-CAMFT. Part of what we strive for is to be a refuge, one that offers contact with our peers and one that embraces a diversity of healing arts professionals. We look to be a continued resource, one that supports ourselves and each other, and ultimately our clients. At our monthly gatherings, we share a meal together to get to know each other. We feature top-notch presenters of continuing education, chosen because they are seasoned and have a unique perspective on healing. We engage in meaningful dialogue on how we might integrate what we’ve learned into our practice. And everyone gets an opportunity to introduce themselves and share the essence of their specialty . . . and are warmly welcomed. We simply cannot get such richness of contact and connection from our high- tech devices.

Our summer picnic last month was the embodiment of positivity and receptivity. Each year it grows in vibrancy and people, and it’s due to a whole lot of vital energy, dedicated volunteers, and people enjoying good will and friendship. I want to offer gratitude to the many who helped make it happen, and especially acknowledge Christina Castorena who took a strong leadership role in the event organization and was the catalyst behind an icebreaker event that set the stage for everyone who attended to meet and interact. It’s this kind of energy and these very events that bring us together, create connection, and allow for new ideas and creativity to blossom.

Looking forward, we want to provide more opportunities for camaraderie, collaboration, and contact with our community. This goal starts with expanding our leadership. This past month a group of members has been meeting to discuss issues related to diversity, and the board has voted to approve a standing committee, now in the visioning process. We are also in the process of expanding our board, strengthening existing committees, and creating new ones to meet the needs of the future. (See Randi Gottlieb’s article below: “Stepping up to Chapter Leadership”)

Please consider becoming involved! By doing so, you will lend your voice to shape LA-CAMFT to be the meaningful, connected association it needs to be for our expanding community in the decade to come.

Shelley Pearce, LMFT is currently serving as President of the CAMFT Los Angeles Chapter Board of Directors. She has a private counseling office in Santa Monica, and regularly consults by videoconference with colleagues and clients. She serves on the board of The Global Bridge humanitarian foundation and helped create , 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 — Looking forward to failing spectacularly

Sylvia Sandler, M.A., MFTi

Dear LA-CAMFT colleagues:

In a recent meeting welcoming new interns at the community mental health center where I work, I was introduced to an awe-inspiring concept which forever redefined the topic of failure for me. Many, including myself, go to great lengths to circumvent failure. Our society puts a tremendous amount of pressure on succeeding. Just consider how in today’s day and age, Little Leagues award trophies to players regardless of skill set for simply belonging to the team. Don’t get me wrong. “Showing up” is of great importance and an impactful lesson for our little ones to learn. Many would argue that showing up is half the battle won. In fact, many of the adults seeking mental health treatment often struggle with the concept of being present or even showing up, which points to having to learn to take personal accountability/responsibility. Yet, is it necessary to win an award for being present? One might think that being part of the experience in and of itself is the true reward. Why is it necessary for an external object to reinforce experience? When did an external object become the focal point of victory? Back when I was a child, trophies were granted for extraordinary performance by individuals that stood apart from the rest of the crowd. Somehow we knew that not everyone on the team had equal abilities, and it appeared that we accepted our own limitations and those of others more easily than today.

That was then, but this is now. Now things are filtered through a different lens. To be sure, ours is a society that reveres competition and encourages the notion of “survival of the fittest” rather than celebrating our unique sense of self. You might ask what does this have to do with the topic of failure. Let me take you back to the day when a new colleague of mine reframed for me the concept of failure. It all happened when my new colleague introduced himself to the new cohort of interns. He gave his name, the name of the graduate school he is attending and subsequently identified his hopes and expectations for how things would unfold during his traineeship at our center. This new colleague immediately engaged everyone in the room. He had the gift of gab, a great clinical mind, and a level of enthusiasm that was highly contagious. In a moment of genuine expression of vulnerability, our colleague ended his introduction by stating, “I look forward to failing spectacularly.” This statement had a huge impact on me because it reminded me of my own humanity. We are not meant to be automatons. We are supposed to make mistakes and learn from them. My colleague’s statement reminded me to look at failure in a positive light.

What does “failing spectacularly” mean? For me, failure can become an opportunity to do something different or better. Failing spectacularly is a necessary part of success. Take, for instance, a baby that is attempting to take his/her first step. The first step the baby takes will most likely be wobbly. The second time the baby attempts to walk, those steps may prove more stable, and yet because the experience is still so new, the baby may continue to fall down. No matter – because day in and day out, the baby will keep going until mastering walking altogether. In other words, the baby is not weighed down by thoughts of “failure.” In my view, failing spectacularly requires us to act. When we act, we are putting into motion the opportunity for learning and integrating the experience. We then test out the new learning and follow it up with another attempt to act again. Each layering of experience expands who we are. Failing spectacularly affords us the chance to grow into ourselves and increase our current knowledge base. When I look back at the times in which I “failed,” I realize that either the victory I was seeking wasn’t mine in the first place, or that I needed to integrate this failure into my overall experience and learn to tolerate the discomfort of failure. Mind you, persistence and being willing to stay in a space of insecurity and not knowing is not easy. Yet, in doing so, one will be better prepared for future possibilities. In tolerating discomfort, one must condition their muscles to tolerate the unknown. So next time someone wishes you good luck in an endeavor, you might just answer them with, “I rather you wish me the opportunity to fail spectacularly.”

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 LA-CAMFT continues to thrive. A warm welcome to recent new and renewing members: Christina Cacho Sakai, Joana Carey, Cynthia Zaragoza, Judy Kann, Hanouf Alamari, Meredith Buchanan, Samantha Chaikin, Giselle Henry, Yvonne Monteverde, Alexia Prescott, DeMona Whiting, Angela Miller, and Giselle Henry.

My personal highlight event of the year is the annual picnic and this year’s picnic topped all the others I have attended. It’s the one time that we gather just to hang out and enjoy each others’ company. This year, under the leadership of co-chairs Christina Castorena and Jonathan Flier and their team of Darlene Basch, Michelle Newman, Jodie Shea, and Stara Shark, the picnic was beautifully orchestrated from beginning to end. We began with a very clever ice breaker and closed with great communal music, first the drum circle expertly led by Ossie Meir, and then the sing-along led by Jonathan and Darlene. The south of the border themed food was delicious. (Let’s be real here, when LA-CAMFT calls for a potluck, the results are consistently delicious). Some member attendees enjoying the event were Pamela Payton, Jenni Wilson and her husband, Ilona Varo, Hilary Kern, new member Ben Hall and his wife Hilary and approximately 75 others!

A big shout out to past president (and current state CAMFT Board member) Jonathan Flier who has taken on the position of special events chair. Thanks Jonathan! And another shout goes to Christina Castorena, who has just recently joined the Board!

This month’s Spotlight features member, Ilona Varo. Ilona has been a member spark plug for several years and currently serves as co-chair of the Somatic Therapy Special Interest Group. She has led a most interesting life and is thriving in her private practice. I’m sure you will enjoy reading her bio.

Member Spotlight: Ilona Varo, LMFT

Ilona Varo, LMFT

Like many, my journey to becoming a therapist was a long and winding road. It began in the entertainment industry working as a publicist for high profile celebrities and brands, followed by a second career in the healing arts doing energy work and therapeutic massage. After deciding to go back to grad school, and finishing my 3000 hours, I am now thriving in my dream career of being a private practice licensed psychotherapist. What’s even cooler is that I’m able to draw upon my past careers to inform my current practice. I truly believe that everything happens for reason and to trust the timing of life.

An interest in the healing professions has always been present for me. I draw on the experiences of my past to inform my work, including a narrative and somatic approach, focusing on an individual’s unique experience, felt sense and meaning making. Being a dancer in my early years, I’m very aware of the importance of body posture, breath work, and movement. How we show up in our bodies has a huge impact on our emotional life.

My individual experiences and areas of interest allowed me to create a unique practice specializing in working with people who struggle with disordered eating, anxiety, and questioning self-worth. I love to work with people who are caught in self-sabotaging behaviors, feel stuck in their lives, feel unable to move forward from past trauma, or struggle with self-actualization. I believe that my empathy, patience and hunger for knowledge in these areas support my clinical practice and allow me to be fully present for my clients.

I joined LA-CAMFT while I was pre-licensed, and was immediately drawn to the supportive and welcoming nature of the group. I later stepped into the position of Co-Chair for the Somatic Special Interest Group and have enjoyed working with fellow leaders to create educational workshops and nurturing opportunities for our community. I am grateful for LA-CAMFT for providing educational events, a fun/supportive community, mentors, leadership opportunities and a place for us all to feel welcomed, seen and heard in this challenging profession. This field is filled with continual growth, transformation and exploration of ourselves as well as our relationships, and I am honored to go through such transformations with the support of my fellow MFTs.

Ilona Varo, LMFT is a graduate of UC- Irvine, Phillips Graduate University and alumni of Southern California Counseling Center. She is fluent in Hungarian and is LA-CAMFT’s Co-Chair for the Somatic Special Interest Group. Ilona is passionate about working with women’s issues, eating disorders and approaching the work from a somatic lens; her goal is to help clients heal using their own body-wisdom. Ilona can be reached at or 424.259.1112.

Jonathan Flier – CAMFT Representative At Large

Jonathan Flier, LMFT
Past President, LA-CAMFT
CAMFT Board Directors

Did You Know?

I was taking a look at the recent release of the “Behavioral Health Barometer” created from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, and the Uniform Reporting System. Here are highlights that stood out to me. 

In California in 2015, 12.3% of all adolescents (375,000) aged 12–17 had experienced a Major Depressive Episode in the past year. In California, in an annual average between 2011-2015, 32% of the adolescents aged 12–17 with past year Major Depressive Episodes received treatment for their depression. That means that the other 68% received no treatment. 

In California, an annual average of about 3.8% of all adults (1,115,000) in 2014–2015 had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year. In California, an annual average of about 1,035,000 adults in 2014–2015 had Serious Mental Illness in the past year. In California, an annual average of about 1,874,000 adults with any mental illness (AMI) (37.2%) received mental health services in the past year while the remaining 62% did not receive services.

I think this points out that about 2/3 of Californians are not being treated for serious mental issues. I believe California needs to create a “Medicare for all” type of health care system. I think the one currently in our state legislative body is not enough like the national Medicare system in how it’s paid for. With Medicare, those signed up pay reasonable premiums and the rest of the cost comes from primarily the income tax which is based on income.

I think we need a California Health Care system that is fully funded through progressive taxes that are fairly applied to all who are earning. Those taxes should be graduated with the understanding that those in the highest income bracket have opportunities and privileges not afforded to those in lower income levels, and should therefore, be graduated up percentage wise with the highest incomes paying at the highest rates.

So that is my point of view. What do you think? Can California go on its own or do we need to stay in line with the other states? How would you like to see heath care funded? What do you think the impact on mental health services will be? There is a lot of debate concerning how much services should cost. Medicare pays very little and requires a lot of paperwork for getting paid. How would you pay mental health professionals?

You can send me your thoughts at

Jonathan Flier, MFT is currently serving on the Board of Director of statewide CAMFT. In 2008 he became President and restarted the Los Angeles Chapter of CAMFT. He has supervised interns for over 20 years at the Southern California Counseling Center and has a thriving practice that specializes in working with men, treating trauma and anxiety with somatic based therapies including EMDR, high conflict couples and passionless couples and consultations with licensed MFTs and LCSWs.

Calling All Future or Potential Leaders!

Randi Gottlieb, LMFT
Past President, LA-CAMFT

Calling All Future or Potential Leaders!
by Randi Gottlieb, LMFT

October marks the time of the year when our chapter hosts its final Networking Event, signaling an end-of-year shift of energy. In November, we hold our appreciation dinner honoring all who have given their time and talent in service to LA-CAMFT during the year, and in December we gather in good cheer to celebrate the holiday season. October is also the time of year when the Board focuses more keenly on leadership succession. In alternating years, the Past President convenes a Nominating and Election Committee to assemble a slate of nominees to be sent to the membership for a vote. Though our next election won’t be held until October of 2018, Shelley Pearce requested that I convene an off-year Election Committee for two reasons: the first, to lead our chapter’s recruitment effort to fill a number of vacant board and leadership positions; the second, to recruit, vet, and nominate a President Elect to succeed her as President following her 18-month term scheduled to end December 31, 2018. From that point moving forward, we envision a smooth pattern of succession planning with single-year terms for President Elect, President, and Past President.

The success of our chapter depends on maintaining a continuous flow of new leaders at all levels!

If you are interested in being part of the developing vision of our compassionate community, we want to hear from you!

If you have ideas on how you’d like to see LA-CAMFT evolve, we want to hear from you!

Not ready for a board position, volunteer to participate on one of the LA-CAMFT many committees: Networking Events, Newsletter, Social Media, Finance, Social Events, Leadership Workshops. Now is the time to get involved! Contact Randi Gottlieb at or 310.310.0089.


Private Practice Success

Maria Gray,

Your Professional Will

Have you thought about who might take over your practice when you die?

As therapists, we have an ethical obligation to provide referrals for our clients should we die or somehow become incapacitated. This article will focus on creating a professional will. A professional will differs from a personal will, in that it is a set of instructions describing what needs to be done upon our death.

The first step is selecting your Executor. Just like with a personal will, your Executor should be someone you trust to carry out your instructions in a way that best serves you and your clients.

Elements of a professional will might include:

1. Directions for accessing your office, door code, keys, etc.
2. The location of your files, if they are electronic then your passwords.
3. If you have paper files, the location of the keys to your file cabinets.
3. The password for your voicemail.
4. A list of possible referral sources for your clients

Your Executor will need a list of your current clients and their contact information. I keep a copy of this list with my professional will in a folder, and I update it every year. In the event of my death, my Executor can use this list to easily contact my clients and recommend referrals. You’ll want to stay informed about HIPPA guidelines when preparing and updating your professional will.

Finally, you might consider including your wishes for your funeral, as some of your clients may ask your Executor if they can attend. I prefer that only my friends and family attend.

This article is just a starting place, you can include whatever items you’d like on your will and in whatever format feels comfortable for you.

Maria Gray, LMFT, NMP, CGP, is a psychotherapist in private practice in West Los Angeles.. Maria specializes in trauma and addiction. To learn more about Maria’s practice see Maria’s workshop, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Building a Profitable Private Practice but Were Afraid to Ask, is scheduled for Sunday, October 29th from 2-5PM in West Los Angeles. The workshop is suitable for licensed professionals, interns and students. To register, go to

A Courtroom with a View

Chellie Campbell

A Courtroom with a View
by Chellie Campbell

I had to appear downtown Los Angeles for jury service on Tuesday, and on Wednesday was selected as a juror in a criminal case. The next day, all of us jurors trooped downtown; ready to hear the case against the young man accused of three robberies. We were kept waiting outside the courtroom for quite some time when the Court Clerk came out and told us that she couldn’t tell us anything at the moment but that “patience was a virtue.” We guessed that settlement talks were going on, and sure enough, soon afterwards we were invited into the courtroom where the judge announced that they had come to a resolution in the matter, and we were dismissed. Yay! There were sighs of relief and high-fives all around.

My friend, Patricia Guentzler of NAWBO, who just happened to be selected for the same jury, and I went outside for a bit to talk. After a few moments, Elise, the Court Clerk saw us and came over to say hello. She then told us exactly what had happened: the young man took a plea bargain of 27 years in prison.

Yikes! I thought, 27 years! That’s a bargain? I don’t think I’d last 27 days in prison…what had he been facing? Elise told us that the young man was 26 years old, had two prior convictions of armed robbery, and conviction on any one of the three robberies at gun point in the current case would have been his third strike. He was looking at 115 years in prison – a life sentence. The frail older woman sitting in the courtroom was his mother and dying of cancer – she only had 6 months to live. She didn’t want to die knowing her son was going to spend the remainder of his life in prison with no hope. If he accepted the plea bargain, she could die in peace knowing that there was hope for him to be released one day and have a better life. They were both crying.

I thought to myself, how unutterably sad, to see this young man and his mother crying over his wasted life where 27 years in prison was the best option.

The day before this, when the prospective jurors were questioned, we were all asked if we or anyone we knew had experienced violence, been burglarized, attacked or robbed. It was sobering how many people had – nearly everyone raised their hands. When I was called upon, I recited my litany: “I’ve had my car broken into 3 times, stolen once, been burglarized 3 times, been attacked in my home at 3:00 in the morning, and been robbed at gunpoint in my parking garage.”

While the judge said he was sorry that these bad things had happened to me, the retired African American gentleman with the deep chocolate voice sitting next to me leaned over and said, “With all that bad luck, I’m amazed you’re not black!” I cracked up, and we enjoyed a private little giggle over that.

The judge shook his head and commiserated that those experiences were regrettable, but asked if I could be impartial, recognizing that the defendant had nothing to do with any of them. “Of course, your honor,” I replied, “those things happened in the 70s and 80s and I don’t think he was even born yet!” There was some laughter at that, and then I said, “I don’t have these experiences anymore, because I changed my thinking.” I just had to give a little hint about the Law of Attraction, because I know the day I took responsibility for my experiences and consciously determined not to be a victim any more – and I haven’t been since that day. I mean, when you take your valuables to your sister’s house overnight because your home is being tented for termites, and she’s burglarized while you’re out for dinner and your jewelry is stolen yet again, you have to notice that the common denominator in all these experiences is you!

No one likes jury duty – we all have busy lives with a lot to do. It interferes with our plans, costs us time, money, and inconvenience. I had wanted to be excused – I had an 8-week Telecourse coming up and needed the time to enroll more people. Like many small business owners, jury duty was potentially a big hindrance to my ability to produce income. I was nervous about being put on a long trial, and I was angry about this “enforced servitude.” I imagined what I might say that would get me excused.

I was embarrassed out of that attitude fairly quickly. I watched as some prospective jurors made it clear that they were angry to be there and searching rather obviously for the “right answers” to questions that would result in them being excused. You could see the lie on their faces. Those who answered truthfully spoke scornfully of those people later.

As I listened and learned throughout the court proceedings, my attitude shifted. Judge William Sterling honored us for our service and reminded us to appreciate our great country with its guaranteed freedoms protected by our laws and trial-by-jury-of-our-peers system. I was reminded anew of what a wonderful life I have, that I am among the most fortunate people on the planet. I felt reconnected to my community, beyond just my family, friends, and business associates. I saw how narrowed my world had become in my daily life. Here, I opened up to the sea of interconnecting people from all walks of life, seen and unseen, surrounding and affecting us every day, with their millions of stories of loss, tragedy, strength, joy, and hope.

And if ever I was on trial, I would want you to show up for my jury. I would want you to be an honest, thoughtful, and caring juror. It is through the everyday actions of each citizen that our freedoms are assured and our way of life preserved. It is up to us.

Chellie Campbell is the author of bestselling books The Wealthy SpiritZero to Zillionaire, and most recently From Worry to Wealthy: A Woman’s Guide to Financial Success Without the Stress. She is widely quoted in major media including RedbookGood Housekeeping and more than 50 popular books. She has been treating Money Disorders like Spending Bulimia and Income Anorexia in her Financial Stress Reduction® Workshops for over 25 years.

The Netflix Movie To The Bone – Questions, Answers, and Resources for Therapists and Clients

Amy McManus, LMFT

The Netflix Movie To The Bone – Questions, Answers, and Resources for Therapists and Clients
by Amy McManus, LMFT

Once again, a Netflix release sparks intense discussion about its depiction of a mental health issue. The feature film To The Bone, released July 14, is the story of Ellen, a 20-year-old girl who suffers from an eating disorder (ED), specifically from Anorexia Nervosa.

As with their earlier release, 13 Reasons Why, a series about a fictional teen suicide, there is a fair amount of public outcry. This film, To The Bone, though far from perfect, does a better job of giving an important and positive message to the public. Just about everyone can agree that building awareness about mental health issues is a good thing; glamorizing it is not. So the questions here are:

  1. Does this show build awareness of a mental health issue, namely EDs?
  2. Are eating disorders glamorized and/or depicted in a harmful way?
  3. Does this movie offer hope for recovery from EDs?
  4. What advice and resources can I give my clients who have questions about this movie or eating disorders in general?

1. Does the Film To The Bone Build Awareness of Eating Disorders?

Well, the movie certainly has “sparked a conversation,” as actor Alex Sharp tells Access Hollywood in a joint interview with Lily Collins, the actress playing Ellen.

Only through public awareness can we reduce the shame that surrounds ED’s, and increase the empathy for ED sufferers.

Eating disorders are the third most common chronic illness among adolescent females. But adolescent females are not the only people who suffer from eating disorders – 30 million people of all ages, economic classes, and ethnicities will suffer from an ED in their lifetime. In fact, 1 in 8 women over age 50 engages in disordered eating behaviors. Middle aged women are the fastest-growing segment of the population with ED’s.

In this aspect, the movie To The Bone falls short. It does not depict the diversity of ED sufferers in the population in general. Of the seven patients in the recovery center where Ellen goes, six are white and only one is a woman of color. Only one is a male. All but one of the patients is there for anorexia or bulimia – one woman is there for binge eating without purging. There is no mention of other EDs such as pica or rumination.

Additionally, it is a shame that the movie missed a wonderful opportunity to explain to the public that there is help available to those who might not be able to afford a tony avant-garde treatment center such as the one run by Dr. Beckham in the movie. Insurance companies are required by law to cover treatment for eating disorders, though clients may have to advocate vociferously to get their needs met. Therapists can help with this process, as well as psychiatrists and general practitioners. 

The public needs to be made aware of the resources available for information and help for eating disorders.

The movie falls way short on this count. They do not even list a hotline or any other resources at any point in the movie. There is no mention in the script that these resources exist. This is a glaring omission from the production, and I am surprised that the group Project HEAL that consulted with Netflix was not listed anywhere before or after the film. The cast of the movie did do a public service announcement about EDs, but there was no link to this either. 

2. Are Eating Disorders Glamorized and/or Depicted in a Harmful Way in To The Bone?

This is a matter of some debate. The protagonist in the movie, Ellen, is played by the beautiful doe-eyed Lily Collins. She goes to a lovely treatment center in a custom Craftsman home and is treated by the handsome Keanu Reeves. A cute boy falls in love with her in treatment. None of these is typical in real life. Except that, in real life, the beautiful doe-eyed Lily Collins actually DID have an eating disorder. She has spoken about it in the media, and in her recent book, Unfiltered. Collins speaks about how she suffered from an ED as a teenager, and how she hopes this movie will build awareness of eating disorders. What she does not talk about with Access Hollywood is how incredibly painful it was to have an ED, and what a long, long haul it is to recover. Collins also talks about how she lost a significant amount of weight for the movie, but she claims it was safe because it was supervised by a nutritionist. This situation is extremely irresponsible of the filmmakers, and is expressly not endorsed by Project HEAL, the non-profit organization that Netflix consulted with for this film.

Will all this inspire impressionable young women to imitate her disordered eating behavior? Maybe. There were some poignant moments, but mostly the movie explained the mindset of the ED sufferer more than the actual pain. The mindset of the person with an ED can be difficult to understand for someone with no experience of this personally, and the movie did show some of the typical examples of distorted thinking. This can be tremendously helpful for confused friends and family as they try to understand what is happening with their loved one.

What was noticeably missing from the movie was any meaningful discussion of why Ellen, or any of the other patients, had an ED in the first place. The emphasis was on food and weight, and not on the personal meaning of the disease to any of the individual patients. There was some depiction of Ellen’s dysfunctional family dynamic, but the meaning of this dynamic for Ellen was never developed. Although family therapy is almost always integral to recovery, in this movie, the doctor gave up after just one session. The movie doesn’t show how recovery occurs, but it does offer hope. 

3. Does To The Bone Offer a Message of Hope for Recovery From an Eating Disorder?

Though the movie does not show us how this actually happens, the message is hopeful overall. It does show us the reality that recovery is a complicated process, with both forward and backward movement. It shows us that Ellen did re-connect with her mother and her stepmother, and she did choose to go back to the treatment center, clearly with more of a buy-in than the first time. 

4. What Are Some Resources I Can Offer My Clients?


For confidential and free support about eating disorders, contact the National Eating Disorder Association Hotline at 800.931.2237. You can also IM with a volunteer at 

For crisis situations, text “NEDA” to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer at Crisis Text Line

General Information 

ANAD – The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders

This is an excellent website with information about eating disorders, and also a great place to find all kinds of resources like support groups, therapists, nutritionists, doctors, treatment centers, etc. They also offer online support groups.

Supporting a Loved One

Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders (F.E.A.S.T) – An international organization of and for caregivers of eating disorder patients. F.E.A.S.T. serves families by providing information and mutual support, promoting evidence-based treatment, and advocating for research and education to reduce the suffering associated with eating disorders.

Treatment Centers

Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center offers a comprehensive search for eating disorder treatment centers across the country at

The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness has a directory of over 200 treatment centers all over the country.

Body Image 

Body Positive – Focuses on boosting body image at any weight.

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


How to Survive with High Sensitivity

David Silverman, M.A., LMFT

How to Survive with High Sensitivity

Highly Sensitive Persons (or HSPs) are people that tend to be very empathic, intuitive, and hypersensitive to external sensory stimuli, and have a highly emotional reactivity. If you have this kind of sensitivity, you are probably very good at accessing your own emotions and the emotions of others. This kind of connectivity can be an asset if you work with people. However, because you are so in tune with your environment, and other people, when life moves quickly, it can wear you out. You might catch yourself over-analyzing situations because you feel deeply about the outcomes. You’re probably very hard-working and well-organized. Highly sensitive people tend to do well in their careers, especially when people and leadership skills, or where insight and creativity are involved.

You’ll need to find time to decompress.

Noisy, busy environments, like crowded shopping malls can wreak havoc on your nervous system. Packed schedules and high-pressure situations, like interviews, presentations, or sales calls will also take their toll. If you know you’re going to encounter a string of difficult situations, you will want to plan to decompress afterwards. Relax alone or with a friend.

Create meaningful relationships

You’re at your best when you’re deeply involved with another person who is able to relate to you at a deeper level. Lots of “lighter” relationships might not work. But a few meaningful relationships will be important. You’re good at understanding what works for other people because of your empathy and intuitive abilities. You tend to feel happy when you’re helping others feel happy.

Develop healthy ways to manage conflict.

You might find yourself feeling extra anxious when you have to deal with conflicts. You’re going to look at every question from both sides, because you’re of your high level of empathy. You’ll feel an internal struggle between getting what you think is right and trying not to provoke an angry response. In case the person you’re talking with isn’t all that empathic, be prepared to negotiate the best you can. You can set yourself up for a “lose-lose” scenario. Be careful.

Give yourself time to get things done.

Be careful not to rush through too many activities. Stay aware of the pace you’re keeping and slow it down if you feel it might overwhelm you. Highly sensitive people will often have trouble in the mornings getting up, making coffee, breakfast, showering and getting out the door. Wake up early enough so you’ll have time to get to work–even if something goes wrong. On the weekends, take full advantage of the days when you can sleep later and move at your own pace. Ask to work from home if you can. You need to take care of yourself.

Get plenty of sleep.

If you have a high sensitivity, try to get at least seven hours of sleep at night. You’ll need to sleep deeply in order to get what’s called REM sleep. REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep is the dream state, during which you process what happens during the day. You’ll want to give yourself a couple of hours to unwind before you go to sleep. Don’t try to work right up to your bedtime. Don’t try exercise right up to your bedtime, either. Sensitive people need to find a relaxing activity before bedtime like reading, listening to music, or watching TV. Without plenty of sleep, every little stressor will feel ten times worse.

Create your own private workspace.

As a highly sensitive person your mood will vary depending on your environment. Generally highly sensitive people like a fairly quiet space where they won’t be too distracted. You’ll probably want a workspace that is clean, organized, and uncluttered. Most likely you won’t want bright flickering lights overhead. You’ll want to be able to draw the blinds and turn on some desk lamps. You might design the space so it overlooks a soothing environment. If you can’t do that, think about hanging up calming photos or paintings. You need to feel centered while working at home.

Remember to be compassionate to yourself

Don’t beat yourself up because you missed a meeting, got a rejection, or didn’t place in a competition. Find a way to manage your expectations, slow your pace, and avoid overwhelming scenarios. Go easy on yourself and challenge critical self-talk. I also recommend you schedule events and activities you know you’ll enjoy. Go to concerts, go out to movies with friends, go to the gym, swim in the ocean, go surfing, read books, watch TV, or have sex. Put some of these fun activities on your calendar where you’ll see them. Always have something to look forward to.

This article originally appeared on Psych Central and was reprinted with permission:

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.

Credit: Image credit: Creative Commons, The woman in the window (Greystones), 2016 by markheybo, is licensed under CC By 2.


A Viable Alternative: 3 Key Differences between SMART Recovery and 12-Step Programs

Matti Baldassari, MA, LMFT

A Viable Alternative: 3 Key Differences between SMART Recovery and 12-Step Programs
by Matti Baldassari, MA, LMFT

When it comes to recovery from substance use disorders or other behavioral addictions, 12-step programs are usually the norm for those who aren’t “normies,” as some people in the rooms of these programs refer to people “outside” the rooms. Whether it’s Alcoholics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, or any of the many other programs that use the 12-steps as their foundation, this tends to be the first treatment option offered by everyone from judges in court rooms across the country to counselors in treatment facilities.

There are a number of issues, however, that can arise when such recommendations are made. For example, what do you as a therapist when —

  1. A client finds identification as an “addict” or “alcoholic” offensive.
  2. A client doesn’t believe, and what’s more, doesn’t want to believe in a Higher Power.
  3. A client has had bad experiences in the past that make him or her resistant to the 12-Steps.

The good news is that other options now exist. A perfect example has been the rise of SMART Recovery meetings nationwide. Although smaller in comparison to the 12-Step options available, SMART Recovery has been continuing to grow over the past decade.

SMART Recovery stands for Self Management and Recovery Training. This program has many benefits for clients who may not connect with the stance and methodology of 12-step programs and their resulting meetings.

There are some key differences between SMART Recovery and 12-step groups. As a therapist, I aim to provide my clients with options that fit most closely with what they want, and often need. In SMART Recovery, the name of the game is choice. By offering its participants a different approach, SMART Recovery can be a worthwhile option to offer clients that need to find a path to sustainable recovery from substance use disorders and behavioral addictions.

It’s important to point out that SMART Recovery is not better than 12-Step. Rather, it’s a viable alternative that can help save lives by providing a fit for that “round peg” client who refuses to be forced into a square hole. Indeed, SMART Recovery can work for clients in search of something different; the road less traveled, if you will. It offers methods and tools that are taken specifically from two well-known theoretical practices, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and Motivational Interviewing.

The following are three key differences between SMART Recovery and 12-Step:

1) SMART Recovery does not use labels

There is no identification as an “addict” or “alcoholic” as a mandatory tenet of SMART Recovery. As a therapist, by offering an alternative to what is sometimes seen as demeaning terminology, I can help empathize with the client and take the problem outside of the person. Furthermore, the addiction becomes the problem, not the person. Clients find this self-empowering and non-pathologizing. Indeed, it is often a welcome breath of fresh air for those struggling with the shame of having to identify as an addict.

2) SMART Recovery provides a choice in terms of spirituality

You don’t have to believe in or surrender to a Higher Power in order to benefit from SMART Recovery. Many people grapple with the spiritual aspect of 12-step programs. This one tenet often turns them off to the 12-step program itself and sometimes leads to a frustrating rejection of recovery altogether. With SMART Recovery, the client has a choice; spirituality is not an inherent part of the program.

3) SMART Recovery meetings promote an open discussion format with cross-talk encouraged.

At a SMART Recovery meeting, there is a facilitator who may have personal experience with recovery or who may not, such as a therapist or other professional. At 12-step meetings, commenting on what another member shares is discouraged. In contrast, in SMART Recovery, direct responses to another participant’s comments are supported. Meeting members comment and give feedback on other participant’s issues. Unlike 12-Step programs, however, there are no sponsors in SMART Recovery. As a result, a lot of the support that may take place outside of 12-step meetings seems to take place in the context of the actual meetings.

From a therapeutic perspective, SMART Recovery provides another option to those suffering from substance use disorders or behavioral addictions who are less than sure about the methodology and approach of the 12-step programs. As a therapist, when I offer an alternative to what is foremost in our society, it allows me to acknowledge that there is no one “right” way to live. The goal is to further empower my clients by helping them navigate on their path to finding a preferred way of living—and their preferred way of getting there.

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

Let’s Not Overlook Those Grieving in the Aftermath of Suicide

Carole A. Chasin, LMFT

Let’s Not Overlook Those Grieving in the Aftermath of Suicide
by Carole A. Chasin, LMFT

No one who has lost a loved one to suicide is ever the same again. Suicide affects many people, in many ways, and its impact can be far reaching. There has been significant progress made in understanding the psychological and external factors that contribute to suicide, in identifying useful and effective interventions for suicidal individuals, and providing essential postvention (grief support) procedures through individual bereavement counseling, grief support groups and psychotherapy. In spite of the progress that has been made in acknowledging and responding to suicide, there are still many obstacles in society that complicate this bereavement process.

As a licensed mental health professional with a specialty in this area, I have learned through experience that we are still in the early stages of talking openly about suicide. There is still whispering and avoidance. I am hopeful that through additional education to the public and professionals, society will become more aware, sensitive and open to comforting survivors who have lost a loved one to suicide.

Nationally, there are approximately 44,000 reported suicides a year. Each suicide intimately affects at least 6 people. That leaves approximately 264,000 survivors a year – mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, spouses, partners, grandparents, friends, co-workers, therapists, and so on. A very serious residual effect to these survivors is that they are at a four times greater risk for suicide themselves. Suicide affects everyone, from every walk of life. Unfortunately, no one and no family is immune. It cuts across ethnic, religious, economic, social and age boundaries.

Grieving and surviving the suicide of someone close to you can be one of the most traumatic experiences a person will ever endure. For a time, it seems that the pain is endless. Bereavement after suicide can be complicated and compromised by a lack of social support perpetuated by denial, stigma and shame that unfortunately still surrounds death by suicide. Additional contributing factors can be witnessing the suicide, finding the body, having police present who are possibly making accusations and having to establish a crime scene to determine the cause of death. The sequalae can result in delayed grieving.

Normal grieving responses can initially be numbness, shock and disbelief followed possibly by guilt, shame, blame, anger, puzzlement, abandonment, anxiety, great sadness, stigma, hurt or searching for “why.” Through research and my experience, it has been shown that survivors heal best by sharing their grief experiences and feelings with others who have lost a loved one to suicide. Two primary means of support that are highly beneficial can include individual counseling with a grief counselor specializing in bereavement after suicide and/or a survivor’s grief support group. Remember, as a survivor, you do not have to go through this alone!

Carole A. Chasin is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (#31891) in Beverly Hills. Her specialty is in Bereavement After Suicide. She can be reached at 310.289.4643, via her website:, and email:


Board Meeting Dates — Oct 2017 to Dec 2017

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 remaining dates in 2017 as well as venue address:

Upcoming 2017 Board of Directors Meeting
October 13, 2017 @ 8:30am to 10:30am
November 10, 2017 @ 8:30am to 10:30am
December 8, 2017 @ 8:30am to 10:30am


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

Voices Publication Guidelines for 2017

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 remainder of the 2017 calendar year to Voices, LA-CAMFTs monthly newsletter:

Upcoming Voices Newsletters Submission Deadlines
November 2017 edition October 1
December 2017 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

Shelley Pearce
Shelley Pearce
President, LA-CAMFT

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Over the past few months people have asked me “What exactly does compassionate community mean?” Internationally, and here in California, there is a growing movement of organizations and cities collaborating toward compassionate action in many forms. As therapists, we commit ourselves to being caring, healing professionals. We are confidants for people’s most profound and existential issues. Our work requires us to directly help others — by listening carefully, empathizing, and encouraging clients to ask questions that are important for them to live a fulfilling life without creating harm.

These are aspects of compassionate action, which also include an extraordinary opportunity to explore our own depths of being human; the suffering and joys, play, work, relationships, death, and all the complexities of life. When we are engaged in our own personal work of self-reflection and self-care, everyone benefits. When our curiosity about others is integrated with a conscious awareness of our own hearts, a process of healing is supported.

While inherently therapists have a desire to be of help to others, they sometimes neglect their own self-care and inner work. In order to be compassionate in our work as counselors, we must begin by learning to be more compassionate with ourselves.

Centering, by the very nature of what it is, brings us to an authentic experience and awareness of ourselves. Especially now, in these times of turbulence, centering is an avenue that takes us to a more sound, stable ground, a base by which we can be in touch with our own feelings and at the same time assess and discern the best path forward. We do this by attending to what we are going through in our personal lives, and thus create a more solid container for and catalyst within which we are supported, and able to support others in their journeys.

Appreciating Silence
When we deepen into silence we can relax with whatever else is going on. This allows us to be informed differently and respond from a place that is closer to our hearts.

Relational Grounding
Being more centered contributes to healthy independence and relating. In relationship, this means that you feel the freedom to be yourself, can choose to be with others without being dependent upon them and so have less tendency toward controlling or dominating behavior. You also know fundamentally that you are not completely autonomous, but deeply interdependent. When this is intuitively understood, the caring, listening, joining, allowing, and creating can be the vessel for an engaged relational space that leads to fulfilling connection and fruitful interaction in our lives, our work, and in the world.

Knowing Weaknesses
Perceived threats can take us out of our center, through reactions of fight, flight, or freeze. These survival reactions are biologically based triggers from past experience. But we also lose our center and grounding with completely non-threatening things, like being complacent, or losing interest in the experience at hand. Focusing on the present puts you more directly in touch with how things are affecting you and why. This introspection helps you identify the cause and effect of experiences, people, and circumstances that impact you, and expand awareness of the potentially triggered parts within yourself. Becoming accustomed to a practice of breathing to sensitize yourself to how you feel, and inquiring into what’s happening gives us tremendous power to have more informed choice in any moment.

Containing Intensity
When the stresses of internal or external experiences in life are too much, the overwhelm can be un-grounding. As we learn to focus more deeply on being aware in the present, we increase our conscious capacity to be with uncertainty and tension, regardless of its origin. This presence gives us a more solid container for both awareness and stable holding of our challenging experiences. It helps us to not have to act them out and instead, to find a way to benefit ourselves and others.

Knowing True Power
When we are able to have more choice as to how to respond in the moment, rather than being at the mercy of external and internal forces, we are able to act from a strength that comes from a place of greater caring and contemplation. This base allows more self-trust, intuition, and clarity of the gestalt to take the best action forward. This kind of inner resilience and capacity to stay grounded in the face of conflict takes time, dedication, and most of all awareness. When we know and can see our triggers, we can learn to relax into the contraction and breathe. Of course, none of us has it “all together,” so it’s helpful to accept ourselves with compassion no matter where we are in our process.

Returning Home

“Being centered” sounds like it is a fixed point, but in fact it is a cohesive and dynamic part of a living human being that is in constant flux and flow. To be more compassionate is accepting that there are imbalances, and learning how to develop more resilience. Tuning into the reality of how impermanent things are can be humbling and create uncertainty. But the one thing we always know is that we are alive and conscious in this moment. Every breath we take, with intention, we are acknowledging this truth of existence. May we breathe softly and walk gently as we live, love, and counsel.

I give thanks to all of you for being part of the vibrant and diverse community at LA-CAMFT and look forward to continuing this conversation with you about how we can build our capacity to be ever more compassionate!


Shelley Pearce, LMFT is currently serving as President of the CAMFT Los Angeles Chapter Board of Directors. She has a private counseling office in Santa Monica, and regularly consults by videoconference with colleagues and clients. She serves on the board of The Global Bridge humanitarian foundation and helped create , 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.