My Approach to Helping
I primarily focus on helping people understand themselves in terms of their emotional experiences, as it is my belief that this is the most successful path to learning to understand their thoughts and behaviors as well. This is called Mindfulness-Based Psychology.
However, it is important to note that my career has encompassed a wide array of experiences and training. I originally studied an area of psychology focused on developmental issues and researched how children and adults developed their thoughts about their social life. This included moral reasoning (thoughts about events involving the welfare of others) as well as reasoning about things that were not necessarily moral in nature, such as pure conventions and issues of a very personal nature (i.e., having little relationship to anyone else's welfare).
During my next career phase I was a researcher, funded primarily by the National Institute of Health (NIH). I began by obtaining a National Research Service Award post-doctoral fellowship with the University of Washington (UW). This award allowed me to study mental health more intensely while I worked with two great mentors, Drs. Ana Mari Cauce and Alan Marlatt via the Addictive Behaviors Research Center in the Department of Psychology at UW to conduct research on homeless populations and study the issues of substance use and suicide. I also worked with the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute at UW directing a study examining the use of Motivational Interviewing (an evidence-based brief intervention therapy) with substance using street youth. Shortly thereafter, I obtained an independent scientist career development award from NIH to further study substance use and suicidality in street youth, as well as redevelop my expertise to become a clinical psychologist.
I completed that training at the California School of Professional Psychology from 2002-2004. My work at that time was varied, including placements in school settings working with emotional troubled youth. The other portion of my internship placement was with Berkeley Mental Health conducting intakes and treatment with clients in their clinical space, as well as working on a mobile crisis team that collaborated closely with police to help with the mental health calls. As my training ended, i focused more on my research for the next 5 years, while working less in the private sector.
But I experienced a massive life change during this last decade as i met my wife, married, and began having family. My experiences as a husband and father forced me to think about how we are lacking in well developed wellness models. My profession, like that of medicine and most other healthcare endeavors, is focused largely on intervention and is only recently considering how to better prepare people so that they do not need such acute care. I started delving more deeply into a nascent area of psychology that appealed to me both professionally and personally, and that was Mindfulness-Based Psychology. I was experiencing what John Kabat-Zinn labeled the Full Catastrophe of Life - the sense, not in a negative manner, that one has all there is to have in terms of family and career and adventure that life can offer. But it was clear to me that while people were trying to be more thoughtful as people and parents than the generations that preceded, we were so taxed by the contemporary life that we had lost some key elements. The community has dissolved and we do not know how to find support in the way our parents and grandparents did. We more often live in bigger urban centers, more often far from family, and too often we haven't a clue how to talk to our neighbors or find a social support group unless its handed to us via some experience like college or work. So, out of my own need to find greater satisfaction with myself and my rather fortunate life, I did what i knew to do. I sat down and began studying all those models that were at the cutting edge of my field and developed an evidence-based program that I believe will help people find their way to a greater sense of themselves. Once we find a deeper personal sense of our own meaning, in that we better understand that we are not merely a function of brains and bodies, forced to emotionally react to the world and events around us like some knee-jerk animal, then we can step back and be more thoughtfully connected to those around us as well as the experiences we have. For some there is greater work in this endeavor, but for all there is room to learn and greater benefits from life to be had.