Dennis Pottenger, MA, MFT

Dennis Pottenger, MA, MFT

Professions: Counseling Psychology, Marriage & Family Therapy, Psychotherapy
License Status: I'm a licensed professional.
Primary Credential: Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist - MFC 53270
Verified Credentials
1-800-651-8085 ext. 18349
Office 1
3550 Watt Avenue
Suite 140
Sacramento, California 95821 - United States
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I believe the problems we bring to therapy carry meaning and purpose. Where some might see a symptom -- such as anxiety, conflict in a relationship or depression -- as a problem to be fixed or an illness to be cured, I find that the challenges we face in ourselves and in our lives are also opportunities for growth and transformation. As we work with what troubles us, we discover and integrate unknown or undeveloped aspects of our personality that are striving, as part of a lifelong developmental process, to fulfill and complete our experience of ourselves and our life. The problem, in other words, isn't the problem. The problem, the thing we want to get rid, is actually the beginning of the solution to our difficulties.

Email or Call Dennis Pottenger, MA, MFT at 1-800-651-8085 ext. 18349

More Info About My Practice

In addition to individual psychotherapy, I offer therapy for children, adolescents, and couples, including pre-marital counseling. With my wife, Rebecca, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I co-facilitate Practicing Wholeness: A Jungian Learning Circle. The circle meets monthly in a non-therapy setting to consider topics ranging from dreams, myth, fairy tales and psychology to the arts, business, culture, education, the environment, film, gender and sexuality, literature, medicine and the healing arts, philosophy, politics, religion and spirituality. Rebecca and I also facilitate an ongoing Jungian Dream Study Group. C. G. Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, wrote that "dreams fetch up the essential points" from the unconscious related to our suffering and orient us to the places within us where attention and healing are needed. An important reason to work with dreams lies in amplifying images to the point where the ego experiences its connection to the archetypal world in a healing manner. In a small group limited to 8 people we use imaginal and experiential methods to help clients remember and understand dream imagery

A note to anyone seeking therapy support related to being a victim of a crime: I work with Victim Witness assistance clients. Even if a police report wasn't filed Victim Witness may provide for, or contribute to, the cost of therapy. If you have been the victim of a crime and are exploring therapy, what I suggest we do is meet for a session or two and then, if we decide we'd like to work together, I can help you apply for Victim Witness assistance.

I also specialize in a growing therapeutic modality: wilderness therapy. I think of wilderness therapy as outer travel with inner change in mind. Wilderness therapy supports us in shifting from one way of being to another, moving from one phase of life to the next. To do this we move consciously in outer nature with the intention of also exploring the spaces within our personality. As a guiding metaphor, I hope that by teaching people how to move in the mountains the mastery of the ability to navigate can also help them learn where to go in their lives. In this sense, wilderness skills training and other experiential learning become metaphors for an underlying goal of personal transformation and for a more sensitized awareness of nature.

Specific Issue(s) I'm Skilled at Helping With

I work especially well with those who have suffered trauma or abuse in childhood. Growing from the ground of my own experience, it is my sense that people who have suffered in this way learn to feel ashamed of themselves. Unresolved childhood trauma and/or abuse often leaves a person feeling powerless and broken, orphaned and unloved. In healing from trauma or abuse, I help clients regain a sense of safety. I help them create healthy connection to themselves and others. I excel at helping those who have been hurt deeply fill their inner emptiness with self-worth and strengthen an injured sense of self with a perspective which believes that every person has a right to be, and thrive, in the world.

My View on the Purpose of Psychotherapy

Therapy is about learning more about who we really are. To discover our authentic self we often need to encounter the limitations of the false self -- the person we thought we needed to be to earn love or acceptance. In therapy I help those who are suffering discover and engage with aspects of their personality that have been too contradictory, or too painful, to experience consciously. C. G. Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, called this aspect of the personality the shadow. How do I help my clients meet, and embrace, their shadow? I listen to the telling, and re-telling, of the other person's life story with a metaphoric, or non-literal, ear. For example, I see problematic experiences such as anxiety, inner conflict, and depression not as problems to be fixed but as the psyche's way of letting us know that an aspect of our personality needs attention. In this way I help clients use the problems they bring to therapy to stimulate healing and greater development of the neglected aspects of the personality -- the shadow -- facilitating in the process an awareness of the ways in which growth is blocked from within.

My Role as a Therapist

As a psychotherapist, I meet you where you are, attending to the particular needs and goals you bring. As I invite you into deeper experiences of yourself and your potential, I hold a safe and compassionate space for making sense of what is going on so that together we can shift it to something different. Collaborating on the client's goal in this way allows me to help those who are suffering transform inner conflict into new meaning and expanded possibilities for fulfillment.

My Guiding Ethical Principles

I believe, following Jungian analyst John Beebe, that the ethical psychotherapist has ??two basic obligations. The first is to protect the self-esteem of the client at all costs, even when the client is actively provoking the therapist to injure that self-esteem." The second is to protect therapy "as a place where healing can occur." Adhering to this basic ethical code makes the boundary conditions of therapy -- fees, frequency of sessions, etc. -- into essential agreements that set the therapeutic relationship apart from other areas of life so that what happens within the boundaries of therapy can be used for the particular purpose of understanding where the unconscious is trying to help the client grow.

How My Own Struggles Made Me a Better Therapist

Some years ago, I read an essay by the late June Singer, a Jungian analyst who described the gifts and skills needed to help others in therapy:

One senses: here is a person who can take strain and stress, suffer disappointment and loss, endure embarrassment and shame, yet not crumble. Therapy clients will feel that this is a person they can trust, one to whom they can be fully open, who will not take advantage of them, and who will not break down under the burdens they may bring. Therapy clients want to feel that the analyst can stand the dirt and stench of another's life and not turn away. A therapist is needed who is not only wise and compassionate, but also singed, scorched, and seasoned: someone who understands how tough life really is.

Fifteen years after first reading these words I've learned the difference between theory and practical application. I've felt singed by setbacks, scorched by hurt and vulnerability in relationships, seasoned by life's cyclical pattern of descent and ascent, destruction and renewal. As a therapist my personal challenges have helped me grow into a patient and compassionate listener, someone with whom you can be fully open, a professional who can help you hold the burdens you bring, and find the resolution and direction you long for.

Theoretical Influences that Guide My Work

In therapy I work from a humanistic perspective which believes that the relationship between therapist and client is the dynamic that creates change. As a humanistic therapist I believe it is my task to create an empathic setting, a protected space where you can be yourself without fear of judgment or rejection. In therapy we learn to become more aware of our own experience. Developing the ability to more fully express, hear and reflect upon our experience promotes what Carl Rogers, the founder of humanistic psychotherapy, called congruence, which is our ability to think, feel, and act according to our own values. Through this process we experience increased self-esteem and a more cohesive sense of who we are. Therapy, in other words, can help you feel more comfortable in your own skin.

In Jungian-oriented depth psychology I help my clients resolve problematic issues- experiences of loss, conflicted relationships, or challenging life changes by exploring their unconscious roots. I find that by paying attention to the symbolic language of dreams, through images and scenes in sandplay, and by listening with a metaphoric ear to the telling, and re-telling, of the other person's life story, growth-oriented depth psychotherapy helps those who are suffering use the problems they bring to therapy to stimulate healing and greater development of the neglected aspects of the personality.

Services I Provide

  • Group Therapy
  • Individual Therapy & Counseling
  • Marriage, Couples, or Relationship Counseling
  • Online Counseling / Phone Therapy

Ages I Work With

  • Children
  • Teens
  • Adults
  • Elders


  • English

Client Concerns Within Your Scope of Practice

  • Abandonment
  • Abortion / Post Abortion Issues
  • Abuse / Abuse Survivor Issues
  • Academic Concerns
  • Addictions and Compulsions
  • Adjusting to Change / Life Transitions
  • Adoption / Reunion Issues
  • Aggression and Violence
  • Aging and Geriatric Issues
  • Agoraphobia
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Attachment Issues
  • Bipolar
  • Blended Family Issues
  • Body Image
  • Breakup
  • Bullying
  • Cancer
  • Career Choice
  • Caregiver Issues / Stress
  • Child and/or Adolescent Issues
  • Chronic Illness / Disability
  • Chronic Pain
  • Codependency / Dependency
  • Communication Problems
  • Compulsive Spending / Shopping
  • Control Issues
  • Creative Blocks
  • Depression
  • Disability
  • Dissociation
  • Divorce / Divorce Adjustment
  • Drug and Alcohol Addiction
  • Eating and Food Issues
  • Emotional Abuse
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Emotional Overwhelm
  • Emptiness
  • Family of Origin Issues
  • Family Problems
  • Fear
  • Fertility Issues
  • Forgiveness
  • Gambling Addiction
  • Grief, Loss, and Bereavement
  • Habits
  • Health / Illness / Medical Issues
  • Helplessness / Victimhood
  • Hoarding
  • Identity Issues
  • Inadequacy
  • Inattention, Impulsivity, and Hyperactivity (ADHD)
  • Individuation
  • Infidelity / Affair Recovery
  • Internet Addiction
  • Irritability
  • Isolation
  • Jealousy
  • LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Issues
  • Life Purpose / Meaning / Inner-Guidance
  • Men's Issues
  • Midlife Crisis / Midlife Transition
  • Mood Swings / Mood Disturbance
  • Multicultural Concerns
  • Obsessions and Compulsions (OCD)
  • Oppositional and Defiant Behavior in Children and Teen
  • Panic
  • Parenting
  • Perfectionism
  • Phobias
  • Physical Abuse
  • Polyamory / Nonmonogamous Relationships
  • Post Partum Depression
  • Posttraumatic Stress / Trauma
  • Power
  • Pre-Marital Counseling
  • Pregnancy and Birthing
  • Prejudice / Discrimination
  • Rejection
  • Relationships and Marriage
  • Religious Issues
  • Schizophrenia
  • Self-Actualization
  • Self-Care
  • Self-Compassion
  • Self-Confidence
  • Self-Criticism
  • Self-Doubt
  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Harm
  • Self-Love
  • Sensitivity to Criticism
  • Sex Addiction
  • Sexual Assault / Abuse
  • Sexuality / Sex Therapy
  • Shame
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Social Anxiety / Phobia
  • Somatization
  • Spirituality
  • Stress
  • Suicidal Ideation and Behavior
  • Suspiciousness / Paranoia
  • Trust Issues
  • Values Clarification
  • Women's Issues
  • Workplace Issues
  • Worry
  • Worthlessness
  • Young Adult Issues

Types of Therapy

  • Anger Management
  • Bibliotherapy
  • Depth Therapy
  • Depth-Oriented Brief Therapy
  • Ecotherapy / Nature Therapy
  • Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy
  • Existential Psychotherapy
  • Family Systems Therapy
  • Feminist Therapy
  • Jungian Psychotherapy
  • Object Relations
  • Person Centered / Rogerian
  • Psychodynamic
  • Sand Tray / Sand Play Therapy
  • Self Psychology
  • Solution Focused Therapy
  • Wilderness Therapy

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