"Every human is an artist. And this is the main art that we have: the creation of our story."
- Don Miguel Ruiz
Whether you’ve come to this page as a potential client, student, or collaborator I see you as a storyteller like me. After 3 decades in psychotherapy - professionally and personally, and on more days than not - I feel sure of this view while also unsure of how any story will unfold. Nonetheless, I am your captive audience holding faith that anyone’s story can be deeply understood.
Thank you for coming here to learn a little about my own.
In my youth I honed in on people’s stories through music, drawn to lyrics and cadence, and the spirit of performance. I tuned in to stories everywhere - on the radio and tv, at school and at church, and with my family of origin and family of choice. I see now how I listened then for guidance on how I should, or could, be in the world.
Some of the sources that attracted me were more trustworthy than others, but they sustained me until I learned to focus more on those stories and tellers that resonated deep in my being. In time I found that my gut and heart alignment was a reliable, life-affirming and life-giving signal. The times I’ve forgotten and ignored my deeper instincts have come at a price.
My gut told me to leave the Midwest after college to pursue a musical career out West, a move I’ve never regretted. Unfortunately, my unhealed personal insecurities and survival fears led me to be in service to other artists for a good long while. Next my gut told me, with the help of a therapist this time, to leave the entertainment industry and my thriving career before that trajectory burned my spirit any further. So I did and became a psychotherapist myself, another decision that opened up doors in a way that clearly affirmed this choice. However, while I may have left the industry, I took the artists
The birth of Character Mapping
In graduate school I began research on creativity and pain. I had questions about the so-called tortured artist. Was creativity an outlet for their torture or was it torturous to be creative? Was the creative process cathartic or did artists need to keep their pain alive as their muse? Would they lose their creativity if they were happier and healthier? If their craft was a therapeutic outlet, were they getting the most out of it? I was also fascinated by personality tests and was curious if there were any kind of agreement or consistency among them? These were the first stirrings that led me to create Character Mapping - so that instead of losing themselves, storytellers could find themselves through their craft.
I received a masters in Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy from Phillips Graduate Institute outside Los Angeles in 1995 and am licensed as such in the state of Oregon. My graduate program and continuing studies reinforced my natural inclination toward integrative, systemic approaches that include thinking patterns, emotions; reactivity, biological systems, relationships to self and others, gender/cultural influences, and what might be called an "innate wisdom" that's inside everyone of us. The mid-90s were the beginning of an exciting time for brain research and the development of innovative psychotherapies, resulting in greater optimism for a person’s ability to heal and thrive. I feel very lucky to have entered the field at this time.
Since the 90s, I've been dedicated to learning a variety of "cutting edge" approaches with significant emphasis on the Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapy model. Having trained early on with the Model’s creator, Richard Schwartz, PhD, I went on to become a Lead Trainer for the IFS Institute in the United States and abroad. I am the principal author of the IFS Institute Level 1 Training Manual and have created workshops and retreats based on my “Unburdened System” mandala representing the positive impact of this wonderful process.
Though I maintain a small private practice in Portland, much of my focus involves consultation for other clinicians domestically and abroad. In 2020 I co-founded the IFS Telehealth Collective, a multi-state psychotherapy practice of IFS-trained and licensed clinicians. I’m also trained in EMDR, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, couples counseling, and various mindfulness and existential/humanistic perspectives.
Internal Family Systems and all these other approaches have helped me, my clients and students, learn to more readily trust our gut instincts and to restore alignment between body, mind and spirit. My two careers have now come together where everything I’ve learned along the way has been condensed and customized for storytellers who come to me for Character Mapping. Embracing this project feels like what my life has been leading to from the start.
Like many have experienced, the pandemic stopped me in my tracks and gave me pause to assess what matters most. I found a renewed passion for the field of psychotherapy, feeling very proud to be a part of a community of helpers that leaned into the needs of our communities while simultaneously going through so many of the same stressors.
As we begin the third year of this “new surreality” I’m finding a new rhythm and renewed passion for Character Mapping and bringing more online tools for storytellers to build their characters and find their Selves. Each of these paths honors the artistry inside us all. I hold the conviction that revealing the truths within stories is a kind of healing that can help mend the world, one bit at a time. And, I believe that any and every act we take to heal ourselves can ultimately be in service to the well-being of others as well.
Wishing you very well on your journey.