I became a psychotherapist with a vision for supporting people to develop stronger relationships. This vision coalesced over time through my own self-exploration and creative expression in therapy, meditation, photography and writing. My path here has included struggling to feel more connected, committed and free to express my self in my relationships.
When I was 19 years old, feeling lonely, anxious, misunderstood and paralyzed by depression, I started psychotherapy. My depression and anxiety were rooted in the difficulty I had expressing what I wanted and felt. No matter how much I desired connection, to be able to authentically express my self, I felt afraid, unworthy and unacceptable. Without knowing it I’d formed a belief at a young age, rooted in the dynamics within my family of origin, that authentic, embodied expressions of feeling meant something was wrong with me. I was searching for a safe space where I could begin to make room for my self, for what I felt and wanted. My early experience of this relationship—as well as encouraging connections I had with writing and photography teachers in high school and college—inspired me to want to offer similar support to others.
The feelings I began exploring in therapy, also showed up in my creative work. After college I worked as a documentary photographer, then later as a journalist. Using words and images I’ve endeavored to describe the conditions and truths of people’s lives in both ordinary and difficult circumstances. I’ve paid particular attention to individuals in the context of existential, humanistic, social and environmental concerns. As a journalist I’ve written about people trapped and imprisoned in various circumstances, yearning for freedom and connection. My photographs encompass existential themes of aloneness, freedom and liberation.
My stories and photos have appeared in Time, Mother Jones, the Oxford American, Double Take, Salon, and The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News, as well as international publications, including The Daily Yomiuri Shimbun (Japan) and The Bund (Shanghai). I’ve exhibited photographs nationally and internationally. Selected images from my series “Sardis Lake ” were included in an International Center of Photography exhibit titled Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self (2004). More recently, selections from “Portraits of Invisible Men: Photographs from the Louisiana State Penitentiary where shown in Groningen, Holland, as part of Cruel and Unusual (2012), a group exhibition of international photographers who have documented life in prison.
In my career as a journalist, I often felt at home in the world, yet I could still feel anxious, restless and uncertain of my direction. In 2004, I lived in Hong Kong and wrote obituaries for Time Magazine’s weekly “Milestones” page. I ironically began to imagine a journalist in the future summing up my life in less than a hundred words in an obituary. Who was I? Had I made a contribution? What had I done? Had I given my gifts? Had I been happy? Had I loved and lived well, deeply? Asking these questions, I wanted to change, to share my life more fully and intimately with others.
I found the prospect to stop relating to others from behind the lens of a camera or with a voice recorder very risky. I had to consider returning to my own life and breath. In Hong Kong, I developed a regular meditation practice . The more I got in touch with my self, the greater my awareness of how trapped I felt. I consequently returned to a dream I had in college, which was to study and practice psychotherapy.
Eventually, I decided to return to the Bay Area, where I had attended journalism school at UC Berkeley, to start therapy again. Around that time, while working at Mother Jones Magazine in San Francisco, I put down my camera and turned my attention to writing, healing, to understanding my self and others.
I also deepened my commitment to meditation practice, which included finding a spiritual path. I have been a Zen practitioner for the last 13 years. This process deepened my experience of being a whole human being.
Through meditation and psychotherapy I have found more freedom, love and self-acceptance. I am deeply grateful for all my relationships, friends, teachers, therapists and clients. I am grateful for both the practice of psychotherapy and meditation.
Ultimately, I’ve discovered that the more I understand and accept my self, including taking responsibility for all that I feel and want, the more available I am for relationship. I am now happily married. I know first-hand that love and freedom can only be found in discovering my true nature and in the unfolding of a kind and nurturing relationship.
• M.A. in Integral Counseling Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco
• Masters in Journalism from U.C. Berkeley, School of Journalism
• B.A. from Hampshire College in Documentary Photography, Non-fiction Writing and American Studies
• Creative writing and photography, “I Am a Camera,” at 826 Valencia, San Francisco
• Photography at the University of Mississippi
• Documentary Photography at Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts
Professional Training and Credentials:
• Hakomi Institute: Experiential Couples Training
• Hakomi Institute: Somatic Trauma Therapy
• Adolescent and Family Therapy from Petaluma People Services Center
• Teen and Parent Groups at Petaluma People Services Center
• Girls Circle: Strengths-Based Approaches
• Accredited provider of Triple P: Positive Parenting Program