Occasionally, people use substances, alcohol, relationships, work, sex and other behaviors to mask uncomfortable emotions or situations they cannot tolerate. When such behaviors are used to excess they may interfere with the quality of our lives or our ability to function in life.  If this is the case, you may be struggling with an addiction. Addictions are often referred to as self-medication because the individual lacks alternate and healthier ways of dealing with their emotions, stresses or challenges. Recovery involves not just stopping the use of the addiction to the drug, substance or behavior, it also requires learning how to cope with the situations in our lives.  In addition, it is also learning how to manage the thoughts and feelings that were previously overwhelming to the individual.  Psychotherapy offers an opportunity to learn these skills and implement them, freeing the individual from the need to engage in addictive behavior in order to cope.

Anger Management

Anger is a natural physiological (survival-oriented) reaction that occurs when we perceive experiencing a violation of our needs and/or rights. The threat or encounter can be real or perceived—both elicit the same flight or fight reaction depending upon the incident. How we deal with these primitive bursts of survival energy often determines the quality of our lives. If suppressed, it can lead to depression or anxiety and if acted out, the person often finds themselves in trouble with their relationships, in their career or in life in general. The healthiest option is to learn how to channel our aggression before it reaches an “angry” level within us. Self-expression is an important component of that option; learning how to express one’s feelings of hurt, frustration and disappointment without jeopardizing one’s safety or relationships. In my psychotherapy practice, I can assist you in learning how to constructively channel your anger to enhance your life versus being at risk of jeopardizing your health, personal relationships and position in life. 


Anxiety is often more debilitating than depression as there is usually no escape from anxiety once it reaches noticeable proportions within our bodies. Panic attacks often feel like heart attacks because of the intensity of the feeling within our bodies and minds. I believe that anxiety is often a result of feeling trapped whether physically or within our minds. When our “fight or flight” response is mobilized by our brains but suppressed by our will, we are working against our body’s natural defense responses, trapping the release of these survival responses within our bodies and causing the condition we call feeling anxious. When the “fight response” is triggered within our bodies, it pumps aggressive throughout our physiology to mobilize us into action. The “flight response” is fear based and requires us to flee away from something offensive or threatening. Oftentimes we are not physically able to flee the situation or our thoughts impede the expression of this movement, causing this energy to remain unused within our physiology. When stored in quantity, this energy causes stress to our physiology and our bodies respond with feelings of anxiety. Stress unabated or ignored causes more stress which in turn contributes to anxiety. These cycles can become paralyzing and overwhelming to the individual until different interventions and coping strategies are introduced and implemented.

Auto-Immune Disorders

Often times an auto-immune disorder is the result of a distant traumatic event in a person’s life that has not been completely processed. When a person is not able to fully express or release his/her emotions surrounding the trauma, these unprocessed feelings leave an energetic residue, or unresolved energies that are stored within the muscular tissue and the brain of that individual. The presence of these energetic experiences and memories can signal that individual’s brain that a “fight or flight” condition still exists, thus contributing to a chronically stressed system that results in the eventual breakdown of the body’s natural defenses.

There are recorded cases of individuals healing from certain auto-immune disorders when a course of psychotherapy treatment allows the discovery and working through of the emotions accompanying the traumatic event or events. 


Loss causes grief, a natural expression shared by cultures around the world with the experience of loss. Grief becomes complicated when the individual is not able to resolve or work through the trauma of loss and psychotherapy is one of the modalities available to facilitate the individual in returning back to healthy functioning. 

Cult Recovery

Cults use well-known brainwashing and coercive techniques to break down the natural defenses of someone in order to persuade them into following the cult’s agenda–not the individual’s. Once contact with the targeted victim is made, cults will separate the individual from everything familiar to him/her so that the brainwashing techniques they utilize render the person without defenses, making them easily susceptible to the new information the individual is being “brainwashed” into accepting without an opportunity to process and evaluate the legitimacy of the information they are being fed. Forced sleep and food deprivation contribute to feelings of being trapped or imprisoned since choices for self-care are not allowed. When an individual is subjected to such ongoing deprivation, physical assaults, verbal, emotional or spiritual abuse, the individual will eventually reach their breaking point. When that limit is met, the person’s psyche separates from the conscious mind, leaving them in a trance-like state or dissociated from their here-and-now awareness. Such a state renders them vulnerable to further controlling influences. Recovery from this kind of separation from reality usually involves the facilitating an integration of that person’s brain into the body, within a safe setting free of overwhelming influences. Instead of operating from the automatic responses programmed into them, the individual is then able to access their own authentic movement and thoughts—what we would call their “real self” not the unquestioning automaton they had been programmed into becoming.


Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses, occurring in all parts of the world. It has few boundaries—affecting all people, regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic standing. Women are two to three times more likely than men and depression is a mental illness affecting more than 10 million Americans. A number of studies have indicated that one in six Americans will suffer a major episode of depression in his or her lifetime.

Although the pattern of symptoms may vary, numerous large-scale studies have shown that the number of people suffering from depression has increased worldwide over the past twenty years and people are experiencing depression at a much earlier age than ever before. Social scientists have proposed many reasons for this growing phenomenon, among them are the changes we see in typical family structures, especially with the increase in divorce rates; the spread of urbanization, and the reduced cultural and religious influences on a global scale.

The word “depression” is commonly used to describe temporary states of sadness, loneliness, or melancholy. These are common emotions and it is much healthier for the individual experiencing them to feel or express them with support instead of suppressing or denying their existence. These symptoms are only considered significant when a person is so severely depressed that he or she is unable to perform the normal functions of their life, such as work or in social situations.

Children or adolescents with depression will most likely have problems at home or school showing poor social interaction or they may become involved in “acting-out behaviors” that are dramatic shifts in behavior such as rule breaking, involvement in altercations and/or poor grades.

Depression is one of the easiest mental disorders to treat. Too often, people think that having depression is a sign of personal weakness however it is viewed as a real illness by mental health professionals. Just as you would consult a medical doctor for a physical ailment, people with depression also benefit from treatment. Research has shown that psychotherapy effectively relieves mild to moderate cases of depression as effectively as taking medication and when indicated, antidepressant drugs have shown positive results for up to 70 percent of people suffering from depression.

Symptoms of Depression May Include the Following:

  •  Deep sadness or prolonged grief that seems unremitting and unshakable
  • Feelings of despair, hopelessness and/or worthlessness
  • Thoughts of harming one’s self or of committing suicide
  • Diminished interest in nearly all activities
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Above average weight loss or gain
  • Difficulty in thinking clearly, concentrating or in remembering
  • Delusions (false beliefs) or hallucinations (skewed sensory perceptions)
  • Changes in energy levels—becoming restless or agitated, or experiencing fatigue, a lack of energy or uncommon sluggishness

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression or any of the symptoms listed above, please consult your medical doctor, a mental health professional or call the Crisis Hot Line at 800-479-3339.  You do not have to suffer.

© Copyright 2001, Tarra Judson Stariell, MFT, CBT

Personal Growth & Development

Humans have the capacity to continually evolve and in fact need to expand their knowledge and awareness or they will find themselves contracting; retreating from life and feeling less satisfaction and fulfillment from all that life has to offer. Psychotherapy is not a panacea however it can offer a framework within which an individual, couple or family is facilitated in expanding their repertoire of living skills as well as emotional and relationship coping tools. 

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

Whether you in a heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual relationship, issues can arise that threaten the integrity of these relationships. Our ability to love another or “attach” to him or her is influenced by our developmental environment as a youth. Any unresolved traumatic or painful issues experienced during these formative years will undoubtedly surface in our significant relationships as adults. Learning how to love your significant other without allowing these issues to damage the relationship is well worth the investment of time and money. Especially so when done before the conflicts become so painful they cause irreparable damage to the relationship. Psychotherapy and couples counseling are expedient ways to alleviate these problems before they erode the relational bonds between partners. 


Humans are designed to both deal with trauma and evolve from its impact even when it disturbs us on many levels. Research reveals that supportive and nurturing relationships, and a belief in a spiritual connection with a higher power are the best indicators for that person’s full recovery from the trauma. Resiliency is the inner strength that we possess to rebound from life’s traumas. However, in spite of all these factors, at times life can hurtle us into a compromised place emotionally due to the nature and duration of the trauma disturbing the person’s equilibrium. Childhood trauma and neglect are perhaps the most damaging experiences we can sustain for they erode the very fabric of our resiliency factors. Psychotherapy offers the individual support and the tools by which they can recover their resiliency from trauma sustained as an adult as well as any trauma or neglect that the individual may have experienced as a child. Sometimes, psychotherapy is called re-parenting or the opportunity to have a “corrective emotional experience” versus the damaging or traumatic emotional experience.

Advanced Therapeutic Modalities

Certified Bioenergenetics Therapist (CBT):

Bioenergetics is a relational somatic psychotherapy taught nationally and internationally based on the theories developed by Alexander Lowen, MD and Wilhelm Reich, MD. The International Institute for Bioenergetic Analysis (IIBA) is the parent organization for the various training institutes worldwide. Read more >…

Emotionally-Focused Therapy (EFT):

Emotionally-Focused Therapy (EFT) is an empirically-validated approach to working with couples. Its intuitive appeal, clear steps, and strengths-based approach make it one of today’s most popular couples therapy approaches. Developed by Drs. Susan Johnson and Les Greenberg in the early 1980’s EFT enhances the attachment bond between individuals and couples.


EMDR is a complex methodology which combines salient elements of the major modalities (e.g., psychodynamic, behavioral, cognitive, physiological, and interactional). Read more >…

Somatic Experiencing (SE):

Somatic Experiencing (SE) is an advanced technique, research-based and developed by Peter Levine, PhD. It is an approach designed to address, resolve and help individuals heal from trauma. Read more >…

What is a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT)?

Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT’s) are relationship experts, licensed by the State of California. The MFT professional must complete an extensive educational program with comprehensive training, a clinical practicum and then successfully pass two rigorous examinations to demonstrate professional competency.

As core mental health practitioners, MFT’s are trained and educated to diagnose and treat the mental disorders and emotional problems of individuals, couples and families.

Somatic Psychotherapist

Somatic Psychotherapist” is simply another way of saying a Body-Mind Psychotherapist. “Soma” is a Greek word that means “body.” “Somatic” means “of the body.”

Psychotherapy until recently had been primarily focused on the mental or emotional conditions and functioning of an individual in relationship with self, another or others. However, to thoroughly address these issues, the body is an important and integral part of any treatment or therapeutic program. Research has now shown that our brains store both positive and negative emotional experiences in the portion that regulates our senses and organs. Thus, what the brain has stored in memory will be directly reflected in the area of the body that was impacted by that experience.

For example: think of how a lemon tastes. Chances are, your mouth will begin to fill with water automatically as your salivary glands respond to the memory of a lemon’s tartness. Once we have physically tasted the lemon, the experience registers in our brain and each time the recorded memory is triggered, the sensory response also occurs. Trauma, joy, grief, love and all the emotions and felt-sense awareness we are capable of experiencing are stored and accessed by the brain and the body simultaneously. As you can see now, just addressing one’s emotions and/or thoughts is truly not enough to completely heal from troubling or painful experiences we have encountered in the process of life itself.