Marin Office: 415.339.8335 | Sonoma Office 707.583.2353 doug@dougsilbersteinmft.com

About My Practice

 

Fee Info

  • My fee is $130 for a 55-minute session
  • I accept check, cash or credit card
  • Currently, I do not accept insurance – I can prepare a statement for you to present to your insurance carrier once every 6 – 8 weeks to see if you can get reimbursed

General Info About Who I Am and What I Do

I thought I’d give you some in-depth information just in case you’re interested in learning more about me before contacting me. I want to give you more than just the bullet points – I apologize ahead of time if this is boring reading.

My name is Doug Silberstein and I am a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (CA Lic. # MFC46503). Like all Licensed Marriage & Family Therapists (MFT or LMFT) in California, I have a Master’s degree in psychology from an accredited university, have completed a supervised internship of at least 3000 hours, have had those hours approved by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, and have passed two state Board exams. As with all MFTs, I am required to consistently complete continuing education courses to renew my license.

The education, licensure process and scope of practice for a MFT are different from that of a Licensed Psychologist or Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Though there are similarities between the professions in that clinicians in all three fields can practice psychotherapy (and can therefore refer to themselves as psychotherapists), MFTs focus on using psychotherapeutic techniques to help individuals mature and grow within the context of their “marriage and family” relationships. “Marriage” is a limited term and is understood to mean intimate, romantic partnerships of all kinds. Though “family relationships” generally refers to relationships with members (or ex-members) of one’s current family as well as with members of one’s “family-of-origin”, MF’s also work with clients to resolve conflicts between friends and co-workers as well. It’s important to note that MFTs don’t only work with couples and families – they work with individual adults, teens and children as well, but the work is focused on how the client is doing within the context of their relationships. Basically, MFTs are educated and trained to be experts in the psychological, interpersonal, sociocultural and psychosexual aspects of relationships.

The degree to which each practitioner is skilled in her or his work obviously depends upon her or his innate gifts as a therapist, along with the quality of the training, education, supervision and consultation they receive, and possibly the amount of in-depth experience they have acquired. Because the effectiveness of psychotherapy depends largely upon the quality of relationship between the therapist and client, however, expertise or even objective competency isn’t always as important as whether the client and therapist are a good fit (though an essential task of each MFT is to employ their understanding of relationships in the effort to forge a strong alliance with each client).

Though MFTs all practice under the same license and scope, there are obviously differences in not only the degree to which they’re skilled but also in how they approach their work from a theoretical and practical level. That is to say there are a number of different psychotherapeutic theories about the nature and cause of distress, healing and growth – and differences in the corresponding models for treatment. Therefore, there is a fair amount of diversity in the specific training and consultation that MFTs receive, which is then reflected in how they approach their clients. Once again, however, since research indicates that the quality of connection between therapist and client, and the confidence the therapist has in the methodologies he or she uses, are the main factors in terms of positive outcome, the key differences between the models themselves may not be that important. In fact, many clinicians incorporate interventions from varying models based on what they feel is most effective.

So now that I’ve put you to sleep with a basic framework, let me be a little more specific with you about my work. To me the most important thing is being able to truly understand my clients – to really see them and know them as clearly as possible. Being able to help others starts with how you see them and this effort is dependent upon empathic attunement.

In my work, I strive to consistently track my own levels of empathy for and attunement to my clients. Despite my dedication to this process, I make plenty of mistakes and missteps and then try to work through these errors with my clients. I have found that my understanding for my clients deepens when we collaboratively work through the bumps or even conflicts in our working relationship. I am greatly influenced by the following approaches in how I attempt to understand and help my clients:

An Existential-Humanistic approach: I devote myself to establishing a non-hierarchical and collaborative relationship with my clients, in which I focus on their healthy essence and adaptive potential rather than on what is “wrong” with them. I see many if not most of the struggles my clients present with as being based on an inner confrontation with certain givens of our existence, such as loss, relational conflict, aloneness or disconnection, lack of meaning or purpose, uncertainty about identity or self-worth, the stress that comes with life’s responsibilities and the inevitability of our own death. Rather than focusing on trying to “fix” psychological dysfunction, I work with clients to explore the fullness of their human condition in order to make conscious choices about how they want to express the truth of their experience. Personal core beliefs that draw me to this approach include:

  • We are all in this together
  • Almost all of us need and deserve to have someone in our lives with whom we feel respected, acknowledged and accepted; we are all worthy of compassion
  • We each bear responsibility for making sense of and generating the meaning of our lives; and the meanings we make of our experience matters
  • How we relate to and cope with loss, frustration and fear significantly shapes the course of our lives
  • We all have a voice of importance and authenticity, and aligning with and being able to express that voice is healing
  • At any moment there is the possibility of choosing a new way
  • I become an ineffective therapist when I forget about my struggles in life and love and think that just because of my training, education and professional experience I have all the answers

An Attachment-based approach: In the past 20 years or so, there has been an emphasis in the field of neuroscience on studying how early attachments influence genetic expression and neural wiring, and research shows that the quality of these attachments has direct influence on the nature of one’s emotional states of being and sense of self throughout life. Since our emotional states subsequently determine the tone and quality of our relationships, I work with clients to increase emotional awareness, emotional adaptation and emotionally-focused connection in order to feel more at peace and secure, and/or engage more fully in meaningful relationships. Personal core beliefs that draw me to this approach include:

  • The nature and quality of connection to primary caregivers in the early years of our life greatly impacts our sense of self and experience in relationship in later years
  • Parenting carries the great and noble responsibility of creating a special kind of relationship with our children within which they can feel secure and emerge in enlivened and authentic ways
  • We are emotional creatures and how we experience and express our emotions is usually the most significant factor in determining the nature and quality of our connections
  • Intimate relationship has the power to change the mind

A Psychodynamic approach: Another way of looking at how our early experiences affect us is that they shape the ways in which we cope with suffering and anxiety, including defending against feeling the full brunt of that suffering or anxiety. These coping or defense mechanisms can serve to protect us but they can also become obstacles to having more fulfilling experiences in relationship and life in general. Though we cannot change the past, we can develop more adaptive ways of coping with the pain we experience, and a psychodynamic approach can help clients gain insight into previously unconscious, internal conflicts that have kept them clinging onto unhealthy ways of coping and relating to others. Personal core beliefs that draw me to this approach include:

  • Primary early relationships have had significant influence on how we think, feel and relate to others as adults
  • Our minds work to defend against pain and suffering, and in doing so often distort our perception of reality
  • We are not always conscious of the ways in which our minds construct reality, and increasing our awareness of that construction can lead to seeing oneself and others more clearly
  • Our wounds not only lead to maladaptive defenses but also lead us to wisdom and self-acceptance
  • Bringing awareness to the dynamics of the therapist-client relationship can help the client increase self-awareness, motivation and empathy

An Experiential approach: A powerful way to become more conscious of internal processes is to orient towards awareness of one’s experience in the present moment. Increasing awareness of emotions, feelings, sensations, thoughts and images can increase self-knowledge and self-acceptance. Working towards greater mindfulness in one’s experience can create a healing paradox of greater engagement in and greater witnessing of one’s experience in life. I often incorporate guided visualization, meditative and somatic techniques to help clients develop a more adaptive relationship with internal distress and conflict. Personal core beliefs that draw me to this approach include:

  • We increase self-awareness and presence when we pay close attention to the multi-dimensionality of our subjective experiences
  • Identifying and differentiating the different components of experience can help us regulate distress and increase personal and relational well-being
  • Increasing mindfulness of subjective experience can help one feel less judgmental and therefore more connected to self and others
  • The body holds wisdom that the mind can’t always grasp through cognitive processes
  • Therapy is most potent in attuning to the present, on focusing on the “here-and-now” experiences of the client and the relationship between the client and therapist
  • It is usually more important to tend to the moment – to bring awareness to and interrupt experiential states and dynamics that are not adaptive – than to try to solve the problem

A Family Systems approach: In this approach, individuals are best understood as being members of sociocultural systems in which their sense of self is largely formed by their role and function within those systems (primarily their family-of-origin but also wider systems like ethnic, national and religious affiliations), and their interpersonal behavior is shaped by the dynamics within those systems. These systems are emotional as well as social units and the expression of emotion within these systems – along with the boundaries, rules, and expectations – offers an important explanation for the causes of internal distress and relational discord. Gaining a greater understanding of how internalized rules and expectations become obstacles to greater fulfillment can help free one up, and help couples and families replace unhealthy dynamics with healthy ones. Personal core beliefs that draw me to this approach include:

  • We all affect each other
  • There is no clean cause and effect; there are systemic loops in which the ways we affect each other reflect and perpetuate
  • When those loops are less than adaptive – when they are too rigid or too chaotic – it can be therapeutic to disrupt and shift them
  • Boundaries are essential: they are borne out of healthy relational systems and help create structure, identity and self-worth, which increases the possibility of interdependence
  • Cooperation within systems and between systems – interdependence – is the organic foundation of life

A Developmental approach: In incorporating a developmental perspective, I look to identify where my clients exist along their path of growth, and assess which neuro-biological and psychological processes are propelling or delaying that growth. A developmental approach looks to address root causes for distress rather than just the symptomatic representations of that distress. All social systems go through phases of development, not just individuals, and I believe that effective therapeutic interventions take into account both the current realities and desired outcomes of those developmental processes. I also stress the importance of evolutionary processes on the socio-biological development of the human being in deepening our understanding of our emotions and behavior. Personal core beliefs that draw me to this approach include:

  • Understanding a developmental blueprint for the maturation of the central nervous system can increase empathy and lead to more informed parenting decisions
  • Incorporating a developmental perspective in considering the path of one’s life can clarify the narrative of one’s life thus far, lead to greater self-acceptance and increase hope, motivation and vision-setting for present and future growth
  • Incorporating a developmental perspective can help couples and families develop realistic expectations and have compassion for the growing pains they’re having now
  • The story of our development is far from over

Though much of the above is pretty dry, technical and intellectual, I hope it gives you some flavor of what is important to me and how I approach my work. Again, the relationship formed between therapist and client is more important than any approach – the above simply emphasizes ways that help me get to know the inner world of my client in order to collaboratively tailor effective, therapeutic interventions.

So who do I work with?

I work with couples in Couples Counseling (also referred to as Couple Therapy, Marriage Counseling, Marital Therapy, etc.) who are:

  • distressed about specific conflicts within the relationship
  • concerned about the intensity and/or frequency of their arguments
  • concerned about the degree of disconnection in their relationship
  • interested in strengthening their connection and deepening the intimacy in their relationship
  • in a state of crisis, uncertain about the future of their relationship
  • deciding to end or take a break from the relationship, and need transitional support

I work with parents in Parenting Counseling and workshops who are:

  • concerned about their child’s behavior
  • concerned about their child’s emotional development
  • concerned about their own emotions and behavior when parenting
  • seeking more effective parenting strategies
  • feeling overwhelmed and are in need of support
  • in conflict about parenting approach
  • worried about the impact of family dynamics, divorce or custody disputes on their children

I work with individuals in Individual Counseling (also referred to as Individual Therapy or Individual Psychotherapy) and  Group Therapy who are:

  • distressed about the state of their relationships
  • distressed about their state of mind
  • having difficulty managing intense emotions
  • struggling with depression and/or anxiety
  • experiencing a lot of stress and/or conflict
  • going through divorce or separation
  • trying to overcome obstacles to greater vitality and fulfillment
  • struggling in their relationship with drugs or alcohol
  • seeking more direction and meaning in their lives

I also work with male adolescents in the context of Individual or Family Therapy who are:

  • struggling in relationships with peers or family members
  • distressed about academic issues
  • feeling confused, depressed, anxious, lacking self-esteem

Training, Education & Experience

I began working with clients in September, 2003 as a Marriage & Family Therapist Trainee at APPLE FamilyWorks Therapy & Life Skills Center in San Rafael, CA. I became registered with the state of California as a Marriage & Family Therapist Intern in December 2004 and completed my internship at APPLE FamilyWorks in January 2008. I then became licensed as a Marriage & Family Therapist in November of 2008. I was also employed by APPLE FamilyWorks for over two years as a Program Coordinator and facilitator. Since September 2003, I have gained in-depth training and experience in working with:

Parents

  • As a trainee and intern, I was trained in APPLE FamilyWorks’ Positive & Peaceful Parenting program and Child-Centered Co-Parenting program, as well as its Temperament Assessment program
  • I have also received extensive education in theories of child development, and post-licensure I have received intensive training in Gordon Neufeld’s attachment-based, developmental approach to parenting (Level II)
  • I have worked with many parents on improving their parenting skills and their relationship with their children, as well as with many co-parents on reducing conflict, increasing cooperation, and devising and implementing child-sharing plan
  • As a Program Coordinator at APPLE FamilyWorks, I helped develop, coordinate and facilitate the Back to Family marriage and parenting class at San Quentin State Prison for over two years; this class was part of a family reunification program for men incarcerated at San Quentin and their families.

Children & Adolescents

  • I interned in APPLE FamilyWorks’ Supervised Visitation program and spent many hours working with children and their non-custodial parent
  • I also worked quite a bit with children  and adolescents whose parents were divorcing – in play therapy and in the context of family therapy with families who were going through major transitions
  • As a Program Coordinator at APPLE FamilyWorks, I coordinated and facilitated the W.H.A.T.s U.P.? life skills program for middle school boys and coordinated the W.H.A.T.s U.P.? program for middle school girls

Families

  • Almost all of the families referred to me at FamilyWorks were families in which the parents had split up or were in the process of breaking up, so I worked extensively with issues related to transition, loss, grief, divorce, custody and being in blended and/or step-families

Individual Adults

  • I received extensive training in emotional regulation and stress management techniques as well as in helping individuals reduce anxiety and depression
  • I received training in Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP), an attachment-based, experiential approach to psychodynamic psychotherapy. I was in a year-long AEDP Process Training Group facilitated by David Mars and Karen Pando-Mars
  • Because of all the experience and training I have received in matters related to divorce and custody disputes, I am often referred individuals (particularly men) who are seeking support in handling those stressors themselves. I have been trained in the Phoenix Method of Divorce Recovery by the developer of this model, Susan Pease Gadoua
  • Drug and alcohol abuse or dependence is often a significant factor in relational conflicts and personal distress. I have training, education and experience in working with individuals who are motivated to modify their unhealthy relationship to marijuana and alcohol
  • I have also been educated in and received extensive supervision and consultation in existential-humanistic and mytho-spiritual approaches to healing and transformation, and apply aspects of these approaches in helping clients find greater meaning, vitality, freedom and clarity in their lives

Couples

  • All of the training and experience I received in working with co-parenting and blended family relationships has benefited me in working with couples who want to reduce conflict, discord and disconnection, and increase alliance and intimacy
  • Post-licensure I have engaged in intensive training and extensive consultation with Dan Wile, the developer of Collaborative Couple Therapy
  • I have received extensive training and consultation in communication skills-building techniques
  • I have received extensive supervision and consultation in existential-interpersonal approaches to working with couples
  • I have also received training in The Gottman Method and I have received education and consultation in Susan Johnson’s attachment-based Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples

I am a clinical member of the California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists (CAMFT) as well as the Marin CAMFT and Redwood CAMFT chapters.

I am on the board of the Existential-Humanistic Institute, currently serving as its Treasurer.

I hope the above info has been somewhat helpful in aiding your decision-making process. I recommend you speak or meet with a few therapists in order to identify the best match for you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you feel you are in need of support. I invite you to contact me for a free 15-minute conversation!