Theoretical Orientation

Change is inevitable.  Growth is optional.

–John C. Maxwell


As a social worker, my theoretical underpinnings come mostly from the perspective of person-in-environment and Family Systems theory.  Family Systems theory was derived from systems theory in physics, and was developed and applied in the psychological realm by psychiatrist Dr. Murray Bowen.  Key concepts:

  •  people exist within a family unit/environment
  • this family unit/environment is constantly changing and moving
  • the movement occurs with a goal of finding equilibrium for the family environment to right itself
  • therefore individuals within a family environment must be understood based on individual characteristics as well as on the circumstances and characteristics of the family unit as a whole, and in relation to each of the other individuals within that family
  • the person-in-environment perspective widens this concept of understanding to include cultural, ethnic, spiritual, school, workplace, neighborhood, regional and global environments beyond the family unit
  • “family unit” has a wide definition
  • the identified client may be an individual, and the environment in which that person lives, plays and works is essential to understand the appropriate way to intervene.


Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

–Albert Einstein

The broad theoretical base underlying both Insight-Oriented PsychodynamicTherapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) guide my ways of intervening in problem areas.  At its core, CBT concerns itself with the here and now; with how thoughts guide behavior and emotion, and in turn, real life outcomes.  CBT in most of its forms tends to focus on solutions to problems that are strongly related to errors of thinking.   That is, how we think affects how we feel, which affects how we behave.  Insight Oriented or psychodynamic therapy is also a rather broad term:  it has to do with gaining understanding by looking over one’s life, examining and exploring where a person came from, where they are now, and where they would like to direct their lives.  The goal is gaining insight, and taking that insight to evoke change in oneself.

EMDR is at the hub of many of the popular psychotherapy theories of practice used today.  EMDR embraces all parts of the human existence:  emotion, thought, sensory experience, image/memory, current conclusions about self, others and the world.  It is a powerful method that has research proven success for trauma reduction, as well as performance enhancement, stress reduction, relaxation and becoming more mindful and centered with oneself.


You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.


Play is an essential life force built into us over millions of years.  It reveals who we really are and allows us to grow ourselves and enlarge our world.  Play does not end in childhood—at least not in healthy lifespan development.  Understanding the role of play in shaping the brain, and in creating and maintaining a healthy, productive, satisfying life is key to my way of helping and understanding all of my clients—not just the youngsters!  More information on these ideas can be found at and


Play is the language of children

–Virginia Axline


My training as a play therapist began with Dr. Terry Kottman.  Dr. Kottman’s orientation began as an Adlerian counselor and educator.  Adlerian theory derives from the work of Dr. Alfred Adler, a contemporary of Sigmund Freud and C.G. Jung.  This orientation led her to develop a new way of understanding and working with children that incorporates Adlerian Individual Psychology with strategies of humanistic, non-directive play therapy.  Thus was born Adlerian Play Therapy.  Key concepts include understanding the individual as a socially embedded being, exploring and understanding lifestyle, private logic and mistaken self-beliefs; encouragement, the personality priorities of therapist, client and significant others in the client’s life, and helping to develop and expand the client’s ability to effectively address the “crucial C’s” of development.  You may learn more about Dr. Kottman via her website at


If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.

–Alfred Adler


Within the framework of Adlerian play therapy theory, and incorporating the theories of many others, I have been trained in using expressive arts as play/therapy.  Some of these include mandala work, sandtray, drawings, sculpture, music, poetry, movement, storytelling, and the joy of being silly for no reason at all.  Many of these experiential techniques work in concert with talk therapy, mindfulness and EMDR as well.


Joel Ryce-Menuhin wrote his book about sandplay and titled it Jungian Sandplay:  The Wonderful Therapy.   From my experience doing my own sandplay process, and in shepherding the processes of others, I cannot agree more.  It truly is a wonderful way to explore oneself, observe and gain insight, and foster one’s growth.  The use of a small box of sand, some water, a wide assortment of miniature objects, and the therapeutic alliance with a trusted therapist has its roots in the work of C.G. Jung, but this therapeutic medium has grown exponentially in popularity since first developed by Dr. Dora Kalff and Dr. Margaret Lowenfeld during the first half of the 20th century.   Though it is perhaps theoretically Jungian in its purest and original form, this wonderful therapy has spread into use within other theoretical orientations as well.   I have employed the use of sandtrays and miniatures in my work for more than 15 years, having adapted its use to fit with the types of training I have explained, above.   I am now delving into the deeper process this therapy offers as I continue to use it in concert with my other techniques of working with people.  Children are naturally drawn to this work/play.  Adults can go deeper into their psychological exploration using this image-based and mostly silent process.  Consider exploring this yourself in my newly expanded sandplay/sandtray/worldplay space.  For more information, go to


When you come right down to it, all you have is yourself.  Yourself is a sun

with a thousand rays in your belly.  The rest is nothing.

–Pablo Picasso

Seena Frost, the developer of SoulCollage®, is considered among many somewhat of a shaman/wisewoman as she continues to work and teach into her 80s.  The process of SoulCollage® combines some of the concepts of art therapy, Jungian theory, broad concepts of spirituality, and self-exploration into a very simple process of using collaged images from everyday life to create a deck of cards that describe, honor, explore, and celebrate the uniqueness of each individual.  It is a pleasant, mindful, and easily accessible way to explore all the parts of self that combine to create each unique individual’s life experience.  I became a facilitator in SoulCollage® in 2011 and have been incorporating it into my work with individuals.  Workshops and groups are in development.   Learn and explore more at